Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm: Full Details (2023)

When I was a toddler, my parents used to take my brother and I to Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm on a regular basis. 

Since that was decades ago, I thought it would be nice to head down memory lane and share the tradition with my own child. It was virtually empty when we arrived in the morning.

cow grazing on open field
Source: NPS Government

This is a 512-acre park and is a national historic district with a living farm museum run by the National Park Service.

The farm is in close proximity to National Harbor if you choose to make a day of your visit to Maryland and just 15-minutes from Alexandria.

Did you know, Oxon Cove Park was actually a hospital farm?

It used to be the first federal mental health facility called St. Elizabeths Hospital which opened in 1852. the hospital later bought the farm as the leader intended to make this a therapeutic farm.

What to Do at Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm

There are a lot of hands-on programs and recreational activities to enjoy. Usually when we go, we pick a ranger-led program and one other activity to do at the park so we can slow down and enjoy it.

Visitor Barn

Make the visitor activity barn your starting point. Here you can pick up a brochure to embark on a self-guided tour (more on that below). 

Oxon trail
Source: Oxon Farm

In addition to some barns that have sheep’s wool to touch and antique agricultural equipment on display, the visitor center has:

  • A kids’ nook with books, puzzles and coloring pages
  • Wildlife exhibits
  • A gift shop with books and a few toys
  • A beverage machine

The park rangers were so helpful and gladly answered our questions. They are passionate about the property. 

I found the history of the farm fascinating. 

The Debutts family left Ireland for England before emigrating to the U.S. The prominent family bought the plantation, which was at the epicenter of the War of 1812. Historical panels are found throughout the property explaining the history. 

The manor house is the oldest building on the farm dating before the Civil War. It is also the highest point of the farm. Follow the trail and you can see all of Alexandria and the Potomac River.

Goats and sheep were hidden with the exception of a baby goat who was in the chicken coop. 

We saw:

  • A pair of Belgian draft horses
  • Cows
  • Pigs
  • Sheep
  • Few chickens
  • A baby goat

Interesting fact: the horses used to bring the Christmas tree to the White House and the greenhouse grew plants for the White House.

Self-Guided Walking Tour

We enjoy exploring the 19th-century farm. There are many barns and buildings to explore, some new and some old. The farm was built with bricks meant to be able to pass the property on to future generations so you’ll notice that throughout the buildings.

It’s definitely interesting to see how farming has changed over the years, even if you don’t know much about farming.

Source: NPS Government

The kids had fun too as this felt like an outdoor, interactive museum.

Some of the buildings we explored were:

  • Hexagonal Outbuilding (from the early 1900s) which as designed to stay cool as a milk house
  • Visitor Barn: this is where we started as this is an excellent resource for gathering information on the farm and what to do (plus they have a store)
  • Farm Museum Building has many historic farm tools to see including an old John Deere tractor
  • Rabbit shed, chicken coop, hog house, horse boarns and goat shed to see the animals

If you want to see more activity on the farm, try going in the morning as that is when they milk the cows, feed chickens (you can feed them too – see the events section here for details!) and feed the horses.

Go Hiking

You’ll find the Oxon Cove Trail behind the early 19th century farm house and it is a great spot to walk and the kids love exploring along the Oxon Run stream. Along the way, we stopped to have a snack and we sat on a bench that gave us great views of Alexandria.

The Woodlot Nature Trail is a 0.3 mile trail that takes you through the woods and along the river.

hiking trail
Source: NPS Government

There are lots of different types of trees, birds, wildlife and even wildflowers in the spring that make this area beautiful. The kids love to explore this area and being so short, it was really easy to do with kids of any ages.

My kids enjoyed following the bright tree markings and we even saw some vultures and a raccoon along the trail!

On-Road Bicycling

At Oxon Cove Park you’ll find the trail that leads to Smallwood State Park which is part of the Southern Maryland Potomac Heritage Trail (PHT).

Bicycle Smallwood State Park to Oxon Cove Park
Source: NPS Government

This hiker-biker trail gives you easy access to a huge trail with wonderful stops along the way. You won’t enjoy it all in one day though as it’s 44-miles long.

