Tips for Families Viewing the Cherry Blossoms (2014)

Great photo ops abound during the cherry blossom peak

Great photo ops abound during the cherry blossom peak

[Note: This was originally posted in 2011 (hence, the now outdated Lost reference) and updated each year. And since the tips always apply, I'm re-posting yet again with a couple more minor updates.]

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 its 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. Here are seven recommendations to consider if seeing the cherry blossoms is on your family’s spring 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. The Smithsonian stop on the Blue/Orange Line is mere minutes from all of the blossom action, but it’s also guaranteed to be crowded. Consider riding to L’Enfant on Yellow/Green, Federal Center on Blue/Orange, or even a stop downtown or in Penn Quarter and taking a nice stroll to the blossoms. *If you absolutely must drive and need parking you might find a spot in Hains Point, where there is free and metered parking, then walk or take a shuttle ($1/person) to the Tidal Basin. Your best bet, though, might be to find a garage in the downtown or Penn Quarter area, then walk or Metro to the National Mall.

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. The National Mall and monuments look beautiful at sunset, and the blossoms make it even more sublime. In the same vein, if you can go super early, the morning light on the Mall makes for quite a picturesque setting, too.

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 learned my lesson a few years ago 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 wee ones, 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 annual celebration. And while the Blossom Kite Festival was rained out this year and the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks took place before the peak, we’ve still got the National Cherry Blossom Parade, Sakura Matsuri – The Japanese Street Festival, and other fun programs for families to look forward to. All events take place close by the blossoms or an easy Metro ride away. See the National Cherry Blossom Festival website for dates and details on the best events for families.

5. Get a new view of the blossoms and enjoy a fun activity from the comfort of a pedicab or cruise on the Potomac. Uber is currently offering pedicab rides around the Tidal Basin and surrounding areas. And several companies offer boat rides along the river, many of them specifically for the season when the cherry trees are in bloom. Capitol River Cruises, Potomac Riverboat Company, and Odyssey Cruises are a few to check out. Though before you go straight to the websites, look for a deal on Groupon, Goldstar, LivingSocial, or Certifikid. We’ve gotten great offers that way.

Playing under blossoms at the Arboretum

6. Seek out other spots to see the cherry blossoms if you don’t want to deal with crowds and chaos around the Tidal Basin and National 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 from a few years ago.

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, Annual, DC, Festival, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Spring, Weekdays, Weekend

Uber is Putting the Pedal to the Petals


I love Uber. And in case you’re not sure of what I am talking about, here’s the scoop: Uber is a fantastic app that connects riders and drivers at the tap of a button. You can request a black sedan, SUV, taxi, or low-cost uberX ride at any time using the Uber iPhone or Android apps. You can track the arrival of your ride on your smartphone and even receive a notification when your driver arrives. And the best part is that your credit card is stored in their system, so you don’t need cash to pay, and there’s no need to tip (which is very handy after one of those nights out…you guys know what I’m talking about). It’s also incredibly convenient for rides to the airport, when an SUV is needed to accommodate lots of luggage, and when we’ve got a big group to transport.

Anyway, Uber has some great things going on right now, the first being a special promo for KidFriendly DC readers who are new to the app. When you sign up, use the code DCKID to get a $20 credit.

They are also taking advantage of the season and offering pedicab rides to see the cherry blossoms. From now through April 13, you can roll along in the fresh air and get a front row view of DC’s famous trees in bloom. You need to be within Uber’s pedicab coverage area (which you can view here), and the rides seat up to three people. Base fares start at $10, and it’s $1.50 a minute beyond that. And just like all of the other rides Uber offers, pedicab ride transactions are all by app.

So, go sign up and use your credit for a fun cherry blossom tour. And keep the app handy for easy accessibility elsewhere around town.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Professional Service, Seasonal

{Giveaway} Fly Away to Neverland as The Washington Ballet Presents “Peter Pan” at the Kennedy Center


From April 16 – 27, The Washington Ballet is bringing the magic of Peter Pan to the Kennedy Center stage, and you can win a pair of tickets to see it!

Here’s the official description of the show:

Take a high-flying adventure to Neverland with the The Washington Ballet’s NEW Production of Septime Webre’s dazzling Peter Pan. A swashbuckling coming of age tale that pits Peter and the Lost Boys against Captain Hook and his outrageous band of pirates, this whimsical adventure is told through vibrant dance. Peter Pan is a story about growing up that never seems to grow old.

