The Smithsonian Institute
I’ve lived in the Washington D.C. metro area for several years. Besides traveling, I love exploring the city while I’m in town. One of my favorite things to do is to visit the Smithsonian Museums. According to the Smithsonian Institution, there are 19 museums in D.C. and New York City area. These include galleries, gardens, and a zoo. The best of all, all the museums and the zoo in the D.C. area are free.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my mom was visiting from overseas for a week. She has been here a few times and very much enjoyed her visits. But, sometimes we get busy with other things, which makes it impossible to visit as many museums as we’d like to. So this time, we decided to visit the United States Botanic Garden (USBG).
How to Get There
Traffic and parking in the D.C. area can be difficult. So the best way to get there is by Metro. Federal Center SW Station is the closest metro station to the USBG, which is about 6-minute walk. You can also reach there by Metrobuses # 32, 34, and 36 stop on Independence Avenue.
I usually try to avoid driving in the city because of the traffic and parking situation. That morning was an exception. We left the house before 10 A.M. so there wasn’t any traffic. On Sunday morning, most street parking is free. But be sure to read the sign because a parking ticket in D.C. can be expensive. On Sunday morning, parking along Independence Avenue is plentiful.
The United States Botanic Garden
The USBG is one of the oldest botanic gardens across North America, established in 1820. Today, the garden exhibits approximately sixty-five thousand plans and trees. The garden offers tours and programs for all visitors. Please contact them directly for more information.
The entrance is located on Maryland Avenue SW. You can find a lot of plants and flowers around the front garden located by the entrance. There is an information booth as you enter the building.
The Conservatory is part of the main building. It displays the diversity of plants from around the world. There are 14 sections in the Conservatory:
- Garden Court
- The Tropics
- West Gallery
- Rare & Endangered
- Southern Exposure
- Medicinal Plants
- World Deserts
- Children’s Garden
- Garden Primeval
- Plant Adaptations
- East Gallery
The entrance leads to the Garden Court where you can see various economic plants. These plants produce fiber, fragrance, spices, wood, and many others.
The next one is the Tropics, which is my favorite. This is an enclosed area with a 93-feet high glass dome. I believe it’s a temperature-controlled area because it felt warmer and humid. As you can see, the building looks stunning.
The Rare and Endangered section showcases the habitat of rare and endangered plants.
And then there is a display of blooming orchids on the left side of the Conservatory. According to the visitor guide, there are over 5,000 specimens in this section. This is something that we don’t see every day, given there are four seasons in North America.
Towards the Medicinal Plants section, there are many plants we commonly see in our daily life. For example rosemary, thyme, oregano, mints, and many others. I didn’t take a photo, but these plants are definitely better than what I have in my kitchen!
A side note – The restroom is located on the south side of the Conservatory. It’s very clean. There is also a water fountain and refill station where you can refill your water bottle.
You can also discover and learn about cacti, succulents, and plants that grow in the hot and dry climate.
Moving on, we walked through the Hawaii section where you can find various plants adapted to live in a volcanic environment.
Garden Primeval is the reconstruction of the Jurassic era. These include groups of plants that have survived for hundreds of million years until today.
Besides the Conservatory, there is also an outdoor space that features American plants, a complement to the USBG. There are 10 sections in the National Garden:
- Butterfly Garden
- First Ladies Water Garden
- Kitchen Garden
- Lawn Terrace
- Regional Garden
- Rose Garden
- Rain Garden
- Terrace Gardens
- Bartholdi Fountain
By the time we finished exploring the Conservatory, it was almost noon. The temperature reached the low 90s on Sunday, so it was very warm. We briefly walked through the garden where you can find Mid-Atlantic native plants as well as a rose garden.
Come from someone who doesn’t have much interest going to museums, The United States Botanic Garden exceeded my expectations. I very much enjoyed exploring a variety of plants and trees. It’s definitely very educational. The last time I visited the USBG, it was winter, so there wasn’t much to see. But in the summer, it’s a whole different game.
If you’ve never been to the USBG, I highly recommend it. I think the best time of year to visit is in Spring and Summer. During these months, there are more things to see especially the National Garden. I also recommend to either take the Metro or come early on Sunday.
Finally, don’t forget to apply some bug repellent because I came home with mosquito bites!