Peak Events of the 2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival

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We may be several weeks away from the cherry blossom peak — as of now, it’s expected April 11-14 — but the big annual event celebrating them begins in just a few days. The 2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place March 20 – April 12. And while most of it may not overlap with the best of the bloom, there are plenty of activities offering peak fun, many of them prime for kids. Here’s where you can enjoy the best of the fest.

Family Days at the Building Museum
Where: National Building Museum
When: March 21, March 28, & April 4
Admission: Free

The National Building Museum is switching things up a bit this year and spreading out the Cherry blossom Festival family fun. Instead of the usual larger single festival day to kick off the celebration, they’re hosting a series of workshops. Tokyo Picnic Club invites families to picnic in the Great Hall on March 21, Zen Gardens offers a lesson in Japan famous Zen rock gardens and an opportunity for participants to design and build one of their own on March 28 (prepaid registration required). The Paper Tube Shelter Challenge on April 4 welcomes guests to design, model, and build shelters with recyclable paper tubes (prepaid registration required).

Kites of Asia Family Day
Where: National Air & Space Museum
When: March 21, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Get ready for the Blossom Kite Festival and celebrate the artistry and beauty of Asian kites. See kites on display and in the air, discover the diversity of kites from across Asia, and learn how kites helped the Wright brothers develop the first airplane. Guests can fashion a Chinese Dragon puppet, color a Thai-style kite, and make a Philippian leaf kite at hands-on stations. There will also be kite-themed storytimes — see the website for times and details.

Make an Okinawan Textile Craft
Where: GW Museum & Textile Museum
When: March 22
Admission: Free

Celebrate the (re)opening of the Textile Museum since its merger with GWU and the Cherry Blossom Festival! The museum will host an exhibition on textiles from Okinawa and welcomes guests of all ages to learn about and make artwork inspired by brightly colored bingata, traditional Okinawan cloth made using stencils and resist dyeing.

Blossom Kite Festival
Where: Washington Monument Grounds
When: March 28, 10am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free

Go fly a kite! Seriously. The Kite Festival is, in my opinion, the best event during cherry blossom season (when the weather cooperates, anyway). The sight of thousands of kites in all colors, shapes, and sizes soaring around the Washington Monument is truly a sight to behold. It’s absolutely magical for my kids, and even for me as a jaded adult. The sails you see flying at the Festival each spring range from simple to pretty darn creative. Dragons, sharks, butterflies, giant soccer balls, even some that look like intricate works of art actually outnumber your basic diamond. And anyone can go fly their kites, so be sure to bring one. There’s a competition aspect to the event, 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.

Cherry Blossom Celebration
Where: Freer-Sackler Galleries
When: March 28
Admission: Free

The galleries dedicated to Asian art are celebrating the 2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival with a day full of Japanese art, anime and manga films, and family activities. The museum shop is hosting a trunk show of vintage Japanese garments as well as a signing of the newly released book Cherry Blossoms, featuring artworks from the Freer and Sackler collections.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Where: Southwest Waterfront, 600 Water Street SW
When: April 4, 1-9pm
Admission: Free

A fun 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 free live music and family-friendly festivities, including water-related activities, cultural experiences, and delicious foods. The grand finale will begin at 8:30pm when the National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks Show lights up the night sky.

Cherry Blossom Family Celebration
Where: 8th & G Streets, NW
When: April 4, 11:30am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Cherry Blossom season with the Smithsonian American Art Museum! Enjoy traditional Japanese music and dance performances while you make tatebanko (Japanese paper dioramas) with guests from the Freer | Sackler. Fold origami birds and learn about preparing your garden for the spring from Smithsonian Gardens.

