Local, State & National Parks in the DC Metro Area to Go With Kids

The DC metro area is rich with so many local, state and national parks. I feel lucky to be close to all the amenties the area has, while still being able to access nature all around.

Now that my kids are getting a little older, it’s so nice to take them to the different parks and just let them explore the parks.

They’ve even become Junior Rangers at a number of the parks. They love collecting all the stamps and badges as they go.

Here you’ll find all the great local, state and national parks our area has and what you will find at each.

Virginia Parks

Source: Leesylvania State Park

Leesylvania State Park

Leesylvania State Park is one of our go-to local beach spots. It’s easily located in Woodbridge where there are other fun things to do if you want to spend more time.

The park has an awesome nature center where kids can try colonial games and other fun activities. The park itself has hiking trails, wetlands, fishing and a picnic area with a playground.

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

The Potomac Heriage Trail is a network of trails perfect for hiking, biking or just strolling. Located in Arlington, my son and I love to do this trail as it runs along the water. We’ve also seen people riding their horses and paddleboarding.

There are several trail options we’ve covered here to help you pick the right one.

Great Falls Park

I love Great Falls Park and even really enjoy going with just one of my kids at a time. That way I can take my older child on a different trail than I would take my younger one.

I’ve broken down Section ASection B and Section C of Great Falls so you can see the differences and which ones will work with your kids depending on their ages.

Source: Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

If you love water falls but want to try somewhere besides Great Falls, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is next up in my opinion! It’s a nice hike down to the water and a waterfall.

Manassas National Battlefield

Manassas National Battlefield is a great place for a history field trip and the kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program so they’re more engaged too!

I recommend the guided tour. There is also a movie you can watch but it can be a bit graphic for the younger kids.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

You’re technically escaping to an island when you visit Theodore Roosevelt Island. On Saturday mornings you can take a tour of the island. It’s a great place to see wildlife, watch birds, explore and even go kayaking.

Shenandoah National Park

While just a bit outside the DC metro area, Shenandoah National Park is the place to go hiking as a family with the most amazing woods. Or if you prefer, drive Skyline Drive and stop at all the overlooks for the best views.

This is where my older child and I started our Passport to National Parks book!

This also happens to be one of our go-to places to see the fall colors.

NEARBY: 35 Best Things to Do in Luray Virginia: Not Just Caverns

Mason Neck State Park

This state park is hard to beat! It has calm water for swimming, paddleboarding or kayaking on the Potomac River and it’s even possible to spot bald eagles here. Where else can you experience wetlands, forests and shoreline so close to home?

Fountainhead Regional Park

Stroll the park with the longest natural surface trail in Northern VA (nearly 20 miles), rent a boat, go fishing, walk along the water or have a blast on the Mountain Bike trail.

Seneca Regional Park

If you’re short on time or want a nice place to take a good stroller through nature, Seneca Regional Park has a nice, short hike right to the Potomac River. This park also tends to be less crowded but you’ll still experience the same beautiful nature you will at other, larger state parks.

Prince William Forest Park

The forest is nice and green and has a welcome station worth taking the kids to. This is one of our favorite spots for a picnic as the surroundings are beautiful and they have lots of picnic tables with grills.

waterpark in Centreville, VA
Source: Atlantis Waterpark

Bull Run Regional Park

My kids of course, love Bull Run Regional Park because of Atlantis Waterpark so it can be harder to entice them into nature here!

It is, however, easy to get them out into the woods here for the spring wildflowers when all the bluebells bloom.

Pohick Bay Regional Park

Pohick Bay Regional Park is home to Pirates Cove Waterpark, a gold course, campground, hiking trails, picnic areas and more.

Fort Hunt Park

This is one of the areas quieter parks, yet it still has wide open green spaces. There’s also a lot of history at this park and a good place to remember and appreciate what others have sacrificed. There is a small playground for the little ones.

Definitely bring a picnic and enjoy near one of the bunkers.

Conway Robinson State Forest

Located near Manassas National Battlefield and is another beautiful place to see spring wildflowers.

This is a nice place to go for a walk through the tall trees. There are a few picnic tables near the start of the trail. My kids see a lot of fun things in the trees so they’re always on the lookout for something new to spot.

Turkey Run Park

This is a nice place to go for a walk through the tall trees. There are a few picnic tables near the start of the trail. My kids see a lot of fun things in the trees so they’re always on the lookout for something new to spot.

Source: Volcano Island Waterpark

Algonkian Regional Park

Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling is home to Volcano Island Waterpark which is just they start. They also have a boat launch for kayaks and canoes, mini golf, fishing, trails, a playground and you can even stay in one of their riverside cottages.

Source: Fairfax County | Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows Park

Huntley Meadows Park is such a nice escape right in the middle of Alexandria, but you’d never know it. Kids love this park as you can walk along a boardwalk overtop of a marsh. Not only will you likely see some awesome birds, but frogs and other small creatures in the marsh. Plus, you can walk along the trail through the woods too!

