Christmas at the Botanical Gardens in DC

There is something about trains at Christmastime. Trains are not the first thing I think of when I’m decorating for the holidays, but they are everywhere from special exhibits at museums to circling the Christmas tree in my living room. The season just doesn’t feel complete without trains – whether it is watching the Polar Express or visiting a train exhibit downtown.

So when we were looking for some inexpensive Christmas city magic this weekend, we hopped on the metro and headed to the Botanical Gardens to enjoy their holiday decor and holiday train display.  This year’s nautical themed train display features 33 lighthouses from across the country.  The display fills the entire room so we immediately wanted to look everywhere at once.  But soon the gorgeous, small details caught our eye and we slowed down to look closer at each section of the exhibit.  In addition to watching the trains travel around the display, there were hidden waterfalls, intricate ships, sea monsters, and mermaids.

Botanical Gardens DC
The United States Botanical Gardens

After visiting the train display, be sure to visit the other rooms in the Botanical Gardens open year round.  The gardens include rooms with themes including World Deserts, Rare and Endangered, Hawaii, and the Jungle.  One of the most beautiful rooms is the Orchards room which is filled with orchards of many different sizes and colors.  We also especially enjoyed the Jungle where you can climb up to the canopy walk to see the plants from above and get a closer look at the enormous trees. All of rooms are covered from top to bottom with plants so it truly feels like you are in the environment represented instead of just walking through exhibits.

The Garden Court in the Botanical Gardens features models of many Washington, DC landmarks made out of over 70 different plant materials.  Many people think that these models make a special appearance around the holidays, but these guys are out year round.  There are replicas of the White House, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Castle, the Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, and many others.  As with the train display and other rooms of the gardens, it is the attention to detail that makes these displays beautiful – each building is handcrafted and unique. Be sure to peak inside the Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial!

It is extremely popular to visit the train display on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – lines often wrap around the building.  We highly recommend you avoid these days if you have impatient children or friends. Don’t wait too long though – the trains are only on display through January 4, 2015!  The Botanical Gardens are open year round and feature a number of gardening and sustainability special events.  Check the website for more details.  To get the most out of your visit, dress in layers – it is warm and toasty inside the gardens for all the plants.  Parking is limited, so taking the metro is encouraged.  The gardens are located right next to the US Capitol so be sure visit the Capitol Christmas Tree while you’re there!

Good For:
Nature lovers, holiday fun, families


100 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20001

Closest Metro: 
Federal Center SW (blue, orange, silver)

About Kelley Smith 72 Articles
I'm Kelley Smith and I love sharing tips on how to best explore Washington, DC. I love pretty much anything I can eat plus really good beer and whiskey served by story telling bartenders. I also like sassy museum guides, photogenic architecture, and colorful urban gardens.

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