Overlooking Rock Creek Park, Hillwood Estate celebrates spring with an annual Russian festival revolving around the country’s culture, music and admiration for Fabergé eggs. While the gardens weren’t blooming yet, it was quite crowded just after the opening of the festival.
To celebrate Marjorie Merriweather Post’s life, she requested that her estate become a private museum. During her lifetime, she collected French and Russian works of art including furniture, paintings, and Fabergé eggs. The mansion is exquisite and gives you insight into the socialite lived. However, strollers, food and flash photography are prohibited.
When you enter the visitor center, the staff greet you with a map and schedule of the activities. From the moment we entered until we left the festival, we interacted with over half a dozen employees, all of whom were so pleasant, even thanking us several times for attending the event. Bathrooms with changing stations, step stools for little ones and water fountain are located on the main floor. We followed the lively music upstairs to hear the Samovar Folk Music Ensemble playing traditional Russian instruments like the balalaika and domra. The theater had two performances each by Tsar Nicholas II and a storytelling of The Fabergé Surprise, however, my daughter was more interested in making a Fabergé egg. Since we heard it was Orchid month, we visited the adjacent greenhouse to admire orchids cultivated by Mrs. Post.
The Fabergé egg workshop is held in the Adirondack building, which resembles a log cabin. There were several tables set up with jewels, stickers, ribbons, and paper. In the back of the room were containers filled with various colors and designs of plastic eggs. The staff informed patrons that the activity was for the entire family, encouraging parents to join in the fun. And join in the fun we did. I ditched the glue dots and assembled with other parents at a table donned with a dozen mini glue guns to finish my creation. If you seek inspiration, samples of Fabergé eggs are on display here through Passion, Playfulness, Process: Decorated Eggs by Bonnie Mapelli. You can also see other beautiful eggs collected by Marjorie Merriweather Post in her mansion.
Nearby on the Lunar Lawn folk games like egg-rolling and egg on a spoon had children racing against one another without dropping wooden eggs. They even had a pretend poached egg hidden in the mix to add a bit of humor. I never knew that these games were actually of Russian origin. Stop by Russian Easter Food Basket Display table to see replicas of traditional Easter food and pick up ideas for recipes.
All the fun was tiring my family out so we stopped in for a snack at one of the two cafés. Both offer cold sandwiches, sweets and beverages. The café that does not bear a canopy is a quieter room for those who want to relax. Both indoor and outdoor seating are available and restrooms are on site.
We made the museum shop our final destination seizing chocolate soap made in France and an authentic Russian Marioshka doll to add to my collection. You can also find Sugar Booger’s line of kiddie plates and sippy cups in the Marioshka design, French flash cards, eeboo sketch books and pocket kites.
Upcoming Family Programs
- The three part Preschooler Series takes place Thursday mornings from 10:30-11:15am and is for ages 2 to 5. The next installment is Garden Sculpture Safari on April 11, 18 and 25. The cost ranges from $25-$30.
- Teens and adults can learn more history at the exhibit Pageant of the Csars – The Romanov Coronation albums on view at the Dacha building until June 18, 2013.
- Spring and summer are popular seasons for wandering through the gardens of this twenty-five acre estate. During our visit in March, many children were enjoying the Japanese-Style Garden filled with stepping stones, mini bridges and ceramic animals. My husband got a kick out of the Putting Green while my daughter was intrigued by a table whose legs consisted of metal flowers in the French Parterre.
To get the most value from your visit, I suggest visiting during one of their many special events. Throughout the year they also host the French Festival in July and the Russian Winter Festival. Admission is $15 for adults, $5 for children 6-18, and free for children under 6 years of age. My mother wants me to bring her to the gardens when they bloom and we already plan on returning for the winter festival. Marjorie Merriweather Post leaves a legacy for all to share and enjoy at Hillwood.