The temps are rising and that means spending more time in the fresh outdoors with friends and family. If you’re looking to soak up some Vitamin D while you dine, the Washington, D.C. area has lots of family-friendly outdoor dining options. From Italian to Cuban, below are some of the friendliest and yummiest places to dine al fresco in the DMV that both kids and their grown-up companions will love.
Cactus Cantina | 3300 Wisconsin Ave., NW
A nearly 30-year-old staple in the Cathedral Heights neighborhood, Cactus Cantina is a fun, charming, casual, family-friendly restaurant serving delicious Mexican, Cuban, and Spanish dishes. It’s large (can seat up to 300 guests) and truly looks like an authentic Tex-Mex cantina. Their outdoor patio is the perfect place for your kids to nosh on chips while you sip on a frozen margarita! Before you leave, make a pit stop inside so the kids can check out the tortilla maker.
Photo: Millie's Spring Valley
Millie’s Spring Valley | 4866 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Things have definitely livened up in the Spring Valley/AU Park area of D.C.! Millie’s is the second of its name; The original is in Nantucket, MA. Their namesake, “Madaket Millie,” is a Nantucket legend who grew up on the island and volunteered for the Coast Guard. Millie’s is the ideal addition to this family-filled neighborhood. The restaurant pays homage to the stress-free, beachy Nantucket vibe and their menu is fresh California Baja-style. There’s plenty of room on the patio, and after dinner, kids will LOVE going to the ice cream window and getting their fave Gifford’s flavor with fun toppings.
Photo of Union Market by Emma McAlary
Union Market | 1309 5th St., NE
There’s something for the whole family at the ever-expanding Union Market. Stroll through the stalls of this hip foodie haven and enjoy everything from empanadas to gelato. Head outside and find a picnic table or even a cornhole station! Kiddos will love the colorful murals where they can take fun photos as well.
The Walrus Oyster and Ale House | 152 Waterfront St., Oxon Hill, MD
If dining on the beach is not an option, the promenade of National Harbor if a great alternative. Take a stroll along the boardwalk, or a spin on the ferris wheel. When tummies start growling, head over to the The Walrus Oyster and Ale House’s outdoor patio. They have a fab view of the Potomac with an informal, “eastern shore” seafood menu. Low stress, yummy and the kids will love it.
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano | 12307 Wilkins Ave., Rockville, MD
Who doesn’t like eating Italian al fresco? Littles can fill up on pasta followed by homemade Tortoni Amalfi - ice cream with crispy caramel drizzled on top! Both kids and parents will be transported to Southern Italy in the middle of Rockville and you’ll even be surprised with free almond cookies at the end of your meal. Mangia! Mangia!
Pizzeria da Marco | 8008 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, MD
Pizza is the best outdoor summer food! Pizzeria da Marco in Bethesda offers true Neapolitan pizza baked in a 4,500-pound hand-crafted brick oven shipped straight from Naples that sits in the center of the restaurant! Bonus for parents of fidgety kids: the super oven cooks pizzas in a minute or less! Pizzeria da Marco also has a large outdoor patio area kids can run around. And, hello, kids get free gelato! Major bonus!
Mike’s Crab House | 3030 Riva Rd., Riva, MD
Is there anything more summery than crabs by the Bay?! Mike’s Crab House brings you a family-friendly, mouth-watering waterfront dining experience on the banks of the beautiful South River. You can even get there via boat since they have free boat dockage. Think super casual, paper-covered tables and shakers of Old Bay. Dine outside and enjoy the mild Maryland summer evenings.
Shoe’s Cups & Cork | 17 North King St., Leesburg, VA
with a “Secret Garden,” tucked in the back, this coffee house is a hit with kids of all ages. They even have a turf bocce court in the back and plenty of board games you can take outside. Check out their weekly events for littles in the morning, like Morning Music.
Photo: Vola's Dockside Grill
Vola’s Dockside Grill | 101 N. Union St., Alexandria, VA
Paying a visit to Old Town, Alexandria? Located on the Waterfront just steps away from the Torpedo Factory, Vola’s offers seating next to the marina slips. Kids will love watching the boats come and go, and seeing the airplanes take off from Reagan National. The abundance of strolling musicians, magicians and other performers will amuse them as well.
Hen Penny | 1820 Discovery St., Reston, VA
Hen Penny is a Southern food restaurant which offers awesome outdoor tables facing Reston Town Center’s Pavilion. Not only will the kids love fried-up chicken faves, they also serve fried Twinkies (yum!). Grab a bite during one of the Pavilion’s free Concerts on the Town (Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m.), or a post-show snack after their tot-friendly Performances for Children (Monday mornings 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.).
Photo of Colada Shop by Brian Oh
Colada Shop | 21430 Epicerie Plz., Sterling, VA
They had us at Cuban! When you walk into Colada Shop’s Sterling location in the Cascades Overlook development, your're surrounded by colorful Cuban-inspired murals and bright tiles. Cuban pastries, Cuban coffee, sandwiches, and Cuban delicacies like pastelitos, croquetas and tortilla are on the menu here. The patio is large, and there’s even a walk-up counter where you can order your meal from the outside. But be forewarned, there are a number of fountains and splash pads the kids will want to jump in, so bring along a change of clothes!
Los Tios Grill | 2615 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA
A Del Ray family fave, Los Tios is famous for their amazing Mexican food and huge margaritas! The patio is the place to be on the weekend when the whole kit and caboodle can enjoy the Mariachi band, balloon lady, or guitar player. After dinner, head over to the playground across the street and burn off those chips and salsa. Ole!
Photo: Sinistral Brewing Company
Sinistral Brewing Company | 9419 Main St., Manassas, VA
Located in downtown Manassas, Sinistral is family-friendly by design. This brewery is just as fun for the kids as it is for adults. The owner’s two sons animatedly pitch in behind-the-scenes, and you will even find them behind the bar…literally, as they have craft beers named after them! Enjoy family-friendly music, corn-hole, sidewalk chalk, and a whole separate small structure in the middle of the beer garden with couches and board games for kids.
Photo: Macdowell's Brew Kitchen
Macdowell's Brew Kitchen | 202 B Harrison St., SE, Leesburg, VA
With a vacay spot in Key West, owner “Capt’n Mac” felt he had to bring a taste of tropical escape to his home town of Leesburg, VA. He transformed his custom kitchen store into a restaurant, threw down some sand and the rest is history. Macdowell's is located in downtown Leesburg and is literally a restaurant with a beach. It’s laid back vibe, fire pit, slide, and even sand toys, is the perfect place to bring your kids. They even have kid picnic benches. Fun! Fun! Fun!
Photo: Tyson's Biergarten
Tyson's Biergarten | 8346 Leesburg Pike, Tysons, VA
Nestled in the heart of Tysons Corner, you and your family can literally enjoy a breath of fresh air on Tyson's Biergarten's 8000 square foot patio, which even has a playground for kids. Indulge in some traditional German fare and enjoy a beer from their substantial selection while the kids play. Four legged friends also welcome!
~ Guiomar Ochoa
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