This early 1900s amusement park now serves as a cultural and arts center.

Glen Echo Park is one of Maryland’s best-kept secrets. Located west of Bethesda, the park was once home to a popular amusement park from about 1900 to the late 1960s. In 1971 it was taken over by the National Park Service and turned into a public facility. The grounds at Glen Echo Park have more than 14 buildings that host a variety of arts and crafts classes, dance lessons, and artists in residence. The park also has an aquarium and an operating carousel.

Classes

Glen Echo Park offers a ton of classes for children and adults. For kids, the park has early childhood education classes, summer camps, a fantastic children's theatre, and parent and child classes. Budding and experienced artists can enroll in a variety of one-time and series classes. Subjects include painting and drawing, glass, pottery, dance, music, theater, photography, mixed media, and silversmithing. Memberships to Glen Echo start at $35 a year and give members $3 off each class, four free carousel tickets, and invites to special members-only events.

Glen Echo Park Carousel

Glen Echo Park Carousel, courtesy of Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts & Culture

Things to Do

The main attraction at Glen Echo Park is the 1921 Dentzel Carousel. It was built in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and features hand-carved wooden figures and music by a Wurlitzer organ. The carousel is open May through September, and rides are just $1.25 per person. Visitors can also spend time on the playground or have a picnic in Glen Echo’s newly remodeled picnic area. Stroll through the park’s many art galleries and stop for a snack at the Praline Bakery and Restaurant.

Glen Echo Park Aquarium

The Glen Echo Park Aquarium is only open on weekends and is available for birthday parties and field trips. The aquarium features animals found in the Chesapeake Bay and teaches visitors how to preserve the watershed. Visitors can see animals up close in the touch tank, play in the sandboxes, or climb aboard the outdoor pirate ship. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for members of the military and seniors, and free for children under 2.

Glen Echo Park is open year-round from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., and free parking is available. The park also hosts special and seasonal events each week. Check the event calendar for more information. 

Have you been to Glen Echo Park? What's your favorite thing about it? Tell us in the comments!