Tag Archives: U.S. National Arboretum

Heads-Up on Local Closings

Due to sequestration, the National Arboretum will be closed Tuesdays, Wednesday, & Thursdays

Due to sequestration, the National Arboretum will be closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays

Within just the last few days, I’ve learned about a couple of closings to keep in mind — both are places among the KFDC compendium for family recreation.

As of this week, the U.S. National Arboretum will be closed to the public every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as a result of the sequester and budget cuts to the federal Agricultural Research Service, a U.S. Agriculture Department bureau that operates the Arboretum. It was being reported that an entrance fee would also be instituted, but admission will remain free. You can read more about the reduced public visitation hours here.

The National Aquarium in DC, located in the lower level of the Department of Commerce, will close its doors for good on September 30, due to renovations in the building. The collection of more than 1,500 animals will be transitioned to new homes at either National Aquarium in Baltimore or other accredited aquariums. And while I realize that some folks aren’t impressed by the relatively small display of marine life, I consider it a loss. The compact space and simple exhibits are perfect for little aquarium-goers, a great introduction to the underwater world. (Hey, my kids get excited about the lobster tanks in seafood restaurants.) If you haven’t yet been, and your babes are fascinated by fish, go check it out while you can. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 9am – 6pm and Friday – Saturday 9am – 7pm. Admission is $9.95/adults, $4.95/ages 3-11, free for under 3.


Filed under DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: May 29 – June 1

Fun takes shape at the MathAlive! exhibit


Tuesday – Add a museum exhibit to the weekday mix and go see MathAlive! at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center before it closes June 3. Admission is free.

Wednesday – Walk among hundreds of butterflies at Brookside Garden’s “Wings of Fancy” exhibit.  Witness the butterfly life cycle and see species from North America, Central America, and Asia.  Admission is $6/adult and $4/ages 3-12, free for children 2 and under (though strollers are not permitted). Tickets and parking are available at the Visitors Center and Conservatories.

Thursday – See Five Little Monkeys, Adventure Theatre’s latest show that audiences of all ages will find entertaining.  Tickets are $18 and still available for Thursday’s show as this post goes live.

Friday – Visit the Maryland Youth Garden at the National Arboretum. Stroll among a variety of plants and flowers, till soil in the compost station, and have some fun in the natural play space. Admission is free.



Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Outdoor, Park, Spring, Theatre, Weekdays

Grow with it at the National Arboretum

The Washington Youth Garden: Cultivated by kids for all ages to enjoy


If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that the U.S. National Arboretum is one of my very favorite spots to hang with the kids in DC.  Not only does it top my list of best outdoor places, but it’s been a frequent recommendation as a recreational haven practically since day one (well, more like day 21, but I had to wait for Snowmageddon’s remnants to melt before suggesting readers go there).

The best thing about the Arboretum is that it’s so big, visiting never gets old.  There are myriad adventures to be had — different collections of plants and flowers to explore, lots of short trails to hike, exhibits to see, wildlife to view. This partly explains why, until a few days ago, we’d never visited the Washington Youth Garden. I say partly, because I knew it was there, but thought it was only open to school groups. And since there was so much else to do at the Arboretum, I hadn’t looked into it further to find out for sure.

But last week, I chaperoned a field trip to the Youth Garden with Owen’s class and learned that it is, indeed, open to the public.  Which is awesome.  Because it’s yet another fantastic element of an already-wonderful place.

Developed to encourage kids and families to connect with the natural world, the Garden is cultivated and maintained by local youth. A variety of plants and flowers are grown there, many of them edible and harvested seasonally. We toured — and tasted! — strawberries, sorrel, mint, and asparagus, among the many crops grown in the garden . (No pesticides are used, as our guide explained, and she encouraged the kids to nibble a little as she discussed the different qualities of the plants.)

Sampling mint

Right next to the actual garden is a natural play area where kids can engage with nature through self-directed activities.  Everything in the space is made of materials that come right from their environment — benches made from tree branches and tree stumps to sit on, wooden sand tables for kids to dig in, even xylophones constructed of wood where they can make music.

Just beyond that is a compost station, with signs explaining how the three-bin system works. During our tour, there were gardening tools available for the kids to till the soil a bit. The guide said they aren’t there otherwise, but guests not on a tour can still visit that part of the garden.

The compost station

A close look at what’s in the soil: Worms!

From there, you can access a short trail that meanders through the woods behind the garden to get a look at the variety of plants that grow naturally in that small area.  Our guide encouraged the kids to notice the different shapes of the leaves, moss growing on a fallen tree branch, even the smell of the woods.  (And here I should note that guides are only available for school groups, but individuals are welcome to tour on their own.)

A short walk in the woods

Our tour of the garden lasted about an hour, though a visit there could last much longer at one’s own pace.  With other school groups coming through, the class spent the rest of our field trip exploring the nearby Fern Valley, having a picnic lunch by the Capitol Columns, and visiting the Koi pond. But next time I take my kids to the Arboretum, we’ll be lingering at the Youth Garden much longer.

The Washington Youth Garden is open during Arboretum hours from 8am – 5pm.  Admission is free.  You can find directions to it here.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Ongoing, Outdoor, Spring, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Where to Play on the Weekdays: September 12-16

Tending to flowers at the Children's Garden


Keep the kiddos engaged and entertained all week!

Monday – Head to Old Town Alexandria for Tavern Toddlers at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. Drop in between 10:30am and 12pm for playtime and a craft activity in the historic ballroom.  Admission is $7 for a group of three, which must include an adult.

Tuesday – Enjoy the forecasted sunshine at one of the prettiest places in the city, the U.S. National Arboretum. Bring lunch for a picnic, a ball to kick around in the open spaces, and a camera for photo ops amongst the variety of flora collections.

Wednesday – Discover and play at the U.S. Botanic Garden.  Kids can flex their green thumbs in the Children’s Garden, complete with water pump and fountains, shovels and watercans, a bamboo “forest,” and a mini garden house.  The collections are also wonderful to tour, the jungle exhibit being a highlight for little ones.  Stop in the West Gallery to sniff a variety of botanical scents. And be sure to visit the National Garden outside, too.

Thursday – Bounce on over to Pump it Up in Lanham for Pop-In Play Time from 10 – 11:30am. Kids ages 2-6 (and their accompanying grown-ups) can jump, slide, climb, and have a blast in a room full of giant inflatables.  Admission is $8/child. Be sure to wear or bring socks!

Friday –  Be among the first theatre-goers to see Tales of Beatrix Potter at The Puppet Co. Playhouse. Showtime is 10am.  Tickets are $10 and available for purchase online.


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