Are you tired of paying exorbinant entrance fees, to take your family to a park? What about resident and non resident costs, which have to be considered at most recreational facilities? It used to be simple, but due to cost cutting and other factors, a lot of parks have to charge you to enjoy these places that temporarily “allow you to escape the urban jungle.” Thankfully, just North of the Washington D.C. line, is a park that doesn’t care what state or county you live in, as there are no fees for simply entering the property. Wheaton Regional Park is owned and operated by the Montgomery County Parks and Recreation Department, and its a fantastic place to spend an entire day with your family. There’s a lot to see and do, and one of my favorite activities is to have a picnic.
You won’t have trouble finding a picnic table here. You might have difficulty if you want one under one the pavilions, but on a day of fine weather, don’t you want to get a little bit of sun? There have got to be fifty plus tables, and most of them have a charcoal grill in close proximity. While the grills are fine for use, I find my portable gas one to be easier to use, so I bring that along instead. The picnic tables are comfortable, and while on summer days it can be a bit bright, there are a few also shaded by trees. You will find plenty of trash receptacles, and this whole area is clean and well maintained.
Want to burn some carbs from those burgers and hotdogs? Get on the Heart Smart Trail. This sounds more challenging than it really is, but I like the fact that it is paved, therefore causing less pain for your joints while walking or jogging. Its flat for the most part, over ten miles in length, and provides some views of Pine Lake. This is more of a pond than anything else, but it is still an attractive body of water. Fishing opportunities are average at best, as long as you are happy with smaller sized game fish such as bluegill and crappie. You aren’t going to land a monster bass or walleye here, but there are some spots where you can cast without obstructions. Its a small area, and while I’ve yet to catch a bass here, there are some reeds sticking out of the west side that might provide a possibility of catching one.
My favorite activities here are the carousel and the train. They both cost $1.75 to ride, and you can purchase tickets at the kiosk there, which is staffed by a county employee. You’ll enjoy both, and a whole family can ride these without hurting a tight budget. If you have to choose one, go with the train ride. Its a miniature train, much like other parks have, but this one is really fast. There are a few curves, and while it does get some decent acceleration, you are ultimately secure in its locked cars. The engine is a fake steam model, that’s brightly colored, and it does have a whistle that the conductor likes to blow away on. If carousels are more your speed, the one here is very old, but it has been refurbished. Old carnival music plays as you ride horses that go “up and down,” and each turn is about ten minutes in length. Another good value, and a great return for your small investment.
The only caveat is that this park does get busy on the weekends. Parking can be an issue, so if going on Saturday or Sunday, try to get here early. Other than that, Wheaton Regional Park is an ideal setting for families. In fact, generations have returned for a day of fun here. Its just due North of Washington D.C., but watch out for the entrance, as it “sneaks up on you.” The physical address is 2002 Shorefield Road Wheaton, MD 20902, and for more information you can contact Montgomery County Parks and Recreation at 301-942-6703. I look forward to my next picnic here, and ride on that train, because adults and children alike will have fun.