From Blues to Bee-Bop: D.C.’s Kid-Friendly Jazz Concerts

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Between the vacations, the visits from grandparents, summer camp, sleepovers, and weekend barbecues, summer—in all of its warm weather glory—can be downright hectic. Unwind with the whole family at one of D.C.’s free summer jazz concerts. Older kids will love checking out the instruments and dancing under the setting sun, while the mellow tunes are sure to instantly calm down your itty bitties. Here are our top picks, plus pre-show to-dos nearby.


National Gallery of Art Jazz in the Garden
It’s all about ambience at the Gallery’s summer jazz series. For starters, you’re sitting in this relaxed garden setting. And then you’re surrounded by these large-scale sculptures from artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Roxy Pain. The music? Well that’s just icing on the cake. Kids will love Latin jazzers Incendio (July 25) and big band crew Swingtopia (August 15). Feel free to skip dinner—the Garden’s Pavillion Cafe offers tot-friendly bites including pizza and ham sandwiches. Non-driving grown-ups can toast to summer with a glass of wine or sangria, which is sold onsite.

Pre-show: Stroll through the National Gallery of Art’s Van Gogh exhibition, which is chockfull of paintings depicting childhood in the late 1800s. It’s not everyday that the fam gets to lay eyes on a genuine Van Gogh. So go.

When: Fridays through August 29 (5 pm-8:30 pm)
6th and Constitution Ave., NW (National Mall)


Ft. Dupont Summer Concert Series
Pack your picnic basket and make a beeline for this laid back concert series, which kicks off on July 14 with a jazzy performance from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington. The park fills up fast, so come early to scope out a prime spot for your mini-music lovers.

Pre-show: If you come from a family of hikers, take a pre-performance stroll—a seven mile long Hiker/Biker Trail connects six Civil War earthwork fortifications for mountain bikers and hikers to learn about the rich history of the Civil War Defenses of D.C. Bet you didn’t know you’d get a history lesson with your jazz!

When: Saturdays at 6 pm (beginning mid-July)
3600 F St., SE (Anacostia)


Friday Night Live at National Harbor
A view of the Potomac River, eclectic music with a jazzy slant playing in the background, and a ride on the National Carousel awaiting you…what else does an awesome Friday night with the family need? The stage is on a concrete dock, so bring lawn chairs or ground pillows to sit on (when you’re not swaying to the tunes).

Pre-show: Let the kiddos get into a music listening mood by burning off some of their energy at the Harbor’s recently built playground (equipped with a cool toddler play area and picnic tables). Nearby the playground is a 36-foot Americana-themed carousel—check that out, too.

When: Fridays through Sept. 26 (6 pm-9 pm)
165 Waterfront St. (National Harbor, Md)

Does your family have a favorite spot for listening to outdoor music during the summer? Dish in the comments section below.

—Ayren Jackson-Cannady

Photos courtesy of National Gallery of Art via Facebook, Eric Chan via Flickr, Stephen Bess via Flickr

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