Category Archives: Exhibit

Scenes from AURORA: The Spirit of Northern Lights at ARTECHOUSE


As the seasons change, so do the exhibits at ARTECHOUSE, all of them a reflection of the time of year in some way. This winter, AURORA: The Spirit of Northern Lights celebrates the season with digital art installations and activations inspired by the natural phenomenon that is most prominent during the darker, colder months.

Like other exhibits at the Southwest DC gallery, this one consists of a large-scale light installation in the main room along with several smaller ones. They are all interactive and beautiful, the icy blue, purple, green, and occasionally soft yellow colors giving everything an ethereal feel.

On the walls of the main room, guests can grow leafless winter trees, guide snowballs, and make snowflakes with their own movements detected by sensors. Other areas have been transformed into arctic oases — an ice cavern twinkles with light as you move about, ice patterns form on the walls of frosted forests as you stand nearby, and you can immerse in colorful light projections of dancing skies. As Sasha said, “It makes me feel like I have powers!”

Visitors of all ages can have fun with this one. And along with the illuminated art installations, there are treats for everyone, too. The bar will be open during the day (12pm on Tues/Wed, 11am Thurs-Mon) and in the evenings, serving both delicious, exhibit-inspired cocktails and mocktails. They plan to have hot chocolate for warming up, too.


AURORA: The Spirit of Northern Lights is running at ARTECHOUSE December 7 – January 5. Family-friendly hours are 10am – 5pm, and 21+ hours are 5-10pm Sunday – Thursday, and 5-11pm Friday and Saturday. Admission is $16-20/adult, $13-15/senior, $8-10/child (cheaper if you purchase in advance online). They are offering a 20% discount package for 2 adults + 2 children, Sundays through Thursdays. You can also get a deal through CertifiKid.

UPDATE on the 20% off: The deal will auto-populate when tickets are requested for Sunday-Thursday daytime entries within bar hours – as the deal comes with a holiday drink for all (hot chocolate)! This deal should be in effect on the following schedule: Sunday/Monday/Thursday 11am through 4pm entries, Tuesday/Wednesday 12-4pm entries.







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Filed under 2019, 2020, All ages, Art, DC, Exhibit, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park: What to Expect & Tips for Visiting


If you’re excited about holiday activities, DC is a pretty great place to be this time of year. There are so many fun, festive, and unique things to do around the area to celebrate the season — but not always enough time, energy, and — especially notable at this time of year — money to do everything. Costs add up quickly, especially on top of gifts and other holiday spending.

So, many of us want to be selective about the holiday activities we choose to do. Which is why I’ve been getting lots of inquiries about Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park. DC’s new big holiday attraction apparently is the world’s largest Christmas light maze and market — and somewhat of a splurge for a family of four to visit. A lot of people have been very intrigued, myself included, so of course our family had to go experience it.

I should start by mentioning that 1) I am a sucker for holiday light displays. I always find them kind of magical, whether walking through illuminated grounds or driving along roads lined by twinkling installations. 2) My family received complimentary admission to Enchant, which does alter the perspective since I could just enjoy without wondering if we wasted our money. (That said, I did keep in mind that I would be reviewing it for paying visitors.)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Enchant and tried to go in with an open mind, despite being underwhelmed by other popular holiday spectacles in past years. Things started off well as we walked through the Center Field gate to see a tall, white lit-up tree with smaller light formations nearby. The vibe was warm and festive with lots of people walking by looking relaxed and smiling. And there were dogs — it was a Paws & Claus night, so many people brought their pups along. But it was the scene just beyond it all that took my breath away (remember, I am an absolute cornball about this kind of thing).

The field has been transformed into a beautiful illuminated wonderland, a towering bright white tree the centerpiece of it all with blue, gold, and purple light installations and walls of sparkling holly surrounding it. An icy trail meanders through a section, skaters gliding along. And more people can be seen walking through the glowing landscape below.

We were eager to be part of it all, so after a quick peek at some of the vendor stands, we made our way down to the maze entrance, where we were handed a postcard with scratch off circles. Enchant includes a little adventure to find all of the reindeer within the maze, and you scratch off a circle each time you encounter one. Sasha was very into this, and Owen helped her out (though he was a bit more into Snapping pics — it’s a very social-media-share-worthy event).

Once inside, we wandered around, taking in the sparkling scenes. Some installations are just really pretty to view, others are interactive offering some fun and play as well as great photo ops. And while there are plenty of other people there, it never felt too crowded or chaotic, a benefit of ticketed entry. We spent well over an hour walking around it all — looking for reindeer, getting intentionally lost, and making sure we’d been down every path (that was me, anyway… I didn’t want to miss any neat light displays).

From there, we headed to the rink, though the kids passed on ice skating since they’d done a lot it over Thanksgiving break. But it looked like a lot of fun, the ice trail circling an illuminated “forest” under arches of glittering holly. Skating is included with admission, but rentals are $5/kids & $10/adults, a fee you can avoid if you BYO skates.

A couple of drink stands are on the field area, including the Ice Bar & Lounge, plus roaming hot chocolate vendors for warming up. There are even more food and drink options on the concourse upstairs, Ben’s Chili Bowl and local food vendors among them, so you can grab a bite there (or head to one of several nearby restaurants afterwards like we did).

Also on the concourse is a stage with live entertainment, plus the Christmas Market with over 40 local artisans selling everything from jewelry to art to edible treats to wearable accessories. You can do some holiday shopping, to boot!

Okay, the big question: Is Enchant worth it? My opinion: Yes! It is a splurge, but if you want to do something special with the family, this is a good one. The light displays are quite dazzling, there are multiple activities to enjoy, you can spend a good amount of time there, and it really captures the spirit of the holidays. And maybe not as important, but something about being at Nationals Park during the off-season after the big World Series win adds some extra allure to the experience. 🙂

Enchant Christmas is running at Nationals Park every evening, Christmas included, through December 29. Admission varies by date, time, and age, so check the website for details and see tips below for getting the best deal.

KFDC Tips to help plan for your Enchant experience:

* There is a Family 4-Pack ticket that offers 20% off admission, and you can add on guests as needed.

* Rates vary by date and time, so check out a few different ones if you have flexibility.

* Goldstar is offering ticket discounts, so be sure to check those, too.

* If you have ice skates, bring them to avoid a rental fee (and skate free!).

* Dress warmly — Enchant is all outdoors.

* And since it is all outdoors, it’s worth checking the forecast for the date you want to go.

* Tickets have been selling out, especially on weekends, so don’t wait until the last minute to get them.

* Strollers are not allowed in the maze, only up on the concourse. However, there is a stroller valet.

* There are Paws & Claus nights when dogs are welcome, so if you want to bring your pup or just like seeing them (some in festive wear), check the calendar for those dates.

* Garage parking is available for an extra charge (up to $22), but you can look for street parking in the area — I recommend trying on the other side of M Street and walking a couple of blocks.

* How could I forget? Santa is also there and available for photo ops. Pay for a professional photo, or snap your own for free.


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Filed under 2019, All ages, Christmas, DC, Exhibit, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Outdoor, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Scenes from the 2019 Season’s Greening Exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Up close and personal with a model of a topiary flamingo


The U.S. Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but it gets the most attention during the holidays when its annual Season’s Greenings exhibit is on display — and for good reason. Featuring the most delightful train display, models of DC landmarks in the festively decorated conservatory, plus concerts and extended hours, it’s one of the best ways to enjoy some holiday fun around DC.

The highlight, especially for kids (and the kid in all of us adults) is the garden railway, which is always beautiful, whimsical, and uniquely crafted from plant materials. This year’s theme is America’s Gardens with recreations of structures — conservatories, fountains, and sculptures — from botanical gardens around the country. See the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse from Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania (random fact: I worked there when I was in high school), the Science Pyramid from the Denver Botanic Gardens, the World’s Largest Concrete Garden Gnome from Iowa’s Reiman Gardens, the USBG’s own Bartholdi Fountain, the Biltmore Conservatory, Topiary Flamingos from Ohio, and many, many more fantastically imaginative works. The model trains zipping through it all adds another layer of whimsy and delight.

