Stacey Jones and her 2-year-old son Jason paid their first visit to Cabin John Regional Park in early July. "We love it," Stacey Jones said. "We will definitely come again."
The Joneses are not alone in their reaction to Cabin John. The 528-acre park is a beautiful and accessible recreation area with plenty of activities for visitors of all ages and interests.
Families with young children account for many of the park’s visitors. The park has a large, recently revamped playground with plenty of slides, jungle gyms and platforms to play on. Visitors comment on how much they enjoy the bright colors and cleanliness of the play area.
It is on the jungle gym that siblings Bouke, 8, and Timmo, 3, could be found enjoying themselves. "I like the slides the best," Bouke said. Timmo chimed in, "I like the piggy," referring to the plastic pig who sucks recyclable materials out of the hands of delighted children. His parents said, "We come often, the kids love it."
Another favorite for children is the train ride. The train, a replica of an 1863 C.P. Huntington engine, goes on a winding and scenic one-mile trip through Cabin John. The well-maintained train contains 49 benches and can accommodate up to 147 riders. On the 10- to 15-minute ride, children under age 2 are admitted free and tickets for all others cost $1.50. The train is open May through Labor Day and is closed for "inclement weather."
Peter Blumberg and his son Andy, 17 months, love the train. "We come about once every two or three weeks," Peter said. "Andy just likes to watch the scenery go by as we ride the train."
Train manager Mary Welter said that 10,000 to 15,000 people ride the train each month in June, July and August. The immense popularity of the train has inspired the park to offer an indoor train-themed party room next to the train station. The room is available for parties of 15-20 children and can be rented through the train office.
AFTER A TRAIN RIDE, the riders may have worked up an appetite. They can grab a snack from the train’s snack bar or vending machines and head over to the 175-person picnic area on the neighboring hill. Once there, they can relax as they eat and take in the natural beauty of the park.
Kennedy, 6, and Kayla, 1, enjoyed a refreshing drink from the mouth of a hippopotamus Sunday as a kangaroo (a cleverly disguised trash can) and their mother looked on. As her children giggled at the novelty of drinking from a hippo’s mouth, their mother explained that they were frequent visitors to Cabin John. "They love the different play areas," she said.
BUDDING NATURALISTS need look no farther than Cabin John’s very own Locust Grove Nature Center. The Nature Center is perfect for youngsters, with animal puppets, puzzles, and even a live tree rising up through the interior of the center.
Locust Grove administrative assistant Chavonne Thomas said the center’s live animals — which include a corn snake, black rat snake, tree frogs and cockroaches — are always popular with the children.
Visitors young and old will be thrilled to spot the wild animals that can be seen from the center’s nature trails. Box turtles, red foxes, deer and woodpeckers can all be spotted from the park’s five miles of hiking trails. For the adventurous, bats are commonly spotted around dusk during the summers.
The Nature Center also has plenty of educational programs for youth of all ages. On August 10, children can "Meet the Animals of Locust Grove." This program explores the habitats and eating habits of the animals of Locust Grove, including a chance to pet the center’s many captive animals.
IT’S NOT JUST children who enjoy Cabin John Park, however. The athletically inclined have a wealth of opportunities for recreation at the park. Two baseball fields and four softball fields are available for use with a permit, which can be obtained through the Park Permit Office. A park standout is the Shirley Povich Field, which is a beautiful, lighted, regulation-sized baseball field with a 700 person grandstand. Each summer, it draws thousands of fans of the Bethesda Big Train, a collegiate summer wooden-bat baseball team that competes in the Cal Ripken Sr. League.
For the tennis player, Cabin John offers both indoor and outdoor options. The park has nine outdoor courts along with four practice walls. Just a few steps from the Locust Grove Nature Center are the six indoor courts which are open year-round. Lessons, both private and group, are available for all ages.
Young and old alike love the Cabin John ice skating rink. It is open year-round with many amenities, such as a snack bar, pro-shop, lockers, skate rentals and party rooms. Skaters may go during scheduled two-hour public sessions or take a lesson. Costs for public sessions start at $6 for ages 11 and up. Group and private lessons are available.
With Cabin John Park’s diverse menu of activities, everyone is sure to find something to entertain them. When asked when he wanted to come back to the park, Bouke answered, "Tomorrow!"