Sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers, waltzing flowers, and more magical characters will soon be dancing across local stages. The Nutcracker is a staple of the holidays, and seeing a performance of Tchaikovsky’s festive ballet is an annual tradition for families all around the area. You have a chance to make it part of your seasonal repertoire, too, with this giveaway for a Family 4-Pack of tickets to the Northern Virginia Ballet’s production of the holiday favorite!
The NVB, along with its affiliate school, The Academy of Russian Ballet, present their ninth annual production of The Nutcracker on Saturday, November 25, at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, VA. Starring ballet world superstars Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, the show is full of lavish costuming, exquisite imported sets, and features the award-winning dancers of the Academy.
The production is family friendly and adheres to tradition. Sets and backgrounds were produced in Russian theatres, and costumes are either custom made in Russia and Europe or by an in-house design team. The 75 local performers from the Academy joining Ms. Dvorovenko and Mr. Beloserkovsky onstage range in age from three to eighteen.
Two performances will take place at 2pm and 6pm. Tickets are $35/adult, $25/child, senior, & military, and can be purchased online — use code: INSIDENOVA for 20% off tickets! You can also try to win them though the giveaway below.
The Hylton Performing Arts Center is located on George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus at 10960 George Mason Circle in Manassas, VA.
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Giveaway: For a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of Tickets to see the Northern Virginia Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 2pm or 6pm, simply leave a comment below telling me one of your family’s favorite holiday traditions. Get an extra chance to win on the KidFriendly DC Facebook Page. This show is coming up soon, so this giveaway will only run through Tuesday, November 21, 2017, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!
This post is sponsored by The Northern Virginia Ballet and The Academy of Russian Ballet, however, I only promote places, programs, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will be of interest to KFDC readers.
Hands-on fun at the National Build Museum's Lego exhibit
Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! Seeing as Monday is already well underway (better late than never, right?), these recs for weekday fun conveniently start with an evening activity. Beyond that, find ideas to keep the kids entertained during the rest of days of this Winter Break week.
Monday: See a holiday light show in the evening. You have your pick of drive-thru displays or walkable routes at various locations in the area. For details on all of them, see this post on DC holiday events.
Thursday: Glide the day away at an ice skating rink. See this post with details of both indoor and outdoor venues. Or check out the brand new ice rink at the Rockville Town Square.
Friday: Head to the National Building Museum for some architecture-inspired fun. Toddlers can play in the Building Zone ($3 admission, including accompanying adults). All ages can check out the Towering Ambition LEGO exhibit ($5 admission) and create their own structures of plastic pieces at tables set up for just that purpose. And the Great Hall is a great place to romp and have an indoor picnic (BYO lunch or pick up from Firehook Cafe on premises). In the evening, wind down the week at Lil Omm in Tenley Town, where all ages can join in for Family Fun Fridays yoga session from 5-6pm.
The Chinese food and movie combo on Christmas might sound like a cliché, but that was my reality when I was growing up. Back then, nothing was open on Christmas…except for the theaters and Chinese food restaurants. So, if you were Jewish and didn’t celebrate the holiday, that’s what you did.
Now that Christmas is part of my holiday repertoire thanks to my husband, I’m a little busier come Christmas Day. (What am I saying? Christmas brings a whole new meaning to busy for weeks leading up to it, especially with kids in the mix.) But even with my adopted holiday traditions to enjoy every December 25, I still like to get out for some activity, because that’s what the child in me knows.
These days, the world doesn’t shut down for the holiday. Along with movie theaters and Chinese food restaurants, plenty of other venues keep some hours on Christmas Day. In the vein of DC-area family fun, the Botanic Garden, Mount Vernon, parks hosting light displays, and the ice rink in Silver Spring (for a Chanukah event) will be welcoming visitors, though it’s the one day of the year that the Smithsonian is closed. And just about everything is open on Christmas Eve.
So, if your family is in town this weekend and looking for fun to complement your celebration or seeking activities instead of one, you’ve got some options. Including plenty of children’s movies in the theaters to precede or follow a good Chinese food meal. Merry Weekend! And a very happy holiday to all!
Santa Claus is Coming to Town… On Water Skis – On Saturday at National Harbor, you can catch Santa water skiing along the Potomac. And along for the ride will be knee boarding reindeer, the flying elves, the jet-skiing Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman in a dinghy! Now, that’s sure to be a spectacle that will get kids buzzing. While you’re at the Harbor, be sure to check out the rest of the Christmas on the Potomac holiday extravaganza.
