Sometimes things work out exactly as they should. We officially welcome spring tomorrow, and it actually feels like springtime. March Madness is living up to its name, and there’s only been one day of play. The cherry blossom trees have started to bud and are expected to peak during the annual festival that begins next weekend (big post on that coming soon). The stars are aligned. It’s going to be a fantastic weekend, so tear yourself away from the tourney for awhile and welcome spring with some fun with the kids.
One of the best places to see the city’s favorite trees in early bloom and relish the sublime weather is the US National Arboretum. Over 450 acres contain some amazing collections of plants, trees and flowers. And even if your kids aren’t up for a botany lesson, there is plenty they will be into. The koi pond at the visitor center is always a big hit with little ones (bring change for the fish food dispenser), the old National Capitol columns standing smack in the middle of the Ellipse Meadow are a brilliant sight for all ages (bring camera for cool photo ops), and large expanses of open space are great places to run and play (bring a ball to kick around). Make it a picnic at the Grove of State Trees, a collection of trees from all 50 states and designated eating spot for visitors.
Another cool picnic spot is Gravelly Point, a small park along the GW Parkway next to Ronald Reagan Airport. I have to warn you about this one: it’s hit or miss with kids (and adults, for that matter). The park is located in a scenic spot right on the Potomac, and on nice days, it’s bustling with folks having picnics, playing soccer, biking and jogging along the Mt. Vernon Trail, and watching the airplanes take off or land (depending on which way they’re going that day). That’s the hit or miss part. The planes fly literally right overhead, so it’s fairly loud, and when they’re coming in, it looks like they are coming right at you. I love it. My son, Owen, loves it… sometimes. He has cackled with amazement at the sight of the planes, but he has also cried and asked to leave. If you have a little thrill-seeker, it’s worth checking out.
If you’d rather look up to see treetops, head to Rock Creek Park. The sprawling oasis of nature within the city is loaded with gems for kids. Besides miles of hiking and biking trails, kids can explore exhibits in the Nature Center or play dress-up at Peirce Mill. One of our favorite parts of the park is the Horse Center, where kids can tour the stables, see the horses and, best of all, take a pony ride. It’s $20 for a 10-15 minute ride that winds through the woods and back to the stables (note: riders must be at least 30” tall and two and half years old). And, of course, the National Zoo is a mainstay of Rock Creek fun.
Happening only this Saturday from 10am – 3pm is the Kites of Asia event at the National Air & Space Museum. See kites from all over Asia, watch experts make their kites “dance,” construct your own kite (and fly it during the kite festival next weekend), hear a story about kite flying in India, and meet kite masters from Tibet. The event may not take advantage of the weather, but if you’re going to be indoors, this sounds like a good place to be.
For a little more art and culture, don’t forget WinterCity Weekend at Barracks Row, which I posted about a couple of days ago. The Hill’s main strip will be full of activity for the whole family. See you there!