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Day 192: Free Summer Concerts at Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park

One of my favorite things to do in the Bethesda area is to visit Glen Echo Park.  A visit to the park is like taking a walk back in time to a simpler day and age.  The sights and sounds of the carousel and surrounding historic buildings such as the Bumper Car Pavilion and Spanish Ballroom are so unique.  Each one of them have so many stories to tell.  You can read all about the Park’s history which began in 1891, as well as current news and events, by visiting their website.  You can also check out our Day 162 blog of 2011 for a quick summary.

We recommend a visit to Glen Echo Park any time but this Thursday, July 12th, 2012 there will be something special going on – a FREE summer concert at 7:30 PM at the Bumper Car Pavilion.  “The UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND SINGING SERGEANTS will present the music of America to the people of the world, the chorus has appeared before millions of people in live performances and countless more on radio and television programs,” according to the Glen Echo Park’s recent Facebook post.  No matter the weather – rain or shine – the show will go on!  In addition to the concert, the carousel is scheduled to run from 7 to 9pm. Too fun!  It makes me feel like a kid again!    

Glen Echo Park is offering free summer concerts such as this one every other Thursday beginning June 14 through August 23.  They will also offer a Special Sunday Afternoon Concert on July 22: Family Jazz Day, starting at 3:00 pm.  All concerts are free and open to the public.  Come on down and make your family experience a part of the history of magical Glen Echo Park.  ~Amy

Day 185: Puppet Co Playhouse – Summer Fun for the Little One

The Puppet Co at Glen Echo Park

Once upon a time I was a stay-at-home parent of little ones.  I can remember in those days (especially in the summer) desperately seeking something new and interesting to do to entertain the kids – and me too!  There are only so many times you can visit the same parks or the play pit at the mall.  And when it’s hot and sticky outside, you just have to find some indoor fun to keep everyone occupied that doesn’t involve watching TV or movies.

Here’s a great option for you that’s very affordable too!  If you haven’t visited before, and you live in or around Bethesda or NW DC, try a visit to The Puppet Co Playhouse at Glen Echo Park located at 7300 MacArthur Blvd.

This award-winning theater opened in 1983 and has offered performances to over 1.7 million people and counting, according to their website!  The 250-seat theater was designed specifically for puppet shows which are offered year-round.  Just about every six weeks you can look forward to a new, professionally designed show using puppets of all kinds!  The kids love it and you will too.  In fact, it will probably make you feel like a kid again.

There are generally two styles of shows offered at different times – one for toddlers and another for pre-K to elementary school kids. Tiny Tots  is offered at 10:00 AM on various days of the week and is designed specifically for the youngest audiences.  The shows last only 30 minutes, the lights are kept on and the doors are open so that no one gets scared.  The shows are only $5 and sure to please.

Here is a list of their upcoming shows for the month of July 2011:

July 9 – “Penguins’ Playground” – Sat., 10 a.m.
July 10 – “Old MacDonald’s Farm”– Sun., 10 a.m.
July 13 – “Penguins’ Playground” – Wed., 10 a.m.
July 16 – “Dragon Bandwagon” – Sat., 10 a.m.
July 17 – “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” – Sun., 10 a.m.
July 24 – “Baby Bear’s Birthday” – Sun., 10 a.m.
July 27 – “Baby Bear’s Birthday” – Wed., 10 a.m.

and July 31 – “Kooky Kreatures” – Sun., 10 a.m.

For the older audience, pre-K to about 4th grade, stop by and enjoy a 50-minute show for $10.  Through July 17th, they are showing “The Great Dinosaur Mystery!”  Then from July 22nd – September 4th, enjoy the delights of “The Wizard of Oz” like you’ve never heard the story told before.  You might book early for this popular show!

Showtimes are:

Thursdays & Fridays – 10 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.

Saturdays & Sundays – 11:30 a.m. & 1 p.m.

Plus there will be an ASL performance of The Wizard of Oz on August 14 at 1 pm.  This summer I hope you enjoy  a change of pace from the same old things and venture out to Glen Echo Park for a Puppet Co performance.  Your kiddo will be glad you did.     ~Amy

Day 183: Unleash Your Inner Artist at the Yellow Barn Studio

Yellow Barn Studio

Inside of many of us you’ll find the soul of an artist – a dancer, a painter, a writer, a photographer.  Few lucky people have found a way to make their art become their livelihood but if you, like me, have an artist inside with no outlet to express it, you’re in luck.  If you live in or around Bethesda, there is a place for you to unleash your inner artist (talented or not!) at the Yellow Barn Studio & gallery at Glen Echo Park.