Belle Haven Park

Belle Haven Park faces the National Harbor. It’s a beautiful waterfront park and we love to take our bikes to ride the trails. It’s very lush and green and definitely a good place to spot birds, ducks and geese.

Maryland Parks

Flag Ponds State Park

Flag Ponds State Park is the place to go to look for shark teeth, to play at the beach and enjoy nice trails.

RELATED: Purse State Park: Fossil Hunting & More

Fort Washington Park

This park is great for history lovers as it used to be the only defensive fort protecting Washington DC. As it looks out over the Potomac River, today it makes for such a nice park and you can look at the fort. It’s definitely a beautiful escape from the city.

The park has trails, picnic areas and makes for a great fishing spot. This is also a great place to come when the cherry blossoms have bloomed.

Fort McHenry National Monument

Our first stop here was on our way to have some fun at the National Harbor.

This is another one of the area’s parks filled with history. The kids do enjoy seeing all the cannons and being able to run around them. There is a visitor center with a movie worth watching if you want more.

Seneca Creek State Park

Seneca Creek State Park has trails, a lake and beautiful surroundings. But perhaps my youngest kids favorite…the big tire playgound!

Antietam National Battlefield

Hike the battlefields, stop by the visitor center, the Dunker Church, the park library, stay for a battlefield talk with a park ranger, and make sure to grab a battlefield scavenger hunt.

Patapsco Valley State Park

Patapsco Valley State Park is another Baltimore area park with picnic areas, playground, trails, nature center, and camping. And it’s actually the largest park in the entire state. The river is beautiful
Chapman State Park

Source: Maryland.gov | Sandy Point State Park

Sandy Point State Park

Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis is where you can you can walk on the trails, go fishing or crabbing, rent a boat at the Marina, let your kids play on the playground or play beach volleyball.

10 Minutes Away: Catoctin Wildlife Preserve

Catoctin Mountain Park

This is where you come for the views! Chimney Rocks is the most popular sights here everyone comes for but don’t forget about Wolf Rock which is another excellent one! You can get a National Park stamp and participate in the Junior Ranger program here at their visitor center.

Glen Echo Park

When my kids were little, this was a park we visited all the time. With the Glen Echo Aquarium and the carousel, I know why! It’s an amusement park from the 1900s, plus beautiful gardens and a woodlands trail. It feels like stepping back in time.

Note: stop by the arcade across from the bathrooms to get your Natonal Park stamp.

C&O Canal National Historical Park

Where else can you go around here that offers mule-drawn boat rides? If you’ve visted Great Falls on the Virginia side, you’ll love this one just as much.

Washington DC Parks

Man with a huge water lily inside the lake
Source: National Park Service

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is such a nice place to walk around and enjoy with the kids. They have historic ponds with lotus over 500 years old, lilies, frogs, turtles and boards. There is a nice quarter-mile dirt path that leads around the River trail. And see if you can spot the 248 species of birds that call Kenilworth home throughout the year.

We also love going for their annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival.

Constitution Gardens

Constitution Gardens is the most popular park in Washington DC as it extends 50-acres around the National Mall. There is so much to see here from the pond with ducks, to the trails and monuments. It’s also an easy place to enjoy it you need to bring a stroller.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac

While not officially a park, Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac is surrounded by nature so we love to go! It has a nice wooden bridge over the Potomac, tall trees with paths and just a great place to enjoy nature so close to the city.

National Capital Parks – East

National Capital Parks – East is a group of 14 park sites that covers 800 acres. It extends from Capitol Hill over into Maryland. Some of the parks include Anacostia Park, Greenbelt Park, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm and Piscataway Park.

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is definitely a DC gem. And it’s one you can enjoy throughout the year. There are so many things to do here. Of course there are the trails surrounded by beautiful nature but there’s also fun activities like tennis courts, kayaking on the Potomac, fish, golf, bike, plenty of picnic spots, a planetarium, a nature center and the free DC zoo.

Georgetown Waterfront Park

My family loves Georgetown Waterfront Park that runs right on the edge the Potomac River. This is great combo of being around nature while still having the conviences of the city. There’s also a bour tour that is worth taking at least once!

Meridian Hill Park

My first experience at Meridian Hill Park was to attend the weekly drum circle on Sundays. It’s so fun to watch the community come together and make fun music. The park isn’t as out in nature as the other parks but it’s still a nice place to visit in the middle of the city to take in some greenery.

The Yards Park

The Yards Park is quite big. It has a nice pond with a waterfall and plenty of open grassy areas. The park also have a riverfront boardwalk. This is definitely the place to escape the city without having to leave the city. You’ll even find some nice loung chairs to relax in and take in the water view.

Tip: stop by nearby the Jubilee Ice Cream shop. It’s one of the best places to get ice cream in DC

SW Duck Pond

The Southwest Duck Pond is just what you’d imagine by the name. It’s a nice pond with 4 fountains and is commonly frequented by ducks. There’s also nice tall trees and green space. This park even has rocking chairs and a free library.

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OK Editorial Team

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