Discover Strathmore is a free family event held each year on Presidents’ Day. The open house showcases Strathmore’s in-house arts programs as well as visiting artists from around the country. This year’s theme was the life of Duke Ellington, giving the performances and free classes a jazzy flair. The entire arts center including the elegant mansion plays host to music and dance performances, arts and crafts and interactive dance instruction.
A successful visit to Discover Strathmore requires a little bit of strategic planning. The event schedule is posted online ahead of time and handed out upon your arrival. Performances and classes are staggered throughout the day. Some repeat and some are one time only events. Dance classes taught by staff from City Dance occur twice per hour and require tickets to be obtained ahead of time. Performances in the smaller venues such as education rooms 402 and 405 fill up quickly and people cue up sometimes a half hour in advance. Shows on the main stage are open and available for visitors to wander in and out of. Prepare your kids ahead of time that there will be some waiting around in lines and that you will not be able to do it all.
This year’s event ran from 11am to 4pm. We arrived at the event about a half hour after the start time to find plenty of free parking in the Grosvenor/Strathmore metro station parking garage. The arts complex is connected to the parking structure with a bridge on level 4 so parking on or close to that level is ideal. No strollers are allowed in the Strathmore facilities during the Presidents’ Day event so leave yours in the car or plan to park it outside of the main entrance to the venue.
My girls and I had looked at the schedule online ahead of time to figure out which performances and activities we wanted to try to experience. Even with advance planning we missed out on our first desired performance due to a detour for free face painting (very popular with lines of 30 minutes or more). We saw the amazing City Dance pre-professional ensemble perform, and took in both offered classes from the City Dance staff – swing dance and hip hop for kids. Our crew also ventured over to the mansion for 2 crafts and finished off the day viewing a performance from the Hot 8 Brass Band on a private balcony in the main stage theater. Most activities and performances seemed to be enjoyed best by kids ages 3 to 12.
Food and drink can be carried into the Strathmore facility and you are able to eat and drink in most areas of the complex except for parts of the mansion and in the main stage theater. The Prelude Café located in the first floor lobby is open for the duration of the event and sells pizza, sandwiches, soups, salads, coffee, desserts and snacks for a reasonable fee. Restrooms are located on all floors of the venue and most but not all contain baby changing facilities. Coat check is available in the main lobby as well so parents do not have to lug around everyone’s coats all day long!
Overall this event is fun for both kids and adults and has something for everyone. Kids can have the chance to be exposed to music, dance and visual arts while parents get a chance to enjoy the performances in a beautiful space along with them. Most performances are short, 30 minutes or less, so kids do not have to sit for long stretches at a time and can have the chance to experience music and dance in many forms. This year alone there were performances of tap, big band, swing, ballet, hip hop, classical jazz, New Orleans style jazz, gospel and modern dance.
Discover Strathmore is an event we look forward to returning to year after year!