Founded in 1994 by Walter Bartman who continues to serve as its Director today, the Yellow Barn was created to bring together a community of artists and provide a means to show their work, grow and improve their skills, and ultimately sell their work.  Additionally, Mr. Bartman has been teaching art in the Bethesda area for over 30 years including some time spent as an instructor at Walt Whitman High School.  He continues to serve our community as a teacher through the many classes offered at the Yellow Barn Studio.  The classes cater to the absolute beginner (like me!) to the skilled technician, thus far serving over 9,000 students since 1994.

The Glen Echo Park’s website offers a comprehensive list of classes available to try your hand at drawing or painting including watercolor, oil and acrylics.  Prices appear to range anywhere from $145 – $295 and are offered all throughout the summer.

Gallery Hours

If your interest in art is simply limited to the appreciation of it, you will still want to stop by the Yellow Barn Gallery on Saturdays and Sundays between 12 PM – 5 PM  to enjoy the exhibitions.  You can also support the arts in our community by joining the Friends of the Yellow Barn to promote the ongoing programs there and scholarships for students, among other perks.  Lastly, every month or so, the Stone Tower Artist-In-Residence program showcases the works of a featured local artist providing an opportunity for the public to stop by and see the artist in action or hear lectures in the studio.  This month you can enjoy the talents of Barbara French Pace who specializes in landscape paintings using oil and some acrylics and pastels.  She is offering art talks on Sundays from 1 – 2 PM.

Enjoy the opportunity to learn more about the world of art, explore your inner creative skills or just appreciate the fine works of the artists in residence at the Yellow Barn Studio & Gallery. While you’re there, perhaps you could take in a ride on the old Carousel as well!     ~Amy

Day 166: Shall we Dance? I'll meet you at the Spanish Ballroom.

Entrance to the Spanish Ballroom

Whether you’re a skilled dancer or a brand new student of dance, Glen Echo Park has a dance party for you!  Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, you can put on your dancin’ shoes and cut a rug with your neighbors and friends.  Dance experience is NOT required and in fact, neither is a partner!  Just come on down to the ballroom.  And if you’re a little inexperienced and perhaps nervous about that, never fear.  Free, pre-dance introductory lessons are offered before the social dances begin every evening.  Enjoy the chance to learn something new or hone your skills with American swing, blues, salsa, waltz or traditional American contra & square dancing.

The social dances at Glen Echo Park are held in perhaps one of the most the beautiful venues in the area.  The Spanish Ballroom is, in particular, one of the finest and most elegant of the dance facilities.  You will also find dances offered at the Ballroom Annex and the Bumper Car Pavilion.  The historic Spanish Ballroom was built in 1933 in a Mediterranean, art deco style offering a glamorous place for up to 800+ people to gather and celebrate.

After passing through its grand foyer, you emerge into the open ballroom with its arched windows all around.  A Baby Grand piano sits upon the stage overlooking the gorgeous hardwood dance floor.  The building is flanked by its gracious promenades.  It’s a pleasure to walk into the room with live band music energizing the room and the dancers floating across the floor with broad smiles.

One note of caution: the ballroom is a stunning venue for large parties and events but the building is neither heated nor cooled so come prepared.  If you plan to rent the facility, the best times for comfort are in the spring and fall of course.  In the meantime, stop by on some nice summer evening and enjoy a social dance party.

All dances are open to the public for any age and you can dress casually.  Admission cost various but typically ranges between $5 – $20 – including the pre-dance lesson.  Sometimes you will find that there is more than one dance party going on and you can try your skills at two dance styles in one evening!  A full schedule of dance parties can be found on the Glen Echo Park website.

So what’s your dance choice – salsa, swing or square dancin’?  Send us your pictures and we will post them on Bethesda365.  Let’s dance!  I’ll meet you at The Spanish Ballroom.   ~Amy

Day 164: The Carousel at Glen Echo Park – A Local Treasure

Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park

The centerpiece of Glen Echo Park is the whimsical Dentzel Carousel.  The carousel has been a fixture at the Park for 90 years now!  In 2003, after 20-years of painstaking restoration, the hand wood-carved carousel was revealed again – appearing as it was in its beginning.   The natural colors and look were restored to reflect a truly authentic experience of a ride in 1921 – the year the carousel first opened to the families of D.C. and Bethesda.  The Glen Echo Park website has some beautiful photos of the carousel at night and at dusk.

