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Local Gardens Light Up for the Holidays

Many public parks and gardens have discovered that their garden spaces can become winter wonderlands by adding lights and outdoor activities, providing a fun way to explore our local parks. Most were dark last year, but in 2021, the garden spaces are going all out to offer holiday lights, walks, and drives. So, dig out your warm hats and gloves and make a plan to visit one of the many garden displays this year.

Trains crisscross the world of agriculture in the outdoor display at the
U.S. Botanic Garden.

US Botanic Garden
For many years, it has been a Capitol Hill tradition to gather the kids and out-of-town relatives for an outing down to the US Botanic Garden. At the bottom of Capitol Hill, 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, the U.S. Botanic Garden will offer outdoor holiday displays including festive decorations, trains, evergreens, and lots of lights.  Devin Dotson, media specialist for the Botanic Garden, says they are very lucky to have such great outdoor space including the gated outdoor gardens, the Terrace Gardens, and Bartholdi Park.  This season there will be holiday displays in the Conservatory windows, and some will feature a variety of colorful poinsettia blooms.  Many will remember the wonderful collection of D.C. monuments and landmarks made all from plant parts by the world-famous Applied Imagination, Kentucky-based horticulture design firm, and they will be on display in the windows, The trains will circulate through agricultural displays from across the United States and around the world.  The displays will also be made from plant parts, and include

farm scenes from Spain, Uganda, and Australia (the trains will not be running during inclement weather). Remember that the Conservatory and public restrooms remain closed due to the COVID restrictions of the U.S. Capitol complex.

The holiday displays are free to the public, and the Terrace Gardens and Bartholdi

Park are open dawn to dusk.  The gated gardens are open 7:30 to 5:00 p.m. daily.

The trains run between 10 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.  Everything is closed on Christmas

Day, Dec. 25th. For more information contact www.USBG.gov/Holiday.

U.S. National Arboretum
The Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) for the first time ever will be selling Christmas trees and sponsoring a Holiday Weekend Dec. 11 and 12.

The trees and holiday garlands will be furnished by Almost Heavenly Trees from West Virginia, says Anne McGarvey, Marketing and Communications Manager for FONA.

“On Saturday we will have a Holiday Market, and lots of family friendly activities including a train ride for little ones, letters to Santa, and dancing to music from a

Live DJ,” reports Anne.  FONA has partnered with the Bladensburg Road Main Street group to bring over 20 vendors to the Arboretum site.  FONA will be selling gift memberships, locally produced Christmas ornaments, and a limited quantity of honey made from Washington Youth Garden bees.

Trees can be preordered up to December 10, and can be picked up during the weekend sale, delivered to your home, or if you live in Virginia, they can be picked up at a location in Alexandria.  Pre-ordering guarantees you can get the tree of your dreams.

Looking for a healthy fun New Year’s Eve, there are plenty of spots still available for forest walks that day and evening.  What a great way to start the New Year.  Check the FONA website for details.  The walks are open to all, and pay what you can afford.

The US National Arboretum is located at 3500 New York Ave., NE.  The Holiday

Sale will be right off the New York Avenue entrance.  For those looking for an escape from all the holiday tinsel, the Arboretum grounds is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm everyday except Christmas day, December 25th. 

Seven Nights of Lights
Fourteen minutes from Capitol Hill is the one of the city’s best kept secrets, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, and its gardens. Located near Catholic University, at 1400 Quincy Street, N.E., the gardens come to light for seven nights during the Christmas season.  Luminarias that honor loved ones are placed throughout the porticos and upper gardens from December 24 at 1:00 p.m. through December 31. Over a thousand candles are used and kept going during the week of lights.  It is a quiet and beautiful tradition and those honored are also remembered in the friar’s daily prayers for the week.  There is parking available.

For more information contact https://myfranciscan.org/

The gardens have over 1000 roses that bloom in late spring and summer, and many

herbs like lavender can be purchased in the gift shop.  The gardens are attended to by

local volunteers and the spring garden sale is becoming one of DC’s best garden weekends.

Ice & Light – Winter Village
Many of the local park and gardens in the DC area have holiday shows that are

reasonably priced and provide a fun outdoor event for dates or family adventures.

The Cameron Run Park in Alexandria is one park that provides animated animals, Christmas trees, and lots of space between things for kids to run and kick out

the Christmas jams.  The ice-skating rink is available for one-hour sessions.

Cameron Run Park is eight miles from Capitol Hill and is part of the North Virginia Parks system.  Other NOVA Parks offering holiday lights and programs are Bull Run Park, and Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna.  This is the 10th year for Meadowlark Winter Walks of Lights, and more than 80,000 visitors view the lights each year.


Children under two are free and the ticket price begins a $9.19 per person. Parking is available as well.  For more information:  https://www.novaparks.com/parks/cameron-run-regional-park

Polar bears make the season bright at Cameron Run Park, only eight miles
from Capitol Hill.

Garden Lights – Brookside Gardens
Montgomery County Parks has sponsored the Brookside Garden lights for 23 years.  More than one million colorful lights are switched on each night at 5:30 to 9:30 pm to the delight of young and old.  Many of the lights are shaped into handcrafted original art forms of flowers and animals.  This year there are new butterflies and the fog bubbles are back.  Brookside Gardens is located at 1800

Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, Maryland, and for more information: https://montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/brookside-gardens/

Christmas trees tower over Cameron Run Park with plenty of spaces for kids to run out the jams.

And if you really want an adventure,

Annual Lights on the Bay
A drive to Annapolis’s Sandy Point State Park, 1100 E College Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland offers a two-mile scenic drive that features 70 animated and stationary displays.  Admission is $20 per car.  The event is sponsored by the SPCA of Anne

Arundel County, so besides having a great holiday adventure, you are helping the

dogs and cats in the area. For more information: https://www.lightsonthebay.org/about-lights-on-the-bay/

There is much to do this holiday season outdoors in our local parks and gardens.

Our garden spaces are also great stress relievers if the holidays are getting a little too much for you.  Tis the season to bundle up and get out there.

Rindy wishes all a great holiday full of trees, and lots of greenery. Contact her at rindyobrien@gmail.com


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