The United States Botanic Garden, known as USBG for short, is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States. Formally established in 1850, it is located in Washington DC at the foot of the Capitol Building and next to the National Museum of the American Indian. Included among the facilities of the United States Botanic Garden are the Conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park. The Conservatory was built in 1933 and features two courtyard gardens to go with its 10 garden rooms under glass. The National Garden is an outdoor garden that only opened to the public in 2006. As for Bartholdi Park, it was established in 1932 and essentially serves as an annex garden to the USBG.
Part museum, part gardens, and part city park, the United States Botanic Garden puts the focus on the value and importance of plants and how they contribute to the well-being of humans and the planet in general. The "museum-style" displays are found inside the Conservatory, and they include plenty of lush, beautiful greenery and flowers that can be especially joyful to view in the winter when it’s much more bleak outside. The amount of flora in the Conservatory is almost overwhelming, with the orchid specimens alone numbering more than 5,000.
When the weather is nice, visitors to the United States Botanic Garden can step outside the Conservatory and indulge in the outdoor areas as well. Among the outdoor areas is the Children’s Garden, which is on the Conservatory grounds and provides kids with a place to both learn and play. Over at the National Garden, approximately three acres serve as the home for various features. These features include the Regional Garden with its Mid-Atlantic native plants, the Rose Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the First Ladies Water Garden, the Lawn Terrace, and the Amphitheater. The Lawn Terrace is a welcoming area for outdoor tours and sometimes plays host to festivals and summer classes. The Amphitheater is an outdoor venue that is primarily used for educational programs.
Should a visit to the United States Botanic Garden figure on your list of things to do in Washington DC, then you’ll certainly want to save time for the museum’s garden annex – Bartholdi Park. Situated just across Independence Avenue from the Conservatory, this favorite garden of many Washington DC natives spans about two acres and generally serves as a demonstration garden where visitors can learn about horticultural techniques. The plantings at Bartholdi Park are constantly updated in an effort to keep up with the latest horticultural trends and gardening methods. Bartholdi Park is open from dusk to dawn, and when the weather is warm, its centerpiece fountain is in full glory. This fountain is made out of cast iron and weighs more than 15 tons. Standing 30 feet tall, it was designed by none other than Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi – the designer of the Statue of Liberty.
Admission to the U.S. Botanic Garden is free. A visitor services desk is found at the Conservatory and is staffed each and every day. Among other things, the visitor services desk provides information on USBG tours. Both the Conservatory and the National Garden are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, including all weekends and holidays. Bartholdi Park, as noted previously, is open from dusk to dawn.