Tuesday – Add a museum exhibit to the weekday mix and go see MathAlive! at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center before it closes June 3. Admission is free.
Wednesday – Walk among hundreds of butterflies at Brookside Garden’s “Wings of Fancy” exhibit. Witness the butterfly life cycle and see species from North America, Central America, and Asia. Admission is $6/adult and $4/ages 3-12, free for children 2 and under (though strollers are not permitted). Tickets and parking are available at the Visitors Center and Conservatories.
Thursday – See Five Little Monkeys, Adventure Theatre’s latest show that audiences of all ages will find entertaining. Tickets are $18 and still available for Thursday’s show as this post goes live.
Friday – Visit the Maryland Youth Garden at the National Arboretum. Stroll among a variety of plants and flowers, till soil in the compost station, and have some fun in the natural play space. Admission is free.
The Washington Youth Garden: Cultivated by kids for all ages to enjoy
If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that the U.S. National Arboretum is one of my very favorite spots to hang with the kids in DC. Not only does it top my list of best outdoor places, but it’s been a frequent recommendation as a recreational haven practically since day one (well, more like day 21, but I had to wait for Snowmageddon’s remnants to melt before suggesting readers go there).
The best thing about the Arboretum is that it’s so big, visiting never gets old. There are myriad adventures to be had — different collections of plants and flowers to explore, lots of short trails to hike, exhibits to see, wildlife to view. This partly explains why, until a few days ago, we’d never visited the Washington Youth Garden. I say partly, because I knew it was there, but thought it was only open to school groups. And since there was so much else to do at the Arboretum, I hadn’t looked into it further to find out for sure.
But last week, I chaperoned a field trip to the Youth Garden with Owen’s class and learned that it is, indeed, open to the public. Which is awesome. Because it’s yet another fantastic element of an already-wonderful place.
Developed to encourage kids and families to connect with the natural world, the Garden is cultivated and maintained by local youth. A variety of plants and flowers are grown there, many of them edible and harvested seasonally. We toured — and tasted! — strawberries, sorrel, mint, and asparagus, among the many crops grown in the garden . (No pesticides are used, as our guide explained, and she encouraged the kids to nibble a little as she discussed the different qualities of the plants.)
Right next to the actual garden is a natural play area where kids can engage with nature through self-directed activities. Everything in the space is made of materials that come right from their environment — benches made from tree branches and tree stumps to sit on, wooden sand tables for kids to dig in, even xylophones constructed of wood where they can make music.
Just beyond that is a compost station, with signs explaining how the three-bin system works. During our tour, there were gardening tools available for the kids to till the soil a bit. The guide said they aren’t there otherwise, but guests not on a tour can still visit that part of the garden.
The compost station
A close look at what’s in the soil: Worms!
From there, you can access a short trail that meanders through the woods behind the garden to get a look at the variety of plants that grow naturally in that small area. Our guide encouraged the kids to notice the different shapes of the leaves, moss growing on a fallen tree branch, even the smell of the woods. (And here I should note that guides are only available for school groups, but individuals are welcome to tour on their own.)
A short walk in the woods
Our tour of the garden lasted about an hour, though a visit there could last much longer at one’s own pace. With other school groups coming through, the class spent the rest of our field trip exploring the nearby Fern Valley, having a picnic lunch by the Capitol Columns, and visiting the Koi pond. But next time I take my kids to the Arboretum, we’ll be lingering at the Youth Garden much longer.
Getting up close and, perhaps, a little too personal with a funky car at last year's H Street Festival
This weekend is one of those times I wish there were seven of me, so I could attend multiple events at one time. Yes, there is that much good stuff happening over the next few days — and that’s just counting the special one-off events, not the ongoing assortment of recreational mainstays in the DC-metro. And it’s all forecast to go down amid superb weather conditions. Whatever you and the kids end up doing, you’re practically guaranteed a great time. Happy Weekend!
H Street Festival – I have very high hopes for the Festival this year. We attended last fall, and it was pretty good, but all of the street construction going on at the time posed some obstacles, making it somewhat difficult to navigate with kids in tow. But with the corridor now free of barriers and pavement back in place, I think this year’s H Street celebration is going to be excellent. There will be live entertainment on four stages, plus a kids stage; art exhibits; a fleet of food trucks; art exhibits; crafts for sale by local vendors; fashion shows; pie eating contests; dancin’ in the street; and lots of kids’ activities, including face painting, story telling, and moon bounces. And you can leave the car at home—free shuttle bus service will be available from Gallery Place and Eastern Market Metros. Enjoy the festivities from 12pm – 7pm.
An Apple a Day – One of fall’s most anticipated traditions is underway: apple picking! Many area orchards and farms offer pick-your-own opportunities, and with so many apple varieties that ripen at different times, the pickings often last through October, sometimes even into November. This post has a good selection of farms and orchards where you can reap the fruits.