If you’re really adventurous (and with older kids who can handle the distance!), you can even rent kayaks in Indian Head and National Harbor along the way.

Daily Programs & Special Events

There are lots of fun events worth attending. They do some events regularly so you can attend anytime, ranger-led programs and other special events occur occasionally.

Some of the fun events are:

kid playing with chicken
Source: NPS Government

  • Chicken Feeding: this includes learning about chickens and their farm roles. Plus, you can feed the chickens!
  • Farm Tour: a 45-minute, 0.5 mile tour to explore the farm, learn about farm animals, farm life and the history of Oxon Hill Farm
  • Shoreline Clean-Up: to volunteer with the park rangers to clean up the shoreline. All materials including gloves and trash pickers are provided. You can even take a wagon ride down to the cove!
people posing after cleaning shore
Source: NPS Government

Earn Your Junior Ranger Badge

My kids were thrilled to pick up a Junior Ranger book at the Visitor Barn. As with other Junior Ranger programs, they have to complete educational activities in the book and return it to a park ranger in order to earn their new Junior Ranger badge.

ranger with chicken
Source: NPS Government

My daughter picked up a junior ranger passport and got her first stamp at Oxon Hill Farm. She was so excited!

Have a Picnic

Oxon Hill Farm is a beautiful, open, green grassy place to have a picnic! While we were eating, a few of the free-range chickens came up to us but we didn’t feed them as they ask us not to do so. It’s also best not to touch them so they can feel free to roam.

Go Fishing

While we didn’t fish during our visit, we walked along the Oxon Cove trail and walked down to the water. We saw one person fishing since we were there during a weekday morning. It looked like he had a nice, quiet spot.


Eagles at Oxon Cove Park

Oxon Hill Park is one of the DC areas breeding habitats for bald eagles. There is a lot of fish and other food sources, plus cliffs and trees where the eagles like to set-up their nests. It”s so lucky to get to see one of these amazing birds!

Hours & When To Go

The park grounds are open daily from 8am to 4:30pm. They are only closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

They do lock the gates to the parking lot at 4:30 so make sure to be out on time. If you want to stay longer (you can stay until sunset), you can park your car outside the gate.

Oxon Hill Farm is open daily from 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m and closed on, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Admission and activities to the park and farm are free. 

Only open on the weekends from 2 to 3:30 p.m., the Mount Welby house tour was underwhelming. Two rooms on the first floor are open with the second floor exclusively for the park offices. There just really isn’t much to see.

We went on a weekday morning and found we mostly had the place to ourselves. The rangers said there are more visitors on the weekends and they often have local schools bring kids here to visit the park and animals.

If you want to avoid field trip days, you may want to call ahead.

What to Bring

Comfy shoes are a must as the walk from the parking lot to the dirt path to the visitor barn can be long.

Good to Know Before You Go

  • Visiting the park and farm is free
  • You’ll find mostly gravel road (or dirt roads) so plan accordingly
  • Wear closed-toed shoes
  • Bring plenty of water especially when it’s warmer out
  • There is a shaded area with picnic tables next to the parking lot
  • Call ahead to check that confirm that the programs are occurring before you visit
  • Advance reservations for are required for groups of 5 more
  • Clean restrooms with a changing table and a water fountain are located next to the Visitor Barn
  • Dogs are not allowed at the farm, however, you can bring them on Oxon Cove trail and the picnic area
  • Our favorite go-to in the area is for soft serve ice cream at Hovermale’s Taste Best on Livingston Road

Getting There

Signage is an issue when locating the park. If you’re driving to the farm from the VA side, you won’t see a sign directing you to the farm. The farm is really at the intersection of Oxon Hill Rd. and Bald Eagle Road because we didn’t see the sign, we missed the turnoff, which was a bend in the road.

Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm is located at 6411 Oxon Hill Rd, Oxon Hill, MD 20745

Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm is a great place to learn about historic farming, see a feed building and livestock buildings, enjoy activities with a ranger and for families to experience life on a working farm.

Photo of author

OK Editorial Team

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