Tag Archives: National Mall

Celebrate 50 Years of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival!

This year’s Folklife Festival brings the Big Top to the National Mall

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, one of DC’s most anticipated annual events kicks off today! Taking place on the National Mall between 7th and 12th Streets from June 29 – July 4 then July 6-9, this year’s event — the 50th! — celebrates themes of Circus Arts and On the Move.

I highly recommend experiencing this Festival every year! There is such a wonderful and interesting variety of activities, performances, demonstrations, and exhibits that really delve into the cultures and concepts being showcased, with plenty for all ages to enjoy.

This year’s Circus Arts sounds especially appealing, as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival highlights its rich history, mystique, and diversity. Along with thrilling performances, we’ll get insight into the life behind the shows and the people who keep circus arts alive and engaging, along with the many kinds of creative work that brings it all together.

On the Move explores how American culture has been shaped by the movement of people to and within the United States. Focusing on youth, culture, and migration, it highlights the social power of tradition and art, and focuses on how young people assume responsibility as bridge builders among communities, generations, and to the future.

Festival hours are 11am – 5pm each day it runs, with the opening ceremony at 10am this first day, and evening dance parties at 5:30pm and circus performances most nights at 7pm. Admission to all of it is free. For more information, including the schedule of events, visit the Festival website.

When you plan to go…

*Be aware that the National Mall will likely be crowded during this time. Besides the influx of tourists to DC during the summer, the July 4th celebration draws even more crowds, especially in the days leading up to the Independence Day event (on the day of, it’s jam-packed). Even with the extra bustle, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is a signature DC event that is so worth checking out. We go at some point every year and are continually impressed with the variety and quality of festivities.
*Generally, I always recommend taking Metro to the Mall — the Smithsonian stop is on the Blue/Orange line, and L’Enfant on Blue/Orange & Yellow/Green is also nearby.
*Concessions will be for sale at the event, plus there are cafes and eateries in most of the museums.
*Don’t let the heat deter you — the museums are easy to pop into if you need to cool off!


Filed under 2017, All ages, Annual, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Live Entertainment, Music, Outdoor, Seasonal, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

New on View at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden this Summer

Make a wish at Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree for Washington”

You can’t really go wrong with an outing to the National Mall. There are always museums to visit, exhibits and memorials to check out, and just so much to see as you wander. Here are a couple of new exhibitions running at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden this summer to keep in mind next time you’re on the Mall. It’s easy to stop by to see them — no tickets required, and admission to both are free!

Ai Weiwei makes a political statement in LEGOS

Opening today, “Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn” is a massive installation spanning 700 feet all the way around the museum’s second floor, featuring portraits of 176 indivisuals from around the world who the artist believes to have been detained, exiled, or have sought political asylum as a result of their actions, beliefs, or affiliations.

Like many of his works, it makes a political statement and is pretty heavy for kids. But also like many of his works, there’s an aesthetic element that will appeal to all ages: It’s made entirely of LEGOS! While you might not make a special trip to see it with children, I recommend stopping by if you’re at the museum or nearby. It could be a conversation starter if you want to discuss those topics with your kids. It’s also a chance for them to see how they can create art with their everyday toys. Apparently, Ai Weiwei chose LEGOS as his medium because his son was playing with them a lot. The exhibit runs through January 1, 2018.

In the Sculpture Garden, be sure to stop by Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree for Washington,” where visitors are encouraged to write their wishes on tags and tie them to a Japanese dogwood tree. It’s quite a sight to see them all lining the branches — and interesting, moving, even amusing to read some of them. Throughout the summer, Hirshhorn staff collect the wishes and send them to Ono’s “Imagine Peace Tower” in Reykjavik, Iceland. You can add your tags with written wishes through Labor Day, and the rest of the year you can whisper them to the tree.

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Filed under 2017, All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Museums, Outdoor, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

Scenes from the National Gallery of Art East Building

It’s been a few months since the reopening of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. The wing that houses the museum’s modern and contemporary collections was closed for several years while it was being renovated. The upgrade didn’t just enhance the interior; it also added over 12,000 feet of space. There is now a rooftop with views of the Capitol, Smithsonian Castle, and downtown DC, as well as two tower galleries — one of them dedicated to Alexander Calder’s mobiles, the other showcasing Mark Rothko’s abstract works. Both excellent additions to an already remarkable place.

We visited the updated museum the first weekend it was open and have been back several times since. (I really can’t express enough how incredibly lucky we are to have world-class museums right in our backyard that we can easily pop into without having to pay an admission fee. Sometimes we go on whim when we’re out on a bike ride or happen to be driving nearby and see a free parking space.) I’m just now, though, getting around to posting some photos from our visits.

