DC’s Best Gardens with Free Admission

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Spring is legit springing and these gardens are blooming with vivid colors! Skip the wooded hike and and take a socially-distant stroll through one of these public gardens and parks. These urban gardens offer a change of scenery with an unbeatable admission; all are free! Read on for the best places to see flowers blooming in Washington, DC this spring.

Bishop's Garden at Washington National Cathedral

Duck through archways and lounge in gazebos; Bishop's Garden, located on the south side of the Washington National Cathedral, feels like a secret oasis just miles from downtown DC. There are plenty of shaded benches to rest while your little ones stretch their legs. Beyond Bishop's Garden, there are 59 acres of grassy fields, wooded paths and landscaped gardens to explore! 

Safety regulations: Masks must be worn while on cathedral grounds. The National Cathedral is currently closed to visitors.  

Hours: Daily, dawn-dusk 
Location: 2112 S St NW, Between N Florida Ave & N 21st St
Phone: 202-537-6200
Online: cathedral.org/gardens

Bartholdi Park

The US Botanic Garden is currently closed (see below), but Bartholdi Park, which sits across from the conservatory off Independence Ave., is open and a welcome place to enjoy a tabletop picnic. Bartholdi Park has served as a demonstration garden for over 80 years, showcasing native plants to the Mid-Atlantic region in different gardening styles using sustainable planting practices. Come back at night and enjoy the glow of Bartholdi Fountain! 

Hours: Daily
Location: 245 First St SW, Corner of Independence & Washington Ave., Capitol South 
Phone: 202-225-8333
Online: usbg.gov/bartholdi-park

United States National Arboretum

Many say the Arboretum is under utilized, but you’re in the know thanks to us and we say, don’t miss one of the most beautiful gardens in our area. Located two miles northeast of the Capitol building, with entrances on New York Avenue and R Street, DC’s Arboretum is home to more than 400 acres of woods, trails, ponds and display gardens, plus the captivating National Bonsai Museum.

Safety regulations: The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum and Administration is temporarily closed. Masks are required at all times while on Federal lands. 

Hours: Daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Location: 3501 New York Ave NE, Northeast Washington
Phone: 202-245-2726
Online: usna.usda.gov

Franciscan Monastery

Franciscan Monastery

Nestled in the Brookland neighborhood not far from The Catholic University of America, the Franciscan Monastery replicates the shrines and buildings found in Jerusalem. The stunning gardens and grounds are open daily to the public. Guided tours and access to the church and catacombs is currently suspended due to COVID-19. If you and your littles would like to tour the lower and upper gardens without making your way to the Monastery, there is also an online virtual tour here.

Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. 
Location: 1400 Quincy Street NE, Brookland 
Phone: 202-526-6800
Online: myfranciscan.org/gardens

Heyden Memorial Garden

Right next to the Yates Field House you'll find this hidden gem of a garden on Georgetown University grounds considered a best-kept secret by many locals. Finding the garden is half the fun! It's located on the east and north sides of the Heyden Observatory. You'll find small ponds and water features, an arch to run under and views of the Potomac River. The peaceful silence is occasionally interrupted by overhead airplanes; small children will delight in seeing their low-flying path.

Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 
Location: West Rd. NE, Washington, DC 20057
Phone: 202-687-3600
Online: georgetown.edu

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth is said to be the place where water, wind and land dance, and we say that’s pretty accurate. It is the only national park devoted to cultivated water-loving plants.  Kids love exploring the park’s marshes and discovering exotic water lilies and lotus. This is a great place to take your little ones on a nature-loving hike, especially if you have a budding bird-watcher on your hands. The park is rich and varied in natural and cultural history.

Hours: Daily, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 
Location: 1550 Anacostia Ave NW, Anacostia 
Phone: 202-426-6905
Online: nps.gov




United States Botanic Garden

The US Botanic Garden is not currently open to the public due to COVID-19, but hop online and you can explore and discover some of the most unique blooms in the world, including rare beauties such as the African Tulip Tree, the Scarlet Rosemallow and the Jungle Lollipop via the Virtual Tour. Once this DC treasure re-opens, be sure to make visit to the outdoor Children’s Garden, where the kiddos can use gardening tools and watering cans for a true hands-on experience, spend time in the conservatory, which offers a showcase of plants from around the world, as well as the national outdoor garden, which is filled with roses. 

Safety regulations: The conservatory is currently closed due to COVID-19. You can visit virtually here, or take a moment to smell the flowers at Bartholdi Park (see above). 

Hours: Temporarily closed. Please visit virtually
Location: 100 Maryland Ave SW, National Mall 
Phone: 202-225-8333
Online: usbg.gov


Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

Perched on the highest hill in DC’s posh Georgetown neighborhood, this breathtaking garden is listed on National Geographic’s top 10 as the sixth most beautiful garden in the world. Sadly, both the house and gardens are currently closed due to COVID-19. You will need to wait until they reopen to visit   Dumbarton's 10 acres of lush, sculpted greenery. But while you wait, you can check out the museums exhibits online as well as view photographs and drawings of the gardens. When their doors open again, be sure to let the kids roam through the terraced garden rooms and vistas, and walk down the many meandering brick pathways.

Safety regulations:  Currently closed due to COVID-19, but you can still visit virtually. 

Hours: Currently closed. Visit online here. 
Location: 3120 R St. NW, Georgetown
Phone: 202-339-6400
Online: doaks.org

—Meghan Yudes Meyers and Jamy Bond

featured photo: Allan Mas via Pexels


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