Every year I say that if my blog stats are any indication, the annual Season’s Greenings exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden easily is one of the most popular holiday attractions in DC. And that’s backed up by both the long lines to get in to see it and the joyful responses it elicits from visitors of all ages.
In case you’re new to DC (because that’s the only reason one would have for not knowing about the exhibit), every holiday season the USBG’s conservatory is transformed into a festive oasis featuring Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials as well as poinsettias and other vibrant flora. But the highlight, especially for kids (and the kid in all of us adults), is the garden railway, which is always a lovely, delightful display uniquely crafted from plant materials like the rest of the holiday installations.
This year’s All Aboard theme showcases train stations across the United States, from grand classic structures like New York’s Grand Central Station and Cincinnati’s Union Terminal to smaller, charming venues like Maui’s Lahaina Station and the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station to more unusual sites like Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Colorado and Mississippi’s Vicksburg Depot-Railroad Barge. There are also some “fantasy” stations included just for kids, like a Dino Depot and The North Pole village with sweet details kids will love like Santa’s Workshop, a gang of teddy bears, and cute apple and pear topped structures.
Be sure to get a close look at the details, as it’s fun to try to identify the materials used. You’ll see acorn caps, bamboo, eucalyptus leaves, gourds, pieces of tree bark, driftwood, even shelf fungus among the many plants used in the creation of the stations. And don’t miss the windows in the tunnel with neat little dioramas of scenes glimpsed on a train route, like grain fields in Kansas and orange groves in Florida. And if you’re looking for DC’s own Union Station, you won’t find it in the garden railway; it’s the newest addition to replicas of the city’s most iconic buildings on display in the conservatory.
You can also find a few pieces in other galleries, so plan on walking through the rest of the plant collections. If you’re interested in learning more about the stations on display, there will be binders with interesting facts about them and their locations as well as details on materials used to make the train station models. It’s also available online.
For more holiday magic at the Botanic Garden, there are concerts on select 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 Day, November 22, and runs through January 1. Hours are 10am – 5pm daily (and noted 8pm closings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December). Admission is free.
For now, get a glimpse of it all in the scenes below.