Things to Do

7 Fun Things to Do at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens’ Lotus and Water Lily Festival

Join a drum circle, take a guided bird or garden walk, or do yoga amid the flowers.

Photograph by Rachel Hendrix/NPS.

One highlight to these hot, swampy days of summer: The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens’ lotus flowers and water lilies are in full bloom, adding vibrant splashes of pink, yellow, purple, and white to the park’s murky green waters. 

As usual, the 700-acre park—often called a “hidden gem” of DC—is celebrating the flowers’ colorful arrival with its annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival, starting this Saturday, July 15, and continuing through July 22. Aside from simply taking a stroll and admiring the aquatic flora (which will last through the month of July), here are several free and open-to-the-public activities we’re looking forward to:

Join a Drum Circle

Discover the healing power of rhythm with drum circle leader Katy Gaughan, who got her start with DC’s beloved Malcolm X Park drum circle during the ’90s. Take a seat in the community circle, where drums will be provided, at 11 AM on either July 15 or July 21.

Can’t make those days? You can also soak up the contagious joy of African drumming and dancing on July 22 at 10:30 AM.


Admire a Chinese Lotus Dance

Watch as traditional dancers mimic blooming lotuses—which have held a sacred place in Asian culture for centuries—during a Chinese lotus dance demonstration on Sunday, July 16, at noon. Throughout the day, which is dedicated to honoring the flower’s place in Asian culture, you can enjoy other art forms too, such as Buddhist chanting at 10:45 AM, followed by music and dance from Thailand at 11. See more performances here.


Take a Guided Bird Walk

A great blue heron in the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Photograph by Mr.TinMD/Flickr.

Get up early for a morning bird walk with park rangers at 8:30 AM on Tuesday, July 18, and Friday, July 21. Kenilworth is often listed among the best places to go birding in DC—and for good reason. People have spotted more than 250 species of birds at the park, where it’s not uncommon to see a great blue heron or belted kingfisher.


Learn With a Ranger

Kenilworth is home to an abundant variety of flora and fauna beyond lotuses and water lilies, as well as the largest remaining tidal marsh in the DC area. Discover the importance of marsh ecosystems and how they change throughout the day during one of several ranger-led “boardwalk talks” throughout the festival, or hear all about the human history and cultural connections to the park with ranger Stephanie Weinstein on July 17 at noon. See the festival’s schedule for more ranger talks and topics, most of which take place on July 17.


Roll Out a Yoga Mat

Lotus flowers in bloom at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

It’s not every day you can hold a lotus pose among lotus blooms. Bring your mat—and water—for a 9 AM yoga class on July 15.


Go Forest Bathing

Practice being mindful in nature with Joseph Sage Raindancer, a local eco-therapist who will guide you through the art of forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, a Japanese term that describes the healing benefits of time in the forest, on Friday, July 21 at 9:30 AM.


Enjoy Dinner and a Show

Grab a bite to eat from a food truck in the park’s picnic area and enjoy music from Ward 7’s East of the River Steel Band on Thursday, July 20, at 7 PM. Or, stop by on Friday, July 21, at 5:30 PM for music from the Brazilian jazz group Origem, which has been performing in the DC area for more than two decades.

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor