Tag Archives: U.S. Botanic Garden

The U.S. Botanic Garden: A Place for All Seasons

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The U.S. Botanic Garden gets a lot of attention this time of year with its fantastic Season’s Greenings exhibit, plus special holiday programs and extended hours that come along with it.

The Model Train Railway is always the big draw, and this year’s “World’s Fair” theme doesn’t disappoint, with famous structures from the historic public exhibitions, from Chicago’s Ferris wheel to the Eiffel Tower to New York’s Unisphere — and several more. And replicas of many iconic DC buildings created from plant materials are on display in the main hall of the conservatory along with animal topiary designs and festive decor and flora.

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A special scavenger hunt activity adds some extra fun for kids right now. They can pick up a passport from a kiosk in the conservatory, which lists different plant species from around the world that kids have to seek out in the various galleries around the Garden. Once they’ve found a plant, they can use a stamp to show they’ve “been there, done that.”

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But I have to point out that the USBG is also terrific beyond the holiday season. In fact, it’s one of our go-to spots for outings all year round. The location — an easy bike ride or nice walk from our house — is a big personal factor, but the offerings are what ultimately seal the deal.

Sash taking some of her earliest steps around the USBG

Sash taking some of her earliest steps around the USBG

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First, there’s the general experience of feeling like your outdoors, surrounded by a diverse array of plants from all over the world, in the comfort of a warm and beautiful place. There’s lush flora — big elephant ear leaves and lofty palms — in the large Jungle area. It’s cool and dry in the desert gallery where many varieties of cactus are on display. You can see a reconstructed Jurassic landscape of ferns and other ancient plant groups that have survived for 150 million years in the Garden Primeval gallery. An entire room is dedicated to Hawaii, where plant species are unique because of the remote volcanic islands. Even more areas showcase interesting vegetation from around the world.

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And then there are the interactive exhibits, which both kids and adults can enjoy. The Children’s Garden, which is open during the warmer months, welcomes young visitors to flex their green thumbs. They can pump water, use shovels to dig, water plants, and sometimes plant flowers. There’s also a little garden house complete with a green roof, and a bamboo area (where Sasha says we have to be quiet so we don’t disturb the pandas). You can also put your senses to use in the “Plants in Culture” exhibits you sniff herbs and spices and learn about the ways plants are part of our everyday lives and of people around the world.

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The offerings aren’t limited to the indoors. Outside, the National Garden features a lovely fountain, a rose garden, a small amphitheater, and paths that meander through the gardens and bridge a small creek in one place. The kids love wandering through, exploring the different areas and looking for tiny fish in a little pond. When it’s nice out, we bring along lunch or snacks and throw a little picnic into the outing, either sitting at the amphitheater or tables next to the fountain.

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So, go experience Season’s Greenings while it’s there, and go back again (and again) to enjoy the rest any time of year.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is located at 100 Maryland Avenue SW, just across from the Reflecting Pool in front of the Capitol. Season’s Greenings runs daily (including Christmas Day!) through January 5. Hours are 10am – 5pm, with extended hours to 8pm for live seasonal music on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December. The rest of the year, it’s open 10am – 5pm. Admission is always free.


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Filed under All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Holidays, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend

Holidays at the Botanic Garden

A visit to Season's Greenings is always part of our holiday repertoire

 

As if I haven’t recommended Season’s Greenings enough as a great weekday, weekend, or holiday outing both here and on Facebook, I’m now dedicating a whole blog post to the annual holiday display at the U.S. Botanic Garden. I’ve already been three times this season — twice with the kids and once on my own. (Yeah, I kind of dig the USBG.)

But since you can read about all that is at Season’s Greenings in the KFDC Holiday Guide, this additional endorsement will give you a glimpse of what’s there. It’s also a reminder that hours are extended until 8pm on many Tuesdays and Thursdays in December for music in the garden. The concerts, featuring a different act each night, begin at 6pm. Here’s a preview of it all.

This guy will greet you on the way to the trains

The first adorable scene in the Enchanted Forest train display

Waiting for the train to emerge from a tunnel

This creature lurks among the forest

It's the details, like this tiny scene inside a tree trunk, that make the display so amazing

Sasha eyes a little room, all whittled from plant materials, behind glass

A mermaid watches over the trains

The Supreme Court constructed from plant materials is in the conservatory

Visited early on a weekday and nearly had the place to myself

What a treat to tour the jungle at night

Music during extended hours

 

Season’s Greenings will be on view at the U.S. Botanic Garden through January 1. Hours are 10am – 5pm every day, including all holidays. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December (except for Christmas day), the Conservatory is open until 8pm for extended hours and live music. Admission is free.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, Christmas, DC, Exhibit, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Nature, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

A Feast of Flora at the U.S. Botanic Garden

And Venus flytrap was her name...

 

We’ve been spending a lot of time at the U.S. Botanic Garden lately. It’s one of those go-to places that we never seem to get tired of visiting. Plus, it’s a fairly easy walk from our house (and an even easier drive on a rainy day or when I’m feeling lazy), it’s rarely crowded, and there’s something to enjoy no matter what the weather.

Sometimes we go with an activity in mind — play time in the Children’s Garden or a tour of the jungle area where Dora lives (or so Sasha says). Other times we just wander among plant collections, sit in the peaceful Garden Court, stop to sniff herbs and spices in the “Plants in Culture” exhibit, or stroll/relax/play in the National Garden outside.

Taking those carnivorous plant families for a spin

Today, we went with another purpose: We wanted to check out Savage Gardens, an exhibit about carnivorous plants that opened last weekend. Housed mostly in the East Conservatory, the exhibit isn’t very big, but what there is of it is pretty interesting. Large panels on the walls around the room describe different species of carnivorous plants with live ones there to view, too.  There are also some interactive displays where you can spin a wheel to learn about plant families, remove (fake) insects from (fake) plants with giant tweezers to see what kinds of bugs they’ve eaten, flip tiles to find out how plants catch their prey, and  place magnetic plants on a large picture of a pond scene.

Learning about plant traps

Bug removal

But the centerpieces of the exhibit are giant models of three meat-eating plants, most of which are interactive in some way. You can step inside a 10-foot tropical pitcher plant, press buttons to activate the “traps” on a Venus flytrap, and see the tentacles of a sundew light up.  There is also a smaller Venus flytrap model, where you can catch bugs using a foot pedal to close them in, and a 15-foot model of a North American pitcher plant is located outside, just before you enter the Conservatory building.

Getting a bug's eye view in a pitcher plant

It only took about half an hour to see the exhibit, so we took a quick walk through some of the other collections before making our way to the Children’s Garden, where the kids played with the water pump, dug in the soil, and watered some of the potted plants. When the indoor part of the USBG closed at 5pm, we headed out to the National Garden, which is open until 7pm, where the kids ran along the paths and looked at fishies in the small pond.

Flexing her green thumb in the Children's Garden

Watching the fish in the National Garden

 

Savage Gardens runs through October 8.  If you’re interesting in checking out the exhibit, plan on some other activities while you’re there, since it doesn’t take very long to see.  The Botanic Garden’s Conservatory is open daily 10am – 5pm (as noted, the National Garden is open until 7pm).  Admission is free.

 

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Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Outdoor, Play, Weekdays, Weekend