If there’s a break in the rain this week for a few minutes, run down to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and take a look at the lotus blossoms in bloom.
This national park is a serene gem nestled in between the Anacostia River and I-295. On a quiet day, you can see turtles, salamanders, butterflies, frogs, dragonflies and more. During the Lotus Blossom Festival last weekend, you could see few of these, as the grounds were overrun with small children and their parents decked out in rubber boots to protect themselves from the mud and puddles all over the paths. However, a couple of white herons could be spotted safely away from the crowds out in the water, one perched on a branch, the other slowly strolling through the shallow areas on his long legs.
Water lilies in shades of pink, purple, white and yellow can be spotted in Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens throughout the warm season, seemingly floating atop the water, but are actually anchored to the bottom by their stems. Lotus flowers, on the other hand, have a shorter season — hence the festival — and are in peak bloom all week.
Visitors can spot the clusters of showy, dinner-plate sized blossoms and their Jurassic-sized leaves from a distance — these plants grow to about 4 feet tall.
Heavy rains fell off and on throughout both days of the festival, which continues through this week. Two stages were set up, and among the acts featured were music and dances from Asia, India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Cameroon and Latin America. Also on the program was storytelling, a talk by a reptile expert with live snakes and other creatures and a lecture by a George Washington University Eastern Religions professor about the significance of the lotus flower in Buddhism. Free yoga classes were also offered, and ranger-led tours of the gardens.
Children’s activities included creating beautiful, realistic-looking lotus blossoms out of crepe paper and paper plates.
Peak Week features a variety of special activities all week long, and tomorrow are pontoon boat tours of the Anacostia River led by a guide from the Anacostia Watershed Society. (Both tours are already sold out.)
Thursday’s activities focus on veterans. W.B. Shaw, the gardens’ creator, lost his right arm in the Civil War. He started water gardening as a form of therapy, and it grew into the popular attraction it is today. Visitors can take a ranger-led tour and participate in water-gardening activities and lotus-making crafts from 10 to 11 a.m. and again from 1 to 2 p.m. A military band will perform from 12 to 1 p.m.
On Friday, visitors can get a more unusual view of the gardens in Park After Dark from 7 to 9 p.m. See how the colors change as the sun sets and get the opportunity to view the wildlife that emerges at dusk.
Peak Week wraps up on Saturday with Jazz and Lily Pads from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Bring a snack and enjoy the scenery and the music.
Put the Lotus Blossom Festival on your calendar for next year and find out what these beauties look like in the sunshine!
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Peak Week, through July 28, 1900 Anacostia Ave. SE, Washington, DC; (202) 692-6080; free admission; free onsite parking.