The DC area has a lot to offer families, and we try to take advantage of that as often as possible. On weekends, we make an effort to get out for at least one activity. Now that Teddy is old enough for organized sports, ball practice and games are often our main outing when the weather is warmer. But Teddy doesn’t play winter sports yet, so if we don’t have something planned — say, a birthday party or a play date or an event at a favorite museum–I’ll consult a couple different websites that offer a lineup of things to do throughout the District, including seasonal and one-off events. Anytime you try something new — that’s not a recommendation from a friend — you take a risk: will this be worth the trek? Or will it be a bust?
Often it is well worth the effort to get there. Last spring, we woke up one Saturday morning to a wide open, beautiful day. I consulted my favorite DC-area activity blogger, kidfriendlydc.com, and found listed a strawberry festival happening that day. I LOVE strawberries and a festival means fun stuff to do for the kids. This seemed like a no-brainer — even worth getting a zipcar for. Despite misreading the location as Silver Spring when in fact it was Sandy Spring, a small town a bit further away, the outing was a great success. We arrived to find a long line snaking into a parking lot well managed by the local Boy Scouts troupe, paid the $3 per person entrance fee (gotta love small towns), and spent several hours enjoying all the festival activities. The kids had their faces painted, pet farm animals, rode ponies, jumped around a bounce house, and ate the strawberries off strawberry shortcake. Teddy even tried rock climbing. And on the way out, I bought a flat of strawberries, because: obviously.
Mark one for “worth the trek”.
Today, another Saturday dawned without any set plans. I again checked in with kidfriendlydc.com and found what sounded like an fascinating outing.
Celebrate the Seasons:
Immerse yourself in each season as you walk through floor-to-ceiling installations that envelop you in a multi-sensory experience. Breathe in subtle scents, touch stimulating textures and soak up larger-than-life representations of quintessential seasonal sights in the District. Extend your individuality into the installation through the interactive elements and show us how you #ExperiencetheSeasons.
The description comes from an eventbrite page, where you can register for free tickets. This sounded really cool, and it appeared to be not too far off our usual bus route. So in light of the forecast, we donned rain jackets and headed out for what promised to be a fun experience for the whole family.
The trip took longer than expected because after checking our app and seeing the next bus wasn’t due for another 30 minutes, we opted to metro and upon changing trains, found we had more than the usual five minutes before the next train. But excitement shortened the wait, and after the metro part of our journey, we enthusiastically strolled, bounced, sprinted and jumped up the hill leading to Trellis House, the site of the “immersive experience”. We arrived at an apartment building under construction and after some confusion, saw a sign confirming our destination.
Two young ladies stood on the sidewalk, drawing attention to the entrance of the art installation. And the entrance, decorated in bright greenery, looked promising. We confirmed everything was meant to be touched, pushed through slats of hanging plastic, and immediately entered “winter”. On either side of the structure, cold-weather garments and accessories hung on strings. I pulled a hat on one side and laughed in delight as on another side, a small sweater glided up. After entertaining myself thus for a couple moments, I took a step forward, through an archway of cherry blossoms. I looked past the flowers and giggled at royal blue swimming pool noodles sticking out from either side. Then I admired myself in the mirrors next to the noodles. Distorting my face, they were reminiscent of the glass in a fun house.
Then I heard Mike say, “Wait, is that it? Did I just walk through spring?” In front of me was a wall of brown branches and fronds. I assumed there was a turn after the mirrors, that I would follow a corridor leading to the next part of the installation. But no, after I retraced my few steps and found nothing further beyond what evidently was an autumnal wall, I confirmed that what we had thought was the entrance was actually the entire thing. I chuckled as understanding dawned. This art “experience” that invited you to “immerse yourself in the seasons as you walk through floor-to-ceiling installations…” was no bigger than a shipping container. It was a shipping container. It was fun and unique and intriguing, but it didn’t take much longer to experience than it took to read the description, which, in hindsight, was like a real estate listing. It reminded me of the giant blue rooster on the roof of the National Gallery of Art: enjoyable as part of a multi-piece offering. But with each “season” traversed in two paces, Celebrate the Seasons was more a roadside attraction, something you stop to see on the way to something else–not the destination itself.
We pushed back through the plastic, bid the ladies goodbye, and headed off in search of something else to do with our afternoon. At dinner that night, I asked Teddy what he thought of the art thing we went to. He looked at me, brow wrinkled, and said, “You mean that little room?” Mike laughed. I smiled and said yes. Teddy brightened and said, “The strings were fun to pull. And I liked running through the plastic.” So it was indeed an immersive, multi-sensory experience.
Like I won’t reprimand my child for an action that prompts an instagram pic, I probably shouldn’t file this one under “bust” since it’s good for a story. But I’ll probably try to read between the lines next time.