Lantern Making Family Day
Where: Canal Park
When: April 4, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Bring the whole family to construct Japanese lanterns at the Capitol Riverfront area park. There will be two sessions of the activity, at 10am and 12pm. Moonbouncing and Japanese cultural activities will also be happening throughout the event for kids to enjoy.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue, 7th – 17th Streets NW
When: April 11, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The pinnacle of cherry blossom festivities is, hands-down, 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 down Constitution Avenue. Tickets for grandstand seats are available for $20, but you can stake out a spot along the curb for free. Plan to arrive early to get a good view — the crowds come out for this one, especially if it’s a pretty spring day.

Sakura Matsuri
Where: Pennsylvania Avenue, 9th – 14th Streets NW
When: April 11, 10:30am – 6pm
Admission: $10/ages 13 and up, free for 12 and under

Immediately following the Cherry Blossom 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, Japanese art, and more. Be prepared for a crowd.


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Where to Play on the Weekdays: March 16-20

Plan on some fun at the Palisades playground

Plan on some fun at the Palisades playground



Monday - Wander around the beautiful grounds, play in the Children’s Garden, and enjoy a mild almost-spring day outdoors at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md. The park is open sunrise to sunset, the Visitor Center 9am – 5pm. Admission is free.

Tuesday - Discover a DC “secret” in Upper Northwest. Amid a small wooded area at Palisades Park is The Glass Forest, an enchanting collection of sculptures made from natural and scrap materials — it’s truly a must-see! Be sure to make time to romp on the playground while you’re there. Admission is free.

Wednesday - Head to the Kennedy Center to experience Iberian Suite: global arts remix, a festival celebrating the art and culture of the Iberian Peninsula. Art exhibits and installations, crafts and games for children, multi-media presentations, and performances are all among the offerings to enjoy through March 22, many of them for free. Pop-in for the exhibits and kids’ activities, but check the schedule for performance details.

Thursday - Catch a performance of Blossom’s Rainbow at The Athenauem in Alexandria. Arts on the Horizon’s latest production for the kiddie set infuses whimsical dance, vibrant color, and live music as it takes the audience on a journey with a young cherry blossom. Showtime is 10:30am, and tickets are $8.

Friday - Get creative at a National Portrait Gallery Open Studio Friday session. All ages are welcome to explore a different art medium each week with all kinds of fun projects. Drop in anytime from 1-4pm. Admission is free.


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A DC “Secret” Uncovered: The Glass Forest in Palisades

glassforest_mirrors

Back when I worked in travel publishing, we had a rule about using cliché travel writing terms, which was don’t (use them, that is). A popular one that comes to mind is “land of contrasts,” and another big no-no was “hidden gem.” So, I’m about to break a rule here, because The Glass Forest, an enchanting patch of woods next to the Palisades Rec Center, truly is just that: a hidden gem.

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We recently visited as part of our mission to uncover some of DC’s secrets. You might recall I recently posted about The Franciscan Monastery in Brookland, one of several spots on a Thrillist list of 13 DC Secrets You Had No Idea Existed that I actually really didn’t know existed. I also discussed my quest to experience those places with my kids. And The Glass Forest is the second in this little series of adventures.

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This gem of a place really is hidden. If I hadn’t known to look for it, I never would have known it was there. From the Rec Center parking lot, you follow a trail that’s practically in the backyards of nearby houses, then walk right up into the woods. We weren’t sure what to look for at first — the write-up says your “eye catches something shiny” — but then we saw big bunches of leaves, almost like giant batches of drying herbs, hanging from a long tree branch that looked too deliberate to be natural and we knew we were onto something.

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glassforest_sculpture

Once we ducked under those and looked ahead, the rest came into view. And it was breathtaking. Scattered throughout the expanse of trees are at least half a dozen substantial sculptures made of natural and scrap materials. There are tree branches artistically stacked and bound together. Pieces of broken mirrors and glass on strands hang from trees looking like an oversized wind chime. Metal and plastic pipes, parts of bike frames, thick pieces of bamboo, and other odds and ends like small pans dangle from strings, some creating actual chimes that you can play. There’s a colorful, glittering mosaic piece and a wood and glass design that resembles a large sun catcher. And as we explored the area, we found smaller surprises, swinging from tree branches and tucked away in corners of the woods.

glassforest_bamboo

glassforest_omirrors

glassforest_twistedsticks

I wish I had the background on The Glass Forest — how it got started, who creates the art, where the materials come from. (Anyone?) An online search didn’t reveal much, but there’s got to be an interesting story there.

