1. When are you open?
The grounds of the park are open from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m. daily. We are closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. Activities at the park are year-round, except for the carousel, which operates from May through September. For a schedule of activities at the park, click here.
2. What goes on at the park?
Public programming is managed by the non-profit Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc. Information about what takes place at the park is available at www.glenechopark.org.
3. When does the carousel operate?
The 1921 Dentzel Carousel operates from the beginning of May through the end of September. Hours of operation are:
May 1-June 27:
Wed. & Thurs. from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sat. & Sun., 12 noon-6 p.m.
July 1-August 29:
Weds., Thurs., & Fri. from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sat. & Sun. from 12 noon-6 p.m.
Sat. & Sun., 12 noon-6 p.m.
4. What are the major kids events at the park? When do they take place?
Children love to play on our playground and picnic in the oak-shaded grove. Those are available on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, our major children’s activities are: visits to the Glen Echo Aquarium; attending Puppet Co. shows; going to plays at the Adventure Theatre; and of course… seeing and riding on the carousel!
5. How many people visit Glen Echo Park annually?
Visitation at the park is between 400,000 and 500,000 people annually. Among our most popular attractions are: Dentzel Carousel rides; Puppet Co. puppet shows, Adventure Theatre plays for children, social dances in the Spanish Ballroom, the annual Washington Folk Festival, and classes given through the Creative Education Program in the park’s art studios.
6. Can I rent the rooms, pavilions or buildings at Glen Echo Park for a private event (wedding, reception, birthday party, business meeting, company picnic, etc)? Yes. Rooms, pavilions, and buildings may be rented from the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc. For more information, please call 301-634-2233.
7. Do I need a reservation to use the picnic area at the park?
No. Picnic tables are available to groups of 30 people or less on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note, in the event of rain, the picnic tables are not covered. Larger groups, or groups wishing to rent indoor or covered space, should call the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc. at 301-634-2233.
8. Where are the restrooms?
Public restrooms are located in most buildings at the park. The restrooms are all handicapped-accessible. The restrooms that are located in the red brick building adjacent to the carousel are open year-round.
9. Where did the name “Glen Echo” come from?
Edward and Edwin Baltzley, the developers of the suburban area that included Glen Echo Park, came up with the name in the late 1880’s. Their advertising booklet, “Glen Echo on the Potomac: The Washington Rhine,” laid out their vision of the area’s development and extolled “the beauties of mountain and river scenery, the charm of a mild climate, and the blessing of perfect health.”
10. When were the structures at the park built?
Chautauqua Tower: (intact) 1891
Caretaker’s House: (partial: only first floor of building survives) 1891
Dentzel Carousel: (intact/fully restored) 1921
Bumper Car Pavilion: (steel floor removed, eaves rebuilt) 1923
Crystal Pool: (partial: only the ruins of the entrance survives) 1931
Spanish Ballroom: (intact/restored with new additions) 1933
Glen Echo Park Neon Sign (rebuilt, includes parts of original 1940 canopy) 2002
North Arcade Building (rebuilt, after 1940 building) 2002
Remainder of Arcade Building - 1940 through 1956
Cuddle Up: 1946
11. I’ve heard that Glen Echo Park opened in 1891 as the country’s 53rd Chautauqua. What exactly is a “Chautauqua”?
The Chautauqua Movement began in 1874 along the shores of Chautauqua Lake, in upstate NewYork. It was designed as an adult education and moral improvement movement that offered a wide variety of classes, speakers, concerts/performances, and even a correspondence school—the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. It hoped to bring "a college outlook" to working and middle-class people. President Theodore Roosevelt said that Chautauqua was “typically American, in that it is typical of America at its best.”
12. How many years was the Chautauqua in existence at Glen Echo Park?
The Chautauqua only lasted one season at Glen Echo. A variety of reasons, including poor weather and an economic depression, led the Baltzleys to look for other uses for the land.
13. When was Glen Echo amusement park in business?
Glen Echo was the biggest amusement park in the region for most of its modern history. It operated from 1898-1968. The transit company (as in many cities) owned and developed the amusement park and saw the operation of the park as an important method of increasing trolley car ridership.
14. What were some the amusement attractions at the park?
Many people return to Glen Echo with memories of visits here. Some of the attractions that people talk about frequently are: the carousel, the Funhouse, Crystal Pool, Coaster Dips, the Whip, Tilt-a-Whirl, Flying Skooters, Jungleland, the Dodgem, Shooting Gallery, Mirror Maze, and the Penny Arcade.
15. Where was the roller coaster?
The loading platform of the roller coaster was next to the Chautauqua Tower, and the coaster tracks ran parallel to MacArthur Boulevard. The Glen Echo Pottery Studio, Glen Echo Aquarium, and the Minnehaha Creek are areas where the coaster once ran.
16. Where was the Crystal Pool?
The main swimming area of the Crystal Pool was located in the grassy space next to our playground. The pool has been filled in.
17. Tell me about the park’s segregation history. What caused a change to this policy?
For 63 of the 70 years of its amusement park history, the park owners would not admit African-Americans. Similar exclusionary policies were in effect at many recreational facilities in the Nation’s Capital and
throughout America in the first half of the 20th century.
One June 30, 1960, a small group of college students (many from Howard University) staged a sit-in protest on the park’s carousel and were arrested. This incident led to an 11-week civil rights picketing campaign at Glen Echo Park by the students and a large proportion of the residents of the neighboring community of Bannockburn. The protests had a major effect on attendance and the private owners of the park opened the 1961 season on an integrated basis.
18. Why did the amusement park close in 1968?
The amusement park closed in 1968, a victim of changing tastes and lowered profits in the amusement park business. The amusement park had been built in an era before most Americans had access to radios, televisions, automobiles, air conditioning, and a host of other recreational options. The electric streetcar company originally built Glen Echo amusement park to create a destination for trolley riders, but trolleys no longer existed.
Most of America’s “trolley parks” had already closed well before the 1960s. With racial tensions high at Glen Echo Park in the 1960s and other—more profitable—real estate development options available, the last owners chose to close the amusement park in 1968 and seek zoning clearance to build an apartment complex on the site.
19. When did the federal government acquire Glen Echo Park?
The federal government acquired Glen Echo Park in January 1970, in an effort to preserve the natural beauty of the Potomac River Valley and the Potomac Palisades region. The park was not purchased. Rather, a trade was arranged between the last private owners of the park and the federal government. The owners were given a lot at 1711 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., in return for the land and buildings that remained of Glen Echo amusement park.
20. Who developed the current programs at the park?
The National Park Service began public programming at the park in 1971. In 2003, a non-profit organization (the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc.) was formed to manage the park’s programming and to make the park financially self-sufficient.
21. Is there a short history of the park available?
Yes. Our Glen Echo Park: Then and Now pamphlet is available at the park or may be downloaded here.