Just across the Maryland line on MacArthur Boulevard, this riverside park began in 1891 as the National Chautauqua Assembly, a camp that offered lessons in arts, crafts, and sciences. It soon transformed into the region’s most popular amusement park. Of course, all the Art Deco fun was whites-only; the park wasn’t integrated until 1961.
The last ride at Glen Echo came to a halt in 1968. What’s left is a beautiful and eerie shell. There’s an empty pavilion for bumper cars and a chromed streetcar frozen on its tracks. Looking through the windows of the Crystal Pool’s crumbling stone façade, you see cracked pavement and thriving weeds. Some of the attractions are still lively, though. A restored 1921 wooden carousel still offers rides. And an Art Deco ballroom still opens on weekends for swing-dance fanatics. Now under the purview of the National Park Service, the park once again offers arts and crafts classes, drawing crowds of soccer moms and children on the weekends. Best to go on a sunny weekday night with a flask.