An Insider’s Guide to Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County, Maryland was once the premiere attraction in the Washington D.C. area as an amusement park.  It was also a part of the Civil Rights Movement and was integrated for all races in 1961. The park sees an average of 350,000 visitors annually. There are so many fun things to experience and learn including a historic ballroom, local artisans, and a 100-year-old working carousel.

Glen Echo Park was first known as the National Chautauqua Assembly (NCA). The NCA was a place to learn about arts, science, and literature. Glen Echo continues to follow the tradition of this organization by all of the art and artisans stationed at the campus.

The NCA lasted for a season before it was turned into Glen Echo Amusement Park which served the Washington D.C. area until it closed in 1968. Later, it was designated and managed by the National Park Service.

Now, the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts & Culture now manages the campus.

Learn more about Glen Echo Park with this video provided by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts & Culture.


The park also operates and maintains a 100-year-old Carousel. It’s registered on the National Register of Historic Places and called a “menagerie carousel” because of the seven different types of animals that make up the seats on the ride. Riders can either choose to get on a horse, tiger, or even a chariot donned with golden mermaids and sea serpents.

According to Glen Echo Park, the carousel is visited by over 50,000 attendees who can’t wait to ride. A 20-year restoration of the was completed in 2003.

Arts & Culture embodies the spirit of Glen Echo Park. Resident artists at the park focus on a variety of mediums to showcase their work to the public.

Resident artists and organizations include, Adventure Theater MTC which features children’s theater productions, Glen Echo Glassworks a blown glass studio, Silverworks Studio & Gallery features silversmithing as well as a sculpture studio and the Washington Conservatory of Music at Glen Echo Park provides music instruction, performances, and ensembles. There’s also a painting and drawing studio, a fused glass studio, and a digital and darkroom for photography.

The Puppet Co.’s residency has been around since the founding of Glen Echo Park in 1983. The company uses hand puppets, rod puppets, marionettes, and other forms of puppets to put on shows for family-friendly audiences. They complete more than 300 performances annually and they are the only theater between New York and Georgia dedicated to the art of puppetry. There’s more residences and unique experiences at Glen Echo Park.

Another interesting addition to Glen Echo Park is the aquarium. It opened in September 2015 and was founded by a marine biology outreach company from Northern Virginia. Both children and adults can learn more about the Horseshoe Crab, Blue Crab, Seahorses, Flounders, and more. The aquarium’s mission is to promote awareness of the Chesapeake Bay and the watershed to encourage sustainability and conservation.

If you want a place to relax and a bite to eat, stop by the Praline at Glen Echo. According to the park, Praline is a beloved neighborhood bistro and bakery. Located adjacent to the Spanish Ballroom, this café serves up soups, sandwiches, beverages, and French desserts.

For history lovers, the Spanish Ballroom is a 1933 restored Mediterranean-style Art Deco building. One notable event held here annually is the Labor Day Art Show featuring work from resident artisans. It’s registered on the National Register of Historic Places and can be rented out for other events including dances, weddings, and gatherings.

Glen Echo Park was a major catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement with protests from students at Howard University to integrate the park. The students were arrested, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1961, Glen Echo Amusement Park was integrated and opened to all races.

Today, Glen Echo Park is host to many thriving art organizations, studios, and historic treasures. Experience everything at Glen Echo Park located at 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, Maryland 20812.

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