Category Archives: Park

Serenity Now: 10 Places to Find Peace and Calm in DC

 

Sometimes you’re looking for an out-of-the-house activity that doesn’t actually involve much… activity.   You just want to find a locale that is pretty and quiet, where you can chill out and think (or not) — especially during this strange and uncertain time when there is so much information to digest and new circumstances to comprehend.  Whether with kids, in the company of other adults, or solo, having a place to go to process everything (or not focus on it for awhile), can be good for everyone’s well being.  You might want to wander around beautiful grounds, take a break in nature, meditate in a tranquil place, or just lounge and enjoy the surrounds.  Here are 10 spots that are perfect for that, where you can find some peace and calm.

 

The view from inside a gazebo at the Arboretum

National Arboretum
The 450 acres of gorgeous grounds contain a bunch tucked away spots, where you can hang out and unwind, you just have to explore beyond the popular parts to find them. There are gazebos in the middle of plant collections, benches placed under the prettiest trees, swaths of grass amid blooming flora, and uncrowded trails and paths that wind all around. Skip the old Capitol Columns that tend to draw lots of visitors and head to the Asian Collection, the dogwoods and conifers, the hollies and magnolias, the hill full of azaleas, or Fern Valley (when it’s open again). Whether you roam around or discover a secret place to sit, your surroundings will be beautiful and calm. The National Arboretum is open Mon-Fri 1-5pm, and Sat-Sun 8am – 5pm, and admission is free. Read more about it here and here.

 

The Franciscan Monastery’s pretty, peaceful garden

Franciscan Monastery Garden
The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America is an “Oasis of Peace” in Brookland. It consists of the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre, beautifully landscaped grounds immediately surrounding,  and a garden adjacent to that. The Rosary Portico, long concrete open air passageways, run along the perimeter of the inner grounds, the inside walls adorned with Christian symbols and ceramic plaques. In the garden, pretty flowers and plants and tall trees grow among replicas of Holy Land shrines. The public is welcome to enjoy it all. There are paths to stroll and lots of benches if you just want to sit and reflect. Garden hours are 9am – 4:45pm daily (though the church is closed right now), and admission is free. Read more about the Franciscan Monastery here.

 

Wander in the woods at Tregaron

Tregaron Conservancy
This secluded locale in Northwest DC that stretches between the Washington International School and a residential area — you can see the backyards of homes as you walk along some of the paths — offers a nice little nature break. Trails wind through the 13 acres under tall leafy trees, with a lily pond, large meadow, and a couple of stone stairways adding a bit of a fairy tale feel. You could very well have it all to yourself — we’ve wandered through without encountering a single other visitor. And if you wanted to extend your walk, the park trails lead right to the Klingle Valley Trail. Access Tregaron at 3100 Macomb Street NW or 3031 Klingle Road NW.

 

A hidden gem of the Botanic Garden

Bartholdi Park
This outdoor area of the U.S. Botanic Garden is often missed by visitors because of its location across Independence Avenue from the Conservatory. But the lack of people is part of what makes it such a lovely spot. The Bartholdi Fountain is the centerpiece of the park, and it’s surrounded by colorful flowers and paths winding among the plants. A couple of tables with umbrellas, plus several benches are there, so you can sit and relax amid it all. It’s so lovely and serene, you’ll forget there’s a busy thoroughfare just beyond its edges.

 

A little oasis within Yards Park

River Street Gardens at Yards Park
If you can snag one of the wooden lounge chairs in this small section in front of the boardwalk on the east side of Yards Park, it’s a great place to chill out. Overlooking the Anacostia, you can sit back and take in river views, surrounded by birch trees and greenery that make it a relaxing enclave within the bigger, bustling Capitol Riverfront. The park is open from sunrise until two hours after sunset, and admission is free.

 

 

Nature and presidential tribute at Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island
Something about its location within the Potomac River makes the park feel like an isolated escape.  You have to cross a bridge from Virginia to access it even though it’s technically in DC.  A couple of trails traverse the island through woods and along the water, some parts of it on a boardwalk over marshy areas.  And in the center of it all is the Memorial Plaza, a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt, with fountains and stone benches.  Whether you walk the grounds or just sit and relax,  you’ll be immersed in a soothing setting.  Roosevelt Island is open 6am – 10pm, and admission is free.   Read more about it and get a good glimpse in this KFDC post.

 

A grand Cathedral backdrop at the Bishop’s Garden

Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral
While many find calm and comfort inside the Cathedral, this gorgeous area on the south side of the church offers that in its own way. The terraced, walled garden is as tranquil as it is beautiful, featuring an array of colorful flowers, a variety of plants, statues, and medieval and modern structures incorporated into the design. Walk through it all along the stone path or pick a seat on a bench or in the gazebo for a calming break.

