Credit: Illustration by Yunyi Dai

I can’t deal with the heat here—is it true D.C. was built on a swamp?—and I need new activities for my kids. Other than pools, splash pads, libraries and the Smithsonian, what are some other places I can take my kids this summer? 

Turns out Washington, D.C., was not built on a swamp, despite popular proclamations otherwise each summer, when Operation Steam Bath rolls in and we roll up our sleeves to fight shirt stains, untamed hair and general ennui.

When I moved here after college for a summer internship at a shoestring publication, my editors ordered lunch in rather than venture into the thick air over Dupont Circle on particularly oppressive days. At the time, my kooky cousin had grown out his kinky hair and invoked a mantra: “Embrace the curl.” Genius, I thought, and decided I’d “embrace the heat.” I summoned the strength of my Southern heritage (Mom grew up in Vidalia, Georgia) and let the heat waves roll over me on walks to get a cheese-and-avocado sandwich from the corner deli. Turns out the idea only works when you’re about 21. As does that diet. Now I’m channeling more of the fanning-oneself-on-the-porch sort of steel magnolia.

But this isn’t a Tennessee Williams play, and I’ve got kids who need a little more activity than that. Luckily, there’s so much to offer.

A few ways to occupy yourself and your kids without melting into oblivion:

Hike Sugarloaf Mountain.

Just south of Frederick, the trails are shady in parts, cooler up top and just challenging enough to make it interesting, with craggy rocks to climb. Plus, you can reward everyone with a trip to the Waffle House in nearby Urbana. Make it extra adventurous with my husband’s trick, a coin flip to determine the extent of fixings on your hash browns: scattered (on the grill), smothered (with onions), covered (with cheese), chunked (with ham), topped (with Bert’s chili), diced (with tomatoes) peppered (with jalapeños), capped (with mushrooms) and/or country (with sausage gravy). It’s fun for all ages. 

Take a joyride on the Circulator bus.

Stay with me. I’m Ms. MoCo, not Ms. Loco. If your kids are really little, they’ll love it. It’s bright, tall and free, and can take you from Old Georgetown Road to Bradley Boulevard. When my son was obsessed with “Wheels on the Bus” (what is it about that song?), we took a loop aboard a Ride On bus, whose driver actually broke out in song for a 2-year-old’s dream come true. You won’t be alone on your Circulator joyride. Ridership dropped below 1,000 passengers per month that first COVID summer, but now it’s up to 10,500, according to the Bethesda Urban Partnership. On a recent weekday afternoon, I took two jaunts, both of which were decently populated, mostly with seniors, except for one Goth couple.


And speaking of simple pleasures, check out Maryland’s minor league baseball.

The games are less overwhelming for kids (and many adults), and supply that wholesome sense of community so needed these days. Make sure to bring one of those handheld spritzer fans. The kids will laugh at you until they want to borrow it.

But whether your kids are in town, or still live at home, I beg you this: Remember the grace of summer nights. Jacketless evenings, open-toe shoes and balmy weather—this is the potion for dreamlike moments when the light of day meets the mystery of night. Sip a drink on your front porch and meet the neighbors. Step back in time and go square or swing dancing at Glen Echo, or barhop in downtown Bethesda. You can take the Circulator.

Got a question about life in Montgomery County? Ask Ms. MoCo by emailing


This story appears in the July/August issue of Bethesda Magazine.