Spring flings: Welcome warm weather with hot dogs, trampolines and cherry blossoms

This winter can go shove(l) it. The polar vortex can stick it where the sun don’t shine. Just try to say the words “wintry mix” without flinching — we dare you.

Oh, sorry. It’s the seasonal affective disorder talking.

We’ve had enough. Enough winter, really, to last us several winters. Enough winter that spring isn’t something we’re merely looking forward to, but thirsting for. Once the mercury stays above 55 degrees, we’ll probably fall to the soggy ground and weep with gratitude (or with rage, because we tripped in one of the season’s numerous parting gifts: a pothole). And never again will we take for granted those first signs of spring: crocuses, outdoor seating and even — dare we admit it — the return of kickball leagues.

Rest assured, the ground will begin to thaw, and we’ll soon be facing nine months of warmer weather — enough time to forget that the polar vortex ever happened. So emerge from your burrows, Washingtonians, and say “good riddance” to winter. Here’s how you can make the most of a budding spring, from paddle boating on the Tidal Basin to taking in the Cherry Blossom Festival parade.


The Keegan Theatre lets loose with its production of “Hair,” featuring Paul Scanlan, above, as Claude. (Colin Smith)
Flower power

In the Church Street theater downtown, a different kind of spring is blooming: the psychedelic flower-power of the Keegan Theatre production of the musical “Hair.”

“Spring is about new life, and I think that’s what this show is about,” says actor Paul Scanlan, who plays Claude, a leader of the band of hippies, or “tribe.”

“It’s these people who have new ideas and the absolute desire to spread them across the world and free their minds and their bodies from all these conventions that have been upheld for a really long time.”

Free indeed. A recent rehearsal began with a lecture on spreading germs through the many hand-rolled fake joints that are shared during the show. And the entire cast will appear fully nude onstage, a source of trepidation, and excitement, for the tribe.

“We all agreed to do the show knowing that there would be the possibility of getting naked,” Scanlan says. “But to do it in this sort of setting, the theater is so intimate. The front row is two feet from the stage.”

The promise of a nude scene has contributed to a closeness among the cast, Scanlan says. During rehearsal, they’ve become a bit of a tribe themselves, bringing in home-baked cookies and braiding each other’s hair.

And warm weather can’t come soon enough for actors who have to strip down past their skivvies. The old Church Street building, for which a massive renovation is planned, is drafty and uncomfortable, and the actors are at the mercy of the weather.

“At this time of year,” Scanlan says, “it is very cold. . . . Now that we’re coming into the run, it will start getting warmer. . . . It will be fine.”

“Hair,” Saturday through April 20 at the Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. 703-892-0202. www.keegantheatre.com. $37-$42. Because of language and nudity, children younger than 14 will not be admitted.

Up to the roof, out on the patio

One of the best ways to get rid of winter’s cabin fever? Sit outdoors with a nice cold drink.

Garden District

www.gardendistrictdc.com

Status: Open, with heaters.

Go for: The pulled-pork barbecue sandwiches and the cheap-but-good beers. And go early, because when it’s warm out, it’s nearly impossible to get a seat at the popular 14th Street spot.

Donovan House rooftop

www.donovanhousehotel.com

Status: Beginning today, this rooftop bar will be open in nice weather. Its official opening is April 11.

Go for: The sweeping vista of Thomas Circle and downtown. There’s also a new Asian taco menu, featuring chilled mushroom tacos topped with mango and jalapeno, crispy jicama taco shells and takoyaki, a type of croquette made with octopus.

Chupacabra

www.chupacabradc.com

Status: Open, with heaters.

Go for: Happy hour every day and sit-down service at this Mexican restaurant’s half-covered sidewalk patio on H Street NE. Chupacabra’s Inferno salsa is so spicy, you have to sign a waiver before eating it.

Dacha

www.facebook.com/DachaBeerGarden

Status: Open, with heaters.