Closing Up Shop for the Season – Saturday is your last chance to get a glimpse of Santa’s operations at his workshop on the Ellipse. The cute, little cottage where guests can pass through and view the charming facilities, then get a photo with St. Nick himself will be open for the last time this season on Christmas Eve from 11am – 3pm. It’s also open today and tonight, 12:30 – 4:30pm and 5:30-9:30pm. All of the other exhibits on the Ellipse – the National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, and other holiday display – will be there to visit through the holidays.
Let There Be Light Shows – After a big holiday meal, take a drive through one of the many light displays in the area. You can find details for all of them in this post about holiday events, but there are a few things to note this weekend: ZooLights is closed all weekend, Watkins’ Festival of Lights is open and FREE on Christmas evening, Symphony of Lights is open, Brookside Garden of Lights is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas evenings, and the Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek is closed on Christmas.
Chanukah Wonderland – Head to the Civic Center in Downtown Silver Spring for a day full of activities that celebrate the eight crazy nights. There will be Chanukah jewelry, cookie decorating, a coloring station, dreidel making, and more from 10am – 5pm. You can also enjoy Chanukah on Ice with skating, Jewish music, latkes from 3:30-5pm. Admission is $10.
Go Nuts – The Warner Theatre curtains close on The Nutcracker after Saturday. You can catch the final performances today at 2pm and 7pm or tomorrow at 11am and 3pm. Tickets range from $40-110, but you can check Goldstar for discount. Read the KFDC review of the Washington Ballet’s version of the holiday classic.
Season’s Greenings –Despite its location next to all of the museums, the U.S. Botanic Garden is not part of the Smithsonian (the Architect of the Capitol serves as the Acting Director). Hence, it’s not closed along with the rest of the galleries on the National Mall, and will welcome visitors all weekend. See the lovely, whimsical train display and replicas of DC landmarks constructed entirely of natural materials that make up the holiday exhibit, along with the permanent collections. Open 9am – 5pm, admission is free.
Portrait Story Days and Discovery Kits – On Saturday from 2-5pm, guests of all ages can drop at the National Portrait Gallery to hear a tale about Gertrude Stein and do an art project. For a fun DIY adventure at the Gallery, Portrait Discovery Kits are also available on Saturday from 1-4pm. They include “Seek and Find” cards, “Portrait Detective” and “Historian Guides,” and a “Compare and Contrast” activity using a doll. Visitors can check out kits at the education center, room E151, on the first floor.
Christmas at Mount Vernon – Celebrate the holiday at George Washington’s homestead, which will be open on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The special holiday exhibit includes 12 Christmas trees, a gingerbread Mount Vernon, historical chocolate-making demonstrations (and tastings!), and more. Guests will also have the chance to tour the rarely opened third floor of the mansion to learn how the first First Family celebrated Christmas. And outside, Alladin the camel will be on view to recall the camel ol’ George himself bought for 18 shillings in 1787 for his guests’ enjoyment at Christmas. Admission is $15/adults, $7/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under.
The Great Outdoors – Dreams for a white Christmas may be dashed, but I, for one, won’t be complaining about the weather this weekend. Lots of sunshine and relatively warm temps will give you some more options for things to do. And this post about the DC area’s best places to spend a nice day outdoors with the kiddos has loads of ideas.
Septime Webre, himself, set the tone for his production of The Nutcracker when he came out to introduce the ballet and extend a warm welcome to the audience. His relaxed, playful intro acknowledged the all-ages crowd, particularly as he primed us on how to cheer for the dancers: “Bravo!” for male dancers, “Brava!” for ballerinas, and “Bravi!” for everyone and everything. And he encouraged us to use them liberally during the performance.
Of course, we didn’t need any prompting. From the moment the ballet began, we had plenty to applaud as we were transported to the show’s magical world of…Georgetown. Yes, Webre puts his signature on the production with a 19th-century Washington setting and other hints of “DC” as the performance progresses – George Washington as the Nutcracker, Anacostia Indians, an appearance by news anchor Maureen Bunyan – a touch that added to the fun, intimate feel of the experience.
Here, I should note that this was Owen’s first Nutcracker performance in his nearly six years, and my first live one in a very long time. (It was just the two of us since I thought bringing Sasha to a two-hour performance might be pushing my luck, despite her recent theatre-going breakthrough.) I was excited to see how he would like the show, since he loves dance – both watching it and grooving himself — but usually prefers more modern genres, like hip hop.