Try to get a close look to see how the individual leaves, seed pods, stems, and other plant parts are placed to create the works — it really is impressive. Stand back, too, to take it all in and appreciate the mini botanical wonderland.

Once again, in the main Garden Court you can also view Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials as well as poinsettias and other vibrant flora. And be sure to stop in the West Gallery where there is a 26-foot Christmas tree with its own model train whizzing by recreations of DC row houses — all made of plant materials and based on real homes on Capitol Hill and Georgetown.

For more holiday magic at the Botanic Garden, there are concerts Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when hours are extended until 8pm. This is my favorite time to go. The music adds extra spirit and it’s lovely to see the exhibit and plant collections illuminated by colorful lights. Plus, there’s usually no wait to get in then.

Be aware that lines to get in do get long, especially on weekends and when kids are on Winter Break from school. Your best bet for avoiding a wait is to go on a weekday before they’re off for the holidays (think after school activity) or on one of the Tuesday or Thursday evenings in December.

And if you get there and the line is just too long, there is more than just the Seasons Greenings exhibit to enjoy. Explore the plant collections, both inside and out, and pick up a Plant Hunt guide, so the kids can search for specific species. And be sure to check out Patrick Doherty’s amazing Stickwork Sculpture Installation in the National Garden. Bartholdi Garden, also part of the USBG right across Independence Avenue, will also be festively decorated this year.

Season’s Greenings opens on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, and runs through January 5, 2020, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Hours are 10am – 5pm daily (and noted 8pm closings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December). Admission is free. Get more of a glimpse in the photos below, but definitely plan a visit there to enjoy it all in person!















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Filed under 2019, 2020, All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Holidays, Seasonal, Special Event, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Giveaway: Enter to Win Free Admission to the Merriweather Symphony of Lights!


The Symphony of Lights has been a time-honored Howard County holiday tradition enjoyed by many for over 25 years. Set in historic Merriweather Post Pavilion and made up of more than 300,000 bulbs, this family-oriented spectacular is a display of larger-than-life animated and stationary holiday light creations. With the addition of new lights and a refreshed course, your time through the twinkling, winding path will surely be a night to remember!

The drive through opens November 27 and will be open every night, including all holidays, until January 1. Take part in the “Secret Phrase” contest for a chance to win fun prizes. And this year, enjoy three separate chances to walk through the Symphony of Lights! Festive Families on December 1 5:30-8pm kicks off with an exclusive holiday family photo booth, food trucks, face painting and Santa! On December 9 6-7:30pm, the Symphony of Lights is taken over by dogs during Tail Lights! Owners and their pups can enjoy the holiday lights, get a fun caricature, and take part in our first ever doggie costume contest while munching on cookies and dog treats. Midnight at 7 is our New Year’s Eve celebration from 5-7:30pm with food, activities and fireworks at 7pm — plenty of time to get the kids into bed and enjoy your own New Year’s Eve parties.

Thursdays are Military Nights! Tickets are $10 for active military and veterans, valid with ID at the gate. Regular admission is $20/vehicle. A portion of all proceeds benefit the Howard County General Hospital. (Please note, the Symphony of Lights is not affiliated with the walk through Ice and Fire event happening on the adjoining property at Symphony Woods produced by The Inner Arbor Trust. There is a separate admission charge for each event.)

Make the season bright and include Symphony of Lights among your family’s holiday festivities!

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Giveaway: Two KFDC readers can win a drive-through ticket for admission to the Symphony of Lights. For a chance to win one, simply leave a comment below letting me know your family’s favorite holiday tradition. Get an extra chance to win by entering on the KidFriendly DC Facebook Page, too. This giveaway will run through Wednesday, November 27, 2019, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!


This post is sponsored by Merriweather Symphony of Lights, however, I only promote events, places, and programs that I genuinely believe in and think will be of interest to KFDC readers.


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Filed under 2019, All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Giveaway, Holidays, Maryland, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter