With the colors of the trees changing, and the tremendous heat wave D.C. saw this summer finally abating, families may once again step out to enjoy outdoor activities together. The five best ways to spend a fall day, all selected specially for families, include visiting D.C.’s Giant Panda Habitat and the Asia Trail exhibits at the Smithsonian National Zoo, apple picking at Butlers Orchard, hiking along the kid-friendly Limberlost Trail, and visiting Discovery Theater and the National Air and Space Museum.
3001 Connecticut Ave. Northwest
The National Zoo’s most popular exhibit is perhaps the Giant Panda Habitat. Parents and kids alike are sure to enjoy the giant pandas. The Asia Trail series of exhibits that started in 2007 is also worthwhile. The Trail includes seven Asian species: clouded leopards, a Japanese giant salamander, Asian small-clawed otters, sloth bears, fishing cats, and red and giant pandas. To provide an invaluable learning opprtunity for kids, families should check out the trail map and other information from the website before they go.
22200 Davis Mill Road
Go fruit or flower picking with your whole family this fall. Butlers Orchard offers a unique option every month of the fall season. Pick flowers until early October, raspberries through September, pumpkins (and take hayrides) in October and even Christmas trees in early November. Enjoy a bakery on site, with ample varieties of fruit pies, both fresh and frozen, as well as pound cakes, brownies, crumb cakes, seasonal breads and soft cookies. Check out its list of events here. Remember most of their events depend on the weather, and it is advisable call in case of inclement weather.
Entrances at Front Royal from I-66 and Route 340,
Thornton Gap from Route 211
Swift Run Gap from Route 33
Rockfish Gap from I-64 and Route 250
Click here for fees and reservations
Shenandoah National Park is home to some of the country’s best hiking trails. If you have older parents in your family, and/or toddlers, you will love Limberlost Trail. This trail provides an easy, short hike. It is 1.3 miles long and features a greenstone walkway for ease of use. The incline is gentle and there are many benches along the way. If you want to stay the night, accommodation is available at Lewis Mountain, Skyland Resor and Big Meadows Lodge.
1100 Jefferson Drive, Southwest
Washington, DC 20024
Price: $3 to $12
Originally founded as the as The Smithsonian Puppet Theater, Discovery Theater is now a part of Smithsonian’s theater for young audiences, and features interesting programs throughout the fall. Enjoy a discount for groups of 10 children or more. Parking can be difficult, however limited parking is available starting from 10 a.m. along Jefferson Drive and Madison Drive.
Independence Avenue at 7th Street Southwest
Washington, DC 20560
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum features the biggest collection of old air and space craft in the world. Perhaps the most popular exhibits include the aircraft of the Wright Brothers (1903), the Apollo 11 module from 1972, the original Wright 1903 Flyer, and Charles Lindberg’s Spirit of St. Louis. There is also a touchable moon rock, a lunar sample from the surface of the moon during the Apollo 17 mission.
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