Category Archives: Nature

The Best Activities for Families During the 2019 Cherry Blossom Season



Cherry blossom season is almost upon us, and it’s time to start getting ready for it! Because not only is the city at its prettiest when the beloved flowers are in bloom, there also are loads of special events and activities to celebrate it all. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, running March 20 – April 13 this year, presents all kinds of fun and enriching activities over several weeks, plus there are even more blossom-inspired happenings that aren’t part of the official festivities. I’ve picked the best of them for families to help you plan for a peak experience. And for viewing the blossoms, check out these KFDC tips. Happy Spring!

In Peak Bloom
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: March 20 – May 27
Admission: $16-20/adult, $8-10/child

ARTECHOUSE is bringing cherry blossoms to a digital realm, celebrating spring, renewal, and the cherry blossom season with this art experience. In Peak Bloom will feature interactive and immersive digital art installations inspired by the fragile beauty and ephemeral nature of the cherry blossom. The cherry blossom’s distinctive short life span is closely tied to its cultural significance — reminding us of how precious and fleeting life is — and also part of what makes its blooming period such a cherished spectacle.

Cultural Performances
Where: Tidal Basin Welcome Area
When: Weekends, March 23 – April 14
Admission: Free

Catch live entertainment as you take in views of the blossoms! On weekends during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, there will be music and dance performances on a special stage set up at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area. A highlight will be the Sakura Takio Takeover on March 30 from 11am – 5pm!

Cherry Blossom Family Festival
Where: American Art Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: March 23, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Cherry Blossom Festival for a celebration of Japanese culture. Kick off the day with a taiko drumming performance outside of the museum at the F Street entrance. Enjoy face painting, make cherry blossom crafts, listen to Japanese music, and go on a spring-themed scavenger hunt through the museum’s galleries.

Japanese Culture Day
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: March 23, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Children of all ages and their families can learn about Japanese culture through reading, writing, and craft-making with Japanese cultural and linguistic professionals. Japanese-related books will be on display, and a special highlight of the day is “Japan-In-A-Suitcase,” an inspiring program about Japanese life and culture. Other activities include Japanese drum music and dance performances, instructions on the art of tiara-making by former Cherry Blossom princesses, origami artwork lessons, decorative Konobori coloring, and the kimono dress-up experience. Children can also explore the Library’s Young Readers Center, which is full of current and classic children’s literature – read more about it here.

Go with the Flow
Where: Local waterways
When: Starting mid-March
Admission: Rates vary

Get a new perspective of the blossom and enjoy a fun activity on a paddling excursion. Many boathouses will open around the same time the National Cherry Blossom Festival begins, offering canoe, kayak, and other rentals to take you out on the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and Tidal Bason, where you can see the blooming cherry trees from the water. This KFDC post has more information on where to go with the flow around DC.

River Cruisin’
Where: Local waterways
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by tour operator

Enjoy blossom filled scenery from the comfort of a cruise on the Potomac. Several companies offer boat rides along the river, many of them specifically for the season when the cherry trees are in bloom. Right now you can find great deals with Boomerang Boat Tours and National Ferry Fleet. Capitol River Cruises, Potomac Riverboat Company, and DC Water Taxi are a few more to check out.

STORYTIME: Call Me Tree
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: March 27, 10-11am
Admission: Free

Join the Hirshhorn for a special STORYTIME, their regular program for littles, and take a trip to the depths of the earth and discover what can grow from it. Visit the round bronze sculptures Spatial Concept: Nature by Lucio Fontana, hear a reading of Call Me Tree by Maya Christina González, then do a related hands-on activity.

Blossom Kite Festival
Where: Washington Monument Grounds | National Mall, DC
When: March 30, 10am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free

The annual Blossom Kite Festival is a favorite for many during the blossom season. The sight of thousands of kites in all colors, shapes, and sizes soaring around the Washington Monument truly is a sight to behold. The sails you see flying at the Festival each spring range from simple to pretty darn creative. Dragons, sharks, butterflies, giant soccer balls, even some that look like big, beautiful origami works way outnumber your basic diamond. And anyone can go fly their kites, so BYO or make one there at an activity station. There’s a competition aspect to the event, too; expert kite enthusiasts will wow crowds with cool stunts, and prizes will be awarded to winners of various categories such as most beautiful, funniest, and aerodynamics.

