Yesterday was a day to be outside, a rare bit of autumn in August.

Cool, fresh air continued to sweep in from Canada, breaking the usual summer pattern of oppressive heat, humidity and late-afternoon thunderstorms. More brisk weather is forecast for today.

"How often do you get to fly a kite, have a picnic and not be drenched in sweat?" asked Kevin Lucia, 33, of Northwest Washington, who was setting up a picnic with his family beneath an elm tree on the Mall. "It's unbelievable. I can't remember the last time we had a day like this in D.C. recently."

Along the Mall, as in many places across the region, most everyone was talking about the brilliant sun and refreshing breezes. The wind was strong enough to lure kite enthusiasts, whose aerial sails danced around the Washington Monument. At the Tidal Basin, a navy of blue paddle boats moved across the water. A young couple napped on a blanket underneath a cluster of cherry trees.

"The weather is magnificent. . . . It's a lot like October weather," said Jose Vaisberg, 45, of Caracas, Venezuela, who was enjoying the last day of a weeklong vacation in Washington. Yesterday's high reached 77 degrees; the average is 89 degrees.

Vaisberg said he scrapped plans to tour the Smithsonian Institution museums, instead staying outside and buying a fish-shaped kite for his 9-year-old niece, Nicole. He spent the afternoon happily watching her run around the Mall with the colorful fish flapping in the wind behind her.

There was a divine touch behind the weather, said the Rev. David Wilkerson, who brought his 140-member youth gospel choir from Times Square Church in New York City for a concert near the Capitol steps.

He said that for two months, the children had been praying for good weather. Rain dominated forecasts leading up to the event.

But yesterday, with those storms past, the youths lifted their hallelujahs to the sunny skies, filling the Mall with Christian gospel music and worship as a crowd of about 1,000 people raised their hands and danced.

"To us, this [weather] is an answer to prayer," he said.

By tomorrow,, forecasters said, the unseasonable weather will yield to warmer and somewhat wetter days, at least through next weekend. Isolated thunderstorms and temperatures near 90 are forecast for Tuesday, more typical of August in the Washington area.

The Canadian front also brought cooler-than-usual nighttime temperatures, prompting people to shut off air conditioning and sending them to their closets for jackets.

The mercury set a record low of 53 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday, and Reagan National Airport tied the record of 58. At Dulles International Airport, the figure was 51 degrees, about 45 minutes before sunrise, missing the record by two degrees.

During the day, the weather helped some almost forget the frequent summer storms that have pelted the region.

Forecasts of rain have washed away much of Frank Baxter's kayak rental business for the season. But yesterday, Baxter, who operates the 59-year-old Jack's Kayaks and Canoes underneath the Key Bridge in Georgetown, said he would rent about 100 kayaks.

Butch Ramsey, 35, of Alexandria, who tried kayaking on the Potomac River for the first time with his wife, echoed many: "It was perfect. We had perfect weather."

Lorraine Ponton, 44, of Severn and Mike Cimino, 39, of Hunt Valley said it was a great day to wander around the region without specific plans. On a whim, they decided to visit the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Rosslyn.

Said Cimino: "We had a map and wherever we wanted to go, we just went."

Staff writer Martin Weil contributed to this report.

Maggie Davis, 8, right, feeds two pigeons on the Mall while Aubrey Trotman, 10, waits for the next hungry bird.Raj Riswadkar plays with his son, Rohan, on the Mall. Riswadkar and his family are from New Jersey. Kites, paddle boats, kayaks and canoes were out by the dozens yesterday.