Go for: German beers, some of which are served in an enormous, boot-shaped vessel. The broad picnic tables and Liz Taylor mural add to the warm-weather vibe at this Shaw watering hole.

Roofers Union

www.roofersuniondc.com

Status: The heated rooftop opens late March/early April.

Go for: Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s sausages and homemade pretzel rolls and the amazing views across Adams Morgan.


The National Cherry Blossom Parade marches down Constitution Avenue on April 12. (Ron Engle/National Cherry Blossom Festival)
Floating away

Keep your eyes peeled for the cherry blossom blooms — they’re among the first signs that winter is over. But for John Best, who produces the National Cherry Blossom Festival parade, this year on April 12, the pale pink and white buds are a sign that one of the busiest weeks of his year has just begun.

The blossoms mark the official start to parade season, says Best, who also organizes such events as the National Independence Day parade and the Miss America Pageant parade on Atlantic City’s boardwalk. Best has been working on this year’s cherry blossom parade since last May.

“They all have their own unique personalities,” Best says of the parades he manages. “This one, with the pink and the white and the green [color scheme], offers a very different feeling than say, the Memorial Day or Fourth of July parades.”

To prepare for the cherry blossom parade, Best works with teams of designers, architects and others to coordinate the parade’s myriad elements, from the television coverage to the marching bands. Artists help craft the perfect vision for the parade sponsors, most of whom choose a springy floral theme for the custom-built floats.

“The challenge is coming up with new and different floats keeping to that spring theme . . . for not just one float but 10 to 15 floats,” Best says.

A team from Shaw Parades in Maryland began the float construction earlier this month; the floats will be moved to a Washington warehouse the week before the parade. Best works with another company that provides the whimsical helium balloons, which range from custom-built cherry blossoms and Japanese lanterns to cartoon characters such as this year’s opening balloon: Foofa, a rotund pink character from the kids television show “Yo Gabba Gabba!” The balloons are inflated on the Mall at 7 a.m. the day of the parade.

“It gets bigger and grander every year,” Best says.

As for those floral arrangements on the floats — well, some of them are fake. The cherry blossom parade isn’t like Pasadena’s Rose Parade, where all of the floats are covered in organic matter.

“Sometimes the cherry blossoms are long gone before the parade,” Best says, “so we incorporate cherry blossoms on all of the floats, but they obviously can’t be real cherry blossoms.”

Sometimes they’re made of plastic, or tissue paper. But just because they aren’t real, they aren’t any less symbolic of the season.

“The thing that’s exciting about this parade is, it kicks off spring,” Best says. “There’s just a feeling in the air. . . . People really love that change. Especially after this winter.”

Thaw out with warm-weather foods

Gone are the days of root vegetables and chili. But you don’t have to wait until that whole “In like a lion, out like a lamb” thing sorts itself out to get a bite of these warm-weather favorite foods.

Ice cream sundaes: Cold-weather versions of this sunny staple have popped up at three new restaurants. At Alba Osteria (www.albaosteriadc.com), try the Sputnik-like Coppa di Torino with hazelnut gelato and meringue. Over at Roofers Union (www.roofersuniondc.com), pretzel brittle tops a hot fudge sundae. And at Menu MBK (www.menumbk.com), a trio of frozen treats represents a play on movie theater snacks: popcorn ice cream, nougat ice cream and cola sorbet, topped with peanut brittle.

Hot dogs: Until opening day at Nationals Park, or until it’s warm enough to sit in a park with a hot dog from a street vendor, head to Ivy and Coney (www.ivyandconey.com), where a dog comes Chicago style, “dragged through the garden” with onions, relish, tomato and spicy-sweet sport pepper, or Detroit style, with chili, onions and mustard. Or head to Shake Shack (www.shakeshack.com) through March 23 for its limited-edition Super Fry Frickle Dog — a hot dog with fried Gordy’s jalapeno pickles, beer-marinated shallots and cheddar cheese.

