Washington D.C. is a great place to celebrate the coming of spring– with its bright, sunny days and beautiful spring blossoms. I sometimes joke that I never really knew spring until living here. Here are a couple gems worth checking out if you’ve got the time to see spring bloom in the mid-Atlantic.
While the Tidal Basin is filled with cherry blossoms come the end of March and beginning of April– the place can be a zoo. Especially if you head there on a weekend afternoon. The other thing is that they come and go before you know it. I always end up feeling bad for the tourists who plan their trips hoping to hit peak season, and end up missing it by a week or two. Last year the peak bloom hit the Tidal Basin a week earlier than originally predicted. Lucky for those locals like me who visited the blossoms without the usual crowds.
I don’t think we’ll be so fortunate this year.
As luck would have it though, the area is filled with public gardens and nearby estates with blossoms all spring long. Here are a few of my favorites, as well as a few I’d like to visit sometime soon.
1.Longwood Gardens — Longwood Gardens is a bit of a drive out of the DC area (about 2 hrs. 15 mins), in the Brandywine Valley, but it is arguably one of the prettiest gardens I’ve ever been to. The gardens sit on 1,077 acres and have year-round blooms– with 4.5 acres just of indoor gardens. We visited during Mother’s Day weekend last year. The gardens were packed with bloom-seekers like us, but everywhere we turned there was something to see. Spring blossoms include roses, dogwoods, and columbines. A complete list of what’s blooming and when is available here. Hours change seasonally, and are available here. Tickets are $18 for adults and $8 for students during the peak season (now through the end of November). A discount is available for seniors and children under four are free. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348.
2.Meadowlark Botanical Gardens — A bit closer to home in Vienna, this place is on my must-do spring list this year. In March and April the gardens feature daffodils, tulips, magnolias, flowering cherries and native wildflowers. Hours vary by month, getting longer as daylight increases, and are listed here. Fees are $5 for adults, $2.50 for children 7-17, and an annual family pass is $45. 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna, VA, 22182.
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3.The National Arboretum — I like to think of the Arboretum as DC’s hidden gem for locals during the Cherry Blossom Festival. The 446 acre park is several miles northeast of the Capitol, and filled with flowering trees and blossoms in the springtime. Beginning in mid-March the park begins to show signs of spring with magnolias, wildflowers and azaleas. We usually head over several times in the spring to enjoy the Azalea walk and picnic in the magnolia trees. Without a doubt one of my favorite places in DC. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free. 3501 New york Avenue, NE.
4.Brookside Gardens — Located in Montgomery County, this 50-acre public garden becomes quite active in the spring. The Azalea Garden has more than 300 varieties that begin blooming in mid-April. The Butterfly Garden is also great if you love wildflowers and are teaching your little one about the life cycle of the butterfly. Be sure to check out the Trial Garden and Rain Gardens as well. Gardens are open from sunrise to sunset daily, and admission is free. 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD, 20902.
5.George Washington’s Mount Vernon — We all think of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, but in fact, he actually had quite the green thumb. Like his fellow president, Thomas Jefferson, he loved experimenting with new plants. Many of the gardens have been replicated to showcase how it would have been in Washington’s day. An upper, lower, fruit garden, nursery and botanical garden compose six acres of the estate today. Open April through August from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults, $8 for children 6-11. Annual passes are $28 for adults and $12 for children. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA, 22121.
6.Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello — There’s no place quite like Monticello in the spring. Spring brings blossoms along the west lawn and in the oval flower beds. In mid-April the estate will host Historic Garden Week, with events and tours of the gardens. Jefferson also experimented in his fruit and vegetable garden terrace. Today classes are taught throughout the spring on gardening, starting a vineyard and pruning. Tickets are $24 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-11. Annual passes are $50. Tours and classes are additional. Jefferson’s estate has flowers 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA 22902.
7.River Farm — Every time I drive past River Farm on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, I think I need to stop. The home, a former property of George Washington is home of the American Horticulture Society, and sits right on the Potomac. A list of what’s blooming and when is available here. Currently closed for improvements, but will reopen in April.Open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday- Friday and 9 a.m. – 1p.m. on Saturdays April – September. Admission is free (but donations are appreciated). 7931 East Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22308.
More Spring Fun
- Head over to Theodore Roosevelt Island to see springtime in action.
- Hit up the National Cherry Blossom early in the morning or just around dinner time
- If you haven’t signed up to run the upcoming Cherry Blossom race, sign up to volunteer Volunteers guarantee entry in the 2014 race
- On a rainy day head to the library for some indoor fun
- I’ve got a whole slew of museums I’m hoping to check out this year. Join me
- Head over to Arlington Cemetery. Spring is the perfect time to walk over the hills there