There will be both matinee and evening performances, and tickets prices range from $25 – $125.

Giveaway: For a chance to win a pair of tickets to see Peter Pan, simply leave a comment below. To be eligible, you must “like” KidFriendly DC on Facebook. This giveaway will run through noon tomorrow, and a winner will be picked from a random drawing. Good luck!


Filed under DC, Giveaway, Live Entertainment, Spring, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: April 7-11

See the dinos at Natural History while you can!  It's closing for a 5-year renovation on April 28.

See the dinos at Natural History while you can! It’s closing for a 5-year renovation on April 28.

Monday - With rain in the forecast, head to an old standby, the National Museum of Natural History. Visit the Dinosaur exhibit while you can — on April 28, it’s closing for five years as it undergoes renovations. Of course, the rest of the museum is fantastic to explore, too. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free. With any luck, the weather will clear up by the afternoon, just in time for DC United’s Open Practice at Cardozo High School. That’s right, the public is invited to watch the team train from 3:30-5:30pm, free of charge! Cardozo is located at 1200 Clifton Street NW. UPDATE: The Open Practice has been postponed due to the inclement weather. The new date will be announced at a later time.

Tuesday - Glimpse the past on the Potomac at Fort Washington Park. Kids will love seeing the cannons and other historic sights within the grounds. Grounds are open are 8am – sunset, buildings 9am – 4pm. Admission is $5/vehicle.

Wednesday - Catch a performance of Adventure Theatre’s latest production, The Jungle Book. Showtime is 10:30am. Tickets are $19.

Thursday - Get a dose of nature in an unexpected place at Winkler Botanical Preserve. Located just off 395 and Seminary Road in Alexandria, the park is a nice outdoor surprise in an area full of office complexes and strip malls. Hours are 8:30am – 4pm, and admission is free.

Friday - Celebrate the season at Ticonderoga Farms! Their Spring Easter Festival is currently running, and while the egg hunts and bunny visits only happen on weekends, there is still tons of fun to be had — big slides, playgrounds, a bamboo maze, animals to pet and feed, and the oh-so-awesome jumping pillow. You can get a peek at it all in this post about their Winter Festival. Hours are 10am – 5pm. Admission is $9.95 during the week.

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Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Sports, Spring, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays

The Weekend Round-Up: April 4-6

The Nats are back!

The Nats are back!

There’s a LOT going on this weekend, from the Nats first home games of the season to a birthday party for Shakespeare to early Easter celebrations to fireworks to museum programs to live entertainment to seasonal markets and even more! If that’s not enough, you can find plenty of other ideas for activities with the kids, including the best of the outdoors around DC, on the Everyday Play page. Happy Weekend!

Ignite Your Natitude
Where: Nationals Park
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: Ticket prices vary

It’s the season home opener for the Nats today, and there’s going to be baseball all weekend long – today at 1:05pm, Saturday at 7:05pm, and Sunday at 1:35pm. First opponent up is Braves, and you still might be able to score tickets for all three games. Take advantage of the Harris Teeter Family Pack and enjoy other special promos on Sunday – it’s Kids Opening Day and Screech’s Birthday. And don’t forget you can stay after for Kids Run the Bases when children ages 4-12 can loop the in field after the final out.

Spring Easter Festival
Where: Ticonderoga Farm
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 5pm weekends
Admission: $11.95, under 2 are free

With giant slides, an awesome jumping pillow, playgrounds, animals, mazes, and more, the farm in Vienna is a blast everyday (it’s open daily), but they take the fun up a notch on weekends for their annual Spring Easter Festival. Along with the permanent amusement, there are egg hunts, face painting, children’s games, and visits from the Easter Bunny. Be sure to check the website for timing of specific activities. For an idea of what’s there, see this post about their Winter Festival, which is much of the same, but with Easter instead of Christmas festivities. And this post about a class field trip has info and pics, too.

Egg Hunt & Marshmallow Harvest
Where: Great Country Farms
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $10/child $12/adult at the gate

After a long cold winter, nothing chases away the chill like a visit to the farm. Head to Great Country for the first “crop” of the spring– Marshmallow Picking! Do marshmallow peeps grow on trees? Be sure to check it out and harvest a few to roast on the bonfire with Farmer Bob. You can even purchase a s’more kit to melt away that chocolate craving. The Easter Bunny also hid some eggs, so guests can help find them during multiple egg hunts (by age – see the schedule) with over 18,000 treat-filled eggs. Plan to visit spring chicks and baby animals, check out the spring plantings in the greenhouse, take a hayride and rejoice in the new season. Don’t forget to bring your camera for photo ops with the Easter Bunny. Buy advance tickets online for only $10/adult — visit the website to purchase, and look for the schedule of events there, too.

