For 80 years, couples have met and danced and fallen in love at the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo Park. The building has never looked better, thanks to a 2003 renovation that repainted the stucco walls, replaced the Moorish windows and preserved the unbelievably smooth and comfortable wooden dance floor. Just as in 1933, it still doesn't have bathrooms, heat or air conditioning, but anyone who has ever walked the romantic promenade or gazed at the Egyptian columns doesn't care.
The Spanish Ballroom plays host to dozens of dance events every month, from high-flying Lindy Hop to contra dances to dignified waltz. (Well, as dignified as you can be when you're wearing shorts to fight the summer heat.) And if you've ever thought about joining the crowds, this weekend is the perfect time: Glen Echo is celebrating the Spanish Ballroom's 80th birthday with a day of free dance lessons and time to practice to live or recorded music.
The National Park Service leads tours of the building at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and the style of music changes every hour. Dancing for families (with children 3 and older) runs from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., followed by instructors teaching the basics of contra dancing (1:30 p.m.), swing dancing (2:30 p.m.) and the waltz (3:30 p.m.). No experience is needed; those with two left feet are welcome.
Beyond the ballroom, the park will be open on Saturday for tours led by park rangers at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Kids can also take part in craft activities (noon to 4 p.m.) or ride the historic Dentzel carousel outside for $1.25.