The D.C. area has some of the grandest—and kid-friendliest—gardens this side of the Atlantic. If you haven’t hung out in any of them yet, there’s no better time to start than now (yay! Spring!). To help get you started, we’ve rounded up the prettiest places to see the buds in all of their blooming glory. Pack a picnic and your camera; garden hopping is a surefire way to shake off that winter funk.

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United States National Arboretum
Tucked away in Northeast, the National Arboretum is the place to see Cherry Blossoms while avoiding the crowded Tidal Basin. On April 12, there’s an open air tram that little ones will be psyched to ride around on. If they need to burn off some steam, you can opt for the self-guided tour and see nearly 40 varieties of flowering cherries (April – May). Bring some snacks and plop down in the Grove of State Trees, where you’ll learn which trees represent each state. If Junior is a fan of family bike rides, break out his wheels because the Arboretum has 9 ½ miles of trails with nary a tourist in sight.

3501 New York Ave., NE (Arboretum)
202-245-2726
Open: Fri-Mon, 8 am-5 pm
Cost: Free
Online: usna.usda.gov

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River Farm
Overlooking the Potomac, River Farm has views so beautiful, even the kids will be speechless. The gardens, meadow and orchard are a perfect spot for checking out spring flowers, and teaching your mini-gardener the difference between annuals and perennials. Once she’s grasped the idea, reward her with playtime in the Children’s Garden. With 13 (not a typo!) different gardens to choose from, kids won’t know whether to play pirates on the boat, get lost in the mini-maze, fight for the princess at the castle or relax on the sod sofa. This farm is also the headquarters for the American Horticultural Society, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to snag a free packet of seeds to plant with the kids at home.

7931 East Boulevard Dr. (Alexandria, Va)
703-768-5700
Open: Mon–Fri, 9 am–5 pm; Sat, 9 am–1 pm (Apr–Sept)
Cost: Free; donations appreciated
Online: ahs.org

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Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden
For the sophisticated toddler, Hillwood offers the opportunity to view Versailles-like gardens in an urban and much closer setting than Paris. Some of the earliest bloomers at Hillwood include Snowdrops (giant white flowers), Lonicera Fragrantissima (a lemony smelling honeysuckle) and Helleborus Orientale Hybrid (the Lenten Rose). If you have no idea what the Latin means (we are only pretending we do), ask one of Hillwood’s super knowledgeable guides why a rose needs such a unique name. On Thursday mornings, kiddos can hunt for dragons, prep for a royal ball or even look for unicorns during the three-part Preschool Series where little ones learn what makes Hillwood such a magical place.

4155 Linnean Ave., NW
202-686-8500
Open: Tue–Sat, 10 am–5 pm
Cost: $15/adults; $6/kids; Free/kids 6 and under
Online: hillwoodmuseum.org

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Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Give the little ones a bit of culture, and stroll around the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. Not only can you see 40 different varieties of cherry blossoms, but you can practice saying hello (An nyoung ha seh yo) and bowing (a sign of respect) in the Korean Bell Garden. The only garden like it in the area, kids will be spellbound by the Bell of Peace and Harmony, the Dol Hareuband statues (symbols of protection and fertility), The Wall adorned with carvings and reliefs of the four seasons, and traditional Korean pavilions. You’ll learn all about Korean flowers, and you don’t even need a passport! With more than 80 acres of flowers, parks, trees, and trails, little ones will be totally tuckered out and probably dreaming of Mugunghwa (the national flower of Korea) by the time you get the car started.

9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct. (Vienna, Va)
703-255-3631
Open: Daily at 10 am
Cost: $5/adults; Free/kids
Online: nvrpa.org

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Tidal Basin
We’d be remise if we didn’t mention one of the best places in the world to see blooming blossoms. The Tidal Basin is famous for its Yoshino Cherry Trees, but it’s also a great place to impart a little history lesson on just why the trees are so important. Hint: They were a gift from Japan in 1909, but because of bugs the original trees had to be destroyed. Another shipment arrived in 1912, and created the picturesque setting we see today that is made up of more than 3,000 trees. If kiddo is extra sweet, treat her to a paddleboat ride and take a few album-worthy selfless along the way.

Independence Ave. at 15th St.
Open: Daily
Cost: Free
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

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Where is your favorite spot to scope out Spring flowers? Tell us in the comments section below.

—Hilary Riedemann

Photos courtesy of Kelly Long via Flickr, River Farm via Facebook, Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden via Facebook, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens via Facebook, kulnivek via Flickr