There are certain weekends throughout the year that you can count on being packed with awesome annual events. On one hand, that’s a great thing — who doesn’t love having their pick of terrific things to do? On the other hand, it’s frustrating, because you have to pick, and opting for one means you’re missing out on the others.
The first weekend of May presented just that scenario. There was the Around the World Embassy Tour, Flower Mart, Glen Echo Family Day, Cheverly Truck Touch, and Space Day among many other fun happenings. And for us, between the kids’ sports and a baby shower taking up most of Saturday, it was practically impossible to make it to any of them.
Except for one. Flower Mart, the National Cathedral’s annual spring family festival, also takes place on Friday. And as luck would have it, the kids were off from school that day, so we made a plan to spend it at one of Washington’s premiere seasonal events.
Both the National Cathedral and the public benefit from Flower Mart. Funds raised help maintain WNC’s beautiful grounds and gardens, and those who attend the event get to enjoy tons of great festivities and exhibitions. Spread out around the grounds are plant and flower sales, plus a variety of other vendors offering everything from art and housewares to accessories and handmade children’s clothes to tasty treats and gourmet foods. You can browse a used book sale, take the kids on a carousel, and see a puppet show. Food trucks and stands make lunch and snacks easy. And inside the Cathedral, there are gorgeous flower displays contributed by the embassies.
There’s a whole Children’s Area with carnival rides and games, with something for all ages — moon bounce, inflatable slide, whirly rides, bungee jumps, a climbing wall, and more. Tickets are cheap, though some of the lines can be slow-going, but the kids generally had a blast there.
On top of all this, there are the National Cathedral’s permanent attractions that visitors are welcome to explore. You can view the magnificent interiors — both guided and self-guided tours are available. Stained glass windows and gargoyles are especially interesting for kids. The observation gallery on the seventh floor also showcases interesting architectural designs and stunning birds-eye views of DC. On that same level, “Though the Earth Be Moved” exhibit reveals the impact of the 2011 earthquake on the Cathedral, displaying large chunks that broke off from the tower and illustrations detailing how it happened.
Outside, the grounds also make for a nice stroll. The Bishop’s Garden is lovely and includes plants found in medieval gardens, that are native to the area, and some referenced by the Bible. And nearby is a statue of George Washington and Olmsted Woods & Pilgrim Way.
And while you’re there, take the kids to the Beauvoir School playground. A short walk behind the Cathedral along 34th Street, it’s open to the public when school is not in session. With several great wooden climbing and sliding structures, swings, a kid-size basketball court, a small soccer pitch, and…drumroll…a ZIPLINE, it’s a nice addition to a National Cathedral visit, but can easily make for its own fantastic outing.
There’s even more at the National Cathedral especially for children, including a scavenger hunt and a scaled down chapel, that you can read more about on the website. And there are many programs and special events open to the public throughout the year — see the calendar for details.
The Washington National Cathedral is located at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue NW. It’s accessible by car and public transportation (Metro & bus). Hours are 10am – 5:30pm Monday – Friday, 10am – 4:30pm Saturday, and services are 8am – 5pm Sunday. Admission is $12/adult, $8/ages 5-17, free for 4 and under. Tour times vary, so be sure to check schedules if you plan to take one.