The history of Glen Echo Park is fascinating as it served the Washington DC metro area as an amusement park in the 1900’s. Names like the Arcade, Hall of Mirrors and Bumper Car Pavilion pay homage to bygone days. The vintage Dentzel Carousel opens during the summer to large crowds. The National Park Service took over in the 1970’s and with the management of the Glen Echo Park Partnership, preserved the beauty that is Glen Echo through entertainment and the arts.
Unlike an amusement park, Glen Echo is open year round and boasts a variety of activities and places to meander through as a family. One such activity is the annual Fall Frolic event. As many times as we have been to Glen Echo, my family were newbies for this day time, three hour celebration.
Trek to the Spanish Ballroom for some tricks. The crew who decorated the ballroom for the event deserve an award. The décor consisted of giant paper lanterns, dangling spiders, crows, skeletons, a spooky illuminated tree and more. Even the bathrooms sparked spooky portraits. The atmosphere was not scary for even the youngest spectators.
Follow the long line to grab items to make a treat bag and a mask. We’re talking everything from crayons, construction paper, stickers, feathers, buttons, bead, pomp poms, yarn, pipe cleaners and more. One thing many visitors wish there was more of were scissors and glue. Several tables are set up with families in mind to create crafts together.
Themed music was on constant rotation in the ballroom with tracks like “I Want Candy,” “Monster Mash” and “I Told the Witch Doctor.” My kiddo and a passerby started singing along to “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
The majority of the activities are free. Be patient as the line for face painting is long, but your princess or mummy will be happy with the outcome (cost $1 to $2). A pumpkin patch is set up where children can pay $1 to decorate a small pumpkin. Before you leave the Ballroom, cast your vote for the People’s Choice favorite pumpkin display decorated by Glen Echo’s resident artists. I chose Glen Echo Aquarium’s jellyfish pumpkin while my husband and daughter each chose a different carving.
While Fall Frolic was in session, the Glen Echo Park Aquarium, Adventure Theatre and Puppet Company are also open. Regular ticket prices for these attractions apply. These businesses are also trick-or-treat stops meaning you don’t have to pay admission to get candy. The aquarium is worth entering and not just because it has an outdoor pirate ship. Peek in the lobby of the Puppet Company’s display of marionettes. The carousel was open for viewing, but rides won’t begin again until May. This had several families disappointed, but you could peek in at the carousel itself. I recommend stopping into the Arcade Building where you sit in an antique bumper car.
Pumpkin Playoffs included a few games for children such as pumpkin bean bag toss and hula hoops. There wasn’t much going on that warrants a stop other than it is adjacent to the playground.
We frolicked so much that we needed a pit stop. However, the new Praline Café had a line out the door so we couldn’t sample the goodies. For another kind of pit stop, bathrooms with changing tables are available inside the ballroom and next to the Carousel.
Arrive early to Fall Frolic. The parking area is always buzzing on the weekends. Allow a few minutes to walk from the lot to the main area of the park. Costumes are encouraged, but not required. While my daughter didn’t dress in costume, she didn’t feel out of place. At nine years old, my child spent an hour and half at the event. Given what was available in terms of activities, Fall Frolic is best suited for children aged seven and under. The event culminates with a costume parade.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Molloy.