U.S. National Arboretum Tours and Activities
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The US National Arboretum is a 446-acre (180-hectare) expanse of forests, meadows, and gardens connected by 9 miles (14 kilometers) of roadways. Though most known for its diverse tree collection, the arboretum is also home to the National Bonsai Museum, National Herb Garden, and the 200-year-old U.S. Capitol columns.
Congress established the National Arboretum in 1927 to breed and foster plants from different parts of the US. An advisory board, which included expert American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, designed the arboretum to feature sculptures and other details alongside its collection of plants.
While the National Arboretum is free to visit, few tours include it on their itineraries, due in part to its large size. Private tours of 10 or more people can be booked through the arboretum’s website if reserved three weeks in advance.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The arboretum is a must-see for nature lovers.
- Download the US National Arboretum mobile app to easily navigate and identify plants.
- Don’t forget a hat and comfortable walking shoes.
- Food trucks are sometimes stationed in the park, but not always guaranteed. Visitors often opt to bring a picnic.
- Restrooms, information, and vending machines can be found in the Arbor House and Arbor House Gift Shop.
How to Get There
If traveling by car or bicycle, follow New York Avenue to the intersection of Bladensburg Road. A right turn onto R Street takes you to the front gates. Via public transit, hop off at Stadium–Armory Metro station and take the B2 Metrobus to Bladensburg Road. Located 2 miles (3 kilometers) north of the Capitol Building, the arboretum grounds are best experienced by car or bicycle.
When to Get There
The National Arboretum is open daily from 8am to 5pm (closed on December 25). As one of the largest free-to-visit green spaces in Washington DC, the busiest time to visit is on weekends from 12 to 3pm. Opt for a weekday morning run, walk, or bike ride for a quieter experience. Annual highlights include azalea and cherry tree blossoms in early April, and a Japanese Bonsai Festival every June.
Abandoned US Capitol Columns
The 22 Corinthian columns in Ellipse Meadow are easily mistakable for ancient Greek ruins, when, in fact, they were a part of the original 1828 US Capitol building. Forty years later, architects realized the columns were too weak to support the fully constructed dome, which was much larger than they had anticipated. After a long campaign to rescue the abandoned columns, the National Arboretum became their permanent home.
Address: Washington DC, USA
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