Washington, D.C., offers a lot to see and do outdoors, making it an enjoyable vacation spot for all ages. However, the weather isn’t always kind. The key in these instances is to find activities that are not contingent on the weather. One such option is the United States Botanic Garden (USBG). Regardless of the heat, rain, or even snow outside, the conditions inside the Botanic Garden are pleasant year-round.
Only a half-block away from the Capitol building, the USBG’s commanding presence of steel and glass makes it hard to miss (it feels straight out a Jules Vernes novel). So for those walking around the National Mall or near the Capitol, the garden is situated in a prime location.
The USBG has the distinction of being the oldest continually operating botanic garden. It is open every day of the year from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., including federal holidays. Since it’s open year-round, the USBG is an excellent option for visitors when museums and other sights might be closed due to holiday hours. Even better: admission is free!
The creation of the garden was one of slow progress, which began in 1820 with President James Monroe, who set aside the land to be developed. However, it was not until 1867 that Congress provided money for the construction of greenhouses and ultimately the current conservatory. Once established, the race to collect, preserve and display a range of species was on. Currently, 10,000 living specimens call the USBG home.
In order to maximize the number of species available, the conservatory is broken into uniquely controlled environments. Desert and jungle conditions are feet away from one another — regulated by a highly sophisticated computer system. However, all the plants are watered daily by hand.
There’s a lot to see, so walking around the Botanic Garden can take a half day if you wanted to spend the time there. In addition to tours and special programs, the staff also offers complimentary Plant Explorer’s Field Journals and a Junior Botanist kid’s backpack for younger visitors. Their website is updated frequently and is the best resource for all current information, so be sure to check it out when planning your trip.