A cherry blossom dream at last year’s ARTECHOUSE spring exhibit

Blossoms & Baseball
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: April 3
Admission: Ticket price vary

The Nats are getting in on the Cherry Blossom festivities this year with a petal-packed, pink takeover of Nationals Park as they host the Phillies. A portion of ticket proceeds from the game will also benefit the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry Blossom STEM Day
Where: Children’s Science Center Lab | Fairfax, VA
When: April 6, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $13

Celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival with a twist of STEM! Guests will be able to experiment with Flower Pigmentation. Visitors will press or rub flower petals onto a coffee filter, and with water added, witness the process of different pigmentation (ie, which colors will appear for the different types of flowers). Surprise and wonder may come as to how many colors will reveal themselves out of one colored petal. Read more about the Children’s Science Center Lab in this KFDC post.

Open Studio: Celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Freer|Sackler Gallery | National Mall, DC
When: April 6, 10am – 12pm & April 13, 12-4pm
Admission: Free

Take a family-friendly tour and learn about nature in Japanese art (10:30am on 4/6, 12:30pm & 2:30pm on 4/13). Then, continue to explore the Freer for pop-up art-making activities with FutureMakers and artist demonstrations inspired by the spring season. All ages are welcome with adult companions.

Ikebana Floral Design Workshop for Kids
Where: Green Spring Garden | Alexandria, VA
When: April 6
Admission: $15

Kids ages 8-14 can try their hand at creating a Japanese-style floral design influenced by the flowering cherry trees. Instructor Elizabeth Berry will introduce kids to this Asian art and help them create a small arrangement of their own to take home. Register in advance. Read more about Green Spring Gardens in this KFDC post.

Petalpalooza
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: April 6, 12-9:30pm
Admission: Free

It’s a full day of live music and engaging activities at The Wharf! Petalpalooza will feature live music on multiple outdoor stages, a beer garden, all-ages activities, product giveaways, a spectacular fireworks show by Pyrotecnico, and much more along the piers of the Southwest Waterfront. Take in the half-mile-long stretch of The Wharf’s shops and restaurants as the National Cherry Blossom Festival transforms the waterfront community into a one-day-only springtime spectacle. Read more about The Wharf in this KFDC post.

Community Day: Growing Community
Where: National Building Museum | Judiciary Square, DC
When: April 7, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the playfulness of spring at the National Building Museum during this program offered as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival! Participate in hands-on activities and learn from community partners as you explore how landscape design can inspire outdoor play to grow and strengthen community. Take a closer look at the green space incorporated into your built environment that gets people outside and brings them together.

Art Blooms at Mosaic
Where: Mosaic District | McLean, VA
When: April 7, 11am – 5pm
Admission: Free

This inaugural National Cherry Blossom Festival event brings an immersive and participatory art experience to Northern Virginia. Shop the UrbnMarket handmade and vintage craft fair, join interactive art classes and demonstrations, enjoy live music and entertainment, and watch the Cherry Tree planting and dedication. There will also be a Caboose Beer Garden for adults.

Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting
Where: Tidal Basin | Southwest, DC
When: April 7, 3-4:30pm
Admission: Free

Nestled under the cherry blossom trees on the Tidal Basin, this ceremony includes remarks by top US officials and Japanese diplomats as well as traditional songs and music performed by Toho Koto Society of Washington DC and the Washington DC Choral Society.

Cherry Blossom Night at DC United
Where: Audi Field | Southwest DC
When: April 9, 7:45pm
Admission: Ticket prices vary

Support local sports and be a part of the Cherry Blossom Festival at once! DC United’s home match against Montreal Impact will include cherry blossom-themed activations, activities, and celebrations for fans along with the action on the pitch. Score tickets here.

Millennium Stage: Taiko Drumming and Traditional Dance
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: April 12, 6pm
Admission: Free

This Target Family Night at Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage features a Japanese performance that all ages will enjoy. Thundering taiko drumming meets traditional Japanese dance as nearly 30 drummers and dancers from Tamagawa University and Taiko Group take the stage. The performers make up one of Japan’s top-ranking taiko groups coming out of the premier arts university in Japan.

See Racing Presidents rolling down Constitution Ave at the annual parade

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue, 7th – 17th St NW | Downtown DC
When: April 13, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The pinnacle of cherry blossom festivities easily is the parade. Thousands of people line Constitution Avenue every year to watch the procession of lavish floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and a variety of performers roll through the city. Tickets for grandstand seats are available for $20, but you can stake out a spot along the curb for free. Plan to arrive early to get a good view — the crowds come out for this one, especially if it’s a pretty spring day.