But let’s get back to the “magical” part, which starts with the Christmas party in the Stahlbaum family’s ballroom. The set itself is superb, decorated for the holidays with a grand-yet-cozy feel, and the Christmas tree as a focal point. Guests are dressed in beautiful period costumes and dance their way through the scene as they greet each other and the audience.
When Clara’s dream sequence begins it gets even better. The set changes to become the bottom of the tree to demonstrate scale. And the toys that come to life under it wow with spectacular performances that are spirited and colorful and keep the audience focused on the stage. Owen sat up intently as criss-crossing lines of toy soldiers, an adorable troupe of clowns , brilliantly garbed Indians, twirling forest animals, and more enchanting characters lit up the stage with thrilling, dramatic dances in the first act.
Intermission came after an hour, perfect timing for an audience filled with young theatre-goers. We got up to stretch our legs and peer into the orchestra pit, which held the first musicians that have played the score for the production in a few years, as taped music had been used when the company experienced financial troubles.
The second act began after about a 20-minute intermission with a breathtaking set of the Potomac River and glimmering cherry blossoms at its edges. The performances in this act as Clara and the Prince visited the Land of Sweets were beautiful, though I did notice Owen start to squirm a bit by then. That’s understandable as it was a long time for a young child to sit. And while absolutely mesmerizing to me, the Dance of the Sugar the Sugar Plum Fairies and the like lacked the big theatrics that hold a five-year-old’s attention as the numbers in the first act did. But when it was all over and I asked Owen how he liked the show, he gave a very enthusiastic, “I liked it!” And when we ran into his friends after the show, they ardently echoed his sentiments.
As for me, I give it a big, “Bravi!”
Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker is running at the Warner Theatre through December 24. Tickets are $40-110 and available for purchase through Ticketmaster. Goldstar also has discount on tickets for performances on select dates.
*I recommend this show for children ages 4 and up, depending on how well they sit through theatre performances and how much they like ballet. The entire production is a good two hours, so kids who aren’t into this kind of theatre would probably get antsy.
*Metered parking is available, though it’s hard to score a good spot in that part of town. There are several parking garages nearby the theatre which cost anywhere from $14-$20.
*Give yourself some time to get in the theatre and find your seats. The lobby is small and can get crowded, and there may be a wait as ushers direct people to seats.
*Snack and drinks are available for purchase ($5 popcorn, $4 soda), and you can bring them into the theatre. Souvenir Nutcracker dolls are also sold in the lobby.
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to The Nutcracker from the Washington Ballet, but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
Checking out one means of mail transportation at the National Postal Museum
Monday – Kids ages 3-5 can meet the trees that represent the season at Green Spring Gardens’ workshop, Garden Sprouts: Forever Evergreens. Guests will get an intro to the tree then create a related craft. Admission is $5/county residents, $7/non-residents, and you must register in advance. As this post goes up, there are still a few spots remaining in the class.
Tuesday – Head to the Building Zone at the National Building Museum for its Book of the Month Program. Readings of Gingerbread Baby begin at 10:30am and 11:30am. Don’t forget it’s now $3/person to play there, and timed entries begin on the hour. While you’re at the NBM, check out the Lego Architecture exhibit upstairs and let the kids create some masterpieces themselves at tables yielding thousands of the tiny plastic bricks. And the magnificent Great Hall is a perfect space to let the kids romp and enjoy an indoor picnic (BYO or buy it from the on-premises Firehook Bakery).
Wednesday – Visit the National Postal Museum, one I consider a local secret, since it’s often overlooked by tourists and overshadowed by its Smithsonian counterparts on the Mall. The atrium alone is quite a sight, showcasing various means of mail transportation — a mail truck, airplane, train car, tractor-trailer, and Pony Express horses and buggy replica are on display, and a couple of them are open for guests to climb aboard. And even more interesting exhibits await beyond the main hall. When you’re done there, head next door to Union Station to see the Holiday Train Show and grab lunch.
Thursday – See a marionette version of a holiday classic, as The Puppet Co. presents The Nutcracker at 10am and 11:30am. Tickets are $10 and available online — they often sell fast, so reserve yours soon!
Friday – Experience the best of the holidays in DC at one of the many seasonal activities happening around town. This post lists my faves, and I highly recommend experiencing them during the week when possible to avoid the weekend crowds.