After being closed for more than two years, the U.S. Botanic Garden’s Conservatory is once again open to visitors! The outdoor areas have been accessible for awhile, but it wasn’t until the start of this month that we could go back inside, too. The USBG, both indoors and out, is one of those places that I’d include among DC’s must-go sites. In fact, of all the attractions along the stretch between the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Botanic Garden probably is the one our family has visited most. That’s partly because it’s the closest in to where we live and an easy walk or bike ride from our house. But also because it’s a really beautiful, interesting, and fun place to explore for all ages, kids and adults.
I like to say that visiting the USBG on a foul weather day is like pulling a fast one on the weather gods, because being there is like experiencing the outdoors in the comfort of a warm (or cool, depending on the season), dry place. But an outing there is fantastic no matter what the conditions outside. You can explore a variety of plant collections, from the lush flora of the tropical area to all kinds of cacti in the desert gallery. You can see a landscape of ferns and other ancient plant groups and an entire small room dedicated to Hawaiian vegetation. There are also a Mediterranean gallery, a whole space showcasing orchids, and an area about medicinal plants.
The Garden Court, the first long, lofty room you enter is pretty as ever right now, its two fountains flanked by verdant green plants and red, orange, and yellow flowers. And the distinctive herbal-floral aroma still permeates the air. The West Gallery and East Gallery on both ends have an array of exhibits about plants and their impacts on the world. There are several hands-on discovery elements that kids will enjoy, including magnifying glasses and microscopes to look at plant parts and bugs more closely.
One of the best parts of the USBG for kids will open in a couple of weeks: The Children’s Garden welcomes young visitors to flex their green thumbs. They can use real gardening tools to dig, shovel, water, and plant flowers, plus they can play on a climbing structure. You have to enter the Conservatory to access it, but the area is outdoors and only open during the warmer months. Also fun for kids: They can pick up passports at the information desk on the way in with info about different plants that they can search for as they tour the gardens.
The rest of the Botanic Garden, the outdoor areas, should not be missed. The front is always colorful with flowers and plants. The National Garden on the west side features a pretty fountain with tables and seating, a rose garden, a small amphitheater, and paths that meander through the grounds and bridge a small creek in one place. And across Independence Avenue, Bartholdi Park is a pretty, peaceful place to hang out with a fountain as its centerpiece surrounding by trees, shrubs, and flowers.
You can read more about the U.S. Botanic Garden in this post from a bunch of years back when the kids were little. And view more scenes from a recent visit in the photos below.
U.S. Botanic Garden
Where: 100 Maryland Avenue SW | U.S. Capitol Grounds, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 5pm (conservatory), 7:30am – 5pm (outdoor areas)