Deborah Lange has written a comprehensive account of the restoration process, including many full-color photographs.  The publication is entitled Restoring the Glen Echo Park Carousel and is available to order on-line or by contacting the Park directly.

You and your children can enjoy a ride on this local treasure for $1.25 (cash is preferred) Saturdays and Sundays from 12 – 6 PM.  Or stop by between 10 AM – 2 PM on Wednesdays & Thursdays and, beginning in July, Fridays as well.  The carousel season for 2011 runs through September 25th.  The big closing celebration, Then and Wow!, will be held that day.

You may have ridden a carousel before, but if you have never been to Glen Echo Park, it’s unlikely you have ever experienced a carousel quite as special as this one.  Its gentle lions, rabbits and horses await you and are ready to delight as you round the magical carousel with its delicate, magical music.  You will surely be transported to a time of innocence and joy.

Share this fun with your children or with your special someone.  It is indeed a rare and wonderful experience to be had.     ~Amy

Day 163: Yurts for the Arts

The Pottery Yurt

The Glen Echo Park Yurts are quite an interesting sight to behold.  These little brown circular buildings are centers for art, calligraphy, pottery classes and galleries at Glen Echo Park.  So why yurts?  Well, apparently in 1972 they were created for an 18-month habitat exhibit at the National Mall that never materialized so the yurts were brought to Glen Echo Park.  They were an ideal resource for the needed classroom and studio space for the Park’s new focus on the arts.  Don’t they just smack of the 70’s?!   They should be equipped with avocado colored appliances and shag carpet in my opinion.

Yurts can be found around the world and have been traditionally used by the nomads of Mongolia and Turkey for hundreds of years.  They are built in such as way as to be easily packed up and moved by horses or other animals and they are able to withstand all kinds of weather conditions.  Traditional yurts consist of a circular wooden frame carrying a felt cover made from sheep’s wool.  Today, you can find yurts used all over the world for various peoples and purposes, and in Glen Echo Park, they are cleverly used as classrooms and galleries.  The site upon which they stand in the park was the one where, in days gone by, the Tunnel of Love (the World Cruise) once romanced the people of Bethesda and DC and thrilled others with The Whip and the roller coaster.

Feather Tree Hill Yurt

Alana Hunter of Feather Tree Hill offers calligraphy courses in one of the yurts.  Since 1998 this Chautauqua Artist-in-Residence has hosted summer camps, classes, workshops and art parties.  One of her most popular classes is the “Project Funway Wearable Art Camp.”  Check out more details on her blogspot.

You will also find the opportunity to enjoy pottery and ceramics at the yurts.  Visit the gallery on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 – 5 PM, April – December.  Summer pottery classes for middle and high school students are being held this summer on Tuesdays (June 21 – July 26) and Thursdays (June 23 – July 28).  There are also classes for adults too. Get your hands into the clay and enjoy the unique opportunity to create using this wonderful medium.  To register for classes, visit the Glen Echo Park website.   Jeff Kirk is the director and artist-in-residence for the pottery program since 1975.  As artistic director – and as a resident artist and instructor as well – his  goal is to foster the spirit that enables students to give shape and meaning to their unique visions, according to the Park website.

Whether or not you take classes or visit the gallery at the yurts, you should at least stop by and take a look at these fascinating and unique structures at Glen Echo Park. I can hear the Pink Floyd music in my head every time I see them!      ~Amy

Day 162: Glen Echo Park – Amusing Bethesda & DC Since 1891

The old trolley and Art Deco Entrance

Over 400,000 people a year visit Glen Echo Park and enjoy the opportunity to take in dance and art classes, festivals and educational programs of all kinds.  Once the area’s premier amusement park, Glen Echo Park has a diverse and interesting history that continues through to this day.

The area began in 1891 as an arts and education colony – the National Chautauqua Assembly – featuring band concerts and exciting speakers every night of the week except Sundays.  According to William Offutt’s Bethesda, A Social History, “by 1893 concerts echoed through the trees at Glen Echo [Park] almost every summer weekend.”  Because it was situated at the terminus of the trolley line, Glen Echo Park became a destination for the upper crust of D.C.  The vaudeville shows were a hot ticket as were operas and other social events.  In the summer of 1899, a band pavilion, bowling alley and the merry-go-round were installed and the area became an even more popular destination attracting crowds numbering in the thousands.  In the early 1900’s, roller coasters were installed (much to the chagrin of area residents such as Clara Barton).  On any given summer day you could find as many as 5,000 people visiting the park.