 

The Parterre, the main part of the Haupt Garden

Enid A. Haupt Garden
The grounds between the Smithsonian Castle and Independence Avenue (and nearby offshoots) are always well-groomed, vibrant with flowers, and an inviting outdoor space. You can stroll around and get a close look at the plants and flowers or find a bench to sit and savor it all. Neat little side areas, like the Moongate Garden adjacent to the Freer|Sackler and the Fountain Garden next to the National Museum of African Art, have water features and artistic designs that are pretty to view and relaxing to hang out by. The Haupt Garden is open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free.

 

Peaceful grounds at the cemetery

Congressional Cemetery
It doesn’t get much more peaceful than a cemetery. Sure, the thought of hanging out among the dead and buried might be eerie to some, but others find the stillness comforting.  At this Capitol Hill site, the serene environs are also beautiful, their 30 acres studded with all types of gravestones — large and small, simple and intricate — and you can walk among them on several paved paths that stretch across the grounds.  You’ll also find many quiet places to sit, some even at gravesites, where you can contemplate life (and death) or just find calm in the silence. Note: Right now, the cemetery is only open to K-9 members and day passers, but it’s included here for when the public is welcome again — hopefully, soon.

 

Plenty of space to stroll and de-stress at Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks Garden
The beautiful grounds of the historic Dumbarton House in Georgetown is one of the prettiest places in DC, in my opinion. Tucked away in a relatively non-bustling area of the neighborhood, a visit there feels like a little escape right in the city. A variety of sections feature different kinds of flora, and there are numerous paths — brick, stone, grass, stairs — to access them, often with delightful surprises on the way. Roaming around is a great way to de-stress and clear the mind, and scattered throughout are nice small nooks with seating as well as open spaces. Garden hours are 2-6pm Wed-Sun. Admission is $10/adult, $5/age 2-12 from mid-March – mid-November (free the rest of the year). Note: Dumbarton Oaks Gardens are closed right now due to COVID, but it’s included here for hwen the public is welcome again — hopefully, soon.

 

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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Free, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend

Activities & Events for Families During Cherry Blossom Season (2020)


UPDATE: Due to the coronavirus, the National Cherry Blossom Festival and just about all other events have been canceled. You can still try view them, but use good judgement doing so.

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 12 this year, presents all kinds of fun and enriching activities over a few 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. Happy Spring!

Cherry Blossom Viewing
Where: Around the DMV
When: Late March
Admission: Free

Viewing the cherry blossoms may just be the top thing to do during the season — and lots of people agree. The scenery really can’t get more iconic DC than the flowering trees around the Tidal Basin at their peak pink and white brilliance with our grand memorials in the background. However, viewing the famous blooms can be a bit challenging without being aware of a few things, so be sure to check out these KFDC tips before you go to see them. And view scenes from last year’s bloom here.

STORYTIME: Under the Cherry Blossom Tree CANCELLED!
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: March 11, 10-11am & March 15 & 22, 11am – 12pm
Admission: Free

In celebration of cherry blossoms, join the Hirhshorn for a read aloud of Under the Cherry Blossom Tree by Allen Say. Take a close look at the museum’s lobby’s tables, created by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto using a 700-year-old nutmeg tree, then create your own tree- and blossom-inspired works.

Hanami: Beyond the Blooms
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: March 13 – May 25
Admission: $16-20/adult, $8-10/child

ARTECHOUSE introduces a new exhibit every season, and it’s only apropos that its spring offering highlights the cherry blossoms. Hanami: Beyond the Blooms “pushes the limits of the cherry blossom experience, inviting visitors to enter an immersive world of spring re-imagined. Now an annual tradition, ARTECHOUSE’s cherry blossom-inspired installation continues to celebrate springtime and women in the arts and tech.” Look for a KFDC review of it soon!

Cultural Performances CANCELLED!
Where: Tidal Basin Welcome Area
When: Weekends, March 21 – April 12
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 Miyako Takio Takeover Saturday on March 28 from 11am to 6pm.

Cherry Blossom Celebration CANCELLED!
Where: American Art Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: March 21, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Join SAAM and the National Cherry Blossom Festival for a celebration of Japanese culture. A taiko drumming performance kicks off the day, followed by Les The DJ spinning Japanese pop, funk, and boogie beats and the Koto Ensemble performing traditional Japanese dance. Enjoy face painting, make cherry blossom crafts, and go on an art scavenger hunt throughout the exhibition Chiura Obata: American Modern in the first-floor galleries. 