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glassforest_seedbunches

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The Thrillist article said the forest had a Blair Witch vibe. I’d read that to the kids, but didn’t explain the horror movie association, so they went with the idea that witches lived in the woods. But I think by the end of our outing, they’d decided they were good witches. Because only good witches would create a wonderful and enchanting hidden gem like this.

glassforest_reflection

The Glass Forest is located at Palisades Park at 5200 Sherier Place NW. The playground there is great, so be sure to make some time to play there, too. Admission is free to all of it.

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The Weekend Round-Up: March 14-15

Get in your last DC skate of the season this weekend

Get in your last DC skate of the season this weekend



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There are so many things to love about this time of year: The much anticipated change in weather, the earliest sprouts of spring, a reason to drink green beer (and drink it outdoors), the lead up to March Madness (go, Terps!). Even better, with it all comes a host of events and activities that let us enjoy everything even more. This round-up, packed with local happenings, is proof. Happy Weekend! (PS – Something to keep in mind: The Rock’n'Roll Marathon is Saturday morning, so be sure to check road closures before you attempt to drive or take the bus in DC.)

Later, Skaters
Where: Local Ice Rinks
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

This weekend is your last chance to hit the ice al fresco. Our local outdoor ice skating rinks (that are still open) are closing for the season after this weekend. See this post listing them all for details on where you can glide ‘neathe the sky one last time this winter (and note that Canal Park is already closed).

Shop and Celebrate
Where: 529 Kids Consign at Hollin Hall
When: Friday, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

The high-end consignment shop in Hollin Hall will celebrate their first-year milestone, and the boutique is inviting all to come join the celebration. Stop in for sweet treats, drinks, door prizes from local businesses, and15% off all full-priced items. The party also marks the official launch of the store’s original kids art collection, and artist Cindy Wallace of lovinarte will be in attendance as she introduces her kids line described as colorful, whimsical, and bold.

DC St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Where: Constitution Ave. from 7th to 17th Streets NW
When: Sunday, 12pm
Admission: Free

Find a spot on the curb along Constitution Ave. between 7th to 17th Streets NW to watch the 44th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade roll through the city. Floats, marching bands, Irish dancers, bag pipers, members of the police and fire departments, and other entertainment will be part of the celebratory procession.

Smudge! Comics Arts Expo
Where: Artisphere
When: Saturday, 12-6pm
Admission: Free

It’s a showcase of independent comics that will inspire attendees to become storytellers themselves. The second annual Smudge! Comics Arts Expo will feature tons of fun activities for both children and adults. Browse and buy comics and comics-related art in the Artisphere Ballroom, then step into the Black Box Theater for a variety of presentations. After that, try your hand at making comics during an hour-long workshop or at the MAKE SOMETHING! area, which will feature button-making and comics-drawing all day.

A Wild Birthday Bash
Where: Patuxent Research Refuge
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System at the Patuxent Research Refuge on Saturday. Activities will include live animal viewing, children’s crafts, hikes, live music, and much more. The Refuge’s National Wildlife Visitor Center is located off of Powder Mill Road, 2 miles east of the Baltimore/Washington Parkway, just south of Laurel, Md.

Women in Aviation and Space
Where: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15

Bring the whole family to the Chantilly arm of Air & Space to learn about the incredible contributions of women in aviation, science, and aerospace. Enjoy hands-on activities, guest speakers, stories, and more flight-themed fun.

Pi(e) Day
Where: Maryland Science Center
When: Saturday, 12-4pm
Admission: $18.95/adult, $15.95/child

The annual celebration of all things circular at the Baltimore children’s museum will feature activities, demonstrations, and experiments — all in honor of the mathematical symbol for the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Visitors can stuff their faces in a pie eating contest (with pies provided by Dangerously Delicious Pies), explore how to draw the perfect circle, and recite as many digits as they can in the pi recitation competition, and more.

