We headed to the DC Asian Festival on Sunday. I wasn’t really sure what to expect – we have loved local Chinese New Year celebrations, and were hoping that there would be more of the same, along with getting to experience culture from other Asian countries. The Festival was easy to get to, on the campus of George Mason University (with free admission and plenty of free parking) and we excitedly headed towards the crowds.
The Festival was not at all what I expected. Instead of a celebration of the different cultures of Asia, it was more like any other festival I’ve been to in Northern Virginia. Rows and rows of booths, each selling something different. Some of the booths were focused on the items that were from the different countries (particularly interesting was a booth that sold unique plants – I almost bought a lime tree!), but the majority were the same vendors you see at every festival – banks, home improvement companies, etc. There were also a wide variety of food vendors. Again, there were your typical festival vendors, along with local Asian restaurants. While we didn’t stay for lunch (the weather was not so cooperative), there did seem to be many options along with plenty of seating.
There was also a large stage, which showcased different performances throughout the weekend. While we were there, we saw a Thai boxing demonstration. There was also a demonstration of a traditional dance from the Philippines, with organizers encouraging the crowd to join in.
The other large attraction at the festival was devoted to tennis. The Asian Festival is largely organized by the Thai Tennis Organization in America, and nearly a third of the festival space was devoted towards tennis. While the kids with our group (a 3, 4, and 7 year old) were not at all interested in the booths, they all LOVED the tennis. After signing a waiver, we were brought over to a large “Smash Zone” tennis court. The kids were each outfitted with a tennis racquet sized for them and were treated to a tennis lesson. They balanced oversized tennis balls on their racquets, bounced the balls, and then learned how to hit them over the net. The tennis pros clearly knew how to teach young kids, and all of the kids on our court were having a blast. There were also courts for older kids with pros helping them with their swing and serve. We also visited a large truck that had Nintendo tennis games to play (and each kid was given tennis wrist bands) and an opportunity to have their picture taken and put on the cover of a tennis magazine.
Outside of the tennis activities, the festival wasn’t great for young kids. While the festival website said that there would be kids activities in each country area, we didn’t see any. However, we probably played in the SmashZone tennis area for an hour, and had a great time. If you’re looking for a cultural experience, there are better options in the area. But we had a blast playing tennis, and we’ll likely go back next year just to play.