End of Summer Bucket List: 20 Things to Do in DC Before School Starts

Beat the August heat at a splash pad or sprinkler park. Photo courtesy of Gaylord National Resort
Beat the August heat at a splash pad or sprinkler park. Photo courtesy of Gaylord National Resort

If you haven't yet crossed everything off your family's summer bucket list, no sweat—there are still so many things to do in DC with kids before school starts. Take your pick from plenty of fun options every day of the week, like water parks and splash pads, family-friendly beaches, a temporary STEM exhibit at the National Children's Museum, and more.

Even better, many of these summer events and activities are free! We're talking free summer concerts, free outdoor movies, free children's programming like Kids Day on the Plaza at National Harbor, and more fun that won't cost a dime.

Read on for your family's ultimate end of summer bucket list in DC and its surrounding areas. Your kiddos will have so many fun memories to share once school starts back up again!

End of Summer Bucket List for DC Families

1. Make a Splash at a Swimming Pool

Whether it's one of the many free public swimming pools in DC or an outdoor swimming pool with a daily pool pass option, DC's outdoor pools close for the season after Labor Day. So, be sure to get in a few last-minute swims with the kids and cross this item off your summer bucket list!

2. Catch Some Thrills at a Water Park

The area's outdoor water parks also close after Labor Day, so head to one before summer ends to slip, slide, splash, and have fun.

3. Hit the Beach

Summer may be winding down, but it's not too late for a beach day—or beach weekend! Check out our list of family-friendly beaches near DC. For a beach day that's more laid-back and closer to home, try one of these 10 parks with beaches near DC or these 10 great lakes and swimming holes for DC families.

Related: Beat the Heat in DC: Heat Wave Indoor Activities and Outdoor Cool Fun


Keep cool at the Canal Basin at Yards Park. Photo courtesy of the Capitol Riverfront

4. Cool off at a Sprinkler Park, Sprayground, or Splash Pad

The DC area has lots of great sprinkler parks, spraygrounds, and splash pads to help kids beat the summer heat. Some of them remain running past Labor Day, but many of them don't—and you don't want to miss the chance to cross them off your summer bucket list!

5. See a Free Outdoor Concert

There are so many free outdoor concerts all over the DC area throughout the summer. While a few—like National Harbor's Salute the Sunset Concert Series and Fairfax City Rock the Block—run through September or October, most of them wrap up in August.

6. Watch a Movie Under the Stars

Free outdoor movies are a summertime staple, and there's still time to catch many of them before they finish for the season. Try Movies in the Parks in Rockville, Maryland on Wednesday nights; Starlight Cinema in Centreville, Virginia for a free drive-in movie and children's show every Saturday night; or Films in the Park in Fairfax, Virginia's Mosaic District on Thursday nights.

7. Enjoy Kids Day on the Plaza at National Harbor

You still have three more chances to take part in a Thursday morning of fun, free kids' activities at National Harbor. On August 11 and 25, enjoy an interactive storytime with the Prince George's County Memorial Library system. On August 18, meet Prince George's County police officers, firefighters, and EMTs and make some crafts.

Related: 35 Great Summer Kids Movies for Family Movie Night

 
Watch a movie in the atrium of Gaylord National Resort. Photo courtesy of the resort

8. Visit Gaylord National Resort

Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor has lots of fun activities for kids and families in every season, especially at Christmas. But you have until Labor Day to take part in the resort's Summer of More activities. See an interactive pirates and princesses show, create pirate- or princess-themed canvas art, take part in a scavenger hunt, see a movie in the atrium, and have up-close encounters with live animals.

9. Attend the Arts in the Parks Children's Entertainment Series

Enjoy free summer entertainment for children at various Fairfax County Parks locations throughout the summer. Performers include musicians, puppeteers, magicians, and more. The series takes place on Wednesday mornings at Frying Pan Farm Park and on Saturday mornings at Burke Lake ParkEllanor C. Lawrence Park, and Mason District Park

10. Go Peach Picking

August is when peaches are ripe and ready for picking in the DC area. Head to one of these 10 great farms to go peach picking near DC before the month is over and cross this activity off your summer bucket list.

11. Explore the Garden at Tudor Place

During Summer Saturdays at Tudor Place, families are invited to explore a different feature of the garden with a lesson and a take-home craft. Upcoming themes include architecture on August 6, seeds on August 13, and outdoor art on August 20.

12. Catch "Fantastagirl and the Math Monster" at Adventure Theatre

This adorable stage show, about a 2nd-grade superhero who uses words to save the day and must learn to accept help from the Math Monster, is only at Adventure Theatre until August 21. Hurry over to catch a performance and get kids 5 and up excited for back-to-school!

Related: Summer Festivals Near DC for Families: Fairs, Carnivals, and More


August means county fairs galore! Photo courtesy of the Arlington County Fair

13. Go to the Fair

The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair and the Prince William County Fair are both in town August 12-20, while the Arlington County Fair takes place August 17-21. With carnival rides and games, live entertainment, food, animals, and more, they make for a perfect family-fun day before school starts again.

14. Enjoy Free Outdoor Roller Skating

August 13-14 is the last weekend to go roller skating for free at the pop-up Wharf Roller Rink on Transit Pier. Be sure to add this to your summer bucket list!

15. See a Cool STEM Exhibit

Have you made it yet to Design Zone at the National Children's Museum? This traveling exhibit allows kids ages 5-12 to step into the shoes of video game developers, roller coaster designers, music producers, and more. If you haven't gotten to visit yet, don't worry—the exhibit will be there through September 5.

16. Take a Summer Day Trip

Squeeze in one last summer adventure before the kids go back to school. Stroll through historic Clifton, Virginia, explore Baltimore's Inner Harbor, or try one of our other 12 great summer day trips from DC for families.

17. Complete a Summer Reading Challenge

There's still time for kids to complete a summer reading challenge through their local library, bookstore, or other location to earn some fun prizes such as free books. Here are 10 summer reading challenges for kids to try. Though a few have ended for this summer, several are still going strong.

Related: How to Make Ice Cream at Home in 5 Easy Steps


Cherry chocolate chip ice cream for lunch? We won't judge! Photo courtesy of Woody's Ice Cream Shop

18. Have Ice Cream for Lunch

Summer break is one of the few occasions when it's perfectly acceptable to feed the kids ice cream for lunch (or dinner). You'll be making those school lunches again before you know it. While you still can, take them to one of these 12 must-try ice cream shops near DC.

19. Squeeze in a Summer Camp

If you haven't yet crossed camp off your kiddo's summer bucket list, there may still be time. Check out our Washington, DC Summer Camp Guide to find summer camps that might still have openings.

20. Go Back-to-School Shopping

Get your children ready for the first day of school by taking them shopping for a new backpack, a great lunch box, and other back-to-school supplies and clothing. Then, laugh off the hit to your wallet with some funny school memes!

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