One of my favorite holiday activities in our area is the annual Season’s Greenings exhibit at the United States Botanic Garden (USBG). So much so, our family has been visiting just about every year since our children were born. This year from November 23, 2017 to January 1, 2018, visitors will have the opportunity to see beautifully crafted roadside attractions, all made from plants and natural materials.
As in past years, you’ll enter the building through the front doors and be transported into a lush garden court filled with plants that provide economic support to their growers plus vibrant poinsettias, trees and other holiday decor. Intermingled within the plants are twelve D.C. landmarks all created from plant materials. They are situated similarly to how you would view them on a map of the National Mall.
New this year is the National Museum of African American History and Culture (a must-view model size here and a must-visit in person when you can get tickets!) You’ll also find the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Library of Congress, and even the Albert Einstein Memorial.
Once you’ve had your fill of the Garden Court area, make your way towards the East Gallery where you’ll take a trip through America’s roadside attractions. Note: you may want to start in the East Gallery if there’s a long line to get in and then double back to the Garden Court.
Kids and adults alike will love to spot the G gauge model trains (some featuring Thomas the Train) as they chug throughout the exhibit. There are 40 different roadside attractions in all that you’ll find in this room with a few scattered throughout the Conservatory. See the Jolly Green Giant Statue (Minnesota) as he towers over the exhibit, watch as trains circle about Mr. Potato Head (Rhode Island) and then follow the trains near Niagara Falls and the Maid of the Mist Boat (New York).
These attractions are really unique and I had never heard of most of them until my visit. The Ear of Corn Water Tower (Minnesota), the Boll Weevil Monument (Alabama), Lucy the Elephant (New Jersey), the Leaning Tower of Niles (Illinois) and Corn Palace (South Dakota) to name just a few. At the entrance to the exhibit are binders which give an explanation on all of the roadside attractions and offer visitors a chance to learn much more.
Who would have known that the Boll Weevil Monument in Alabama was erected to show appreciation to the insect who destroyed cotton crops back in 1918? This destruction led to the farmers changing to peanut farming, which in turn led to prosperity for the region. So it’s little tidbits like this that will make you the “Fun Fact Master” of your family.
Put Season’s Greenings Roadside Attractions on your holiday bucket list this year – you’ll come away with an appreciation for nature, history and arts all bundled into one.
- The USBG is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Admission is free.
- When you arrive, be sure to pick up an “I Spy” brochure to keep the kids engaged. They can find five stamps stations throughout the Conservatory and learn a little bit more about plants along the way. The brochure also includes a postcard that they can fill out and send to a friend.
- Tip: if you want a more “un-crowded” visit, head to the USBG after Thanksgiving weekend and during the first couple weeks in December. Once schools let out, crowds get larger. Another great time to visit Season’s Greenings: Roadside Attractions is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. while the live seasonal music concerts are taking place.
- Parking can be tough downtown, but if you go early, you can score a spot. If you don’t plan an early trip, we recommend taking Metro. The closest station is the Federal Center station, which is about four blocks away.