No matter what time of year it is, the United States Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place to enjoy greenery and flowering plants. The space includes both outdoor gardens that change with the seasons and an indoor conservatory. The indoor spaces welcome guests year-round but are especially nice on a colder or rainy day.
The Botanic Gardens in DC are not part of the Smithsonian but the conservatory follows their operating hours (10 am to 5 pm). You can easily include the gardens in your day by exploring other museums on the National Mall. The outdoor, gated gardens open at 7:30 am so you can enjoy this space before the other museums open for the day.
Outdoor Gated Gardens: These gardens were planted to thrive through all the seasons of DC so you’ll see inspiration from plant life found across the mid-Atlantic region. See what keeps our ecosystem thriving in the pollinator garden with plants that attract bees, bats, and insects. Other gardens include the Rose Gardens, First Ladies Water Garden, and more.
The Conservatory: Inside, you’ll enter through a garden court with various plants and fountains. As you explore the conservatory, you’ll enter a variety of rooms highlighting plants from the Mediterranean, Hawaii, and world deserts. You’ll also see plants used for medicine, orchids, and even a primeval garden with plants showing what the world looked like 150 million years ago. One of the most recognizable parts of the Conservatory is the tropics section which includes a ground level and a canopy walk to explore. Be mindful that is very warm in the tropics section so you’ll want to take off any extra layers you have for a cold day.
Cultivate: Growing Food in a Changing World (until August 1, 2024): This display highlights the impact of global and local agriculture on the food we eat and how it influences our lives. Learn where people get their food, what crops grow around the world, and more.
Seasons Greenings (seasonal): Most holiday displays come alive at night but Seasons Greenings is a great daytime holiday event. During the winter holiday season (usually late November to just after New Year’s Day), you can see a beautiful train display set up outside. The trains travel through scenes from different ecosystems from around the world. Inside, you’ll find models of the Washington landmarks made from plants. Go early in the day or early December to avoid the largest crowds.
The main building is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily except for December 25. The gated outdoor garden open at 7:30 am with extended hours from April 1 to September 15 until 7:00 pm. The Botanic Gardens can be very popular during peak tourist seasons (summer, Cherry Blossoms, the winter holidays) so plan to visit before 1:00 pm for fewer crowds. It should only take about 1 to 2 hours to explore the space so this day can be combined with a visit to the nearby National Museum of the American Indian, National Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art, or the Capitol Building.
The closest metro stop to the United States Botanic Gardens is Federal Center (blue, orange, silver) but it is also walkable from the Smithsonian stop (blue, orange, silver) and E’Lnfant (all colors except red). Parking is limited near the National Mall so metro and rideshare are highly encouraged.