While many would argue that Washington, D.C. still suffers its swampy origins, we nevertheless enjoy a good variety of above ground botanical splendor, from a National Aquatic Garden to carefully curated conservatories. As Spring approaches, gather the chickadees and bunny hop on over to one of these eight family-friendly reserves across the area, many featuring events for you and your little garden party-goer throughout the year.

1351803970_8eb9ec9fa9_zPhoto: Darren and Brad via Flickr

US National Arboretum
With over 450 acres free to roam, the National Arboretum offers a number of family friendly attractions from Bonsai exhibits and cherry blossom tram rides to the famed Capitol Columns, featuring a few dozen Corinthian style structures, originally a part of the U.S. Capitol building in the early 1800’s, now sited on a 20 acre meadow, perfect for a game of tag. Though dedicated to botanical research, the Arboretum‘s horticulturalists offer popular public programs including Full Moon Hikes and a Springtime Garden Fair and Plant Sale with children’s activities, set for April 28-29, 2017.

3501 New York Ave., NE
202-245-2726
Online: usna.usda.gov

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Visit this National Park Service property in every season, featuring a variety of terrain, and Park Ranger-led Garden Walks every day at 2 p.m., all year-round. Stroll the birding boardwalk, and get ready for lotus and waterlily season this summer, when the Park is busiest as the ponds fill with the blooms of these unique plants best viewed early mornings when every toddler is at his best. Reserve your Sunday for Reading with a Ranger, recommended for four to seven year olds. And be sure to check in for the 2017 Lotus and Waterlily Festival, to be scheduled for a date in July.

1900 Anacostia Ave., SE (Deanwood)
Online: nps.gov/keaq 

6877524165_e33d880eb8_zPhoto: Dennis Roth via Flickr

U.S. Botanical Garden
The ultimate floral fantasy land on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the Botanical Garden is a treat for all ages with over the top conservatory displays designed to wow. The Children’s Garden entices young horticulturalists, while the Sprouts and Seedling programs for children through age ten, offer multiple week learning opportunities. The Garden also welcomes babies in carriers (no strollers allowed) and their caretakers every Thursday for the Snugglers program, sure to bring some serenity for you and your little one.

100 Maryland Ave.
Online: usbg.gov

Brookside Gardens
Its paths pleasantly intertwined with Wheaton Regional Park (think: playground plus miniature train ride nearby), Brookside Gardens is a favorite of local families running and strolling, and anticipating exhibits like Wings of Fancy, where kiddos get up close and personal with caterpillars and monarchs. Brookside offers a multitude of programs all year long from Wintertime lights to Summertime camp, with smore’s campfires and storytimes in between. April 23 marks the 2017 Earth Day Festival.

1800 Glenallan Ave. (Wheaton, Md)
Online: montgomeryparks.org

Photo: Charles and Nikki via Flickr

Hirshorn Museum Sculpture Garden
Not of the flora and fauna type, this is the perfect garden destination for those with pollen allergies, or anyone who enjoys outdoor beauty and play. Although climbing on the sculptures is not allowed, it’s a great place to run around a bit after a Mall museum tour. Take a seat on a bench to soak it all in before you then explore “Orchids: A Moment” through May 14, an exhibit featuring the mysterious plants placed in surprising places all around the Hirshorn plaza and building. Visit April 30, 2017 for Orchid Family Day: From a Moment to Infinity.

Independence Ave. and 7th St., SW (L’Enfant Plaza)

Online: gardens.si.edu

Brighton Dam Azalea Garden
Don’t miss the chance to stroll the gently sloping Brighton Dam as over 22,000 azalea plants reach their height around Mother’s Day each year. Located across the road from the spraying mist of the dam, itself a fun adventure with the kids, the area was conceived as a garden by former National Arboretum Director B.Y. Morrison, who spawned his own variety of heartier azalea called Glen Dale, named for the community in Maryland.

Brighton Dam Rd. (Brookeville, Md)
Online: wsscwater.com

Photo: Bryan Pocius via Flickr

Greenspring Garden Park
Listed as a National Historic site, this Fairfax County retreat complete with wooded valley stream, ponds, and over twenty demonstration gardens, prides itself as a resource for area residents looking for everything from kid friendly programs to workshops featuring the latest gardening trends. Garden Sprouts, weekday nature playgroups for preschoolers are popular, as are weekend Family Fun programming like the upcoming Women’s History Tea Party on March 25, or a celebration of National Poetry Month in the gardens on April 1, 2017.

12000 Government Center Pkwy. (Farifax, Va)
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

American Horticulture Society’s River Farm
As home to many national headquarters for all kinds of organizations, it’s no surprise D.C. is the American Horticulture Society’s hub, and what else might you expect to find at their site, but a beautiful collection of gardens on the banks of the Potomac in Alexandria. Kiddos will love a visit to the Children’s Garden, containing within it 13 themed spaces, designed specifically for kids and the way they play and learn. Don’t miss also the giant meadow with a Black Walnut tree believed to date from the time of George Washington’s ownership of the property. Join River Farm for Spring Garden Market April 21 – 22.

7931 E Boulevard Dr. (Alexandria, Va)
Online: ahsgardening.org

Do you have a favorite D.C. garden? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

—Carolyn Ross