The Big Build – Budding builders can start honing their skills as they work alongside professionals, including architects, designers, builders, artisans, and trades people at the National Building Museum on Saturday from 10am – 4:30pm. Guests can try their hands at a variety of construction techniques, build a miniature house from sticks, create mosaics, talk with the experts, enjoy a live Bob the Builder show, and more. This free event (a $5 donation is suggested) takes place
Greek Festival – There’s music, dancing, and a marketplace full of Greek goods, but if you go to this annual Festival at the Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in 16th Street Heights, be sure to go with an appetite. Because, really, it’s all about the food. We’re talking authentic Greek fare, and a huge variety of it. Be prepared to stand in line if you go at a mealtime, but the queue moves fast, and the wait is beyond worth it. After indulging, sit back, relax, and enjoy the entertainment. All in all, a good time for the whole family. The Festival runs Friday and Saturday from 12 – 9:30pm and Sunday 12 – 7:30pm. Admission is free, but you pay food and drinks.
Cider Festival – Great Country Farms is celebrating apple season with a focus on one of the fruit’s yummiest products – cider. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be cider pressing demos with the farm’s antique cider press as well as tastings. Visit the website for activity times. The $8/child and $10/adult admission also covers hayrides, wine tasting across the street at Bluemont Vineyard, visits with barnyard animals, and loads of fun for kids, including a pumpkin jumpin’ pillow, 60-foot slide, five mazes, and pedal tractors.
Collection Connections – Drop in at the National Postal Museum on Saturday from 11am – 2pm to make a stamp collection to take home. Guests can choose a collection topic from thousands of international postage stamps. While there, kids can sit in the driver’s seat of mail truck, take a Pony Express journey, and view the Owney the Postal Dog exhibit among other mail-related fun.
Tales of Beatrix Potter – Be among the first audiences to see The Puppet Co.’s latest production. Tales of Beatrix Potter, which explores the fantasy world of one of Victorian England’s best-known authors and illustrators, opens today and runs through October 9. Showtimes are 10am and 11:30 on Fridays, and 11:30am and 1pm on Saturdays and Sunday.
A Century of Women in Aerospace – The National Air & Space Museum is celebrating National Aerospace Week with a family event that recognizes the women who have contributed to technological advances in aviation and space. On Saturday from 10am – 3pm, meet women who are today’s role models and learn about the historical women who have inspired them through storytelling, arts & crafts, and more. Just like admission to the museum, the event is free.
Shiver me Timbers, It’s Pirate Day! – Ahoy, mateys! In preparation for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone needs all hands on deck! Batten down the hatches and head on over for a day full of pirate-themed activities, including a treasure hunt around National Harbor. Be there or walk the plank, savvy? The free event takes place on Saturday from 11am – 4pm.
Maryland Renaissance Festival – I’ve recommended the faire in Crownsville, Md, for three weeks now, and its going to remain in the weekend round-up until it closes in late October. Enjoy a village full of medieval amusement, spend a day outdoors, and get some good ideas for Halloween costumes all in one fun day. This post has all the details you need.
Washington Youth Garden Turns 40 – The garden on the ground of the U.S. National Arboretum is celebrating a big anniversary with a loads of festivities on Saturday from 11am – 3pm. There will be children’s activities, a juggler, live music, a food tent, hand cream making and bee-keeping demos, and much more. Go here for more details and the schedule of events.
Nationals vs. Marlins – It’s a weekend of home games for the Nats as they host the Florida Marlins. There are games tonight and Saturday evening at 7:05pm, and on Sunday at 1:35pm. Don’t miss the special promos — Signature Sundays welcome fans to arrive early to meet select players and get autographs and Kids Run the Bases means young fans 12 and under can loop the infield after the game. Tickets for all of the games are available for purchase online or at the Box Office.
Brookside Gardens Children’s Day – This year’s theme for the annual event is “Adventures with Food – Let’s Move and Groove!”. From 11am – 4pm this Saturday, children will move and groove throughout the day keeping fit while they enjoy activities throughout the gardens. There will be a Little Sprouts area for toddlers, an activity circuit, face painting, fruit and veggie bingo, a kids’ farmer’s market, story time, and lots more. Admission is free.
Colonial Market & Fair – Take a day trip back to 18th-century America at Mount Vernon’s Colonial Market & Fair. Watch artisans and craftspeople from all over the country demonstrate early techniques of their crafts, many of which will be for sale. Live entertainment will include music, puppet shows, a sword swallower, a fire eater, and a miracle medicine man. Admission is included in the entrance fee to the Estate: $15/adults, $7/kids 6-11, children 5 and under are free. Food will be available at extra cost. For more information and the full performance schedule, visit the Mount Vernon website.
Fiesta Musical – Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the National Zoo on Sunday from 11am – 5pm The annual event will include animal demos, Hispanic and Latino music and foods, costumed dancers, and crafts for sale. Admission to the event is free, but if you drive and park in the Zoo lot, be prepared to pay – $10 for the first hour, $15 for two to three hours, and $20 for more than three hours. Parking is free for FONZ members.
And just to make heads spin a little more, this post has tons of ideas for savoring the glorious early fall weather:
If 100+ degree temperatures don’t bother you, this sounds like a wonderful family activity. Tomorrow, July 24, from 12pm – 4pm, the public is invited to the Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum for a celebration of gardening and healthy kids. Enjoy live music, healthy snacks, gardening crafts and activities for children, and garden tours. Check out some beehives as the group’s beekeeper, Toni Burnham, gives a show-and-tell (but, hopefully, not touch).
The Washington Youth Garden was developed nearly 40 years ago to inspire children and families to engage in self-discovery, explore relationships with food and the natural world, and contribute to the health and well-being of their communities. Visit the website to learn more.