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NEWS: Washington, D.C. Gardens to Visit this Fall

Autumn in the garden

By Lynn Neagley.

If your fall travel plans include the Washington, D.C. area, there are plenty of garden touring options available to enjoy. The return of cooler temperatures and the beauty in the change of seasons is always welcome too.

Take a look at what the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia) offers and be sure and pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes!

Washington, DC

With so much to see and do in our nation’s capital, public gardens and woods are everywhere. Yet they are often overlooked in the rush to go indoors to the many museums and government buildings along the Mall.

The United States Botanic Garden, including the Conservatory, Bartholdi Park, and the National Garden should be at the top of any visitor’s list. Free and open year round, outdoor gardens in Bartholdi Park and the three acre National Garden, showcase native and butterfly friendly plants, vegetables, herbs, and small trees and shrubs with the added amenities of benches, picnic tables and amazing water features including the historic Bartholdi fountain. Rotating and permanent exhibits inside the Conservatory are not to be missed either. All information, including the schedule of tours, is available at

A block away, the Smithsonian, which encompasses 11 museums, has acres of public gardens to enjoy. Like the USBG, entry to the gardens and docent led tours are free. With the abundance of food trucks in the area, plan on enjoying a picnic in a garden or near a fountain.

All of the above are steps away from several Metro train stations. Using these and other forms of public transportation is the only way to travel since street parking is practically non-existent. WMATA’s trip planner and app will save your sanity and your vacation.

Far less crowded are the woods and grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum and Olmsted Woods at the National Cathedral, Their websites: and provide all you’ll need to plan a visit.


Brookside Gardens, in Silver Spring (Montgomery County) is an award winning 50 acre public display garden open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days of the year. Both the Gardens and the adjacent Brookside Nature Center have miles of trails, self-guided tours, visitor centers and free parking. Details are at:


Not surprisingly, River Farm, the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society, has acres of free public gardens and orchards. Driving along the George Washington Memorial parkway or cycling on the Mount Vernon Trail are the two transportation options available.

Mount Vernon

The riverside estate of George Washington, Mount Vernon is well worth the price of admission and the drive down the parkway for visitors of all ages. Besides a look into the Manor house, factual tours of the restored enslaved quarters, agricultural buildings and gardens have been added. A multi-million dollar education and visitor center is a welcome addition to this iconic place. Mount Vernon’s Instagram account and website at are both entertaining and informative.

SDHS member Lynn Neagley recently moved back to San Diego after several years in Washington, DC.

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