Day in DC: the Botanic Gardens, the National Geographic Museum, and Arlington National Cemetery

Every time friends come in to town, my DC bucketlist seems to get longer, not shorter. It seems like DC is constantly adding museums, and of course even the museums I have been to change their exhibits quite frequently, warranting a return trip. So this week I found myself doing some repeat visits to some of my favorite DC sights.

US Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens¬†feature outdoor gardens (the regional garden, the rose garden, butterfly garden, lawn terrace, and amphitheater) as well as indoor biomes (jungle, desert, and primeval paradise). They are open in the summers till 7 pm, and in the winter until 5, and right now they have holiday music concerts on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 8 pm. One of their most famous acquisitions is their corpse flower plant, which is quite rare and bloomed this past August. You can watch the corpse flower bloom on their Youtube video, but in order to smell it, you’d have to visit in person. Entry is always free.

In addition to the permanent collections of plants and flowers, the Botanic Gardens feature different exhibits inside. Right now, two plant-based exhibits are taking place, now through January 1, 2018. One is the “Plant-Based DC Landmarks” featuring 11 DC landmarks, crafted from plant materials (sycamore leaves, willow sticks, seagrass twine, mahogany pods, birch bark, etc). The representations can take up to 600 hours to complete and they are created by a Kentucky firm headed by Paul Busse. Here are a few pictures:

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Another exhibit, also made of plant material, currently showing is the “Roadside Attractions”. Model trains chug around the Conservatory, weaving in and out of more than 70 US roadside attractions, such as the World’s Largest Pecan, the Peachoid Water Tower, and the Corn Palace. Here was a few of my favorites:

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National Geographic Museum

The last time I went to the National Geographic Museum, they were just about to open the “Church of the Holy Sepulchre” exhibit, so they offered us free return tickets. Yesterday I went back to see the new exhibit, and it is amazing. The use of 3D, multimedia, and virtual reality will literally make you feel like you have been transported to Jerusalem and are standing (or in some cases, hovering in the air) at Jesus’s tomb. In fact, if you get dizzy or nauseous on some rides, you might want to skip this one. It is fully immersive. I have actually been to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and I swear I some more of it in this exhibit (could have saved a lot of money by just going to National Geographic Museum!). It is my fervent wish that in the near future they will do a similar exhibit on Petra, Chichen Itza, Angkor Wat, or another world cultural site. I only took a few pictures, because for the most part, you just have to be there to really experience the 3D and the multimedia aspect of it. The museum costs $15 for both exhibits (currently also featuring “Wild: Michael Nichols” until Jan 15), with discounts for military, students, and children. The Jerusalem exhibit will run through August 2018.

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Arlington National Cemetery

The two best ways to get to Arlington National Cemetery are to either take the metro, or if you have a military ID, you can park on the Fort Myer base right next to the cemetery. In general, cars are not allowed in the cemetery unless you have a special pass. When friends come into town and we take them to see the Arlington National Cemetery, we like to show them Robert E Lee’s house (here you can go on a guided tour with the National Parks Service), John Kennedy’s grave and the Eternal Flame, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with the changing of the guard every hour (on the hour). The cemetery is free to visit, and you can take a shuttle bus throughout if you wish (it’s very large), and there is an app you can download for a tour or to locate a particular grave. They are open from 8 am until 5 in the winter, and 7 pm in the summer. ¬†In mid-December, Wreaths Across America lays a wreath on each grave in Arlington National Cemetery, as well as others across the US, and it is very beautiful to see the red wreaths on the 400,000 white tombstones.

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I’m still not “done” with DC yet! I just found out about the new Museum of the Bible, and I haven’t been to Ford’s Theater or the African American History and Culture Museum yet. Or the National Building Museum. Or the Dumbarton Oaks Museum. Or….

For a look at some of my other DC days, check out one of these posts:

A Day in DC: White House, Renwick, National Geographic, and T.Roosevelt Island

A Day in DC: Just the highlights

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