Happy Birthday to the Bard!
Where: Folger Shakespeare Library
When: Sunday, 12-4pm
Admission: Free

Shakespeare is turning 450, and the Folger Shakespeare Library is celebrating with an Open House on Sunday afternoon. In true Renaissance fashion, there will be song and dance, jesters and jugglers, and opportunities to recite your favorite Shakespeare lines on stage. Especially for children will be fortune telling, shield making, quill writing, arts & crafts, Shakespeare portrait drawing, and a giant birthday cake with the cutting lead by Queen Elizabeth I. The event is free and will take place rain or shine. Some concessions will be available for purchase. The Library is located at 201 East Capitol Street SE.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Where: 600-900 Water Street, SW
When: Saturday, 1-9pm
Admission: Free

The big Cherry Blossom Festival event this weekend 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 some especially for kids – think face painting, arts & crafts, and balloon art – cultural experiences, and all kinds of food. The grand finale will begin at 8:30pm when the National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks Show lights up the night sky.

Go Colonial
Where: Claude Moore Colonial Farm
When: Saturday, 10am – 4:30pm
Admission: $3/adults, $2/ages 3 and up, free for 2 and under

The Claude Moore Colonial Farm opens for the first weekend of its 2014 season, welcoming visitors to explore family life on a pre-Revolutionary War working farm. There is a tobacco barn, farm house, garden, orchard, and animals. Guests can also interact with a family portraying life as it was back then. Read more about it in this post (ignore the “autumn” part; it’s a great outing in the spring, too).

American Cool Family Day
Where: National Portrait Gallery
When: Saturday, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Are you “American Cool”? Head to the Portrait Gallery for this special Family Day program and check out some “cool” music, art projects, and docent-led tours of the American Cool exhibition.

Robotics Expo
Where: National Air & Space Musem
When: Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate National Robotics Week at the Air & Space Museum where several schools and organizations will demonstrate the innovative projects they have created. There will also be two sessions in Moving Beyond Earth (Gallery 113) in which each team will formally present their robotic project and will be interviewed by a Museum staff member. These sessions will take place at 11am and 1pm.

Gateway to Health
Where: St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion
When: Saturday, 12-5pm
Admission: Free

Where there was an ice slide less than two months ago, will be a spring festival focused on health. Discover new foods, tastes, and ideas for healthy eating at the Whole Foods Market @ Gateway DC, shop DC’s finest food & retail vendors, see cooking demonstrations, and enjoy and fun activities for kids of all ages. And this is just the kick-off of a monthly market running the first Saturday of each month through spring and summer.

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

* Catch an opening weekend performance of The Jungle Book at Advneture Theatre
* Inside Out, theatre aimed at the toddler and preschool crowd is on the Imagination Stage.
* Enjoy theatre on strings at The Puppet Co., where Hansel & Gretel is on the main stage and Snow Show is the featured Tiny Tots show.
* Mr. Gabe and the Circle Time All-Stars are playing at Ebenezers Coffeehouse on Capitol hill at 10:30am on Saturday.
* The Adventures of Robin Hood is in its second and final weekend at the Kennedy Center.
* Mr. Knick Knack will entertain the kiddie crowd at the Old Town Theatre on Saturday at 11am.
* Curtis Blues: Delta Blues is this week’s Saturday Morning at the National performance.
* The Diggity Dudes are playing the Saturday morning show at Jammin’ Java.
* The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is at Ford’s Theatre through May 17.

Cherry Blossom Yoga
Where: Washington Monument grounds
When: Saturday, 10am
Admission: Free

Join lululemon athletica on Saturday for the 5th Annual Cherry Blossom Yoga – a complimentary yoga class for all to enjoy in DC! Bring your mat, family, and friends to the Washington Monument to share an hour-long vinyasa yoga practice led by Mimi Rieger, lululemon athletica Ambassador, with assistance from some of DC’s finest yoga instructors. All ages and levels are welcome and the event is complimentary. Day-of registration begins at 9am and the yoga class begins at 10am, rain or shine. Avoid long lines on Saturday morning and register online here.

