Tag Archives: Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival

A Weather-Dependent Weekend

Right now I’ve got a line from the Stone Temple Pilots song “Plush” playing on repeat in my head:  “And I feel so much depends on the weather.”  Those lyrics could be the theme for this post. Some of this weekend’s best activities take place outdoors, but with rain in the forecast for tomorrow they may not live up to their potential.  Luckily, there’s plenty going on for a great time indoors, too.  (And we’ve learned by now that the forecast isn’t always reliable, anyway.)  Here’s what’s happening around town, indoor and out, rain or shine.  Happy Weekend!

The Tidal Basin was lovely and crowd-free on a chilly weekday evening

A Peek at the Peak – It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year when the cherry trees are in bloom, and they are at their best right now.  The National Mall and Tidal Basin are sure to be teeming with blossom oglers if the weather cooperates, but braving the crowds is worth it.  Our family went for a sunset stroll by the Jefferson Memorial a few evenings ago and found the scene as spectacular as ever.  If you’re planning to partake in the blossom experience this weekend, check out these tips before you go.

Family Fun Day at the Yards ParkAs noted above and below, there two things to get excited about as spring begins in DC: Cherry blossoms and baseball.  On Saturday, you can celebrate both at the Yards Park, the centerpiece of the new Capitol Riverfront area that just opened last year. The Family Fun Day will include kids activities such as boat making and moonbouncing, lantern making for all ages, demos by the Trapeze School, Japanese performers and music, a variety of Japanese cuisine from Nooshi Sushi, and Sake tasting and a Japanese beer garden (for adults, of course) from Mie N Yu.  The event is free and open to the public from 11am – 4pm.

Nano Days – Celebrate nanotechnology at the National Museum of American History’s Spark!Lab with a day full of activities that teach all ages about nano science and invention and the role it plays in our lives. Staff will help visitors conducts experiments that include constructing a giant model of a carbon nanotube entirely from balloons, measuring height in nanometers, and creating a liquid crystal display that changes color.  The free event runs from 10am – 4pm Friday through Sunday.

Owen runs the bases after a Nats game last season

Nationals vs. BravesBaseball season is officially underway, and we can root for the hometeam this weekend as the Nats host the Braves for two more afternoon games on Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets are still available for both, and you can get a discount on select seats if you buy through Goldstar.  And don’t forget about Kids Run the Bases on Sunday after the game—children ages 4-12 can round the plates for an extra ballpark thrill.  For more about baseball games at Nationals Park, see this write up from last year.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks FestivalThe National Cherry Blossom Festival’s annual event at the Southwest Waterfront is an all-day affair with live music and family festivities galore al kicking off at 1pm. Enjoy a variety of musical performances on three stages aong with face painting, balloon artists, strolling entertainment, mini-sailboat races,T-shirt screenings, fire boat water shows, and more. The grand finale will begin at 8:30pm when the fireworks show illuminates the evening sky and water.

Tots Rock! At Air & SpaceThe National Air & Space Museum is hosting one of its Tots Rock! Shows on Saturday from 10am – 3pm. Kids ages 3-8 can enjoy a mix of entertainment at one of their favorite museums. They can explore a Planetarium show starring Big Bird and Elmo, listen to a flight-themed story, craft shadow puppets or  build a rocket, and…drum roll…rock out at a Ryan Buckle and Friends concert as they perform their hit show Science You Can Sing To. Visit the website for a schedule of events, and note that tickets are required and seating is limited for planetarium shows.

House of Sweden Family Fun – Join the Swedish Embassy for a family day with activities for all ages. Enjoy the Space for Children interactive play room, craft your favorite animal out of fusible beads, take an interactive quiz walk where you will learn some Swedish, get a Swedish treat from the fishing pond (little red gummies, anyone?), and create a work of art in the painting corner.  The free event runs from 11am – 2pm on Saturday.

Shabbatots Passover Prep – The Sixth & I Historic Synagogue is hosting the first installment of Shabbatots, a new monthly Shabbat program for families with young children. Explore the intersection of Judaism and flexibility with Torah yoga, enjoy a light lunch, and learn fun ways to make a Passover seder family friendly. Each family will take home a “seder in a sack” and tools to create a personalized seder. Torah Yoga is free and runs from 10 – 10:30am. The lunch and activity portion runs from 10:30am – 12pm, and cost is $36 per family. The activity is appropriate for children ages 2-6, but siblings of different ages are welcome.

A Preschool Celebrates 50 YearsThe Learning Center for Young Children (LCYC) is celebrating its 50th year of serving the Kensington area with an Open House & Children’s Fair on Sunday from 2 – 5pm. Families can enjoy activity stations set up around the school including arts & crafts, storytelling, hands-on science projects, music, and dance.  LCYC’s ‘Young Music Makers’ will perform under the direction of John Horman.  There will also be door prizes, face painting, and snacks available.  Visit the website for more details, including location and directions.

The Magic Paintbrush – You have two more weekends to catch the Synetic Family Theater’s current production that takes the audience on a dramatic adventure through China. Owen and I saw the play a couple of weeks ago, and we were both enchanted.  Performed completely through pantomime (or phyiscal storytelling, as the theater calls it) I was unsure how Owen would respond.  But while he couldn’t quite follow the story, he was nonetheless captivated by the expressive actors performing along with beautiful Chinese music and action-packed scenes, including Cirque de Soleil-like choreography, as actors whirled mid-air on suspended curtains. I’d recommend reading the story with your kids prior to the show, so they have a better understanding of the plot, but even if you don’t have an opportunity, they’ll likely be mesmerized all the same.  Tickets for The Magic Paintbrush are $12 and available for purchase through the Synetic Theater website.

Show TimeSeveral more productions will be on stages this weekend, including Dr. Kaboom at the Kennedy Center and Cinderella at Alden Theatre. For more current performances, see this post on spring shows in the area.

Tiny Tots –Two puppet shows for the littlest ones will be performed at The Puppet Co. this weekend: Animal Crackers on Saturday and Dragon Bandwagon on Sunday.  Both start at 10am.  Tickets are $5 and available online or at the box office.   Tiny Tots shows are recommended for ages 0-4.

Portrait Story Days: Duke EllingtonDrop in at the National Portrait Gallery on Sunday from 1 – 4pm to listen to a story about a person who has influenced American history and culture and to create a special piece of art. This week, learn about jazz composer, pianist, and big band leader Duke Ellington (1899-1974).

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Monuments & Memorials, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Sports, Spring, Theatre, Weekend

Tips for Families Viewing the Cherry Blossoms

It's almost peak time in DC!

Taking the family to the National Mall to see some pretty flowers sounds easy enough. If only it actually was.  The cherry blossom peak is one of the best times to visit DC – the city is at it’s most beautiful, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival provides loads of fun activities — but viewing the famous blooms can also be a bit challenging without being aware of a few things. Recently, the blog So You’re New to DC offered a few cherry blossom viewing tips, and I’m piggybacking on it a bit – with kids in mind.  Here are seven recommendations to consider if seeing the cherry blossoms is on your family’s agenda.

1. Don’t drive if you value your sanity. Take the Metro, ride the bus, bike, walk, jet pack.  Get here however you can, just leave the car at home.  Traffic is beyond frustrating during the cherry blossom peak, and your chances of finding decent parking are about as good as hitting the Powerball with Hurley’s numbers (okay, slight exaggeration, but it is hard).  The masses descend on Washington, DC, this time of year, and way too many do so in their vehicles.  Besides, kids love riding the Metro—it’s like an urban version of Hogwarts Express—and the Smithsonian stop on the Blue/Orange Line is mere minutes from all of the blossom action. *If you absolutely must drive and need parking your best bet is to find a garage in the Penn Quarter area then take the Metro from the Metro Center station to the Smithsonian station.

The kids and I enjoyed a picnic under a blossom canopy last year

2. Visit on a weekday if you have the flexibility.  Crowds are significantly smaller from Monday to Friday, so you can stroll around the Tidal Basin at a nice pace, and public transportation won’t be nearly as packed (though it still will be more crowded than usual).  If the kids are in school or daycare during the week, think about going later in the day.  I’ve always thought the National Mall and monuments look beautiful at sunset, and I bet the blossoms are just as sublime.

