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US Botanic Garden Washington DC Holiday Train Display

Visit the Holiday Display at the U.S. Botanic Garden in D.C.

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If you’re in the Washington, D.C. area during the holidays, the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) has something special set up this year. Each year, the USBG staff puts together a really extraordinary train display, but this year, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park System, they have gone above and beyond.

U.S. Botanic Garden Holiday Train Display

Honestly, the model trains pale in comparison to the scenes through which they travel. This year, the display features replicas of over 50 National Parks and Historical Sites. Every replica is made out of different natural materials and they’ve done an amazing job.

This event simply isn’t limited to the train lover in the family; the craftsmanship of the displays is outstanding and worth the visit. My kids and I really enjoyed finding the parks and monuments that we’ve visited in person, such as the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in Colorado. Check out the USBG’s holiday website for a list of all of the parks and monuments that are featured.

US Botanic Gardens Washington DC - Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings Replica

Replica of the Mesa Verde National Park cliff dwellings at the U.S. Botanic Garden holiday train display in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Botanic Garden Hours and Entry Tips

The holiday train display will be open until January 2, 2017, and the USBG is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. There is a separate entrance for the train display, and the line can get long during the weekends and holidays. My usual plan is to arrive shortly before they open so I can grab a parking spot close by, and the line tends to be a little shorter earlier in the day. If the line is lengthy enough, you may also have to wait outside for a few minutes, so it’s best to be prepared for the weather. Fortunately, the line usually moves fairly fast, and you’ll be inside the conservatory before too long.

US Botanic Garden Washington DC - Teapot Dome Service Station Replica

Replica of the Teapot Dome Service Station in Washington state at the U.S. Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C.

Other Exhibits to Enjoy

After viewing the train display, you’ll exit into the rest of the USBG, and it’s really a wonderful place to spend a morning on a cold day. We like to head straight to The Tropics, located in the center of the USBG, where you can see plants from a tropical rainforest at tropical temperatures, and you can climb to the upper level to view the canopy.

Additional permanent exhibits ring The Tropics display, but make sure to see the seasonal displays in the Garden Court where you’ll find replicas of many of the monuments around town, then stop into the West Gallery to see the holiday tree that features ornaments from the National Parks this year.

Where to Eat and Stay Near the U.S. Botanic Garden

If you’ve taken my advice and visited the USBG in the morning, you’ll be looking for lunch as you exit. Right next door, the Museum of the American Indian has an excellent cafe (Mitsitam Cafe), or you can hit the food trucks that can be found in abundance around the National Mall. Try the fry bread at Mitsitam Cafe, a family favorite.

If you’re looking for a place to stay, consider the nearby Capital Hilton or one of the other Hilton hotels in Washington, D.C.

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U.S. Botanic Garden Holiday Train photo by Bob Stovall / CC BY 2.0

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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…

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