Japanese Fashion Family Day CANCELLED!
Where: GWU & Textile Museum | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: March 21, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Japanese fashion during cherry blossom season this spring. Join the Textile Museum & George Washington University museum for a family day featuring kimono, happi coats, accessories, and the creative shapes of contemporary Japanese fashion designers. Enjoy dance performances of Eisaa and Ryubu traditional dances from Okinawa. See a demonstration for how to dress in a kimono and take the opportunity to design one of your own. Make a cherry blossom pendant to take home. And enjoy family-friendly tours of the Japanese artwork on display in Delight in Discovery: The Global Collections of Lloyd Cotsen. This is a fantastic opportunity to experience a museum that usually may be a bit sophisticated for little ones!

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 Washington Marina National Ferry Corp, Boomerang Boat Tours, and Capitol River Cruises. Potomac Riverboat Company and DC Water Taxi are a couple more to check out.

Last year’s cherry blossom inspired exhibit at ARTECHOUSE

STORYTIME: The Tiny Seed CANCELLED!
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: March 25, 10-11am
Admission: Free

Join the Hirshhorn for a special STORYTIME, their regular program for littles, and join them to celebrate spring with the journey of a tiny seed. Take a close look at the round bronze sculptures of Spatial Concept: Nature by Lucio Fontana, and read-aloud The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Then, explore how plants move and change throughout their life cycle. Following the story, children will participate in a hands-on art activity.

Cherry Blossom Night with the Washington Wizards CANCELLED!
Where: Capitol One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: March 25, 7pm
Admission: Tickets start at $19

Celebrate the cherry blossom season with the Wizards and some basketball as they take on the Phoenix Suns! Each ticket purchased through this link comes with a limited edition Wizards Cherry Blossom t-shirt. In addition first 10,000 fans entering the arena will receive a Rui Hachimura Cherry Blossom inspired bobblehead!

Blossom Kite Festival CANCELLED!
Where: Washington Monument Grounds | National Mall, DC
When: March 28, 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.

Cherry Blossom Celebration CANCELLED!
Where: Freer|Sackler Gallery | National Mall, DC
When: March 28, 12-4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the season at the museum dedicated to Asian art! At this special event, explore Japanese art and culture through musical performances, making art, and taking a tour of Hokusai: Mad about Painting and Meeting Tessai. Try Japanese bookmaking, listen to taiko drumming, and then join the kite festival right outside on the National Mall. Japanese-inspired food and drink will be available for purchase.

Into the Woods
Where: Frying Pan Farm Park | Centreville, VA
When: March 28, 11am – 1:30pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the cherry blossoms at the farm park! Hike the 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, too. Stop by the Indoor Arena first for a map and instructions.

Cherry Blossom STEM Day
Where: Children’s Science Center Lab | Fairfax, VA
When: March 29, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $13

Celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival with a twist of STEM! Visitors can learn more about the special flower and festival through hands-on activities and experiments inspired by the cherry blossom throughout the entire Lab. Read more about the Children’s Science Center Lab in this KFDC post.

Cuenta-Cuentos: STORYTIME in Spanish CANCELLED!
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: March 29, 11am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Join a special STORYTIME in Spanish and inspired the season! Celebrate spring with a close look at the round bronze sculptures Spatial Concept: Nature by Lucio Fontana, and a reading of The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Then, explore how plants move and change throughout their life cycle. Following the story, children will participate in a hands-on art activity.

Cherry Blossom Night at DC United
Where: Audi Field | Southwest DC
When: April 3, 7pm
Admission: Ticket prices vary

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

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade CANCELLED!
Where: Constitution Avenue, 7th – 17th St NW | Downtown DC
When: April 4, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The pinnacle of cherry blossom festivities just might be 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.

See Racing Presidents rolling down Constitution Ave at the annual parade

Sakura Matsuri
Where: Pennsylvania Ave, 3rd-7th St NW | Downtown DC
When: April 4, 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 60th 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.

Bloomaroo
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: April 4, 2-9pm
Admission: Free

Join The Wharf for Bloomaroo, their local version of Bonaroo, where they’ll be celebrating the cherry blossoms with a full day of art, music, and family-friendly fun along the waterfront! If you want to make this a special adult experience with food and drinks included, VIP tickets are available for $55. Read more about The Wharf in this KFDC post.

Art Blooms at Mosaic
Where: Mosaic District | McLean, VA
When: April 4 & 5, 11am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The 2nd annual Art Blooms at Mosaic is celebratory weekend with fun for all ages. Do some shopping at the market, catch live entertainment and art exhibits, do some kids activities, enjoy a pop-up beer garden & wine patio, snap pics at selfie stations, join a free yoga session, and much more!

Sakura Sunday
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: April 5, 11am – 8pm
Admission: Free

National Harbor’s Sakura Sunday is an official event of the 2020 National Cherry Blossom Festival — and a taste of the traditional Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan! The day’s activities include a traditional Japanese picnic, unique Japanese market, foods of Japan, Japanese music & entertainment, and a sake, beer & rose garden!