3. Consider using a child carrier instead of a stroller for little ones.  This is especially applicable if you take the Metro, since elevator lines can be very long and slow-going.  I encountered this last year on a weekday and ended up taking my daughter out of the stroller and carrying both on the escalator, which was probably as unsafe as it was difficult.  Even if you don’t take Metro, a carrier is still a wise option.  Navigating crowded walkways while pushing a pram takes focus, and you could end up spending more time concentrating on not rolling over others’ heels than enjoying the sights you came to see. It’s a bonus for kids, too — perched on your back, your babe will get a better view of the blossoms.

4. Check the National Cherry Blossom Festival schedule, so you can plan your visit accordingly. Some of the city’s most anticipated events are part of the two-week celebration, the Kite Festival, Southwest Waterfront Fireworks, and National Cherry Blossom Parade among them.  And a few new family-friendly events have been added to the program this year: The Yards Park is hosting a Family Fun Day and Eastern Market will have a great line-up of live music on the weekends, including several children’s performances presented by the Boogie Babes.  All events take place close by the blossoms or are an easy Metro ride away.  See this post for dates and details on the best events for families.

Sasha is ready to go fly a kite

5. Bring a kite to the Blossom Kite Festival.  If you don’t, your kid will never forgive you (and you’ll be pretty bummed, too).  When you see the sky flecked with brilliant colors and wild shapes, you’ll want to unravel a spool of string and let a sail fly, too. Even though there is an exhibition and competition aspect to the event, anyone can fly their kite along with even the most hardcore enthusiasts (that’s right, kiters can get hardcore…have you seen some of those stunts?).  If you don’t already have a kite, you can pick one up at Target for about $5.

6. Seek out other spots to see the cherry blossoms if you don’t want to deal with crowds and chaos around the Mall.  Several places around the DC-metro area are well known for their annual cherry blossom displays.  When I worked in Bethesda many years ago, it was an annual tradition for my colleagues and I to take a drive through Kenwood, a lovely neighborhood between Little Falls Parkway and River Road with cherry tree-lined streets. The National Arboretum also has a nice collection of the trees and offers a beautiful, peaceful environment in which to view them in bloom.  For even more suggestions for cherry blossoms minus the crowds, check out this Washingtonian article.

7. Don’t forget your camera to take advantage of some of the best photo ops DC offers.  The peak colors plus the monuments are about as  iconic as you can get when photographing Washington. Get your kids to sit still – or even let them run and play for a fun candid – and you’ve got this year’s holiday card.


Filed under All ages, DC, Festival, Live Entertainment, Monuments & Memorials, Outdoor, Seasonal, Spring, Weekend

DC in Bloom: The 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival

A 2-year-old Owen delights in the blossoms

It’s just a matter of time until DC is at its prettiest. The National Park Service recently announced the peak dates of our famous cherry blossoms:  March 29 – April 3.  And the timing couldn’t be better.  Not only does the dazzling flower display coincide with the start of spring, it occurs during the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival, over two weeks of special events, including tons of entertainment and fun activities for all ages.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 26 – April 10, is more than just a celebration of spring and its namesake flowers.  It also honors the friendship between the U.S. and Japan, who gifted us with the cherry trees, a relationship especially significant in light of the devastation the country just endured.  A wonderful way to acknowledge our Japanese friends is with contribution to relief efforts.  If you’d like to make a donation, consider these charitable organizations:
American Red Cross
Mercy Corps
Doctors Without Borders
International Medical Corps

As for the Festival, it’s chock full of activities for families to enjoy.  Here are select events and dates to mark on your calendar.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day and Opening Ceremony
Saturday, March 26
The National Cherry Blossom Festival will kick off with a Family Day at the National Building Museum from 10am – 3:30pm before the official Opening Ceremony from 4–5:30pm.  The free, drop-in program will feature hands-on activities and exciting indoor and outdoor performances that celebrate spring and explore Japanese arts and design.

