Model Train Exhibit at the US Botanic Garden

Posted By Katie on Nov 25, 2014

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Updates for 2015

The exhibit, titled Pollination Station, will be open Nov. 26, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016 and will feature oversized bees, flowers, and butterflies in a winter wonderland setting.

Can you think of anything more festive than greenery and poinsettias?  I had heard for years that my kids would love the model train exhibit at the US Botanic Garden, and last year I finally took them to see it.  We hope to return every year!

The US Botanic Garden is a beautiful atrium very close to the US Capitol and a delightful place to visit any time of year.  But during the holidays, it is transformed into an organic, creative holiday display.

us botanic gardenEach year a different theme is chosen.  When I visited in 2013, the theme was World Fair.  The exhibit featured a Thomas the Train engine moving on a track through iconic symbols from World Fairs.  We saw the Eiffel Tower from the Paris World Fair in 1889, the ferris wheel from the 1893 Chicago World Fair, and the space needle from the Seattle World Fair in 1962.

Aside from the train and track, everything in the exhibit is made with organic materials.  I was delighted by the attention to detail, the hot balloons, and or course the stately U.S. Capitol on display in the atrium.

The 2014 exhibit at the US Botanic Garden will feature exhibits from the seven seas, including lighthouse, mermaids, and pirates.

us botanic garden

Eiffel Tower at 2013 World Fair exhibit.

Here are a few tips that will help make your holiday visit to the US Botanic Garden stress-free:

1.  Plan for crowds.

This holiday exhibit is wildy popular, and for good reason.  Thanksgiving weekend and other weekends in December will be packed.  We visited between Christmas and New Year’s in 2013, and while we did stand in line for about 15-20 minutes before we could enter the exhibit, the crowds were manageable.

The US Botanic Gardens recommends you visit mid-week in early December for the least crowds.

On a crowded day, you may be standing in line outside the building, so dress warmly but in layers.  Once inside the warm atrium, we needed to shed our coats and botanic garden

2.  Check the hours online.

Generally, the exhibit is open from 10:00-5:00 p.m. but some Tuesdays and Thursdays in December there are evening musical presentations and the garden stays open until 8:00 p.m.

3.  Travel lightly.

There are no locker or storage facilities at the US Botanic Garden.  We brought a stroller, and while we loved having it to pile our coats in, it was challenging to wheel around in the crowds.   We ended up carrying the little ones and just trying to keep the stroller out of everyone’s way.  If you can go without, I would suggest leaving a stroller botanic garden

4.  Enter through the Model Train Entrance.

There are two entrances to the US Botanic Garden during the holidays.  If you want to see the model train display, you must wait in line and enter through the model train entrance.  You can then see the rest of the Seasons Greetings exhibit, but you cannot enter the other door and see the model trains.

5.  Don’t miss the National Christmas Tree.

Before or after your visit to the US Botanic Garden, make sure to walk over to the Capitol and see the National Christmas Tree on display on the Capitol lawn.

US botanic garden

National Christmas Tree and US Capitol.

6.  Transportation Tips

The easiest transportation is via Metro to the Federal Center SW station on the orange or blue line.  There is limited metered street parking, but it could be hard to find a parking space during the holidays.  I paid $17 to park at a parking garage at 321 Virginia Ave. SW. It was a short walk to the US Botanic Garden and worked well for my family if you choose to drive.

Planning a trip to Washington D.C.?

We recommend booking through Get Away Today Vacations. Read about our partnership with Get Away Today here.

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Katie is a busy mom living in Northern Virginia with her husband and five children ranging in age from toddlers to teens. When she isn't traveling, she is planning her next trip. Katie loves all types of travel, but she especially loves beach vacations. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a favorite family destination.


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