Just because Greenbelt is right next door to Washington D.C. doesn’t mean that it pales in comparison when it comes to activities for your little one. While it might not have national museums or the home of the president, this Maryland suburb has plenty to offer families with preschoolers. From cool cultural activities to outdoor fun in the 1,100 acres of green space, you can keep even the most active preschooler busy.
National Park Play
Sure, Greenbelt is technically a suburb, but that doesn’t mean it’s only about malls and landscaped lawns. The Greenbelt National Park (nps.gov/gree/index.htm) is open year-round for outdoor fun. If you’re looking for the anecdote to a blah afternoon, take your preschooler to the park’s Sweetgum Picnic Area, which has two sets of playground equipment — and also offers Reading Ranger programs on weekends throughout the year. For more adventurous kids, the park provides miles of hiking options on four different trails. Check out the shortest option, the 0.8 miles Blueberry trail, for a less lengthy trek. Another option is to spend the night at one of the park’s campsites. While you do have to bring your own tent and camping supplies, the park has bathroom facilities complete with hot showers.
More Park Play
If your little one just isn’t up to trekking around the trails of the national park or fusses about a rustic night of camping out, try a more low-key option. The city’s Buddy Attick Lake Park (555 Crescent Rd., Greenbelt, MD) has a “tot lot” play space for little ones, a child’s playground and a 23-acre lake for all kinds of awesome aquatic fun. Similarly, the Schrom Hills Lake Park (6915 Hanover Parkway, Greenbelt, MD) has a children’s playground and plenty of green space to have fun with your preschooler.
You don’t have to break the bank to get your preschooler involved in cultural, educational and sports activities in Greenbelt. The city of Greenbelt’s recreation department (greenbeltmd.gov/recreation) offers low-cost programs for residents — with still-reasonable rates for non-residents. While the rec department does operate the city’s parks, that doesn’t mean its programs are all outdoor play. Activities for little ones include Pre-School Art Exploration, Pre-School Music and Art, Creative Movement and Pre-Dance programs held at the Greenbelt Community Center (greenbeltmd.gov/communitycenter; 15 Crescent Road; 301-397-2208) along with swimming lessons at the Greenbelt Aquatic & Fitness Center (greenbeltmd.gov/GAFC; 101 Centerway; 301-397-2204), specifically for preschoolers ages 3 through 5.
You can spend an afternoon discovering space and science with your preschooler, as Greenbelt is home to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (nasa.gov/centers/goddard/home/index.html). While the entire facility isn’t open to guests, the Visitor Center has an exhibit gallery and hosts special educational events, activities and programs. Your preschooler can learn about science topics such as climate change, actually try on a child-sized spacesuit, or climb into a full-size model of the Gemini capsule. As an added bonus, there’s no charge for admission to the Goddard Visitor Center.