Performance Stage at Sylvan Theater
Saturday, March 26 – Sunday, April 10
In the shadow of the Washington Monument, this is the Festival’s primary stage. Enjoy recognized and diverse talent from around the region, country, and world, including varied genres of music and dance, martial arts exhibitions, marching bands, and more. Free performances can be enjoyed from 12-5pm on weekdays and 12-6pm on weekends.

Music of Spring at Eastern Market
Saturday & Sunday, Marc 26-27 & April 9-10
Along with several children’s performances presented by the Boogie Babes, there will be upbeat, springtime jazz, world-beat, Americana, classical, and spoken word in the street, on the plazas, and in Eastern Market’s newly restored North Hall.

Our dragon kite from last year's festival

Blossom Kite Festival
Sunday, March 27
Rescheduled for Sunday, April 10
Even before having kids, this was one of my favorite DC activities. With babes in tow, it’s even better. The sight of thousands of colorful kites of all shapes and sizes flying in the air around the Washington Monument is a sight to behold.  And imagining it from my kids’ perspectives adds a touch of magic to it all.   So, when I say kites of all shapes and sizes, I don’t just mean the typical diamonds and triangles; the sails you see at the festival each spring get a little more sophisticated than that.  There are sharks, butterflies, giant soccer balls, even some that look like intricate works of art.  While the festival is open to the public to come fly their kites, there is some competition and exhibition to witness, 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.   The Festival is free and will run from 10am – 4pm.

ImaginAsia Family Program: Painted Parasols
Sunday, March 27
At 2pm, at the Freer Gallery Courtyard, kids ages 8-14 (suggested ages) can participate in a hands-on art activity reminiscent of Japanese culture as they paint a paper parasol to carry as they visit the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin. Find inspiration in some of the gallery’s exhibits that depict spring flower motifs in the clothes and accessories of Japanese women as they stroll through parks in springtime.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Fun Day at The Yards Park
Saturday, April 2
There are two things we can count on as spring begins in DC: cherry blossoms and the start of the baseball season.  You can celebrate both at the Yards Park, the centerpiece of the new Capitol Riverfront area. The Family Fun Day will include kids activities like boat making and moonbouncing, lantern making for all ages, Trapeze School, Japanese performers and music, a variety of Japanese cuisine from Nooshi Sushi, and Sake tasting and a Japanese beer garden (for adults, of course) from Mie N Yu.  The event is free and open to the public from 11am – 4pm.

DISC Cherry Blossom Regatta
Saturday, April 2
Young boat enthusiasts will love watching sailboats from Daingerfield Island Sailing Club (DISC) and Potomac River Sailing Association race near Hains Point and East Potomac Park on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers with cherry trees lining the shore. You can probably get a good view of the boats from the Yards Park during the Family Fun Day.  For a view from the water, the M/V PATRIOT II, the official spectator boat of the regatta and DC Harbor Cruises’ new luxury catamaran, will offer a special Cherry Blossom Regatta cruise.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Saturday, April 2
Another family event happening along the water is the annual fireworks show at the Southwest Waterfront.  It’s an all-day and part-evening affair with live music and family-friendly festivities starting at 1pm. The grand finale will begin at 8:30pm when the National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks Show lights up the night sky.

Clifford at the Cherry Blossom Parade

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Saturday, April 9
The mac daddy of cherry blossom festivities is definitely the parade. Thousands of people line Constitution Avenue every year to watch the spectacle of lavish floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and a variety of performers travel from 7th to 17th Streets.  The parade begins at 10am and last about two hours.  Tickets for grandstand seats are available for $17, but you can stake out a spot along the curb for free.  Plan to arrive early t get a good view — the crowds come out for this one, especially if it’s a nice day.

Sakura Matsuri
Saturday, April 9
Immediately following the parade, many folks head right over to Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese Street Festival that is America’s largest one-day exhibition of Japanese culture. Stretching down six city blocks from 9th to 14th Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, there will be live music and dance performances, all kinds of Asian and Western foods, martial arts demos, a Children’s Corner with storytelling, origami, Japanese games, calligraphy, and more.  Festivities go on until 6pm, and there is a $5 charge for adults (free for children under 12).


Filed under All ages, DC, Eats, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Monuments & Memorials, Music, Outdoor, Parade, Seasonal, Spring