Show Time
Where: Local Theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

* Wiley and the Hairy Man is in its final weekend on the Imagination Stage (look for a deal on tickets)
* And Blue just opened at the Besthesda theatre
* Arts on the Horizon presents Blossom’s Rainbow at The Athenaeum on Sunday
* Jon Spellman’s Tall Tales is this week’s free Saturday Morning at the National show
* Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp are entertaining audiences at The Puppet Co. at Glen Echo Park for the final weekend
* And Clowning Around is the featured Tiny Tots show at the puppet theatre
* Bari Koral is playing the Saturday morning show at Jammin’ Java

Iberian Explorations
Where: Kennedy Center
When: Through March 22
Admission: Free

Iberian Suite, the festival celebrating the cultures of Portugal and Spain includes exhibits, performances, food demos, workshops and more through March 22. Drop in anytime to view the art (many works that kids will find cool, too), crafts and games for children, and to explore Iberian culture through theatre, dance, or music performances — several will be taking place over the weekend. See the schedule for details.

Gaithersburg St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Where: Washingtonian Center
When: Saturday, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The city’s 15th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will include both traditional Irish performances and classic parade pageantry. Celtic dancers, bagpipes, marching bands, clowns, firetrucks, and more will make their way through town.

Go for a Spin at RIO
Where: RIO Washingtonian
When: Sunday, 11am
Admission: $3 per ride

The new carousel at RIO Washingtonian in Gaithersburg opens for the season with a special celebration on Saturday. Along with spins, enjoy live music, face painting, balloon art, samples from RIO restaurants, and specials from merchants. (Note: This was originally scheduled for Saturday, but postposed for a day due to weather.)

All Aboard for a Model Train Open House
Where: Historic Vienna Depot of the W&OD Railroad
When: Saturday, 1-5pm
Admission: Free

Chug on down to Vienna to watch model train and trolley activities that realistically depict an actual railroad that existed in North Carolina in the 1950′s, the Western North Carolina (WNC). Every hill, town, building, locomotive, rail car, and industry in this layout is modeled after those places and things as they looked in that era. Well, almost everything. To satisfy popular demand, expect an occasional sighting of Thomas the Tank Engine (and a few of his friends) chugging around among the bigger steam and diesel locomotives. The Vienna Depot is located at 231 Dominion Road NE in Vienna, Virginia just down the street from the red caboose. Check out a virtual tour.

NOVA Mini Maker Faire
Where: South Lakes High and Hughes Middle Schools
When: Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $15 advance or $20 at door/adults, $5 advance or $8 door/child

This family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness is a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making and share what they are learning. Ranging from tech enthusiasts to crafters to homesteaders to scientists to garage tinkerers, Makers are of all ages and backgrounds.

American Girl Fashion Show
Where: Sheraton Pentagon City
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: Ticket range is $35-50

The Junior League of Northern Virginia (JLNV) will be hosting its 2nd Annual American Girl Fashion Show®, “Styles of Today and Yesterday,” March 14-15, 2015, at the Sheraton Pentagon City (900 South Orme St., Arlington, VA). This fun-filled event for girls and their families, friends and favorite dolls celebrates the experience of being a girl throughout history through a colorful presentation of historical and contemporary fashions. Attendees at each show will enjoy elegant refreshments, enter to win door prizes and learn how clothing has changed over the years to reflect history, culture and girls’ individual styles.

Great Adventures
Where: Freer | Sackler Gallery
When: Saturday & Sunday, 2-4pm
Admission: Free

Embark on a voyage across China, Japan, India, and the Middle East. This drop-in workshop offers a guided tour and hands-on activities related to The Traveler’s Eye. All ages are welcome, but it’s recommended for ages 8–14 with adult companions.

