The U.S. National Arboretum is a large beautiful park tucked away in a busy, bustling section of Washington. It may remind you of New York’s Central Park, but it feels even more remote. Established in 1927, the arboretum is 446 acres of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants that are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes. It’s a beauty.
WHAT YOU SEE: When you visit the arboretum, you’ll see the following collections:
Asian Collections: features plants collected from the floras of temperate Asia, with an emphasis on plants from China, Korea, and Japan.
Azalea Collections: features late April blooms along a landscaped trail that climbs to the top of Mount Hamilton where you can catch a view of the U.S. Capitol.
Dogwood Collection: many varieties and species of dogwoods and a nice view of the Anacostia River.
Fern Valley: native ferns, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees in a natural setting.
Friendship Garden: a landscape of perennials that bloom from the earliest Spring bulbs to Winter’s ornamental grasses.
Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-Growing Conifer Collection: this five-acre hillside includes groups of spruces, firs, and dwarf pines.
Holly and Magnolia Collections: this 10-acre planting features magnolia blossoms in the Spring, and berries and holly in the Winter.
National Bonsai & Penjing Museum: beautiful, large collection of traditionally-designed Bonsai trees from Japan, China, and North America. Some of the trees are nearly 400 years old.
National Boxwood Collection: the most complete living collection of boxwoods in the world, covering 5 acres and containing more than 100 Buxus species and varieties.
National Herb Garden: two-and-half acres of 800 kinds of herbs from around the world, growing in 10 theme gardens and a cottage-style garden filled with 11 categories of historic and species roles and their companion plants.
Perennial Collections: includes daffodils, peonies, and award-winning day-lilies that all bloom from late February through July.
Youth Garden: 1-acre organic hands-on garden where kids can learn to plant and tend vegetables and herbs. This garden encourages touching.
National Capitol Columns: twenty-two sandstone Corinthian columns that once stood at the east portico of the U.S. Capitol now sit atop a hill at the heart of the arboretum.
The arboretum is truly a living museum. But it’s also a lot of territory to cover. The arboretum offers a great tour via tram that makes it much easier to see most of its highlights. Tram rides are given six times a day on the weekends and holidays: 10:30 AM; 11:30 AM; 1 PM; 2 PM; 3 PM; and 4 PM. Adult tickets are $4; seniors are $3; children ages 4-16 are $2; and children under 4 are free. The 10:30 AM tour is only available if it hasn’t been reserved for a private tour.
GOOD FOR KIDS: The National Arboretum is great for kids, especially if they visit the Youth Garden. The Bonsai collection may also be interesting to them. The Arboretum is also great for bike rides and picnics.
GIFT SHOP: There’s a small gift shop that also includes bathrooms. The shop sells gardening tools, garden decorations, books, ornaments, and snacks like ice cream, cookies, and bottled water.
WHERE: 3501 New York Avenue, NE
HOURS OF OPERATION: Open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM, except Christmas.
PARKING: Free and plentiful on the grounds of the arboretum.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: The closest Metro stop is Stadium Armory on the blue and orange lines; transfer to Metrobus line B2 and get off on Bladensburg Road at Rand Street; walk to R Street and head down two blocks to the arboretum entrance.
WEBSITE/TELEPHONE NUMBER: http://www.usna.usda.gov/202-245-2726
SPECIAL EVENTS: The arboretum’s most popular event is the Full Moon Hike, which is a four-mile hike through moonlit gardens, meadows, and woods. The cost is $22 and requires advanced registration. The arboretum also has several lectures about gardening and its collections. See the calendar for upcoming events.