One of the most exciting things about our move to Northern Virginia is that some of the greatest arts, cultural, and historical sites in America are in the District of Columbia. Although we’ve been hard at work unpacking boxes and renovating part of our new house, we managed to sneak out for a few hours in August to check out some of the area’s cultural attractions. Our visit to the National Arboretum was relaxing, fun and educational.
The National Arboretum is Relaxing
D.C. is a fast-paced town, and even the suburbs are filled with fast driving, multi-tasking, and quite a bit of concrete. The Arboretum was a refreshing break from the noise and the pace of city/suburban life. Everywhere we walked was quiet, green, and lush.
The National Arboretum is Fun
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what Small Shaw — our 2.5-year-old — would think. Would there be enough to do to keep her busy little mind occupied? Would the gardens be a little too hands-off for a touchy-feely toddler?
In fact, Small Shaw had a lot of fun. She ran and played, exploring the National Capitol Columns. She climbed up on tree stumps. She walked and ran down the paths. She knelt down and touched the different grasses on display. She almost saw a real-life frog!
We spent around three hours at the Arboretum, and she was completely tuckered out when we left. My worries about whether it would give her enough to do were unwarranted. Granted, the Arboretum is a living museum, so it’s not exactly a free range place to play, but she definitely had fun.
The National Arboretum is Educational
The Arboretum is a research center that offers horticultural workshops, classes, presentations, and events. Even if you go to the Arboretum on a normal day when there are no events, there’s plenty to see and learn. Their brochure has quite a bit of helpful information in it, and there are interpretive signs and plant labels throughout the gardens.
A Free, Fun, Horticultural Highlight
We really enjoyed the Arboretum. It was a great place to walk, relax, and for Small Shaw to play. There were paved trails throughout the main exhibits, making it easy to visit with our Cadillac of a double stroller. If the history and horticulture weren’t enough, it’s pretty awesome that the Arboretum is 100% free.
National Arboretum Hours & Location
The Arboretum is open 364 days of the year (it’s closed on Christmas Day) from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It’s located in northeast Washington, D.C., and it has two entrances (3501 New York Avenue, NE, and 24th & R Streets, NE, off Bladensburg Road (source)).
You can check the Arboretum’s website for details about events and to learn what’s blooming there. There’s plenty of on-site parking, and pets are allowed. We also saw joggers and cyclists on the roads through the Arboretum grounds.
About the National Arboretum
The mission of the U.S. National Arboretum is to enhance the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of ornamental and landscape plants through long-term, multi-disciplinary research, conservation of genetic resources, and interpretative gardens and exhibits.
The National Arboretum was established in 1927 by an Act of Congress. It’s administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.