Anacostia River Festival
Where: Anacostia Park | Southeast DC
When: April 5, 1-5pm
Admission: Free

The 6th annual Anacostia River Festival is a premier event of the 2020 National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year will feature an artist market, special performances, and activities that include boating, hands-on art projects, musical performances, and other unique programs engaging families with the river, its history, and ecology.

Blossoms & Baseball
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: April 6
Admission: Ticket price vary

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

Japanese Culture Day
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: April 11, 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.

Petalpalooza
Where: The Yards | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: April 11, 12-9:30pm
Admission: Free

Join the Capitol Riverfront community for Petalpalooza! It’s the first time the event will be held in neighborhood, and it should be a blast. The event will celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival with live music, art installations, a beer garden, and lots of family-friendly activities. Plan to go for awhile, or just stop by for a bit. The day will cap off with a fireworks show over the Anacostia River.

Ikebana Demonstrations
Where: National Arboretum | Northeast DC
When: April 11 & 12, 10am – 1:30pm
Admission: Free

Enjoy spring flowers with a Japanese twist! The Washington DC Chapter of Ikebana International is co-hosting four different Ikebana masters. Each master represents a different school and and will highlight the characteristics of their school. Demonstrations will be held in the Auditorium of the Visitor Center and are free to attend.


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Where to Play on the Weekdays: March 9-13

Discover Native American culture at the National Museum of the American Indian


Monday – Take advantage of the 70-degree sunny day at River Farm. The American Horticulture Society’s headquarters overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria are as lovely as they are fun. Little ones will have a blast playing in the delightful Children’s Garden, and you’ll all love exploring the grounds. Hours are 9am – 5pm. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. And for more places to opt outside, check out The Best Places in the DC Area to Enjoy a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids.

Tuesday – Discover Native American culture at the National Museum of the American Indian through a variety of exhibits and hands-on activities. Check out kayaks and canoes and totem poles in the stunning atrium, then head upstairs to the imagiNATIONS space especially for kids. Weave a big basket, play in a teepee, do some arts & crafts, hear bird calls of the wild, read kids books in the library, and much more. Plan on lunch or a snack in the Mitsitam Cafe, where you can enjoy the indigenous cuisines of the Americas. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm, imagiNATIONs 10am – 4pm. Admission is free.

Wednesday – Learn about the area’s wildlife, enjoy hands-on activities in the Nature Center, take a hike, and visit horses at Rock Creek Park. The Nature Center is open Wednesday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm, and admission is free. There are nearby trails for walks in the woods. You can also visit the equine residents at the nearby Horse Center — guests are welcome to stop by the stables, though pony rides are not offered this time of year. Read more about Rock Creek Park in this KFDC post.

Thursday – Catch a performance of The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats at Adventure Theatre. Showtimes are at 10am and 12pm, and tickets are $20.50. If weather permits, stay at Glen Eco Park to let the kids romp on the playground after the show.

Friday – Roam free at the enchanting gardens of Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown while you still can — the no entry fee period ends after March 14! The grounds don’t open to the public until 2pm, but you can play at nearby Montrose Park, where admission is also free, or grab a bite to eat on M Street beforehand. I promise, it’s worth waiting for the afternoon visit.


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Where to Play on the Weekdays: January 21-24

Bundle up for a day outdoors at Great Falls Park


Tuesday – Locate secret doors, see outrageously fabulous themed rooms, and browse a trove of secondhand treasures on a tour of The Mansion on O Street. The Dupont Circle landmark is a mansion, museum, restaurant, vintage store, and hotel all in one. It’s one of the neatest and most stunning spaces in DC! And visitors are welcome to explore (and shop!) it all. Tours are offered 11am – 3pm. Self-guided tours start at $25 — purchase tickets in advance online.

Wednesday – Get excited for the Lunar New Year at the Freer|Sackler Gallery, where you can view a remarkable collection of Asian art and special exhibits. Ask for activity cards and a family guide at the front desk when you arrive to help with kiddos with their art adventure. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

Thursday – Bundle up for a hike and some nature fun at Great Falls Park. Whether you opt for the Maryland or Virginia side, you really can’t go wrong. Take in spectacular views of the falls and rapids from several overlooks, hike easy trails along the river or through the woods, and stop in the Visitor Center — there’s one on each side — to learn more about the area’s history and wildlife. Open 7am to 30 minutes after sunset. Admission is $20/vehicle.

Friday – See some entertainment especially for kids at The Puppet Co., where Rapunzel is the current Main Stage production. Showtime is 11am, and tickets are $12.


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