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John F. Kennedy Center
It took thirteen years and three U.S. Presidents to get this project approved, built and opened.
In 1958 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation creating the National Cultural Center. It was to provide classical and modern performances, a tendency towards education and it would be self sustaining. This ment that the venue would need a combination of private and public funding.
President John F. Kennedy used his influence and energy to help promote the project, including holding events at the White House for donations. He even recruited people he knew who would contribute their expertise to make this a sucessful and first class venue.
He was assassinated November 1963, before the Center was completed. Two months later Congress made the Center a "living memorial" to Kennedy and named it, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
It was President Lyndon Johnson who dug the first bit of earth for the opening of the Center's construction, December 1965.
Leonard Bernstein was commissioned to compose a Requiem Mass to honor President Kennedy and this was the the first performance at the Kennedy Center's public debut on September 8, 1971.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is located near the harbor on
New Hampshire Ave. NW at Rock Creek Parkway.
Expect to pay normal prices for a ticket based on the performance offered and the seat location. Something in the range of $25.00 to $150.00. There is sometimes a way to reduce the cost. That is to attend an Open Rehersal for the same performance. That ticket would be about $15.00. Not all performances offer this option.
The Kennedy Center also offers a fifty minute guided tour, which is Free and a way to see the Center if you don't have enough time or can't afford a ticket.
- Historical Travel
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The Grand Foyer and Resaurants
The Grand Foyer, scene of many free concerts and programs and the reception area for all three theaters on the main level.
The 18 crystal chandeliers are a gift from Sweden.
While at the Kennedy Center, try the Roof Terrace Restaurant and the KC Cafe provide wonderful views of the city.
Opened in 1971 the JFK Center is both our National Performing Arts Center and a Memorial to JFK. It hHas an opera house, a concert hall, two stage theaters and a film theater.
- Arts and Culture
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Cherry Blossom Festival
Washington celebrates the arrival of Spring with a Cherry Blossom Festival since 1927.
The blooming of cherry trees surrounding the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin has come yearly to represent the definitive beginning of springtime.
Thousands of people, many also dress to match the colors of the blossoms, make the trek to Washington at the end of March until mid-April every year to enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossoms.
The cherry blossom trees were a gift of friendship to the US from Japan in 1912. The first two, still standing Japanese trees were planted on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin.
The best time to see the cherry blossoms is the early morning, just after sunrise on a weekday, when most of the tourists are having breakfast.
Spring in DC: Smithsonian Kite Festival
The Smithsonian Kite Festival is an annual spring event in Washington DC held alongside the National Cherry Blossom Festival at the Washington Monument.
The festival had a variety of tents along a muddy swath of grass, that had displays covering such things as the history of kites, kites from the islands, kites made from recycled junk, a display of Czech kites, and several craft stations for kids where they could make things like pinwheels and small paper kites.
The only thing missing was some of Afghanistan's traditional kite fighting! Well, they were also missing food and drinks, but they could be found nearby at the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Spring in DC: The National Cherry Blossom Festival
While the first cherry trees were received and planted in 1912, it was not until 1935 that the first annual Cherry Blossom Festival was held. By the 1990s the popularity of the trees allowed the festival to be increased to two full weeks. Each year a million people visit the cherry blossoms and take part in various aspects of the festival.
The Cherry Blossom Festival mostly takes place around the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial, but some events take place in the National Building Museum, Union Station, the National Arboretum, the Japanese Embassy, some Smithsonian Institution locations, Pennsylvania Avenue, and even on the Potomac River. The highlight of the festival is the blossoms themselves, but you can also enjoy the parade, the street festival, boat tours, live music, arts and crafts, and great food.
We went to the 2009 festival, on a cold, wet Saturday in late March. Despite the poor weather, the blossoms were beautiful and there were lots of people present. Other than photograph the beautiful pink and white buds, the only part of the festival we saw was the food tents along the tidal basin. We had some chicken strips and chicken teriyaki bowls for about $8 or $9 each... pretty steep for festival food, but it was far better than I expected.
