Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Things To Do


Located with the Rock Creek Nature Center, the planetarium serves as an astronomy laboratory, allowing visitors to study the sky under ideal conditions. The only planetarium in the national park system, it is meant to stimulate and foster an interest in the sky and stars. Although it is not the purpose of the planetarium's programs to present a great wealth of astronomical information, certain fundamental concepts are woven into the fabric of each program, concepts which are basic to a proper understanding of the sky.

With a dome-shaped ceiling designed to reflect light, the planetarium can duplicate the motion of the stars and planets as they might be observed from any point on Earth using a Spitz planetarium projector. The majority of Rock Creek's planetarium programs show the night sky as it appears in the Washington, D.C. area for the specific date and time of the program. The projector can also be accelerated to allow visitors to witness phenomena which take months, years, or even centuries to occur. Programs are usually 45-60 minutes in length.

Evening stargazing sessions (held at Military Field, off of Military Road), are run in conjunction with the National Capital Astronomers and are held monthly, April through November. Programs are cancelled due to rain and a completely cloudy sky.

The planetarium holds regular shows on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. for children four and older (4-7 year olds must be accompanied by an adult) and at 4 p.m. for children seven and older. The show for the younger children concentrates on the identification of major constellations and the movement of the heavenly bodies through the night sky. The later show, for older children, is divided into a study of the sky as it will appear that night and an in-depth astronomy presentation. Also, on Wednesday afternoons year-round there is an after- school show at 4:00 p.m.

Free tickets for the planetarium shows can be picked up at the information desk in the Nature Center.

Ranger led programs:
Rangers lead a variety of interpretative programs that range from natural history, historical (colonial, milling and civil war), recreational and astronomy.

Educational Programs:
For educators our rangers offer a variety of educational programs. Call the Nature Center at 202-895-6070 for more information and to make reservations.

Carter Barron Amphitheatre :
Carter Barron Amphitheatre offers concerts and Shakespearean theater during the summer months.

Rock Creek has a variety of paved bicycle paths. One of which runs from the Lincoln Memorial through the park and into Maryland. Memorial Bridge connects it to the Mount Vernon Trail in Virginia. Other bicycle trails near the Rock Creek Trail are the C&O Canal NHP towpath in Georgetown and the Capital Crescent trail in Georgetown and Bethesda, MD. Beach Drive between Military and Broad Branch roads is closed to cars from 7 a.m. Saturday to 7 p.m. Sunday and on holidays for bicycling, hiking, jogging and rollerblading. Please stick to designated paved bicycle paths. Bicycles are not permitted on unpaved horse or foot trails.

Rock Creek Park has 30 picnic areas throughout the park; some have rain shelters. Many can be reserved for groups up to 100. Reservations must be made in person at the DC Department of Parks and Recreation at 3149, 16th St., NW. Call 202-673-7646 for more information. The park map shows the picnic areas. The numbered blue circles are reservation sites and the numbered black circles are first come, first served areas.

The large recreation field at 16th and Kennedy Streets, NW has room for many activities. Some of the fields, which are suitable for soccer, football, and field hockey, can be reserved through the DC Department of Recreation. Call 202-767-8363 for information.

There are 15 soft-surface and 10 hard-surface tennis courts at 16th and Kennedy Streets, NW. These courts must be reserved through Guest Services, Inc. The courts are open year-round and there is a charge. There are three soft-surface courts right off Park Road, just east of Peirce Mill. These courts must be reserved through Guest Services, Inc. The courts are open Memorial Day to Labor Day and a fee is charged. The courts at Montrose Park are free. When others are waiting, please limit your play to one hour.

Hiking trails:
An extensive system of trails and paths cover Rock Creek Park and outlying areas such as Glover Archbold Park. These trails are maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) consist of a blue-blazed trail that follows the east side of the creek, a green-blazed trail that follows the western ridge of the park and tan-blazed connector trails.

Exercise trail:
For physical fitness enthusiasts, a 1.5-mile exercise course begins near Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue.

Bridle Trails:
For the horse rider, 13 miles of wide, dirt and gravel bridle trails crisscross the northern section of the park. Near picnic area 25, off of Glover Road is an Equitation field. Horseback riding lessons and guided trail rides are available at the Rock Creek Park Horse Center.

Roller Blading:
Sections of Beach Drive north of Broad Branch Road are closed on weekends and holidays and are ideal for roller blading.

Rock Creek Golf Course, an 18-hole public course with clubhouse, can be reached from 16th and Rittenhouse streets, NW. Clubs and carts can be rented. The clubhouse has lockers and a snack bar. Open daily, except December 25, dawn to dusk. A fee is charged.

Thompson Boat Center:
Thompson Boat center rents bicycles, kayaks, canoes, small sailboats and rowing shells. Lessons are available. Weather permitting, it is open daily (except December and January). The entrance is opposite Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway at Virginia Avenue. A few metered parking spaces are available.