The annual Season’s Greenings exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden is easily one of the most popular holiday attractions in DC — and for good reason. The conservatory is transformed into a festive oasis featuring Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials as well as poinsettias and other vibrant flora. A beautiful addition this year is an inspired botanical version of the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
But the highlight, especially for kids (and the kid in all of us adults) is the garden railway, which is always beautiful, whimsical, and uniquely crafted from plant materials like the rest of the holiday installations. This year’s Roadside Attractions theme takes you on a trip across the U.S. as miniature trains chug around mini replicas of iconic wacky sights located throughout the country. See Thomas the Tank Engine and friends circle a giant Mr. Potato Head (repping Rhode Island), zip past a Coffee Pot Water Tower (Nebraska), and roll straight into the mouth of The Blue Whale (Oklahoma). The Jolly Green Giant (Minnesota) is hoisting up some of the tracks, and Mount Rushmore (South Dakota) and Route 66 are backdrops for parts of the journey.
Not only can you see these petite oddities, you can learn more about them, too, as more info is available in the exhibit. Until now I had no idea that the Longenberger Basket company headquarters were designed to look like, you guessed it, a Longenberger basket (Ohio)! Or that the world’s tallest concrete gnome (Iowa) must be identified by the material because Poland has fiberglass gnome that’s a couple of feet taller. These are just a few of many fun tidbits to discover on Roadside Attractions tour.
You can also find a few pieces in other galleries, so plan on walking through the rest of the plant collections. To add some extra fun, kids should pick up an I Spy Plant Hunt card at the entrance. They can search for specific species around the USBG as well as the associated stamp to mark it off on the card.
For more holiday magic at the Botanic Garden, there are concerts Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when hours are extended until 8pm. I highly recommend going to one of these, for both the music and to see the exhibit and plant collections illuminated by colorful lights. It’s a wonderful holiday experience!
Season’s Greenings opens on Thanksgiving, November 23, and runs through January 1. Hours are 10am – 5pm daily (and noted 8pm closings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December). Admission is free. Get more of a glimpse in the photos below, but definitely go see for yourself!