Come fly your kite in the fields at Gunston Hall Plantation in Lorton, Va., next Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Family Kite Festival, an annual March event at the plantation, is held for kite lovers of all ages, and young people through grade 12 will be admitted free of charge. Simple kites can be purchased in the museum shop.
Gunston Hall was built in 1755 by George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and a framer of the Constitution. At the time, the estate contained over 5,000 acres. Today only 550 acres remain, but the estate looks much as it did when Mason lived there with his wife and nine children. The famous boxwood garden is still intact, and a nature trail leads to the Mason graveyard.
Inside the mansion, costumed docents will demonstrate open-hearth cooking, and hands-on activities are planned for children from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be presentations on preserving food in the 18th century, and in the cellar children can learn to quilt, card wool, write with a quill pen and make an herb bag. In the schoolhouse, they can participate in a Colonial learning experience. Two 18th-century puppet shows are scheduled at 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Popcorn will be sold from McWhirters' antique popcorn wagon and sandwiches and other light fare will be available.
Adults pay the regular admission of $5; senior citizens pay $4, which includes the day's activities and a tour of the house and grounds. Rain date for the festival is March 27. Gunston Hall is 20 miles south of Washington and can be reached by Interstate 95 or U.S. Route 1 to the Lorton Exit. For information, call (703) 550-9220.
Now they're cooking
Nationally known chefs and food authorities will congregate in Philadelphia this week for the 10th anniversary of the Book and the Cook, a culinary festival where lovers of fine foods can meet their favorite chefs and sample their creations.
Famous cookbook authors and food authorities join forces with Philadelphia chefs to create one-of-a-kind meals at fine restaurants throughout the city. Craig Claiborne, Jeff Smith, Michael Jackson, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Patricia Wells, Nathalie Dupree, John Mariani, Pierre Franey and Daniel Boulud are among the many celebrity cooks. Participants can choose from more than 70 dining events. All meals are served on a fixed-price basis, plus tax and gratuities, and range in cost from $10 per person to $75 and above.
The event runs from Wednesday through March 27, but most events will take place from Thursday through March 21. One of the highlights of the weekend is the Book and the Cook Fair, which begins Friday at the new Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St. Here you can meet cookbook authors, watch cooking demonstrations, try out new cookware, and enjoy free food samples. Hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults; $6 for children under 12.
Another event is the presentation of the Philadelphia Courvoisier Toque Award, given for exceptional achievements in culinary writing and accomplishments. It will be presented to Craig Claiborne at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Hotel Atop the Bellevue. For reservations, call (215) 545-3652. There is also the Book and the Cook Film Festival at the International House, 3701 Chestnut St. One of the films is "Babette's Feast," and the feast will be duplicated on March 23 at the Palladium Restaurant. (215) 387-3463. And there's more -- bread-making classes, cooking classes for kids, round-the-world samplings, market tours, cookbook signings and other events.
For information or a free brochure, call (215) 636-1666 or (800) 537-7676.
Visiting the train shed
While in Philadelphia you can visit the 100-year-old Reading Terminal Train Shed that is part of the new Philadelphia Convention Center Complex. It is the largest and only surviving single-span train shed in the country, and it has been restored to its Victorian-style architecture. Next Sunday as part of its official opening celebration the public can take a whistle-stop tour from noon to 5 p.m. The tour includes the Convention Center's contemporary American art collection and exhibits, a history booth where visitors can record their memories of trips they took on the Reading line, a model-train display, railroad artifacts and memorabilia and a free commemorative engineer's hat. The Reading Terminal Market, one of the oldest public markets in the country, will also be open during the celebration for shopping and dining. Call (215) 636-1666.
If you are traveling with children, next weekend would be a good time to visit the Philadelphia Zoo. As part of its 135th-anniversary celebration, the zoo offers reduced admission to children ages 2 to 11. Regular admission is $7 for adults; $5.50 for children. Saturday and next Sunday adults pay regular admission, but children pay only $1.35. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (215) 243-1100.
Washington goes green