Reviews: Potomac Overlook Park

I have mommy brain.  My mommy brain syndrome (MBS) is augmented by my technology dependence syndrome (TDS, or, in my case iTDS).  Example?  We showed up for my daughter’s dermatology appointment (a 45 minute drive in traffic because while I love PWC, I’m driving to the bets possible doctor our insurance will semi-pay for) only to sit for 30 minutes before the semi-rude receptionist reminded me that I cancelled this appointment when I made an earlier one for before we left for the beach.

My MBS apparently prevented me from removing that from my iCal, so when my iAlarm went off, iGotIntheCar and iDrove to the appointment.  Hence the iTDS kicker.

Being that I am also spontaneous, and had skipped swim team practice, we opted to iMap our way over to Potomac Overlook Regional Park and check out what it had to offer before doing the same thing back down i66, err, I-66, to head to a library event back down in our neck of the woods.

Potomac Overlook is located at 2845 North Marcey Road, Arlington, Virginia.  It is absolutely gorgeous for hiking, as well as having a beautiful nature center, concerts, a solar-powered outdoor stage, roving naturalists, community gardens, and canoe trips. 

We’ve been to Potomac Overlook once before, and we enjoyed the well-shaded hiking, especially since with water shoes on we could enjoy keeping our feet cool in the creek/river that flows through the park.  Throwback photo evidence:

Okay, so they didn’t like their water shoes.  I admit, I am that horrible parent that lets my children experience the world barefoot whenever they want and my husband isn’t yelling.  I don’t like shoes, either, so I get it.

 In this picture my kids are 15 months, 3, and 5.  I’m wearing sporting an awesome blue Moby Wrap.  If you don’t have a Moby Wrap and you have a baby or are about to have a 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th) baby, you should stop reading this NOW and go buy one.  I’ll wait. No, they’re not paying me, either.

I am also that mom that lets her kid swim in the deep pool he finds.  It was warm that day.  He had an amazing time and the water was clear so that you could see straight to the bottom.  I realize this doens’t mean it was clean, but it looked like it, so there.

This time, however, we never made it that far since by the time we arrived it was already 108 degrees outside.  Walking from the parking lot to the nature center, we noticed there is a fun hike with signs for each planet placed at representative distances along the path.  They include fun facts like how much a person of a certain weight (I want to say it was 100 pounds) would weigh on each planet.  On your left hand side, you’ll also see the solar-powered outdoor theatre as well as an eletctric car filling station.  Trees and rocks along this main path are also labeled for your viewing pleasure. 

By the time we arrived at the nature center, my middle child informed me that he was dying, and I informed him that the nature center is air conditioned, at which point he summoned the will power to go on the three steps to the door.  It was magical.

By the way, now that my kids are 4, 6, and 8, their lives exist soley on my iphone because I’m not good enough to carry a camera, so I hope that you enjoyed the nice, clear pictures above because now we’re switching back to my typical low-quality cell phone pictures.

The nature center includes a fun mix of energy saving information along with a living bee colony, live turtles, frogs and snakes, as well as some stuffed local species, skulls, and skeletons and fossils to look at.  The upper level is mostly non-living, although there is a turtle and two snakes, and the lower level is mostly snakes and frogs, along with a children’s cave area, which was fun to hang around in for a few minutes even if it wasn’t very large.

 The children’s area included boards to make your own “cave drawings” sounds of a cave on a phone, and space to sit and read books or play with toys.  It’d be a good place to cool off and calm down on a hot day.

 There’s also a lower-level educational room, which was completely devoid of people on the day we went, but looked like it must be used for field trips and scout groups.  There were some fish in the tank as well as stuffed bird and small mammal species. 

Ooooh, something stuffed.  Fun.  My kids love anything about animals, so they thought this nature center was fantastic.  It’s definitely small enough that you can do it in a morning and still have time for a hike, even if you read everything in the nature center, but I enjoy that about it.

It was after this picture that my phone died.  It was sad.  So, not pictured are the community garden, Indian-themed circular garden, or the live birds of prey that are a short walk across from the nature center.  These are previously injured owls and hawks that cannot be returned to the wild due to the extent of their inuries, and you do get a very close look at them.  The owls were especially beautiful, and, as a bonus, I found a 4 foot black snake on the trail on the way up! How fantastic!

Fine, I freaked out.  But the boys thought it was amazing.

This is a great local field trip, and we enjoyed both of our visits.  Check out Potomac Overlook Regional Park for your next hike or nature event!

Potomac Overlook Regional Park
Recommended for: Any age, really.  Lots of walking, but getting to/from the nature center is stroller-friendly.  There is a long hill that is not particularly handicap-accessible, I would talk to the park rangers about the possibility of being allowed to drive to the center itself if that’s an issue for your.  Older children will enjoy the various themed areas and hiking.

Pros: Free! Lots of different interests addressed.  Live and stuffed animal species, lots of labeled plants and rocks with information on species.

Cons: Nature center is somewhat small, parking is removed from areas of interest.