Popsicles: In the colder months, there are probably more people hanging out at Pleasant Pops (www.pleasantpops.com) for coffee and sandwiches than for the cafe’s specialty. But a popsicle is refreshing any time of year. Flavors include cookies and cream, hibiscus and sweet cream and corn.

Corn dogs: This little bite of childhood on a stick will bring you right back to humid nights at state fairs and amusement parks. For a more sophisticated take, try the corn dog at Roofers Union, where the andouille sausage comes with a homemade cheddar whiz.

Slushitos: The icy cocktails at Estadio (www.estadio-dc.com) might come in such seasonal flavors as cranberry and anise, but that doesn’t change their essential nature: They’re upscale slushies. Slurp them through a straw and think poolside thoughts.

Corn on the cob: This cookout favorite can be found at El Rey (www.elreydc.com), where $6 gets you a whole ear of corn slathered in cotija cheese, crema and spices. The shipping-container restaurant on U Street NW has a retractable roof for nice days, supplemented by heaters for the cold.

Lobster roll: Think past spring and imagine waves lapping against a harbor, even if you’re eating a lobster roll in the less-breezy confines of Hank’s Oyster Bar, City Tap House, or Luke’s Lobster (www.hanksoysterbar.com, www.citytaphousedc.com, www.lukeslobster.com) all of which have the crustacean classic on the menu now.

Bounce into the season

You’ve already changed your clocks, but you can literally spring forward at the Flight Trampoline Park in the aptly chosen Springfield (get it?), Va. And you don’t have to be a kid, or even bring one, to bounce off the walls with excitement.

First, get ready to sign your life away. An excerpt from the waiver all participants must sign: “I acknowledge, understand and appreciate that my participation in the activities entails known and unanticipated risks that could result in death, serious physical or emotional injury, paralysis, or damage to me, to property, or to third parties.” Scary stuff, but if you follow the park’s rules, you’ll be safe.

Wear athletic attire. Yoga pants and a T-shirt will give you a full range of motion. You’ll be asked to go barefoot or purchase special trampoline socks with an anti-slip coating.

Trampolining is not just a kid thing. It’s a fitness craze and an Olympic sport. But keep in mind that although Flight is open to jumpers of all ages, you’ll probably be surrounded by kids and teens. They’re probably faster and stronger, too.

You’ve likely forgotten how exhilarating it is to jump on a trampoline. You’ll spend the first 10 minutes giggling and trying to bounce as high as you can, just because you can.

“Flight attendants” means something different here . They’re like lifeguards for the trampolines, and they’re there to make sure no one roughhouses or puts themselves in danger.

The best part? Without a doubt, jumping into the giant, inflatable crash pad in the rear of the gym. You can do flips and spins into it; there’s even a “high dive” platform for extra big jumps. (Of course, head-first diving is not only against the rules, but also a bad idea. Land on your feet or your back.)

Don’t try to re-create your glory days . Say you’re a former high school gymnast who used to be able to do backflips with a twist. But now, to pick a totally random example, you’re a semi-sedentary, semi-adult newspaper reporter for whom the only things that come with a twist these days are cocktails. You still might be able to land a backflip, but you’ll probably feel it the rest of the week.

Two words: Trampoline dodgeball . Jumping while pelting other people with balls. Need we say more? The dodgeball games run throughout the open jump period and are refereed by the flight attendants. But if you dreaded the game in middle school and were happy to leave those days behind, don’t worry — the dodgeball court is separate from the rest of the gym.

Don’t forget to stretch afterwards. Bouncing on a trampoline is a full-body workout; if you’re not used to it, you may get sore, so take precautions. (A bonus: The nearby Springfield Plaza has an IceBerry, so you can cool off with a fro-yo after your bounce session.)

Flight, 7200 Fullerton Rd., Springfield. 703-663-2440. virginia.flighttrampolinepark.com . $10-$15 an hour, with different rates for special jump sessions.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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