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Christmas Choo-Choos at the US Botanic Gardens

2012 December 17
by Becky

**I’m coming back to add what I originally wrote to start this post…that my weekend was actually very difficult emotionally. I don’t like to get political or super-opinionated on this blog, but I want to express my condolences to the families, staff, faculty, and first responders in Newtown, CT. If you feel our gun laws and policies are not what they should be, please take a moment to visit this site. We need to fight for change.   

Just another Christmasy weekend here in Old Town Alexandria…full of twinkle lights, hot chocolate, holiday baking, play kitchen assembly (AKA Marriage Strain…more on that soon), and choo-choo trains.

When I saw the rain on Sunday morning, I quickly hopped on one of my favorite blogs, Kid Friendly DC, and found the perfect holiday rainy-day activity. The US Botanic Garden is known for it’s toddler-conscienceness and fabulous indoor spaces (read about our last trip)…and at Christmas, for their trains. And since Ethan LOVES trains and Sunday is a great (free parking) day to head to the District, we didn’t hesitate to check this out!

us botanic garden train, us botanic garden christmas, dc botanic garden christmas

There was a small, fast moving line when we arrived at 10:30. Honestly, we haven’t stood in a line anywhere in DC yet, so we didn’t mind the 15 minute wait. Ethan stayed entertained watching the Thomas train zoom past the East Gallery window. In no time we were welcomed into the humid green-house air by a friendly garden staffer.

I still can’t get over this place being FREE. So amazing and totally free. I love this city.

us botanic garden train, us botanic garden christmas, dc botanic garden christmas

us botanic garden train, us botanic garden christmas, dc botanic garden christmas

As we followed the line of people through the entrance and into the gallery we were enchanted by the beautiful models on display. The whole Mall was recreated around the flowing fountains, and a “fairy village” was pieced throughout the gallery, entrance, and conservatory. All made mostly from plant materials and totally exquisite.

us botanic garden train, railway garden, east gallery, us botanic garden christmas, dc botanic garden christmas

Picture taking wasn’t so easy, but I promise, the “Garden Railway” is magical. Bridges and tunnels and suspended tracks were everywhere—over our heads, down at our feet, all around. Trains wooshed past on the natural material constructions and then were gone out of sight, only to return from another hidden tunnel somewhere nearby. The highlight was the Thomas train whom every kid recognized. At one point one of his cars derailed and he went tearing off, unattached. Ethan is still talking about the “Choo choo that broke” (he is very interested in things “breaking”). 

us botanic garden train, railway garden, east gallery, us botanic garden christmas, dc botanic garden christmas

us botanic garden train, railway garden, east gallery, us botanic garden christmas, dc botanic garden christmas

The fairy village was everywhere in the gallery—huge castles to tiny peep holes full of itty bitty furnishings and decorations. A human-sized tunnel offered toddler-height widows where kids peered into fairy-size rooms. What a cute and fun touch.

us botanic garden train, railway garden, east gallery, us botanic garden christmas, dc botanic garden christmas

Ethan’s favorite were the HUGE waterfalls—that’s right, TWO huge waterfalls. They were each at least 10 feet tall. I honestly don’t know how they fit all this spectacular-ness in the room, but they did and it was wonderful.

Crowded, but great. While I really love hitting places like this on week days when it’s nice and quiet, we like Stu to join us so that leaves the weekend. It was worth every second of waiting.

Since Stu hadn’t been to the garden before, we made the loop through all the gardens (the orchids are by far our favorite) and hiked around the conservatory catwalk.

us botanic garden train, railway garden, east gallery, us botanic garden christmas, dc botanic garden christmas

Oh, and did I mention the GIANT Christmas tree? It’s the biggest one we’ve seen yet, living in the West Gallery, and decorated beautifully. Ethan exclaimed “BIG Chir-tree!”.

I love that the Capital is right next door to the gardens…it always offers beautiful views. Even Ethan points it out each time and yells “Cap-tol!”

Cute boys…

Stu&EthanCapital2

Stu&EthanCapital

Another perk of weekends in the District? Easy parking for Shake Shack. My hands-down favorite burger, fries, and shakes.

Guess I’m hitting the gym tomorrow!

Is there somewhere special you go during the holidays? 

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Grandma Johnson permalink
    December 17, 2012

    What a beautiful place and such great photography!!

    How nice it is for the family to have inside places to visit when it’s cold outside.

    Enjoy your Holidays in beautiful Alexandria…

  2. December 17, 2012

    they had a very similar thing at the nyc botanical garden and when we lived in nj we used to go every year. it wasn’t free though, too bad!
    Dara recently posted..Hanukkah Gifts RecapMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      December 17, 2012

      I’m not surprised yours charged a fee…beautiful displays like these are WORTH paying for! I never get over that it’s free here. Just amazing.

  3. December 18, 2012

    This is awesome! I can’t believe all this stuff is just FREE. My little guy would have gone nuts to see Thomas and all those trains. We took him this weekend on a Santa train ride in a small town nearby and he still is yelling, “GO CHOO CHOO!” I love that they are at the age where they can remember these things.

    We are going to be in DC this spring for a few days so I will definitely have to look at your site for recommendations of what to do with kids. Looks like you have some great ideas!
    Jen recently posted..book review: the mama’s boy mythMy Profile

  4. Sandy Schon permalink
    December 18, 2012

    I concur with the rest of the comments. What a magical place. I want to go there!!! Looks like you’ve inherited your dad’s amazing ability to take fabulous pictures. I never even tried to compete. It’s a great skill and you just keep getting better and better. It certainly makes your blog “over the top” and fun to follow.

  5. Grandpa Joe permalink
    December 21, 2012

    This posting is Magical…………and you captured it.
    I can just Feel Ethan at the window watching the train.
    and his Awe as he watches the wonders of the fairy landscapes.
    Great shots of Stu and Ethan too……….Pensive and Joyful.
    See you soon.

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