What do a mini steam engine, a carousel, and a geese-filled garden have in common? They all co-exist at Wheaton Regional Park, which is conveniently located just 15-minutes north of the district line. There’s also hiking trails galore, an award-winning nature center, and horse stables. If there’s anything else you need for a family fun day, we don’t know what it is. Dust off those sandals and break out the picnic blanket, here’s why this park is a don’t-skip.
Kiddo can’t decide which one to hitch a ride on? How about both! The little steam engine winds its way through the park’s trees while the carousel goes round and round, enticing riders with its turn-of-the-century hard-carved animals. Rides on either of these are $1.75 each. Open daily through Aug. 24.
The Party Starter
Considering a cookout birthday celebration? Reserve one of the pavilions that accommodate 40 and come with portable grills. While the hotdogs cook, send the kids off to the nearby playground that features some of the tallest slides around and a crazy spider’s-web-style climbing structure for the more adventurous. The pint-sized play area with sand pit and animal figures will keep the littler guests engaged.
Take a Hike (or Fish or Bike)
Pine Lake offers five acres of scenic relaxation, especially for those with fishing rods (and, ahem, the proper state fishing permits). An 11-mile network of paved-and-perfect-for-strollers and unpaved hiking, biking, and horse trails winds its way around the lake and through the park, offering woodsy entertainment for recreation-enthusiasts of every stripe.
There’s hardly anywhere so lovely in the D.C. area as Brookside Gardens, the 50-acre, award-winning horticultural display complete with a rose garden, ornamental fish pond, and an indoor conservatory. The new children’s garden gives little ones their own little corner where they can explore the science and beauty of the great outdoors. Brookside Nature Center, next door to the gardens, has a boardwalk that peeks through the woods, an education playroom to introduce kids to plants and animals, and some live turtles and other pets.
The Wheaton Horse Stables offer riding lessons, summer camps, trail rides, and pony rides to equestrians as young as three. Visitors are free to observe the horses in the paddocks, a favorite with the toddler set. If your four-legged friend is of the barking variety, bring them along for your day at the part. There is a dog park on-site where your canine can get some exercise while the humans get their workouts at the nearby F. Frank Rubini Athletic Complex. The complex hosts indoor and outdoor tennis facilities, an ice arena, an indoor sports pavilion, and sprinkling of various sports fields.
2000 Shorefield Rd. (Wheaton, Md)
Open: daily, sunrise to sunset
Have you been to Wheaton Regional Park? Tell us about it in the comments section below.