Sakura Matsuri
Where: Pennsylvania Ave, 3rd-7th St NW | Downtown DC
When: April 13, 10:30am – 6pm
Admission: $10/ages 13+, free/12 & under

Following the Cherry Blossom parade, many folks head over to Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese Street Festival that is America’s largest one-day exhibition of Japanese culture. The 59th annual event will feature live music and dance performances, all kinds of Asian and Western foods, martial arts demos, Japanese art, and more. Be prepared for a crowd.

Into The Woods
Where: Frying Pan Farm Park | Herndon, VA
When: April 13, 11:30am – 1:30pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the season trekking on Frying Pan’s nature trail to experience the changes of spring. Visit stations peppered throughout the trail to build a fairy house, help tally migratory and year round resident birds, and search for critters in the soil and water. Enjoy Japanese teas at the historic Frying Pan Meeting House. Stop by the Indoor Arena first for a map and instructions.

Ikebana for Kids
Where: National Arboretum | Northeast DC
When: April 13, 1-2pm
Admission: $25

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging, and kids ages 10 to 13 can spend an hour with a trained ikebana teacher qualified to teach young people this ancient art. Your child will take home a beautiful living flower arrangement as part of the workshop. All materials will be provided. Registration by April 5 is required.

Sakura Sunday
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: April 14, 11am – 8pm
Admission: Free

This year, National Harbor will be joining the DC region in the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. Sakura Sunday will feature a wide array of fincluding traditional Japanese picnicking with food available for sale; a sake, rosé and beer garden; a Japanese Market; and Japanese-inspired music and entertainment. Restaurants and retailers will also participate in special offers and a cherry blossom store display window competition, and The Capital Wheel will turn pink during the festival. Muse Paintbar will feature cherry blossom art classes and a live painting demonstration as well.

Anacostia River Festival
Where: Anacostia Park | Southeast DC
When: April 14, 1-5pm (POSTPONED to April 20)
Admission: Free

The 5th annual Anacostia River Festival is once again a premier event and official closing of the 2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival! Celebrate the Anacostia River with some fun outdoor recreation! Explore the river by canoe, ride in a bike parade, play lawn games with your family, and experience Southeast DC’s local arts scene.


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Filed under 2019, All ages, Annual, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Special Event, Sports, Spring, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: February 19-22

Hands-on fun and learning at the Air & Space Museum




Tuesday – Take tots to story hour at East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill — the weekly book readings are perfect for ages 1-4. The session starts at 11am, and admission is free. After, stay to browse the inventory, then head next door to Labyrinth to check out their great selection of games and puzzles or grab a bite at one of many nearby eateries. If you’re with older kids on the break from school, take advantage of their availability and the off-peak season at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. During February and March, passes are not needed for weekday admission, so this is a great time to go! Hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free.

Wednesday – Enjoy mountains of indoor adventures at Badlands Play Space. From active fun to creative explorations to learning experiences to relaxation options, including a cafe, the enormous facility in Rockville has it all! Hours are 9am – 6pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Admission is $20/child, $12.50/toddler, $5/adult.

Thursday – Head to a local go-to for fun and educational recreation: The National Air & Space Museum! It’s filled literally floor-to-ceiling with fascinating exhibits and amazing artifacts from of flight and space. Stop in the fantastic “How Things Fly” gallery with loads of cool interactive stations. And the Flights of Fancy story time for little ones begins at 11am with a flight-themed reading and hands-on activity. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Friday – Explore and play at Potomac Overlook Nature Center in Arlington. You can see turtles, snakes, and other creatures and learn about the area’s natural environment through exhibits and hands-on activities. If weather permits, head outside to hike the trails and take in views of the Potomac. Hours are 10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Sunday. Admission is free.


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Filed under 2019, All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Park, Virginia, Weekdays, Winter

Scenes from a Beautiful Fall Day at the U.S. National Arboretum

Autumn sun over the old National Capitol Columns



Not too long ago I posted about 10 Great Places to Enjoy Autumn in the DC Area (that are not Farm Festivals). One of the places included among them was the U.S. National Arboretum, and this past weekend at the locale in northeast DC it was brilliantly evident why.