Surely, by now you’ve seen pictures of the giant, royal blue cockerel that stands on the rooftop (a sculpture called Hahn/Cock). It’s quirky and cool, for sure, but there are plenty more eye-popping, beautiful, and evocative works to view. Here’s a glimpse of some of them. But you need to pop in or make a plan to go and experience it all for yourself.

The National Gallery of Art is open Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, and Sunday 11am – 6pm. Admission is free.

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Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Museums, Ongoing, Weekdays, Weekend

The Library of Congress 2013 National Book Festival


Book lovers, mark your calendars! On September 21 & 22, readers of all ages are invited to join some of the country’s most celebrated authors on the National Mall for the 13th Annual Library of Congress National Book Festival.

More than 100 authors, illustrators, and poets will be part of the Festival weekend focusing on “Books That Shaped the World.” Book enthusiasts, young and old, come from all over for presentations, book signings, photo ops with writers (and costumed PBS characters), and more reading-related activities. In 2012, over 200,000 people attended over the two days of the event.

If you were following KFDC last year, you might remember this is where Owen got to meet and interview one his favorite authors, Mary Pope Osborne, who writes the oh-so-popular Magic Treehouse series. And while that was a special opportunity, it really is possible to meet many celebs of the book world, even exchange some words with them.

Several pavilions will be set up throughout the Festival where visitors can enjoy a variety of activities and entertainment set up by book category — Children, Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Contemporary Life, Poetry & Prose, Graphic Novels & Science Fiction — as well as special programs. The Pavilion of the States salutes the literary traditions of all 50 states, the Library of Congress Pavilion provides an inside look into the workings of the world’s largest library, and a Book Sales Pavilion gives guests an opportunity to purchase selected reads — and possibly have them signed by the authors. The Let’s Read America Pavilion offers lots of activities for children and families to enjoy, including story time, live entertainment, and arts & crafts.

If your children love books, chances are an author of one of their favorite stories will be there (Owen author Kevin Henkes, creator of the How Do Dinosaurs… series Mark Teague, and Smash Crash author Jon Scieszka are among the children’s book writers). And there’s bound to be a writer — or many — that you parents will be excited about, too. I know there are several on the list that I can’t wait to see. Have a look for yourself and start planning your Festival weekend.

The National Book Festival will will be held on the National Mall between 9th and 14th streets on Saturday, September 21, from 10am to 5:30pm and on Sunday, September 22, from 12pm to 5:30pm, rain or shine. The event is free and open to the public.

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The 2012 Library of Congress National Book Festival

Last week, when I posted a compilation of fall festivals taking place around the DC area, I purposely excluded a big one. That’s because the annual Library of Congress National Book Festival deserves a post all its own. The DC tradition, a celebration of books, reading, and literature, consistently draws hundreds of thousands of people to the National Mall every year, giving book lovers of all ages a rare opportunity to interact with and get their books signed by their favorite authors.

This year’s event will take place September 22-23 with the theme “Books that Shaped America, ” inviting authors and the public to share their favorite books that shaped who they’ve become. More than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators from all literary genres will make presentations on the Mall throughout the weekend.

So, I know at least one 6-year-old who is going to particularly excited about the Festival this year when he finds out the author of his favorite book series is part of the event, and I bet there are lots of kids who will be thrilled along with him. Mary Pope Osborne, creator of the wonderful Magic Treehouse books, is among the children’s authors who will be presenting. (I, too, am pretty psyched to meet the writer whose stories pique Owen’s imagination and help foster his zest for reading.)

Many more celebrated authors of books for young and old will be there — you can view the complete lineup and schedule of presentations on the Festival website. And a KFDC tip: If you really want to get a spot in a pavilion to see an author, plan to arrive to their presentation early, as space fills up fast. And if you want to pick up a copy of their book for signings, there will be a whole pavilion dedicated to book sales.

Super Reader to the rescue at last year's festival

And that’s not all you’ll find at the Festival. There will be family storytelling events and reading-related activities for kids in the Let’s Read America pavilion; popular PBS characters on hand to greet children and pose for photo ops; the Gateway to Knowledge truck, which houses some of the top treasures and information about the millions of resources in the Library of Congress’ collections; the Digital Bookmobile, where visitors can explore download services from community libraries nationwide at interactive learning stations; and a 50th birthday celebration for Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The public is invited to enjoy this all rain or shine on Saturday, September 22, from 10am – 5:30pm and Sunday, September 23, from 12 – 5:30pm. Admission is FREE. For more information, visit the Library of Congress website.



Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Outdoor, Weekend