Christmas Choo-Choos at the US Botanic Gardens
**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!
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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!”
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?