Christmas in our Nation's Capital
Christmas time in Washington DC is a fun time of year. Besides shopping and eating, sightseeing can be enjoyable. The best time is at night when all the trees are lit (at the Capitol Bldg and the White House) and many of the other buildings have lights and wreaths out. Ice skating at Pershing Park is also a popular event throughout the winter.
In 2006 the National Cherry Blossom Festival ran from 25 March to 9 April during the height of the beautiful blooming season. There are 12 types of cherry trees, mostly clustered around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park, but there are others throughout the city. The first cherry trees in Washington DC were presented by Japan in 1912, and it was followed by a gift of Dogwood trees given to Japan two years later. In 1965, 3,800 more trees were presented to the city during the Johnson Administration, and in 1981, cutlings from these trees were returned to Japan for planting. The most recent gift of cherry trees occurred in 1999 when cutlings from a 1,500 year old tree were received and planted. The cherry trees have been an ongoing symbol of the friendship between these two great nations.
The stone Japanese Pagoda along the tidal basin was presented by the Mayor of Yokohama to "symbolize the spirit of friendship between the United States of America manifested in the Treaty of Peace, Amity and Commerce signed at Yokohama on March 31, 1854...."
Here is a more detailed history of the cherry trees.
Fall in Washington DC
Fall is a beautiful time of the year in the nation's capital. Summer is the main tourist season, and as fall approaches their numbers begin to drop off into a tolerable level. While the weather can change dramatically from day to day, it will certainly be more comfortable than the heat and humidity of the summer. Of course, the foliage can vary year to year depending on temperatures and rainfall, but even a bad fall is better than summer!
Peak leaf peeping season in Washington is late October to early November. Some of the more popular destinations in the city are Rock Creek Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island, the Tidal Basin, the National Arboretum, or even a river cruise on the Potomac. Other nearby options include the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Patapsco Valley State Park near Baltimore, Pohick Bay Regional Park, South Mountain State Park and Harpers Ferry, two old Civil War Battlefields.
The Cherry blossom festival
In 1912 Tokyo gave the U.S. a gift of 3,000 cherry trees. These trees line the tidal basin and their beautiful blossoms can be viewed for a brief period of time during it's blooming season (which occurs from late March to Mid- April) The Cherry blossom festival is held during the peak of the trees' blooming season. Festivities include a parade, rugby tournaments, and performances on the Tidal Basin Stage. The tourist traffic is thick, especially on the peak blooming day. During this time you'll want to avoid driving directly into this area. If at all possible take the metro, because parking is horrendous.
Check out their official site to find out all the info including peak blooming and cultural events. You can print out maps directly from their site. If you go you will probably want to wear sneakers and if you have small children- bring a stroller, there is a lot of walking involved.
Halloween in DC isn't just for kids
Halloween in DC is one big party for adults. The city blocks off traffic on M St. in Georgetown and everybody goes barhopping in costumes. This was my second year taking part in the DC Halloween festivities and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Fairs and Festivals on the Mall
Nearly every weekend on the Mall you will find some activity. My last weekend there was a show the branches of the military, with tons of equipment on display.
There were water tanks with old deep sea diving uniforms being demonstrated. Aircraft and tanks, cannons and large firearms, and recruitment boothes were scattered across the grass.
Odd to see tanks lined up in front of the Capitol Building.
- Family Travel
The Canadian Embassy, right next to the Capitol has very interesting exhibits that are open to the public.
The Embassy is located at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
Here is a photo of one of their recent exhibits, a Haida sculpture.
- Arts and Culture
Performances at Embassies
Many embassies located in DC offer cultural events.
For instance, the Austrian Embassy at 3524 International Court NW, off Van Ness Street between Connecticut Avenue and Reno Road, has a 420 seat auditorium where they present concerts with performances of classical and contemporary music as well as jazz. They also host exhibitions, literary and academic events, film screenings and other presentations.
For information contact the Austrian Cultural Forum. See numbers below.
Lots of the clubs in the area...
Lots of the clubs in the area have different themes on different nights. Sometimes it might be a strictly college crowd, sometimes Latin music, sometimes hip hop. Ask around to see what night is best for what you're looking for.
This embassy offers occasional programs open to the public. It is located at 3910 Shoemaker Street NW.
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