Friday, October 21, 2011

Urban Parks, Part 3: The highlight reel

So, now you know why I'm on the lookout for great parks, and what I look for in a park.  All that was to set up for today's post, which is the one I'm sure you've all been waiting, at least if you live in DC:  my favorite parks.

Before I begin, though, a word about this (short) list.  It is by no means exhaustive, or even very inclusive.  It is simply a bit about four parks that I and the kids in my life really like.  There have been many others, so mediocre, some truly terrible (I'm talking to you, first and Florida NW).

I am sure that there are tons of great parks in other parts of the city.  I have a feeling from the bit that I've seen,that those who live in upper NW, Eastern Market and now Columbia Heights would not even need a list like this because the cool parks are known and walkable.  So, fellow NE/SEsters, this list is for you.


Park 1: "The Orange Park"
Location: Next to THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Ave., S.E. Washington, DC 20020 

Why it's great: If you aren't from here (DC) or even if you are, you might not know about the "other Washington" that lies east of the Anacostia river.  Tourists don't go there, and neither do national politicians.  If you live in the city, I recommend a trip over there to see how many Washingtonians really live.  When the twins lived there, we searched high and low until we found a park to call home.  This is it.  It is gated and locked at night, which means it is usually trash- and glass- free.  Their are two playgrounds in the same enclosure, one for toddlers and one for big kids.  Both have a lot of ramps, making them accessible to kids of varying ages and abilities.  THEARC is open during the week (and I think Saturdays, too) and there are nice, clean bathrooms there.  This park was so beloved by the twins that Brittany once cried when we drove past looking for a parking spot because she didn't think we were stopping.  

What could be better: The swings are located in a separate area, and are often muddy underneath.  At last check, some of the baby swings had fallen into disrepair.  Also, although it is almost always unlocked, one time it was not. 

Park 2: Langdon Park
Location: Betwen 18th and 20th Sts., just south of Rhode Island Ave.
Behind the Woodridge library

Why it's great: Sometimes, like they say, it's all about location, location, location.  This park has all the geographic perks a mom could ask for.  The playground is really far from the street on all sides, and there are some nice shade trees dotting the landscape.  It is down the hill (a big hill) from the library, where they have a non-crowded toddler storytime on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30.  And, of course, the library has bathrooms, which are clean and indoors.  The playground was redone a few years ago, and seems to be designed for ages 4+.  There are baby and big kid swings, and a sweet dinosaur to ride (See above).  Also, for moms in need of a caffeine hit, there's a 7-11 right up the street, on the corner of Rhode Island and 20th.  Finally, there's an amphitheater with wooden benches where I used to take my students to hang out and read, which could be great for staging impromptu productions of All's Well that Ends Well.

What could be better: It can be a little trashy (sorry park, but it's true) and the bathrooms are not super-close, which can be a key factor in preventing toddler accidents (or not).  In the summer, the kids from the Mayor's Job Program hang out there, so sometimes there is some inappropriate language flying around.  It tends to be empty of other little kids usually, which could be good or bad depending on what you're going for.



Park 3: The playgrounds at Kennedy Rec Center
Location: Corner of P and 7th Streets Northwest
Why it's great: It's in northwest DC, but totally accessible to us Northeasters, especially those who live close to the line like I do.  Also, it is but a few blocks from the Mt. Vernon Sq./Convention Center metro stop on the Green and Yellow lines.  It has separate big and little kid areas, and the toddler playground is one of the most developmentally appropriate ones I've seen.  The twins love the giant abacus and the restaurant-style pass-through, where I have been served many pretend hot dogs and ice cream cones.  The toddler area is completely fenced in, and the rec center provides nice, clean, close bathrooms.  This park also has a big field, tennis courts and a basketball court.

What could be better: The ground covering is mulch, not awesome rubber sponginess like the other parks on this list.  Also, no swings.  Sad.  The rec center isn't open on Sundays, which means neither are the bathrooms.


Park 4: The park at Ledroit
Location: Secret - Just kidding (sort of)
Elm St NW between 2nd and 4th
From NE DC, take Rhode Island Ave, turn left on 3rd St NW.  Street ends at the park

Camera-shy Patricia


Why it's great:  When the kids and I found this park on Columbus Day, I seriously wondered if I would ever go to another DC park again.  This park has everything a kid and parent could want: separate toddler and big kid areas, each with their own set of age-appropriate swings; a working water fountain;  crazy, nausea-inducing spinning things; and lots of playmates.  This park just opened in June, and I cannot say enough good things about it.  It even has a community garden and a rain garden It is walkable from the Shaw/Howard university metro, or, if you live near Brookland or Eckington, it's just a short trip on the G8 bus to Third and Rhode Island NW, followed by an even shorter walk to the park, just a few blocks north.
What could be better: I have only been going to park for the last few weeks, but a consistent thing that I have heard from other parents is that in the summer, it is hot and because the park is new, the trees are small and there is very little shade.  When we were there, Brittany, after some convincing, used the port-o-potty on site, but it did have a padlock on it that was not in use, so I don't know if it is sometimes locked.  The park can be a little tricky to locate at first, but it is totally worth the hunt.
So, there you have it - four fabulous parks where your kids can expend lots of energy before taking a nice, long nap.  Once the weather gets to cold for the park (I'm from Illinois, so that should be about December by my standards) I'll let you in on some of my favorite kid-friendly indoor spots.  Happy parking!

2 comments:

  1. Good for you writer-girl. Good for me too (who knows when a grandmaw needs a place to go with a boy) MAMO

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