KENNEDY CENTER OPEN

HOUSE ARTS FESTIVAL

When: Saturday 11:30 to 7:30.

Where: Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW.

Metro: Foggy Bottom-GWU (free shuttle buses every 15 minutes).

Info: 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org.

Background: Every year, the Kennedy Center kicks off its fall performance season with this extraordinary half-million-dollar celebration. This year, the 21st annual Open House not only showcases the astonishing variety of Washington talent but also shows off the center's new open spaces: With the recently finished main plaza added to its existing terraces and theaters, there will be 10 performance areas and a "petting zoo" of symphony instruments that children can play with in the Eisenhower Theater. Free tickets are required for some performances in the KC Jazz Club, Terrace Theater and Theater Lab; they're handed out 30 minutes before showtime outside the appropriate door. Check the schedule handouts when you arrive. (For a schedule of performances, see Page 14.)

Highlights: National Symphony Orchestra semi-pops (John Philip Sousa, Tchaikovsky and Aaron Copland) in the Concert Hall at 12:15; Last Train Home on the South Plaza Stage at 1; Balanchine excerpts by the Suzanne Farrell Ballet on Millennium Stage North at 1:45; scenes from "The Mikado" by the Washington Savoyards in the KC Jazz Club at 2:15; excerpts from Verdi's "I Vespri Siciliani" by members of the Washington National Opera on the Millennium Stage South at 2:30; Harlem Gospel Choir in Concert Hall at 4:45; Rumba Club on Millennium Stage North at 4:45; Satin Doll Trio in the KC Jazz Club at 5:15.

Food & Beverages: There will be food, wine and beer for sale; the Roof Terrace Restaurant will not be open.

Tips: Although there are plenty of children's activities, much of the entertainment is adult enough that younger children might be bored or a distraction to others. The Open House would be a particularly good choice for those in wheelchairs or those with other disabilities or breathing problems. The complex is handicapped-accessible and air-conditioned, and there is plenty of handicapped parking in the underground garages. In addition, most of the performances are captioned or signed for the hearing-impaired.

SILVER SPRING JAZZ FESTIVAL

When: Saturday 2 to 10:30.

Where: Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring.

Metro: Silver Spring.

Info: 301-565-7300 or silversprung.com.

Background: Keter Betts, the longtime Washington jazz mentor and Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Byrd sideman bassist, played at the inaugural festival last year and was to perform again this year; since his death last month, the concert has been dedicated to his memory.

Highlights: Ron Holloway Group at 5; Three Keys Music founder Marcus Johnson at 7:15; the Wynton Marsalis Quintet at 8:30.

Food & Beverages: No concessions will be available (the area is full of restaurants), but you may bring food. If you come early, the Silver Spring Farmers Market in the adjoining lot is open from 9 to 1.

Tips: There will be no tent or awning, so consider a hat or (small) umbrella. You may bring folding chairs and blankets. If you want to pay tribute to vocalist Carol Sloane (performing at 6), she prefers white roses. There is not too much for kids, but they might enjoy the New Orleans-style flatbed caravan through the streets around the stage. Featuring local high school jazz bands, it begins at 2 and winds up at the stage about 3 for the Borders Books/JazzTimes trophy competition.

ROSSLYN JAZZ FESTIVAL

When: Saturday 1 to 7.

Where: Gateway Park, North Lynn Street and Lee Highway, Arlington.

Metro: Rosslyn.

Info: 703-228-1850 or rossren.com/ros_arts_jazzfest.cfm.

Background: This is the 15th year for this lower-profile but popular gathering, and Rosslyn celebrates its crystal anniversary with an exceptional lineup (also being broadcast on 89.3 WPFW-FM).

Highlights: James Moody at 2:20, Nnenna Freelon at 4; Ahmad Jamal at 5:40.

Food & Beverages: There will be food concessions representing local restaurants, or you may BYO.

Tips: This festival is more like a club concert venue, because of its relative intimacy -- last year, headliner Joey DeFrancesco drew about 3,500 people, and organizers expect this year's triple bill of big-name artists to bring in about 5,000 -- so performers are usually accessible to fans. Freelon, for instance, is scheduled to autograph copies of her new Billie Holiday tribute, "Blueprint of a Lady: Sketches of Billie Holiday," in the afternoon. The expected boost in attendance might mean that veterans need to stake out their spots a little earlier than usual. As in Silver Spring, only the performers will be sheltered, so pack hats, sunblock, etc. Chairs and blankets are welcome.