Au Pair in America Cultural Fair
Where: Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park
When: Saturday, 1-3pm
Admission: Free

Are you curious about au pairs as a childcare option? On Saturday, Au Pair in America invites families to their Cultural Fair at Glen Echo Park to learn more about their programs.  It’s a family affair with an afternoon of fun activities for all ages, including children’s activities, performances, visual displays, and a cultural parade.

Where: Logan Circle, 15th & P St NW
When: Saturday, 11am – 5pm
Admission: Free

It’s Opening Day at the market in the heart of Logan Circle on Saturday. DC MEETMarket is a monthly outdoor community market held on the first Saturday of every month April through November. It’s a community event with local music, educational crafts and activities where individuals of all ages can enjoy themselves. To celebrate their first day of the new season, there will be a live painting & free raffle by No Kings Collective and Kelly Towles; live musical performances by America Hearts, Light Arms, and DJ vANNIEty Kills, hosted by Rock-n-Romp!; an interactive photo booth for all ages; and over 40 local vendors selling their goods. And as always, the market is free, open to the public, and always family and pet-friendly.

Kids’ Open House
Where: Alliance Française
When: Saturday, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Admission: Free

Bienvenue! The Alliance Française invites families to discover their programs for children 1 to 18 years old. Along with the opportunity to visit the classrooms and meet the teachers, guests can listen to stories in the library , watch a special performance created and presented by children in a Shadow Puppetry Workshop, and hear poems read by FREF students. Children can also attend a mini-class to get a taste for French language at the Alliance. And for those who are interested in registering, placement tests will be available for classes beginning in April.

Where: Union Market
When: Friday – Sunday
Admission: Free

Head to Union Market for Thread, a carefully curated collection of both nationally recognized brands and emerging, independent designers from around the country who embody an inventive and original spirit. This might be more exciting for adults most of the weekend, but you can do a little shopping, then grab a bite to eat at one of the many eateries. And if you go on Friday, you can enjoy a special FREE Boogies Babes happy hour show – at 4:30pm, Uno, Dos, Tres con Andres will entertain the kiddie crowd outside in the rear of the building, and word has it the scene will be super hip with lounge furniture, turf, and fun games for kids to enjoy.

Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting
Where: Tidal Basin NW Corner (17th & Independence Ave)
When: Sunday, 2:30-4pm
Admission: Free

The traditional Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony, one of the highlights of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, will be held on Sunday at the newly restored plaza surrounding the historic lantern. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 360-year-old Japanese Stone Lantern, along with its grove of original cherry trees gifted from Japan 101 years ago, is a cherished symbol commemorating the friendship between the United States and Japan. Now the lantern, located at the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin, features a granite plaza with natural stone boulders and a memorial plaque commemorating the 1912 gift of cherry trees.

Art Jamz
Where: Crystal City Shops
When: Sunday, 12-2pm
Admission: $10

ArtJamz, America’s original public art studio and lounge, is headed back to Crystal City Shops to kick off Spring with a blast of creativity. There will be family-friendly sessions on Sunday for ages 3 and up. Enjoy pizza, 2 hours of studio time, a medium 16×20 canvas, unlimited to access to supplies and guidance from art-trained creative enablers.

Easter Basket Crafting
Where: 529 Kids Consign – Hollin Hall
When: Sunday, 12-1pm & 2-3pm
Admission: $20/child

The high-end consignment shop 529 Kids Consign is hosting a special Easter basket crafting workshop with Little Pincushion Studio in partnership with Little Choux Kidgoods. During the event, boys and girls ages 4 and older will have the opportunity to design and decorate Easter baskets with author, Little Pincushion shop owner and crafting extraordinaire, Annabel Wrigley. Parents will also enjoy 25% off a fabulous selection of full-price Easter attire.

Sugarloaf Crafts Festival
Where: Montgomery County Fairgrounds
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: $8, 12 and under are free

Do some shopping for arts, crafts, and more while you enjoy a family day out. The Sugarloaf Crafts Festival showcases works by more than 250 top artisans. Pottery, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, home and garden décor, furniture and home accessories, and photography will be on display — and for sale! Even more, children can dress up in costumes and watch live demonstrations of copper spinning, papermaking, pottery wheel-throwing, jewelry making, and other media by the master craftspeople themselves. 

Thank you, NPG, thank you very much
Where: National Portrait Gallery
When: Sunday, 2-5pm
Admission: Free

Drop in at the National Portrait Gallery for Portrait Story Days and listen to a story about a person who has influenced American history and culture and to create a special piece of art. This weekend, Elvis Presley is the king of the program.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Sports, Spring, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend