Tourism: United States Botanic Gardens

flowers at US Botanical Gardens

So the doldrums have hit. It’s cold. You’ve got on your scarf, your hat, your gloves, and soon we’ll upgrade and add in some ear muffs and your heaviest coat. It’s the perfect time to plan your winter escape to the United States Botanic Gardens. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (including holidays and weekends!) the conservatory is a large glassed-in garden-topia. You can get there a number of ways, but my lovely roommate and I took the metro to Federal Center and walked a quick few blocks to the West side front lawn of the Capitol.

The conservatory is split into different plant-type sections, for example, one for orchids and one for the desert, etc. (Wow, am I a botinast or what?) And then there’s a big huge rainforest in the middle stretching two or three stories high. It’s humid and somewhere around 78 degrees, kind of like a mild DC summer day. It’ll bring nostalgic flashbacks of those wonderful, warm days of yore. Short on cash? The US Botanic Gardens admission is free, like all the best things in DC.

So aside from the rainforest, and the desert, there is plenty more to see at the Botanic Gardens…

United States Botanic Garden by flickr user NCinDC

United States Botanic Garden by flickr user NCinDC

When you first walk in the door you’re ushered into a gorgeous long room called the Garden Court with multiple fountains. I love water, and warmth, so I’m automatically sold right here. You can wander around through some science-based plant exhibits in the East and West Galleries. I’d recommend going around the outside ring of rooms around the main rainforest garden first.  You’ll walk through most of the climates of the US (desert, Hawaii, etc.) and get a good feel for the plants that grow in each region. There’s also exhibits on endangered plant species and medicinal plants.


One of my favorite rooms was the orchid room, with lots of different shades, shapes and orchid plants. After you meander through the outer garden rooms, step into the rainforest. Lush, and green, with bird and monkey sounds piped in from speakers (Yeah, I saw them. You can’t fool me, Botanic Gardens!) you’re transported to the Amazon. Well, okay-fine. Maybe that was a tad overdramatic, but you’re at least to transported to a nice, happy, warm, green place.

botanical gardens fountain

If it’s warm enough to go outdoors, head out to the garden. Plenty to see out there, as well. A nice eco-exhibit (yay green living!) a fountain, a shade garden, as well as a seasonal garden that changes, well, seasonally.

It’s the perfect winter escape plan! And soon, opening Thanksgiving day, the Botanic Gardens will start decorating for the holiday season. The Web site has a picture of a very large tree. They also promise hand-crafted replicas of the DC Mall monuments made from plant materials. And apparently be a garden train exhibit, and who would want to miss that?

Photos courtesy of flickr user Needlessspaces, unless otherwise specified.

Katie moved to DC in 2007, and has since embarked upon a love affair with the city. She’s an education reform advocate and communications professional during the day; at night and on the weekends, she’s an owner here at We Love DC. Katie has high goals to eat herself through the entire city, with only her running shoes to save her from herself. For up-to-the-minute news and reviews (among other musings), follow her on Twitter!

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