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Exploring: United States Botanic Garden

2012 August 15
by Becky

We had our Tuesday all planned out.

It included a trip with friends to River Farm, a picnic lunch, home for a nap, and then errands.

Too bad we woke up to dark skies and rain. Booo! According to Weather.com, the wettness would continue all day.

So with a few emails exchanged, my fellow moms and I decided to take our plans inside at the United States Botanic Garden! It’s a location that’s been on our list for a while now, so I was excited for the adventure.

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This free activity is a great cold or rainy day option because so much of it is contained in greenhouses and the conservatory. Paths wind through a jungle of pristine plants bursting with gorgeous blooms. I honestly didn’t see a single brown leaf or droopy flower…the place is immaculate.

We were welcomed by a very friendly staff member who made sure to mark the most kid-oriented areas on a map. As we pushed our crew through the massive double doors Ethan’s reaction was “Whoa!”

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Funny thing, just before entering the building, the sun burst through the clouds and turned our rainy day into a VERY hot one. I’ve here by sworn off weather forecasts, convinced they are straight-up voodoo.

No matter. We were thrilled with our decision. The kids certainly had no objections!

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The sun just meant we would be able to experience all of the outdoor areas of the gardens—especially the Children’s Garden, which I wasn’t even aware existed. That’s DC for you though…always something for the kiddos.

And the people at the US Botanic Garden know what kids like.

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United States Botanic Garden, DC Botanic Garden, botanical garden, children's garden, toddler friendly DC, things to do in DC, indoor activities in DC, rainy day activities in DC

Water. And watering cans. And little houses with windows. And huge fountains. And tunnels made out of vines and bamboo. This place was SUPER COOL!

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United States Botanic Garden, DC Botanic Garden, botanical garden, children's garden, toddler friendly DC, things to do in DC, indoor activities in DC, rainy day activities in DC

The older boys ran in and out of the house, to and from the water, while Ethan watched. He’s not really running yet, so can’t quite keep up. You can see the wheels turning in his head though, I’m ready for him to just take off any minute.

Sully (in the curls) figured out a cool trick—if he ran up to the fountains and smacked his hands down in he water, he could get soaked in a matter of seconds. Ethan was all up for the fun. Toddler-less visitors couldn’t help but stop to watch the boys play…it was pretty hilarious.

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If it were acceptable, I would have jumped in one of those fountains—it was pretty toasty outside in the sun. Luckily the Children’s Garden had many places to find shade. The bamboo forest was my favorite. Reminds me of our yard in St. Louis…

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United States Botanic Garden, DC Botanic Garden, botanical garden, children's garden, toddler friendly DC, things to do in DC, indoor activities in DC, rainy day activities in DC

The vine tunnel was pretty awesome as well. Look at those little toots…all in a line.

Adults weren’t totally out of luck—everyone could have fun with the pretty pink watering cans.

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Another recommended kid-tastic area was in the West Gallery, as the current exhibit is all about Carnivorous plants. Yes, I did think that HUGE one in the middle was real…but only for like two seconds.

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Look at the boys checking out that plant. Hilarious! Sully and Luke are pressing the “fly” buttons, which made the sound of a fly before one of the huge Venus Fly Trap leaves snapped shut as if it had just caught a meal. Amazing.

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There was even a plant that ate toddlers! They were pretty voluntary though, what with the running right in and all. Ethan was pretty nervous about this thing, but Sully and Luke didn’t even hesitate.

We were so impressed with the interactivity of the whole garden. Things to twist, turn, flip, push, pull, watch…even smell! Yes, there was a whole spice exhibit that featured giant metal flowers showcasing different spices you could smell through little holes. Incredible.

Even the areas that weren’t meant for kids were toddler-friendly. We meandered back toward the orchids, passing fountains and beautiful foliage that kept little eyes full. A photographer’s heaven, the orchids did not disappoint.

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United States Botanic Garden, DC Botanic Garden, botanical garden, children's garden, toddler friendly DC, things to do in DC, indoor activities in DC, rainy day activities in DC

United States Botanic Garden, DC Botanic Garden, botanical garden, children's garden, toddler friendly DC, things to do in DC, indoor activities in DC, rainy day activities in DC

This last one reminded me of sorbet punch—stunning! These pics and others may just be gracing the walls of our home soon.

After a few more rooms of plants (including Hawaii, Medicinal, and Desert plants) it was lunchtime. We’d spent a good two hours at the gardens and the kids were done. Setting up camp just outside the entrance at a beautiful umbrella-shaded table surrounded by incredible landscaping and overlooking the Captiol Building, we fed the Peanuts before heading home. Perfection.

Ready to visit?! Good!

Everyone questions parking, so I’ll tell you about it. We drove two cars and found 2-hour metered parking with zero problems (if you use the phone-pay system, you can call and renew your time…at least that’s what I do). That said, we were visiting on a weekday morning, so I can’t promise such luck on the weekends. I will mention though that our favorite time to visit DC on the weekends is Sunday morning around 10am…TONS of parking and it’s FREE.

Bring a lunch, your camera, and possibly a change of clothes. After the Children’s Garden Ethan was walking around pant-less because his shorts were soaked. So if you, unlike me, think half naked children are inappropriate in public, then you may want an extra outfit.

Check out the website for any exhibit information and maps. The lovely staff will be able to help you too.

We were frequent visitors to the Missouri Botanical Garden (which are also spectacular!) so I’m thrilled to have the DC version to fulfill our floral cravings. Can’t wait to return! I think this will be a regular adventure.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Lara permalink
    August 15, 2012

    Any place that you can have a pink watering can and no pants is a party to me! Thanks for a great day!

  2. Sandy Schon permalink
    August 15, 2012

    Fabulous!!!!

  3. Shannon permalink
    August 15, 2012

    Such a fun day. I hope they drain those big buckets of water in the winter or we’re going to have a problem! Love these pictures.

    • Becky permalink*
      August 19, 2012

      Totally! I think Sully and Ethan would still get wet, even in the cold.

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