The whole Arb was bursting with vibrant fall color as foliage in the area is peaking right about now. The red, orange, and yellow tones of many trees and plants throughout its 446 acres are so intense, making for breathtaking scenes everywhere.

#nofilter

A lot of folks were there to savor it all on a gorgeous fall day; I’ve actually never seen the Arb that busy before. But it was great to see so many people enjoying one of the prettiest places in the city (imo). And even with more visitors than usual, the Arboretum is so big, it never feels too crowded.

A popular spot on a nice day

The old National Capitol Columns are a huge draw — they’re so dramatic, especially with the backdrop of autumn-hued trees — but make sure to explore beyond them. There are so many more lovely and interesting sights, including a Bonsai Museum, a natural play area, numerous plant collections, and neat little spots that make you feel like you stumbled upon a bit of magic.

The autumn splendor should last a little while longer, and the forecast indicates we have some nice days coming up to enjoy it. If you go, don’t miss the annual Beautiful Transitions Autumn Bonsai Exhibit, which will run November 10-19, showcasing red maples, yellow ginkgos, and fruited trees in the permanent collection of little trees.

Autumn bonsai

The U.S. National Arboretum is located in Northeast DC off of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. Hours are 8am – 5pm. Admission is free.

Read more about the Arboretum in The Best Places in the DC Area to Spend a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids (it tops the list!), in this post about the Washington Youth Garden, and this one with scenes from the gorgeous azalea bloom. And get even more of a glimpse in these image from our visit there yesterday.

Fantastic light creating a golden scene



Sash adds some turquoise to it



Red maple on a blue sky



Greens and golds



A really high five



This bonsai is well on its way to winter foliage



Where’s the tiny partridge for the tiny pear tree?



Chillin’ on the columns



Been visiting the Arb with this guy for a loooong time



A colorful stroll



Picture perfect scenes abound



Too cool (but he actually posed for one)!



Spotted through the arbor



The columns backlit by the sun



Stay gold, Owenboy.



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Filed under 2018, All ages, DC, Fall, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend

Scenes from a Visit to the Dumbarton Oaks Garden



Recently, when I put together the round-up of 10 Great Places to to Enjoy Autumn in the DC Area (that are not Farm Festivals), I realized that it had been a little while since we’d been to some of those spots — many since last fall, go figure. One of them was the garden at Dumbarton Oaks, the beautiful grounds of the historic estate in Georgetown that is now a museum and research library.

Part of the reason we hadn’t been there in so long was because the garden was closed all last spring and half of summer while it was undergoing renovations. The other parts were the weather, which seemed to be either too hot or too rainy for what felt like forever, and the hours (2-6pm Tuesday – Sunday), which are hard to fit into our schedule.

Every path leads somewhere lovely

But last weekend we found ourselves with a wide open afternoon on a gorgeous early fall day, so Sasha and I headed across town to enjoy the botanical oasis and some quality time together. As with all our visits there, we just wandered and picked our paths as we went. A couple of new sightings this time: 1) A bunny! 2) A woman picking a pear off a tree and eating it right there. (For the record, I don’t think that’s actually allowed, so don’t go picking and eating fruit and saying you heard it was cool on KFDC!)

I’ve written about the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks a couple of times before, so you can click here and here for more insight. You can also get an idea of just how lovely it is in the images below.

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens
Where: Georgetown, DC
When: Tuesday – Sunday, 2-6pm (2-5pm November 1 – March 14)
Admission: $10/adult, $5/child | FREE November thru mid-March


Checking out a “natural” sculpture on the south lawn



(Click on images to see them them larger.)

Bunny!


A lovely place to wander


Pan, mid-dab


Pears are ripe (but not for the picking!)


A peek in the Arbor Terrace


Who else hearts elephant ears?


Light & shadows in a vine covered walkway


Cherry Hill glows with pink blossoms come spring


Teepee-like sculptures decorate this expanse


The Catalogue House contains images that depict recent renovations


Cartwheels on the Ellipse


Lots of monarch sightings — it’s time for their migration to Mexico


My favorite, the Pebble Garden


A view from above


And another…


Pomegranates (again, no picking!)


An extra pop of color


Hi!


Check out this bonehead 😉


The north lawn is a great spot for slo-mo videos of kids running (if you get those requests, too)


Quod Severis Metes – As you sow, so shall you reap


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Filed under 2018, All ages, DC, Nature, Outdoor, Weekdays, Weekend