Little Alexandria: Huntley Meadows Park

Enjoying the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. (Erica Barker)

Snapping Turtles, Herons, and a Little Muskrat Chomping Weeds

By Erica Barker

ALEXANDRIA,VA- If you’re looking for a lovely local hiking spot that’s for nature lovers and kids alike, check out Huntley Meadows Park. Huntley Meadows’ greatest feature is the 50-acre wetland area where you can see lots of wildlife. On our last visit, we saw a fawn, snapping turtle, heron, and a little muskrat chomping on some weeds. Depending on the season, you can catch a glimpse of wildlife at various stages. Early in the spring we were able to see all of the little tadpoles in the wetland area and on our last visit, in July, we could hear all of the frogs singing.

Huntley’s Norma Hoffman Visitor Center has natural resource exhibits and fun nature souvenirs for sale. (My son has a collection of realistic-looking turtles that always manage to scare me when I find one lying on the floor.) The boardwalk through the wetland area is about a half-mile hike from the visitor center; both the pathway and boardwalk areas are stroller-friendly. If you’re looking for a spot for an outdoor hike on even the hottest days, the main hike to the boardwalk is surrounded by forest and shaded.

Visit Huntley Meadows Park with the kids! (Erica Barker)

Huntley Meadows Park is located at 3701 Lockheed Boulevard in Alexandria and can be visited seven days a week, from dawn to dusk. Bathrooms are available in the visitor center and there is a port-a-pottie in the parking lot area. As I mentioned above, the park is stroller-friendly, but I would leave the four-legged family members at home because dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk (which, in my opinion, is the best part!).

My son observing a muskrat. (Erica Barker)

Here are my top picks for your upcoming weekends:

August 10: Head across the Potomac to National Harbor to enjoy family-friendly entertainment, including a carousel (with $7 unlimited rides), play area, swan boats, and the Capital Wheel. After dinner at one of the many great restaurants or casual eateries, enjoy the Salute the Sunset Concert Series on the plaza, featuring the Air Force Max Impact Band starting at 7:00 p.m.

August 17: Great for young kids, the Durant Arts Centers hosts two puppet shows at 10:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. This show tells the story of some crafty goats who have plans for the greedy troll who tries to take over their bridge. Tickets are $6 per person.

August 24: The Maryland Renaissance Festival starts this weekend and I highly recommend taking the drive to experience it with the kids. As a bonus, this is Children’s Weekend, where kids aged 7-15 get in free with an adult ticket (kids under six are always free). Last year my son loved the jousting, the puppet shows, and the kids’ pirate ship play area. Located at 1821 Crownsville Road, Annapolis, Maryland; open 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., rain or shine, and strollers are allowed.

August 31: This Labor Day weekend, it’s your last chance to visit one of Alexandria’s free local splashparks. Check out the splashpark at Lee District Park and at Potomac Yard Park for some end-of-summer fun. Don’t forget watershoes for the little ones!

Erica Barker is the founder of littleoldtown.com, where she shares fun activities in the Alexandria area for parents and kids and she enjoys exploring the local area while keeping her toddler entertained.