U.S. National Arboretum and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum

#17 in Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.
U.S. National Arboretum and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum picture
Bob Balestri/Getty Images

Key Info

3501 New York Ave NE

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Museums, Parks and Gardens, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
3.9

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Located northeast of downtown Washington, D.C., the United States National Arboretum rewards its visitors with beautiful outdoor spaces. The arboretum’s outdoor collections range from dogwoods to azaleas to magnolias, but none of the plants are the area’s primary attraction. Instead, most travelers make the trek here for the National Capitol Columns and its bonsai collection. The National Capitol Columns were built in 1828, decorated the Capitol building until 1958 and found their way to the arboretum in the 1980s. Now, the columns serve as an excellent place to snap photos or enjoy a picnic. The area’s bonsai trees sit in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, which boasts an astounding 300 miniature trees that staff members rotate through the museum’s three pavilions and special exhibits gallery.

Previous travelers appreciated the U.S. National Arboretum’s bonsai collection and Capitol Columns, but the 446-acre space offers significantly more for nature lovers. Visitors suggest wearing a pair of comfy sneakers and visiting during the spring or summer so that you can best take advantage the arboretum’s numerous winding walking trails and experience peak bloom for its various gardens.              

The United States National Arboretum is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round, while the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through February. Travelers can visit the museum for free. The arboretum has entrances on R Street Northeast and New York Avenue Northeast, and its grounds are accessible via bike or car or the B2 bus route. For more information about the U.S. National Arboretum, visit its website.

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More Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial1 of 24
Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials2 of 24
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Lincoln Memorial

Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of the District's many monuments, the larger-than-life Honest Abe is also among travelers' favorites. History buffs might enjoy the man of few (albeit powerful) words' two famous speeches, the second inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address, which are both etched into the memorial's opposing walls. Meanwhile, art history and architecture aficionados will enjoy admiring the building's striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away.

Though most agree the Lincoln Memorial is worth checking out during the day or at night, many recent travelers say the most captivating time to visit is after dark when the attraction is lit and less crowded. Plus, evening temps will make peak summer visits more comfortable.

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