In midsummer, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is transformed into a flower paradise. The lotus are at their peak now, and walking among them is truly a transformative experience. The ponds are filled this time of year with what seem 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’m told the large “Amazon” lilies will bloom later in the season, toward late August.
A very cool (and tiny) lizard on the steps leading toward the nature center was a great find to begin our day.
This year, we met up with friends, and it was a completely different experience than the visits we’ve taken in the past with our children, now 8 and almost 4. Our friend’s older son, almost 8, is 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 this year, with my daughter a little older, and sharing the experience with two buddies my children’s ages and another friend a little younger, 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, but we certainly went a lot deeper.
The park’s 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 (where your youngster can get a Junior Ranger activity book) opens at 9:00 a.m.
For more info, see http://home.nps.gov/keaq/planyourvisit/hours.htm
Looking for more locations for lotus viewing? The lotus flowers in the pond at Green Springs Garden Park in Alexandria (near Annandale) are reportedly blooming now, too, and Meadlowlark Gardens in Vienna, Virginia also has lotus in its three lakes. Further up north is Lilypons Water Garden in Adamstown, Maryland where I’m told the lotus are nearing the end of their peak bloom, but lilies will be blooming through October.
Bottom line on lotus viewing:
- go soon (this weekend!)
- 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!)