Where to Find the Best Gardens in DC

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Every year Washington DC welcomes millions of visitors traveling to the National Mall to take in all the sights and history. Many will start coming in the springtime to catch a glimpse of the beautiful cherry blossom trees at the Tidal Basin. They are alluring, but can sometimes be elusive. Especially when you are dealing with nature, you never know exactly when they are going to bloom or how long they will even last. In general, they will stick around for a week to 10 days. This already leaves a short window of time to see them and that doesn’t include the fact that these flowers are fragile and can fall off their branches with a sudden gust of wind or rain.

So this guide is for all you flower nature lovers who may have missed the cherry blossoms and are here to see what else the city has to offer. Don’t worry because there’s a lot! From Saucer Magnolias to Star Magnolias, Tulips and Forsythia, there is no shortage of beautiful blossoms in the city. You just have to know where to go to see them.

But if you are only interested in the cherry blossoms, I’ve got your back. Click here for the cherry blossom guide!

The National Mall:

Washington DC, especially the mall area, is a very nice area to walk. I highly suggest just taking the day to wander and get lost. There is no doubt that you will run into flowers and beautiful trees while walking around the area. Even the side streets that lead up to the Mall have pretty florets to look at. But if you’re on a time crunch, here are a few specific places to go:

Enid A Haupt Garden

This should probably be your first stop in the spring.  The Enid A Haupt Garden located behind the Smithsonian Castle is one of my favorite places to be in the National Mall. It’s an enclosed garden with all kinds of flowers including stunning pink Saucer Magnolia trees that line the edges. Basically the best place to go for some colorful images.

For slightly more seclusion, head towards the Moongate garden within the Smithsonian Garden. It’s a wonderful area with a black granite pond as its centerpiece. I usually head to the Moongate Garden first because there are so many interesting and creative compositions you can create at the gate.

And for bloom updates, you can follow Smithsonian Gardens on Instagram.

George Mason Memorial

George Mason Memorial, Washington DC, magnolias, spring, national mall, tidal basin, cherry blossoms, landscaping, flowers, photography, travel, cherry blossom festival

Between the Tidal Basin and Parking Lot A, you will find the George Mason Memorial with an abundance of Forsythia and Magnolia trees. It’s also has a great view of the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin so you could potentially capture them all in one frame. A great escape from the crowded Tidal Basin but with so much more color. If you find yourself in the area, I highly suggest stopping by.

Floral Library

On the opposite side of the Tidal Basin, you can find the Floral Library. A little patch of land that is blooming with flowers at any given time in the spring and summer. My favorite is the tulips that usually bloom a little bit after the Cherry Blossoms. A great place to take a few pictures with the Washington Monument in the background.

Other Places in the City Outside the National Mall:

Obviously, the National Mall isn’t the only place where you can go in the Capitol City to find beautiful blossoms. There are even more places than where I’ve mentioned in this guide. But here are some of my favorites:

US Capitol

The United States Capitol is not technically a part of the National Mall but it is located really, really close to it. And it’s on this list not just because it’s of the architecture, it’s an amazing place to be in the spring. Walk around the Capitol grounds and you’ll be amazed at all Saucer Magnolia trees, Forsythia, and even cherry blossoms! Any time of the day is great to visit but my preference is early morning when there aren’t as many people around. It gives you plenty of opportunities to capture the Capitol dome amongst the beautiful blooms without worrying about other people in your shot.

Rawlins Park

A small park located in Foggy Bottom right off of Interstate 66, is one of the best places in the city to see Saucer Magnolias in full bloom. A place that locals love but can be easily missed when you’re not paying attention. If you want to capture some amazingly pink images, this is the park to be!

Out of all the times I’ve been there, it’s never been super packed. I’m usually the only person there with the exception of maybe 2 or 3 others. Otherwise, you could have this whole place to yourself! Parking is fairly easy as well. Depending on the time of day you’re there, you can park right along the park, otherwise, there are so many streets that lead the park that you could easily find a spot there.

Bishop’s Garden

When I suggest the National Cathedral, not only am I suggesting to visit the Cathedral itself, but the adjacent Bishop’s Garden should not be missed. To be fair, there are beautiful trees all around the Cathedral, but my favorite tree of them all is this Star Magnolia tree. It’s different than the Saucer Magnolias that I’ve mentioned in the previous suggestions because they are smaller, white and look like a star 🙂 I just love how you can get a peek of the Cathedral through the branches. Cherry blossoms can also be found on the Cathedral grounds.

Dumbarton Oaks Garden

We’re spoiled living in Washington DC. Out of all of the suggestions I’ve mentioned on this list, this is the only one with an entrance fee. Everything else is free! But the $10 admission to get into the garden is well worth the money.

So if you arrive in the DC area a little bit later in the spring, I highly recommend visiting to see the Wysteria. The center courtyard is filled with them and it’s an amazing display of purple. You honestly feel like you’ve just been transported to Europe with the beautiful landscaping here.

United States Botanical Garden

Last but not least, if there’s any doubt that you won’t see any spring flowers, then your best bet is the United States Botanical Garden. My favorite part is the conservatory. A multi-level room that’s lined with windows and an abundance of plants. It can get hot and steamy in there, but that only adds atmosphere to your images 🙂 Walk around the entire botanical garden for displays of orchids and plants ranging from jungle to desert climates.

So I hope you enjoyed this guide. As you can see, Washington DC truly comes alive in the spring. The city is beautiful and the spring colors just accentuate the beauty even more. Cherry blossoms are beautiful, but there are so many other places to visit that will make your trip special. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below!

For more tips on taking pictures in the Washington DC area in general, check out my book, Snap DC. I’ve laid out all my tips and tricks for photographing the city and I hope it inspires you to get out there with your camera just a little bit more:

Snap DC: Your Guide to Taking Extraordinary Photos of the National Mall and Beyond...
  • Pan, Angela B (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 210 Pages - 04/26/2018 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)