The National Aroboretum
Located in northeast Washington, D.C., the U.S. National Arboretum is a 446-acre living museum dedicated to enhancing the value of ornamental and landscape plants through research, conservation and exhibition. Featuring 9.5 miles of roadways, the Arboretum’s beautiful gardens can be explored by foot, bike or car. Although the Arboretum is free, for $30 visitors can take an after-hours hike through the moonlit meadows, gardens and woods. Other special activities include the “Kid’s Climb,” the “Azalea Bonsai Exhibit: Putting on the Glitz” and “The Bonsai Saga: How 53 Japanese Bonsai Came to America.” Open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the National Arboretum is the perfect destination for anyone looking to spend a summer day outdoors.
U.S. Botanic Garden
Created by Congress in 1820, the United States Botanic Garden is a perfect destination for history and plant lovers alike. As one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America, this living museum aims to demonstrate and promote the importance of celebrating and preserving the natural world, especially to the American youth population. Popular activities include taking a free guided tour of the grounds, photographing the beautiful landscape and spending the day sketching outdoors. The “You Can Grow It!” exhibit, on view until Oct. 17, allows visitors to learn more about gardening. Open 365 days a year, the Botanic Garden offers a peaceful respite from the busy city life at any time.
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens
The gorgeous Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens houses a comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art and French decorative antiquities. Guests can also view the original owner Marjorie Merriweather Post’s elaborate wardrobe and jewelry collection, as well as take an audio or guided tour of the mansion or gardens. Located just 5 miles from downtown Washington, the oasis of Hillwood can be reached by car or bike, with parking available on-site. Those who prefer to use the metro will have to take the red line and exit at the Van Ness-UDC station located 1 mile from the Estate. Admission is just $10 for college students, making the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens an excellent and affordable place to escape for the day.
If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of D.C. for more than just a couple of hours, consider taking a weekend trip to Virginia’s breathtaking and historic Shenandoah National Park. The park contains over 500 miles of hiking trails through the Blue Ridge Mountains, including the most scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail, making it a perfect destination for seasoned mountain-climbers and new adventurers alike.
Those who prefer a more mellow experience can enjoy a calming drive along Skyline Drive, the National Scenic Byway that rides along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Other popular valley activities include wine tasting, stargazing, horseback riding and outdoor concerts. After a long day of exploring the beauty of the park, guests can relax by booking a room at the Skyland, Blue Meadows Lodge, Lewis Mountains Cabins or by camping in the park itself. No matter your interests, a trip to Shenandoah National Park is sure to satisfy and provide a breath of fresh air.