Monday, November 7, 2011

Urban Parks, Part 4: When is a park not a playground?

In talking about DC parks, I would be remiss if I did not mention two additional green spaces that Elijah, Kurt and I love to visit.  Sure, we have some great playgrounds, but sometimes you really want that feeling of the great outdoors.  We are within an hour of Great Falls National Park, and last week the family hit up Mount Vernon, which was not only historical, but also gorgeous.  I wish my backyard had a panoramic view of the Potomac River.  Both of those places make great day trips.

Sometimes, though, us city dwellers just need a quick breath of oxygen-rich air.  When that happens, I like to head to Rock Creek Park or the National Arboretum.

Rock Creek Park, located in NW DC, is just right for hiking with kids, and the adults can pretend that the have left the noise and grime of the city far behind.    A few weeks ago, we spent a beautiful fall morning walking around with some friends and their daughter.  The ground was a little wet, so I let Elijah pick up leaves and acorns in the parking lot before we set off.

Wow, Mom, this park is great.
After that, it was into the carrier so that we could tackle some of the off-road trails.  Elijah didn't like being constrained at first, but then he happily dozed off to the sound of chirping birds, which according to him say, "Woof".

While Rock Creek Park makes a great family outing, when it's just me and the kids I prefer the National Arboretum.  It's about fifteen minutes from home, never crowded and full of adventures waiting to happen.

The arboretum is great for kids of any age, including those as old as me.  There are some paved paths for strolling, but the roads through the park are generally deserted, too, especially during the week, and that makes the whole place rather stroller friendly.  When it's just Elijah and me, we like to bring a blanket and a picnic and soak up the sun (or shade).

Nature + Tortellini + Blanket from Mamo = Happiness

Once the kids are mobile, the off-road trails are perfect.  They are not to steep and provide a great mix of the all-natural (rotting stumps), man-assisted (flower gardens) and man-made (fences for riding) (see below).

There are many trails, but there are also wide-open spaces that invite less directed trekking.

And, if you go at just the right time, there is much dandelion blowing to be had.  As far as I know, it's no one's job to weed the Arboretum, so there's no need to feel guilty about aiding the spread of those lovely yellow weeds.

My only caution with the Arboretum is that if you call it a park, as in, "Do you want to go to the park?",  certain 2/3/4-year-olds might not understand that there is no playground involve.  Perhaps you could say, "Does anyone want to explore a forest?" I know that my answer is always, "Yes."

For more about urban parks, please check out parts one, two and three of this series.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry about the woofing birds Lisa. I think that is a certain little trouble-maker's fault. :)