Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
Rock Creek Park is national park maintained and operated by the National Park Service. The park has more 2000 acres and includes paved trails for biking and hiking, and unpaved trails for more traditional hikes and horseback riding. Even if you donít have your own horse, you can still enjoy the trails. The Horse Creek at Rock Creek Park offers guided horseback tours for about $30, and children at least 30 feet tall can ride a pony for $20.00.
Like most other parks, Rock Creek Park offers picnic and camping areas, but also fishing, swimming, and an area for kayaks and canoes. Some visitors, apparently, have also held weddings there. The park also offers tours and hikes led by park rangers. Past tours have included the Rapids Bridge Hike, a scenic 2-mile hike to Rapids Bridge and back, and the Theodore Roosevelt Hike, a 2-mile hike following the footsteps of Americaís 26th president. Other hikes are shorter in length and are designed with the interest of youngsters in mind. There is even a self-guided, wheelchair-accessible hike on the park premises.
For a great view of the night sky, visit the Rock Creek Park planetarium. Each weekend at 1pm and 4pm, the planetarium features 30- to 40-minute planetary films ideal for children 5 and older and 7 and older, respectively. From April to November, you can join the National Capital Astronomers club for weekly skygazing sessions. The planetarium also features a special after-school show every Wednesday at 4pm. All planetarium shows are free and must be reserved in advance at the information desk in the Rock Creek Park Nature Center.
The Nature Center features an information center, exhibits, and a science library with a broad collection of natural history books. The Center also showcases, interestingly, a beehive against a back wall. You can watch the bees working in the hive as you look on safely through a glass pane. The bees are connected to the outdoors by a plastic tube. All the exhibits and programs at the Nature Center are accessible by wheelchair.
During the summer, the park hosts events at its Carter Barron Amphitheater (with limited wheelchair accessibility). Past performances have included free productions by the Washington, DC Shakespeare Theater Company. Regular, paid performances at the amphitheater usually cost $20 plus a $3 fee, but the theater does not sell tickets on the day of a show. Fortunately, they are connected with Ticketmaster, so you can sign up for advanced notice of performances by registering for an e-mail alert and get your tickets online.
Rock Creek Nature Center and Planetarium
5200 Glover Road, NW
Washington DC 20015