Music Together
Where: William Penn House
When: Saturday, 9am, 10am, & 11am
Admission: $20/family

Support the scholarship fund of Toddlers on the Hill, a Montessori learning experience on Capitol Hill, by bringing your children to a 45-minute Music Together class with Mr. Steve Leroy and Ms. Libby Quaid. Fun for the whole family, the classes include songs, rhythmic rhymes, movement and instrument play developmentally appropriate for kids ages 0-5. All proceeds going towards the scholarship. Advanced registration encouraged, not required. The William Penn House is located at 515 East Capitol Street SE.

Good Deeds Day
Where: Three locations (see below)
When: Times vary by location
Admission: See the website

Being kind to animals can happen on Good Deeds Day and any day when you join the JCC’s PJ Library to take part in this special project. Make items to donate to animals in local shelters as well as a birdfeeder to take home and feed the birds in your backyard. Please bring old T-shirts to use to make the items for the shelters. This will take place in Fairfax at Gesher Jewish Day School (4800 Mattie Moore Court) 1–1:50pm and 2–2:50; in Rockville at the JCCGW (6125 Montrose Road) 1:30–2:30pm, and in the District at the DCJCC (1529 Sixteenth Street NW), 10-11am

Nowruz Festival
Where: John Carlyle Square Park
When: Sunday, 11am – 5pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Persian culture as hundreds of Persian-American artists, musicians, singers, dancers, and traditional players assemble to ring in the Nowruz, the Persian New Year in Alexandria. Along with the live entertainment, more than 75 vendors will be offering traditional foods, jewelry, crafts, books ,and other traditional products – all in a family-friendly environment.

Climb On
Where: ClimbZone
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $25/ages 6 and up, $12/5 and under

The new indoor climbing center in Laurel lives up to the hype! Kids and adults will have a blast scaling the many colorful, whimsically-themed climbing walls. Get the full scoop on what to expect there in this recent post about our experience there.

Think Outside
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

After the dreary winter the mid-Atlantic has endured, we all owe it to our souls to get out and relish in warmer temps and sunshine. The round-up of the Best Places in the DC Area to Spend a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids is full of ideas for al fresco adventures.

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Iberian Explorations Through the Arts at the Kennedy Center

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Since the beginning of the month, the Kennedy Center has been has been celebrating the Iberian Peninsula with a festival that highlights the art and culture of Europe’s southwest region. Iberian Suite: global arts remix presents a variety of performances, exhibits and installations (many commissioned especially for the festival), food tastings, workshops, and other unique activities. Like the Nordic Cool festival that took place two years ago, it’s a chance to experience international arts and culture right here in DC. And while the festival is already a couple of weeks in, there’s still over a week left to enjoy it — and there are elements that both children and adults can enjoy, some of it for free. The photos below offer a glimpse of what you can see by just popping in. (And these don’t include a fantastic exhibit of Picasso’s ceramics works — photography was not allowed.)

Iberian Suite runs through March 22 at the Kennedy Center. Admission to the exhibits is free, though you need tickets to see the Picasso works (free with timed entry, pick them up at the ticket office). Most performances and other events require paid tickets — see the website for details.

A cable car made entirely of cork

A cable car made entirely of cork

Poetry meets art

Poetry meets art

Put your ear to the ear to hear poetry

Put your ear to the ear to hear poetry

Iberian inspired fashion

Iberian inspired fashion

Crafts for kids

Crafts for kids

A display of finished works

A display of finished works

Little ones can get their game on

Little ones can get their game on

A wine cork portrait of Gabriel García Márquez

A wine cork portrait of Gabriel García Márquez — 40,000 corks were collected by Kennedy Center staff member to create four different faces

A video montage of old world maps and a timeline of Iberian

A video montage of old world maps and a timeline of Iberia

Coincidentally, Europe's happiness quotient went up 1000%

Coincidentally, Europe’s happiness quotient went up 1000%

Stand in the right spot to see what the seemingly random cards create

Stand in the right spot to see what the seemingly random placed cards create



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