BLACK FAMILY REUNION CELEBRATION

When: Saturday and Sunday noon to 8.

Where: On the Mall between Seventh and 14th streets.

Metro: Smithsonian or Federal Triangle.

Info: 202-737-0120 or ncnw.org.

Background: Twenty years ago, civil rights legend (and head of the National Council of Negro Women) Dorothy I. Height conceived the festival as a way of showcasing the positive aspects of black life in the United States and to encourage the community to become stronger and more self-reliant. Open to all, the celebration draws more than 500,000 people every year. Pavilions offer health testing, sports and fitness advice, financial planning, and mortgage and credit counseling, plus ethnic food, children's activities, arts and crafts, and continuous entertainment from noon to 5 each day on the Roots and Rhythm stage near Seventh Street. The only ticketed event is the ecumenical prayer breakfast Saturday at 8:30 featuring "First Lady of Gospel" Shirley Caesar ($35); call the National Council of Negro Women for more information.

Highlights: Chaka Khan headlines the R&B concert Saturday from 6 to 8 on the 14th Street stage; Mary Mary and Kirk Franklin perform at Sunday's gospel concert from 6 to 8 on the 14th Street stage.

Food & Beverages: Lots of concessions, plus museum cafeterias and vendors.

Tips: There are a lot of educational and inspirational booths and pavilions, so a book bag or tote might come in handy. And the event might get a bit chaotic at times, with the additional Mall museum crowds and Sunday's Freedom Walk, so establishing a place to meet if the group gets separated is important.

ALEXANDRIA FESTIVAL

OF THE ARTS

When: Saturday 10 to 7 and Sunday 10 to 5.

Where: King Street between Union and Washington streets, Old Town Alexandria.

Metro: King Street (free DashAbout shuttle to Washington Street every 15 minutes).

Info: 703-838-5005 or 703-838-4200 or FunSide.com.

Background: Last year's festival drew 60,000 visitors, and like the Kennedy Center's Open House, it's the kickoff for the city's fall arts season. However, although there is musical entertainment, this street fair emphasizes the visual arts: King Street becomes an open-air gallery of sculpture, jewelry, glassworks, paintings, prints and photographs, and Market Square at 301 King St. is the site of a juried exhibition of 35 regional artists. Since art-gazing is more often an adult hobby, there are several close and classy places to give the kids a break. The nearby historic Christ Church at 118 N. Washington St. hosts a children's fest both days from 11 to 5; the Torpedo Factory Art Center at 105 N. Union St. will hold its Alexandria Arts Safari (considerately shifted forward from October) with demonstrations and activities Saturday from 10 to 4; and the Carlyle House at 121 N. Fairfax St. will open a "hands-on history tent" with 18th-century costumes, games and dances Sunday from 1:30 to 4.

Highlights: Saturday: Doris Justis and Peter Marinovich at the waterfront at 11; Not So Modern Jazz Quartet at Market Square at 2; Bobby Thompson at the waterfront at 4; Alexandria Harmonizers at Market Square at 5. Sunday: Smoking Lounge at the waterfront at 11; Esther Hayes and Phil Mathieu at Market Square at 1; Tom Rhodes at the waterfront at 4; Billy Clements and the Pickups at Market Square at 5.

Food & Beverages: No concessions, but there are plenty of nearby restaurants.

Tips: Artists set their own cash/credit/check policy, so be prepared if you plan to make a purchase. Alexandria is one of those neighborhoods with doggy happy hours and free-for-all water bowls, so love 'em and leash 'em.

ADAMS MORGAN DAY FESTIVAL

When: Sunday noon to 6.

Where: 18th Street NW between Florida Avenue and Columbia Road.

Metro: Dupont Circle; Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan; Columbia Heights; U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo.

Info: 202-232-1978 or adamsmorgandayfestival.com.

Background: One of Washington's first and most popular multicultural events, with its ongoing theme of "peace and unity in the community," Adams Morgan Day has survived its late-'90s financial straits to celebrate its 27th anniversary. Sunday is an explosion of ethnic crafts and clothes, music, food and family fun. Four stages (two bigger ones at either end of the strip, the new Dance Plaza on the basketball courts near 18th and Kalorama streets and the Cultural Stage on Euclid Street NW between Champlain Street and Columbia Road) offer a near-continuous din; plus there's a kids fair in the playing fields near 18th and California streets with a moon bounce, clowns, jugglers, magicians, reptiles and so on. In between, the sidewalks are jammed with tables, chairs and ad-lib busking. At the Dance Plaza, where routines include belly dancing and the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers, each performance is followed by a group lesson.