The entrance to the Crystal Pool

In the 1930’s, in addition to its roller coasters, merry-go-round, popcorn and cotton candy concessions, hall of mirrors, chain-pulled boats through the Tunnel of Love and dance hall, the Park added the Crystal Pool!  Measuring 150 X 250 feet the pool was a huge attraction with a diving pool, two swimming areas, a wading pool and a sand beach plus a huge locker room.  Bethesda residents spent entire summers at Glen Echo Park enjoying the delights of what was called “The Cleanest Park in America in 1940.”  The art deco entrance to the park was added in 1940 near the trolley tracks and remains there today.

Two World Wars, the Great Depression and the civil rights movement hit the area hard and there are many personal and public stories detailing events that changed the face of the Park and the community as a result of these challenging times.  In 1971, it became a National Park and is the only amusement park preserved by the National Parks system.  Today, Glen Echo Park is preserved through the combined efforts of the National Park Service and Montgomery County.  Together, in 2002, they formed the Glen Echo Partnership for Arts and Culture as a non-profit organization that manages the programs and facilities of the Park and preserves its natural history.

Picnic area and Carousel

This rich and fascinating historical site is definitely worth a visit for a day, for a weekend or regularly for the many activities it offers.  Because it has such a rich program and history, we will feature a different part of the park each day this week on

We also encourage you to stop by the Park on a Saturday or Sunday at 2 PM and enjoy a 45-minute park tour to better appreciate the rich background and diverse array of current-day programs and events that are offered there.  The tour meets at the Visitor’s Center.  Or just stop by some time and have a picnic, walk the grounds and take a ride on the very quaint old carousel.

The park is located at 7300 MacArthur Blvd in Glen Echo, Maryland right on the border of Bethesda and D.C.  For more information visit their website at    ~Amy

Day 128: This One Time at Band Camp….

Bethesda Day Camps

Remember going to camp when you were young?  The anticipation of the fun to be had and the nervousness you experienced wondering who you would bunk with or whether you would make new friends seemed almost overwhelming.  But when it was all said and done, you came home with lots of great experiences and stories to tell.  I remember this one time, at band camp…oh wait, perhaps I should save that story for another time.  Instead, let’s talk about Summer Camps in Bethesda for 2011!

It’s definitely time to make your final decisions about summer camps for the kids and get registered!  We hoped to make it easier for you to conduct your search by compiling our local camps here.  Bethesda is absolutely loaded with options for day camps for kids and some offer sleep away camps too.  But don’t delay, summer camps are filling up quickly!  Here is a list of some of the creative camps offered in Bethesda that we were able to dig up for you:

Adventure Theater at Glen Echo – Musical theatre world in a camp complete with choreography, acting and singing.

Artworks Classes – Ages 6-12.  Check out our blog “Drink and Draw”, artworks classes are for adults too!

Bach to Rock (B2R) – VERY COOL Band Camp!

Big Train Summer Baseball Camp – The fundamentals of the game and the opportunity to play every day.

Camp Olympia – Sports day camp including soccer, horseback riding, swimming, tennis and basketball.

The Center for Movement, Music and Art, Inc. – Ages 1 – 7+

Glen Echo Park Summer Camps – Something for everyone including fine arts, visual arts, dance, movement, writing and more!

The Harbor School Summer Camp – A little bit of everything.  June 20th – August 12th.

Imagination Stage Summer Camp – Performing Arts Camp.  For more information about Imagination Stage, check out our blog entry from Day 88.

Just Cakes Cooking Classes – For your budding culinary genius.  Check out our blog entry about Just Cakes.

Landon Grand Slam Tennis Camp – Boys ages 7 – 17.  More information about Landon School for Boys on our blog, Day 118.

Math Tree – Making math fun!

The Next Level Athletic Performance Center – Sports camp ages 6-12.

Summer at WES – Ages 4 – 14, day camps and sleep away camps.

Summer Camp at Norwood  – Ages 3 1/2 – 14 and something for everyone.  Our Norwood Park blog offers a quick look at the beautiful location.

TIC Summer Camp – Technology and Sports ages 7 – 14.

YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase – 29 different one and two-week camps at three local sites.

Whew.  That’s a LOT of camps – and that’s just here in Bethesda!  If this isn’t all of them, please feel free to add more by posting a comment.  We hope that your kids enjoy summer camp – we know YOU will Mom and Dad!  😉

So maybe now I could tell you about this one time at band camp….