Did you know that you can explore a humid, tropical rainforest right outside the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC? Filled with fountains and waterfalls, this mystical place contains plants from around the world. And, like many other DC attractions, it’s completely free to visit!
Known as the United States Botanic Garden, this unique DC landmark is directly supervised by Congress and maintained by the groundskeepers of the Capitol Building. In a sense, it’s America’s garden.
Founded in 1820, the US Botanic Garden is also the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States. Even some of the plants have 19th century origins. Some of the ferns and cycads were originally brought to the building by the Wilkes Expedition, which explored the Pacific Ocean and surrounding lands from 1838 to 1842.
The diversity of specimens at this place is phenomenal! There’s cacti, orchids, palm trees, succulents, carnivorous plants, as well as common garden fruits and veggies like strawberries and spinach.
If you plan to visit the botanic gardens, you can expect to see over a dozen different areas. You can explore rainforest canopies, desert gardens, Hawaiian waterfalls, and prehistoric palms. You can even learn about gardening and aquaponics.
Yet, despite having so much to offer, you can see everything in an hour or two and view the iconic Capitol Building from a new perspective. So, if you’re pressed for time on your DC trip, you might want to go here, instead of one of the bigger museums.
Speaking from experience, my wife and I only had a morning to explore the National Mall before we had to drive home, so the Botanical Garden was perfect for our schedule. Especially since I tend to move through places at a slower pace because I’m always stopping to take pictures and video.
Now, during your visit, you might have to rub shoulders with a few more tourists than you’d like, but at the end of the day, this underrated attraction is 100% free and open 365 days a year. So why not add this pit stop to your Washington, DC vacation?