Highlights: Ardelana Romani/Gypsy music on the Cultural Stage at noon; Kodomo Dance Troupe on the Cultural Stage at 12:45; Ben Andrews, Robert Lighthouse and Hugh Feeley on the Columbia Road Stage at 1; Collector's Edition on the Florida Stage at 1; Potato Famine on the Cultural Stage at 2; Wong Chinese Lion Dancers at the kids area at 3 and 4:20; El Barrio Street Theater on Cultural Stage at 4:30; the Madam's Organ All-Stars with Bobby Parker, Billy Mayfield, Cathy Ponton King, Johnny Artis, Peter Beck, Walter Tates Jr. and "Sauce Boss" Bill Wharton on the Columbia Road Stage at 4:45.

Food & Beverages: All kinds, all costs.

Tips: This festival has a lot for kids, and the mixing of color and culture is a real plus. It's a real street fair, though, with crowds shifting from booth to booth; so it takes a little stamina, strong ankles, sometimes a strong stomach (there's a lot to taste) and a willingness to go with the flow, literally and figuratively. All the subway stations are a 10- to 15-minute walk away, so keep a little in reserve. This year there will be several areas of seats set up where you can rest; for a break from the crowds, head to one of the neighborhood's rooftop restaurants or bars and admire the impressionist mass of color. You may need a lot of small bills and change; put your wallet in a safe place and keep some handy stuff in your pocket. Dogs are welcome, and the famously pet-friendly Adams Mill Bar & Grill at 1813 Adams Mill Rd. NW. is doggy happy-hour central.

TAKOMA PARK FOLK FESTIVAL

When: Sunday 11 to 6:30.

Where: Takoma Park Middle School, 7611 Piney Branch Rd., Takoma Park.

Metro: Takoma (continuous shuttle buses).

Info: 301-589-0202 or tpff.org.

Background: For 28 years, this has been the generalists' favorite -- it offers a little of almost everything: juried crafts and sales, kids activities, as well as a broad variety of ethnic music and dance -- and at least the sentimental favorite of the retro-'60s anti-nuke, no-name-jeans crowd as well. This year, entertainment is spread out over seven stages. More than 50 artisans in wood, glass, ceramics and tile, weaving, photography, jewelry and fine arts are scheduled to attend.

Highlights: Smooth Kentucky on the Field Stage at noon; Iona on the Field Stage at 1; Oscar Brand and Billy Kemp on the Abbott Stage at 1; Frank Cassel on the Grassy Nook Stage at 2; the Joni Mitchell Tribute on the Seventh Heaven Stage at 5; Ruthie & the Wranglers on the Field Stage at 5. The Lenore Robinson stage hosts dance all day: contradance, klezmer, swing, Latin, Irish -- work off those concessions.

Food & Beverages: West African, Middle Eastern, Thai, Salvadoran, German, Jamaican and vegetarian fare, plus pizza and barbecue.

Tips: Like the Kennedy Center Open House, this festival is especially good for wheelchair users. The three indoor stages and most of the outdoor activities are accessible, and there are handicap-permit parking spaces at the school. Many performances will be signed. Some programs will be in Braille or extra-large type. In case of rain, all stages will be moved inside. Service animals are welcome, but pets are discouraged. Free parking is available at the Montgomery College parking garage; festival shuttle buses will stop at the garage's entrance on Fenton Street as well as the Metro station. Bring your money and your autograph pen; traditionally, many of the performers bring tapes and CDs for sale.

Eve Zibart wishes she could TiVo the entire weekend.

The spirit of the Takoma Park Folk Festival moves Tina and Louis Bugler. This year's festival is set for Sunday at Takoma Park Middle School. Visitors picnic beneath the trees near the Washington Monument during the annual Black Family Reunion Celebration, which returns to the Mall this weekend.The two-day Alexandria Festival of the Arts showcases the visual arts, such as Keith Bradley's metal horse sculpture.Nnenna Freelon takes the stage Saturday at the Rosslyn Jazz Festival.The Madam's Organ All-Stars are scheduled to perform at Sunday's Adams Morgan Day Festival. This year, the multicultural event also will include Chinese dancers and Romani music.