Nordic Cool at the Kennedy Center

Friday March 1, 2013


Last Saturday I took my oldest (9) and youngest (5) to the Kennedy Center to check out their “Nordic Cool” exhibit.

The festival, which runs from February 19 – March 17, 2013 is:

A month-long international festival of theater, dance, music, visual arts, literature, design, cuisine, and film to highlight the diverse cultures of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden as well as the territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Áland Islands.

Many of the events are ticketed, but there is plenty to see for free, so we headed down to check out the free stuff.

Unfortunately, parking is not one of the free things.  In lieu of the expensive KC parking garage ($22), or the hard to find metered parking, we opted for the parking garage in the building across from the KC on F St and paid $12.

When we entered the main lobby, aka the Hall of States, the first thing you see is the huge art installation.  This exhibit, titled “Are We Still Afloat?” is by Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen looks like a giant ship, made out of 1,000 dress shirts.   It’s pretty visually interesting.


Then we headed up to the Terrace Level, where the majority of the free exhibits are located.   The lobby you enter is features examples of Nordic design and housewares.  It feels very IKEAish.


My favorite piece was this bear rocking chair, while my daughter loved the red “seesaw bench.”


From there we proceeded into a hallway that felt like a scene out of Narnia.  It was white, forested and featured some ethereal clothing designs as well as a horse lamp !?!


The next room featured Iceland’s waterfalls.  It was an interesting visual display, where you can pull out a giant “slide” and view images of  waterfalls, illuminated by large light boards at either end of the room.  Also, as the slide is pulled out, the room is  filled with noise of a rushing waterfall.  Very cool and multi-sensory.


There was also a wall of photographs of various waterfalls.  Clearly, Iceland is gorgeous.


The next room featured Nordic architecture.   We didn’t absorb much knowledge, but the kids had a blast playing hide and see in the giant “Lincoln Log house”.


Finally, we entered the far hall, which contains the real draw for kids.   One end features a display called Our World, Our Future, and shows video clips of kids expressing their views on the environment and sustainability.  While it did have screens, it didn’t hold their interest for long.


The other end is LEGO Exhibit and Play Space.   There are tons and tons of lego tables set-up so kids could build to their creative heart’s content.

My five year old was not initially impressed.  “I don’t like the big Legos, I use the small ones,” he snootily declared.  But his sister dove right in and had a blast building a giant fort.  After a while, he joined the fun and had a good time building ships or guns or something.


Also in this area, are a bunch of iPads set-up with Nordic-designed games on them.   These were a hit with my 5 year old.  We even discovered a new game to buy (The Marbians).


This area had really cool murals on the walls — made of Legos.


All in all, it was a fun outing for me and the kids.  We probably spent an hour an a half there and that was plenty of time.   Despite going late morning on a rainy Saturday, the crowds weren’t too crazy.   It was definitely busy in the Lego area, but not so busy that my kids couldn’t find a place to create.

In addition to the free stuff, there are many other performances and activities.  Some are geared towards children, others are for adults.  Check out their daily calendar to see what else is going on.

This is just the stuff we saw, there is lots more to enjoy.

Have you been to Nordic Cool?  What do you think?

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