Warmer weather means lots and lots of time outside—and plenty of rumbling bellies that don’t want to stop playing or go indoors to eat. So what’s a parent to do? Dine al fresco of course! Below are some of the best places around D.C. for kids to dine under the stars, park it for a picnic, or just lounge around with a couple of granola bars and sippy cups.
Photo: Joe Flood via Flickr
Appease the whole family’s appetite for indie bites at the continuously expanding Union Market, where you can stroll the 100 (and counting) stalls of this hip food-lovers haven. After purchasing your empanadas, gelato, or lox bagel sandwich, dodge the crowds by scooting outdoors with the kids. There are picnic tables scattered outside (and a few cornhole stations!), or you can find a mural wall nearby to lean against while lunching.
1309 5th St., NE. (Union Market)
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano
Little foodies can dine in the fresh air on Homemade Tortoni Amalfi (imagine crispy caramel over cold ice cream) after they’ve finished nibbling on White Fontina Cheese Pizza. While outside taking in the fabulous weather, Mom and Dad can pretend they’re lounging next to the Mediterranean as they sip Amalfi’s famous Limoncello Martini, and mangia on Crispy Cannelloni or Soft Shell Crabs. Don’t be surprised when free almond cookies come out at the end of your meal.
12307 Wilkins Ave. (Rockville, Md)
Photo: Hilary Riedemann
Los Tios Grill
Del Ray families flock to Los Tios for the scrumptious fajitas, gigantic margaritas, and uber fun atmosphere. In the summer, the patio is filled with little ones chowing down on chips and salsa, imbibing in icy fresh lemonade and high-fiving the owner German. Show up on Friday or Saturday night, and you’ll lose the kids to the Mariachi band, balloon animal lady, or the Latin guitar player. Bright, colorful umbrellas shield little ones from the squelching D.C. sun during the day, while the playground across the street is a great way to burn off some energy after the niños pequeños have scarfed down their delicious Tres Leches dessert.
2615 Mount Vernon Ave. (Alexandria, Va)
Stay with us on this one—pass the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and head South on the Parkway for some of the prettiest picnic spots south of the Beltway. On the east side of the road, are various little parks just right for lunching, fishing, lounging, playing and relaxing with the kiddos. Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is perfect for nature loving little ones, while Collingwood Picnic area is great for a quick bite to eat before casting out lines. Further down is Fort Hunt Park where birding enthusiasts can point out nesting Osprey and Cardinals. The views are spectacular from anywhere (really), and you can take a stroll on the Mount Vernon Trail (from any of the parks) to work off the burgers, fries and milkshakes (try the Chocolate) you grab from BGR on the way through Old Town.
GW Parkway (Alexandria, Va)
Photo: Open City
For those little darlings who absolutely must get up at the crack of dawn, break out of the “I’m pretending I’m asleep, so you’ll leave me alone” rut, and head over to Open City’s patio (they open at 6 am!) where bright-eyed youngsters can nosh on fluffy French toast or the old staple of cheesy eggs while the sun rises over Woodley Park. If you need to burn off those snore inducing calories then hoof it up Connecticut Avenue to the National Zoo and check out the animals eating their breakfasts.
2331 Calvert St., NW (Woodley Park)
Dancing toddlers will love getting their groove on at Wolf Trap where kid favorites The Fresh Beat Band, Beauty and the Beast (the musical), The Pop Ups and Dane Zane are all slated to rock out this summer. Bring a picnic brunch, lunch, or dinner and make it a true “grown up” experience for your pint-sized music fans. Where else—but D.C.—can a little one dine under the stars, while taking in a performance at America’s National Park for the Performing Arts?
1645 Trap Rd. (Vienna, Va)
Photo: Donnie Ray Jones via Creative Commons
The National Mall
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the best al fresco dining spot of them all…the National Mall. Whether you fancy flying kites aside the country’s ode to President Washington, love lounging on the Capitol Steps, or hanging with World War II heroes, the Mall is America’s answer to the Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower, and Big Ben. So fill up a picnic basket with some homemade goodies, grab a dirty water dog from a street vendor or just pull out some Goldfish (because we all have an emergency stash lying in the bottom of our bags) and settle into hang with the kids in one of the coolest outdoor eating spots in country.
Between Constitution and Independence Aves, NW
Good Stuff Eatery
Burger-loving, milkshake-drinking, hipsters-in-the-making kids will heart Good Stuff Eatery. After loading up on the Prez Obama burger (bacons, onions, cheese, horseradish), Sunny’s Handcut Fries, and a Toasted Marshmallow shake, grab a seat outside and start people watching. The activity on Pennsylvania Avenue will have your future politician practicing her campaign smile, while you contemplate enrolling her in private debate lessons. They have those right?
303 Pennsylvania Ave., SE (Capitol Hill)
Where is your favorite place to nosh with the kiddos outdoors? Tell us in the comments section below.
—Ayren Jackson-Cannady and Hilary Riedemann
Photo courtesy of Hilary Riedemann, Open City DC via Facebook, Donnie Ray Jones via Creative Commons