A visit to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens during July or early August is a must for families in Metro DC. The majesty and beauty of the blooming lilies and lotus flowers are magical. Peak bloom is now through early or mid-August, and the Gardens is hosting its annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival on Saturday, July 16.
The park website says of the July 16 event:
“Celebrate the National Park Service Centennial and global culture with FREE activities for the whole family:
- See a spectacular display of lotus and water lilies in full bloom!
- Enjoy gardening workshops & traditional Asian & African dancing performances!
- Hands-on activities including face painting, lotus tea tasting, and painting demonstrations!
- Visit educational and cultural exhibitors and much more!”
Whether you attend on the 16th or you visit at another time before mid-August, the ponds at Kenilworth will look like fields of floating flowers. There are light pink lotus and dark pink lotus with beautiful blossoms and leaves that are bigger than a toddler’s torso and rounder than their heads. Other ponds feature different kinds of lilies including white and purple varieties.
I’ve been told the large “Amazon” lilies bloom later in the season, toward late August.
This post is a revision of our 2014 post on lotus and lilies. A very cool (and tiny) lizard on the steps leading toward the nature center was a great find to begin our day on weekend morning.
Our trip in 2014 was the first time we met up with friends and found the community experience, and it was completely different than the times we’d visited with just our kids. Another child in our group was a true nature explorer who finds interest in the smallest spider and excitedly flips over finding a frog. He was great to have in our walking party! We spied — and heard! — plenty of frogs.
The many turtles we met ranged from palm-of-your-hand small to one that appeared to be nearly two feet long that a kindly visitor pointed out to us as it swam among the lotus.
My kids enjoyed the trip the two previous times we’ve gone, and I liked walking further out to a viewing area where we saw herons when my daughter was in a stroller. But with older kids, I loved sharing the experience with friends. No one needed to coax the kids to do anything. It was a regular self-directed nature class, with them out-doing one another to find cool stuff.
We didn’t travel as far in our 90-minute excursion as we had in years past with a stroller in tow, but we certainly looked deeply!
The Kenilworth website recommends you head there in the morning before the flowers close in the summer heat. The grounds open at 7 a.m., and the garden shop opens at 9:00 a.m. Get our your youngster’s Junior Ranger activity book when you arrive so you have time to complete some of the activities during your visit.
For more information about visiting at any time, see http://home.nps.gov/keaq/planyourvisit/hours.htm
If you’re going on the day of the festival, the park recommends public transportation. The parking lot is not huge and fills up even on regular weekend days. Click here for details about festival-day shuttles. Also consider getting there by bike.
Looking for more locations for lotus viewing? There is a small patch of lotus flowers and lilies in the pond at Green Springs Garden Park in Alexandria (near Annandale) that will likely expand again in future years. Meadlowlark Gardens in Vienna, Virginia also has lotus in its three lakes. Further up north is Lilypons Water Garden in Adamstown, Maryland. I’ve heard in the past that some lilies bloom through October.
Bottom line on lotus viewing:
- go soon, before the middle of August
- go early in the day
- wear hats, sunscreen or long sleeves/pants if you’re out past 10 a.m., and some natural bug repellent
- take at least one camera! (My son got some of the best shots!) If you are using a cell phone camera or letting your child use it, protect yourself from unwanted radiation by first turning off your wifi, location, bluetooth and any other antennae and to put your phone on Airplane Mode. For more information on the hazards of wireless technology, see the Center for Safer Wireless.
Jessica Claire Haney is the founder, publisher and editor of Mindful Healthy Life. She is a writer and editor and the founder of the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network. Her personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama and her writer’s site is JessicaClaireHaney.com. See the Team Mindful Healthy Life page and Jessica’s Mindful Healthy Life Q&A for more on Jessica.