Hillwood Estate, Museums, and Gardens is one of DC’s best keep secrets. Their motto is “Where Fabulous Lives” and it is indeed fabulous.
Hillwood is the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the sole heiress to the Postum Cereal Company fortune and founder of General Foods. At one time Post was the wealthiest woman in the United States and had lavish taste. Today her DC home serves as a museum and the extensive grounds and gardens are open for touring, lounging, meandering, and picnicking.
Hillwood is very family-friendly and has several programs designed for children.
Hillwood’s Preschool Program runs concurrent to the school year and has sessions of three classes each with four different themes: Fanciful Heroes; Kings and Queens; Gardens Alive; and Treasure Quest. Each class begins with books set out for children and caregivers to read together, followed by an opening song and activity.
Next, the class goes to either the house or for a walk around one of the gardens or the main portion of the class, which ranges from hunting for treasure to searching for statutes with musical instruments, to finding flowers of certain colors. After the house/garden tour, the class does an art project related to the tour, such as making a treasure box or cape. Then there is a closing song and each child gets a sticker. Many families stay after the class for a picnic, a bite to eat at the café or just to wander around the expansive estate.
A favorite area of all children who visit Hillwood is the Japanese gardens, with a bridge and stone footpath across a stream that they love to cross over and over and over again. There is also a huge, steep hill great for rolling down, and other areas with lots of open space good for running and playing games. Some children, like my daughter, love wandering around looking at the “beautiful flowers.”
There are several other annual family-friendly events at Hillwood as well. During her lifetime, Post acquired a large Russian art collection during her time as the wife of the Ambassador to the Soviet Union and was also a collector of French art. Hillwood honors these interests of Post’s with a Faberge Egg Family Festival, a Russian Winter Festival, and a French Festival. There is also a Spooky Pooch Howl-o-ween Celebration where dogs are invited to roam the gardens in costume.
- There is free parking at Hillwood.
- Hillwood is mostly stroller friendly, with a few areas of the estate requiring the use of steps to access.
- The on-site restaurant has highchairs and there are changing tables in the bathroom in the visitor’s center.
- Hillwood is open Tuesdays through Saturdays: 10am to 5pm and select Sundays: 1pm to 5pm.
- Admission is a suggested donation of $15 for adults and $5 for children 6 to 18. Children under 6 are free.
- Admission for the preschool classes is $10.00 per class. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged as the classes do fill up.
Photos by Jamie Davis Smith.