Get Out, Groove, and Give Back at Glen Echo Park

Katherine RivardNPF Blog
A neon blue sign for Glen Echo Park on a art-deco style building at night
— Geoff Livingston

There’s nothing better than the feeling of doing something good. And when you can add doing something good for yourself too, you’ve got a winning combination of service and self-care! Recreating and volunteering in parks can take many forms – but few offer quite as many amusing opportunities as Glen Echo Park.

Located right outside of Washington, D.C. on the Maryland side, this unique addition of the National Park System is managed as part of George Washington Memorial Parkway. It offers visitors opportunities to join social dances and volunteer events to get out and active with others.

Whether you’ve grown up dancing or you’re interested in trying something new, dances and classes at the park are a fun way to get up and out on a weekend evening. And for those looking to visit with a group during the day, the help of volunteers is always needed and appreciated at the park.

Get in on the Beat

A couple ballroom dancing at Glen Echo Park at George Washington Memorial Parkway
Megan Pagado

Parks offer unforgettable programs to get you moving and trying new activities. At Glen Echo, you can explore the park’s long history of dance as you participate in its regular social dance events and classes. Dance is a great way to get active — moving across the dance floor and activating your mind and body coordination as you learn new footwork. Dance genres range from waltz to salsa to contra and everything in between.

The dances are held in the historic Spanish Ballroom, the Bumper Car Pavilion, and the Ballroom Annex — each setting is a beautiful spot to dip and glide your way back through history. The Spanish Ballroom was constructed in 1933 and is designed in art deco and Spanish motifs. It was a popular place to host dances in the 1930s and ‘40s when big name bands were common acts at this location.

Even older is the 1923 Bumper Car Pavilion, which stands as one of the oldest surviving amusement park structures (the other is the iconic carousel). The original steel floor and open latticework decorations provide a pretty background for dancers. Meanwhile, the Ballroom Annex was recently renovated to offer a large area, perfect for dancing and parties, and complete with beautiful maple wood floors.

Every week, from Thursday through Sunday, the park welcomes visitors for an introductory dance lesson before the official dancing begins. The weekly schedule is posted online and each night offers a different type of dance and artist. Tickets to the dances are sold at the door and dancing continues, sometimes till midnight!

Lend a Helping Hand

A colorful carousel with horses and lights and mirrors at Glen Echo Park
Geoff Livingston

Looking for ways to get active in the parks with friends before the sun goes down? Many national parks, including New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, welcome volunteers to assist with ongoing projects.

At Glen Echo Park, these opportunities rotate based on upcoming events. Event support may include helping with crafts, face painting, or supporting other family-friendly activities. It may also include helping to maintain the park’s grounds and facilities.

Volunteers help tackle and maintain the park’s resources by weeding, removing invasive plants (like bamboo), and even painting buildings. Service projects also keep the park pristine by inviting volunteers to pick up litter in the park’s Minnehaha Creek to keep its watershed clean and safe for its inhabitants and beautiful for future visitors.

If you’re looking for a way to chorale your co-workers, corporate volunteer days can be an option. Students on school trips scout groups can also give back to the park in various capacities. Got some friends? Participate in a social group? Why not gather together and spend a day or a morning soaking up the beauty of Glen Echo Park as you help keep it thriving for future generations. By night, stick around, change your shoes, and get onto the dance floor.

By giving your time and talent to parks like this one, park staff can focus on other park priorities and management needs. Step out of your comfort zone and get your heart pumping — whether you’re pulling weeds or doing the tango — next time you #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque at Glen Echo Park.

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