Spring break ideas: Take a carousel or train ride at area parks
By Christina Barron,
Looking for a spring outing close to home? Several nearby parks offer fun-filled trips that won’t elicit a single “Are we there yet?” Take a ride back in time aboard the area’s wooden carousels and miniature trains, some of which reopen for the season this weekend.
The trains at Cabin John and Wheaton regional parks and the carousel at Wheaton can help fill the extra time while school is out. Both parks feature models of the 1863 C.P. Huntington steam engine, named for Southern Pacific Railroad president Collis P. Huntington. The open-car trains chug through woods and, at Wheaton, through a tunnel and alongside a lake.
Fully grown carousel riders may remember the Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel from their childhood days. It operated on the Mall from the ’60s until 1981, when it was moved to Wheaton. Built by the Herschell Spillman Co. in 1915, it features 33 hand-carved horses, three zebras and two chariots. Kids won’t want to miss the park’s new Adventure Playground, which includes a climbing mound, tunnel slides, swings and a sandbox.
Cabin John Regional Park, 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Rockville. 301-765-8670. Wheaton Regional Park, 2002 Shorefield Rd., Wheaton. 301-942-6703. Saturday-April 8 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting); weekends through May 27 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; daily Memorial Day-Labor Day 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. www.montgomeryparks.org/enterprise/park_facilities/trains/wheaton.shtm. $1.75; free for age 2 and younger with a paying adult.
Clemyjontri Park’s playground and carousel are designed to be accessible to children with disabilities. The carousel base is at ground level so that those in wheelchairs can ride in a chariot or a spinning teacup next to those riding a horse. The McLean park also has a huge jungle gym, swings, slides, playhouses and a running track.
6317 Georgetown Pike, McLean. Weekends through May 27 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; May 28-Sept. 3, Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. 703-388-2807. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/clemyjontri. $1.75.
For more than 40 years, a C.P. Huntington train — the current one replaced an older model in 2005 — has been a highlight of Burke Lake Park . The train chugs along a 1.75-mile track through woods and tunnels. Once the engine pulls back into the station, kids can ride on the carousel, play on the shaded playground or have a treat at the ice cream parlor.
7315 Ox Rd., Fairfax Station. Weekends April 7-May 27 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; daily Memorial Day-Labor Day 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Ice cream parlor hours vary. 703-323-6600. www.fairfax
county.gov/parks/burkelake. Carousel $1.75; train $2.50; age 1 and younger free.
Frying Pan Farm Park
in Herndon inherited a carousel last spring. The Herschell design was built in 1918 and spent many years at Lee District Park in Franconia. Its arrival at Frying Pan adds another fun element to a park that features a re-
creation of an early-20th-century farm. Expect crowds during spring break for the farm’s irresistible main attraction: baby animals.
2709 W. Ox Rd., Herndon. Through Thanksgiving weekend, Monday-Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4:30 p.m. 703-437-9101. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fpp. $1.75.
Glen Echo Park kicks off carousel season with Family Day on April 28. The annual event includes face-painting, storytelling, dance and theater performances, art exhibits and cake. The Dentzel Carousel, which debuted at the park in 1921, underwent a painstaking restoration beginning in the ’80s that was completed in 2003. Spring through fall, Glen Echo is filled with families taking in a show at Puppet Co. or Adventure Theatre, picnicking, playing on the playground and enjoying a spin on a wooden horse.
7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Family Day activities 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 28. Through June, Wednesday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday-Sunday noon to 6 p.m. (Memorial Day noon to 6 p.m.) 301-634-2222. www.glen
Watkins Regional Park starts up its train and carousel May 5. The restored Chesapeake Carousel, believed to be a Dentzel model, has been entertaining children at the park for 35 years. The miniature train, which started running in 1970, was replaced with a new model in 2005. The train travels near the adjacent Old Maryland Farm, so riders have a chance of seeing a cow or a llama along the way.
Watkins Regional Park, 301 Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro. Spring hours are May 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20 noon to 5 p.m. May 10-11, 17-18 and 24-25 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Expanded summer hours. 301-218-6700.
To_Do/Nature/Watkins_Regional_Park.htm. $1.75; $1.50 for residents of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
Fairfax County has two other parks with carousels worth checking out. Lake Accotink in Springfield operates its carousel on weekends May 7-June 21 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reston’s Lake Fairfax — also home to the Water Mine Family Swimming Hole — runs its carousel Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Lake Accotink, 7500 Accotink Park Rd., Springfield. 703-569-0285. www.fairfaxcounty.
gov/parks/accotink. Lake Fairfax, 1400 Lake Fairfax Dr., Reston. 703-471-5415. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/lakefairfax. $1.75 at both parks.