Oo-la-la! If you are looking for a way to celebrate Bastille Day or inject a little French culture into your life, Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens’ annual French Festival is a good place to spend a summer day.
If you are not familiar with Hillwood, you are not alone. It is one of the area’s best kept family-friendly secrets. Hillwood is the former estate of heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post who was an avid collector of 18th Century French art. In recognition of Mrs. Post’s interest in France Hillwood throws a celebration around Bastille Day (July 14th) every year.
This year’s festival included elaborate hat-making, a lesson in how fans and handkerchiefs were used in 18th Century France, lessons in French dance, music, roving mimes, and wandering characters who look like they knew Marie Antoinette. One of the big lawns at Hillwood is also set-up with games traditionally played on Bastille Day in France, including sack races, a ring toss, and wooden wheels. There are also classic French cars on display. My kids particularly loved the games and hats.
The Festival is very family-friendly and can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. There were plenty of adults visiting without children and there is definitely enough to do to keep adults entertained as well. Besides the French Festival, Mrs. Post’s lavish mansion and extensive gardens are open. A favorite area of young visitors is the Japanese Gardens where kids can walk across mini-bridges and stepping stones.
Hillwood is a gorgeous and fun place to visit anytime but my children enjoy the extra activity and excitement around Hillwood during the French Festival. If you missed this year’s Festival look for the equally fun Russian Winter Festival recognizing Mrs. Post’s time living in the Soviet Union and October’s Spooky Pooch Howl-0-Ween recognizing her love of dogs. There is also an annual Faberge Egg Family Festival plus preschool programming that runs during the school year.
- Parking is free
- There is a café with highchairs on-site, but there is plenty of room for picnicking which is encouraged!
- Children under 6 are admitted free, otherwise, admission is $5 for children 6-18 and $18 for non-member adults.
- Restrooms have changing tables.
- Most of the Estate is stroller-friendly but no strollers are allowed in the house. The Japanese garden is accessed via steps but strollers can be left at the top of the stairs.
Photos by Jamie Davis Smith.