Ready to take your next holiday adventure? No passport needed. Come September 6-8 you can discover for the first time or revive childhood memories as you grab your chance to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, commonly known as the Mooncake Festival. During this widely celebrated Chinese and Vietnamese harvest festival you and your kid crew can delight and give thanks with a delicious family picnic. Bask in the full moon glow and twinkle of lanterns, while nibbling on mooncakes. We’ve rounded up the best places to find mooncakes (of the traditional and not-so-traditional variety) and other yummies in the DMV that will make your backyard fest by moonlight a tasty journey.

mooncakes-festivalMaria’s Bakery & Cafe
Tucked in between Congressional Plaza and Federal Plaza shopping centers on Rockville Pike is a gem of a Hong Kong style bakery and hole in the wall restaurant. The sit down restaurant food gets mixed reviews and can be meh but Maria’s bakery is the place to go for traditional Cantonese style mooncakes. The round pasteries are filled with different fillings. Common ones are: red bean paste (it’s sweet), lotus bean paste, and mixed nuts. Exquisite designs (moons, Chinese characters, flowers, rabbits, and the bakery’s name) are pressed into the red-golden chewy pastry crust. Moon cake newbies with a shy palate should nab Maria’s pineapple filled mooncakes before they run out. Yolk label alert: moon cakes can have no or 1 or 2 round egg yolks baked in the center of the cake as a flavorful symbol of the full moon. Ask or look at the label. Calorie-counting warning: these little pastries are dense and intense, packing a high caloric punch. Cut them into wedges to share as you sip tea looking up at the superdooper moon.

Open: Mon-Sun, 10 am-9 pm
Cost: $2 to about $15 for a box
1701 Rockville Pike (Rockville, Md)


Cha Kim Phung Bakery
In the thicket of the Seven Corners neighborhood of Falls Church is the Eden Center, a bustling center with the flavors, sounds and smells of Vietnamese and Asian restaurants, bakeries and grocers. This is the shopping mecca you go to for Pho to die for or get your fresh dragon fruit fix (it’s skin is deep shocking pink and flesh is pure white speckled with teeny tiny black seeds). In the far corner along the sidewalk stores Cha Kim Phung Bakery, the standout French and Asian bakery awaits. On weekends Cha Kim Phung Bakery is a buzz as they have delicacies year round and a full spectrum of mooncake flavors for the holiday. Try the pandan flavor filling to see the most amazing color of green (with or without egg yolks). The coconut mooncake is reminiscent of chewy macaroon that is traditional dessert for Passover Seders. This is one of the few places you can also snag an ice-skin or snow-skin mooncake. Ice-skin mooncakes refer to the pale white glutinous rice crust which is a cousin to Japanese mochi. If they have any ice-skin mango mooncakes snatch them up as it means the fruit was in season and ripe, if not go for the ice-skin mixed nuts moon cake. Sesame covered Chinese donuts are a sweet doughy treat to munch on while you snag a bubble tea or coffee next door at Bambu Desserts and Drinks.

Open: Mon-Sun, 9 am – 8 pm
Cost: $5 to $26- $34 for a box
6771 Wilson Blvd. (Falls Church, Va)

Hollywood East Cafe
Rolling carts of Chinese tapas + brunch = Dim Sum yummy fun for your little gastronomic explorers. Send them over the gourmet moon the weekend of Sept 6 and 7 when Zagat-rated Hollywood East located in the Westfield Wheaton Shopping Mall will feature mooncakes on the dessert carts. They will likely have both the traditional dense mooncakes and their snow-skin cousins. Tip: Make reservations they fill up fast. Parking Tip: park by Door #12.

Weekend Dim Sum served: Sat & Sun 10 am -3 pm
11160 Veirs Mill Rd. (Wheaton, Md)


Godiva Chocolatiers
Mooncakes have hit meme status and gone chocolate. Godiva makes a limited collection of chocolate mooncakes that are infused with tea-flavored ganches and fruit mousses. At $6.50 a chocolate this is sweet indulgence for you and an older kiddo with savvy tastebuds.

Westfield Montgomery Mall
7101 Democracy Blvd, Bethesda Md

1143 Connecticut Ave, NW, Dc (Farragut North)

Fashion Centre at Pentagon City
1100 S Hayes St, Arlington Va

Joy Luck House
A small Chinese bakery with monopoly in the district. There is one and only oneChinese bakery in our nation’s capitol and Joy Luck House is it. Located just a few blocks past the spectacular Friendship Arch in Dc’s Chinatown. The red bean cake was good not spectacular but still worth a trip to Chinatown. Combine your mooncake quest with chic chill by checking out the American Cool exhibit at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery before it closes on Sept 7. You can let them shake their sillies out in the vast Kogod courtyard at the museum and then effervesce kid coolness after nibbling on mooncakes.

Open: 7 days, 7 am – 9:30 pm
Cost: $2.50 – $5.00
748 6th St., NW  (Chinatown)

How do you plan on celebrating this cool holiday? Tell us in the comments section below.

—Linda Bennett

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Woodard Maderazo via Flickr, QUOI Media Group via Flickr, feli* via Flickr