Can you keep a secret? Hillwood Museum and Gardens, located about a mile from the National Zoo, straight up Connecticut Avenue, is the perfect place to take kids whose fascination for art and culture, and sparkly things runs deep—they museum houses the largest Faberge Easter egg collection outside of Russia, a diamond nuptial crown worn by the Russian Empress Alexandra on her wedding day, and a ginormous piano decked out in photos of European kings and queens (don’t worry, everything is strategically positioned out of reach of tiny hands). But, what’s inside this dreamy museum is only half the story. Step outside, into the museums gardens, for another magical experience.rsetia67

Get in the garden.
Take a stroll through the Lunar Lawn where kids will be able to see all the way to the Washington Monument (fun fact: Hillwood sits atop a hill that is less than 4 miles away from the monument making it an ideal viewing point sans a crush of tourists). You can then hike down through the Friendship Walk, the Rose garden or the Japanese garden where you will spy Hotei, one of the seven Japanese-Buddhist gods of luck. Marjorie Post, who was heir to the Post Cereal fortune (aka Fruity Pebbles) who lived in the mansion from 1955 to 1973, collected treasures throughout the world, filling the home and garden with them.

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Take a tea break.
If kiddo is into hosting tea parties, make a reservation at the Hillwood Café for their special Sunday afternoon tea. For $15 visitors get their choice of teas from english breakfast to orange pekoe (there’s also milk and juice on tap), finger sandwiches and mini pastries. Or just stop by the cafe for a quick lunch—the  café uses fresh veggies from their cutting gardens in their salads, soups, and quiches.

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Grub in the green.
You can also bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks, and have a picnic in the gardens. Hillwood has its own free parking lot, or if you live closer, strap on helmets and bike over (the bicycle racks are aplenty). The mansion doles out picnic maps and blankets at the Visitor Center. Insider tip: set up your picnic on the Lunar Lawn, which offers the most open space for kidsto let out some energy before continuing on your adventure.

Cost: $15/adults; $5/kids; Free/6 and under
4155 Linnean Ave., NW (Van Ness)
Phone: 202-237-2468
Online: hillwoodmuseum.com

Have you ever been to Hillwood Museum and Gardens? Tell us about your visit in the comments section below.

—Heather Selig

Photos courtesy of Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens via Facebook, rsetia67 via Creative Commons