A Christmas Trip
One of the best kept secrets in DC is that Christmas Day is a perfect time to visit all the downtown monuments and the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Mall -- much easier parking and non-rush fares on Metro, crowds are fewer, and the holiday decorations are still fresh. Not just the outside gardens, but the USBG's main building is open too. (Tip: do not go near the USBG bathrooms that day unless truly desperate -- phew!) When I arrived on Christmas afternoon, it was crowded with families and couples. I'd wager fewer than 5% of those I saw there or viewing the Capitol Christmas Tree are from the DC-area. Judging by the bus-full of Japanese college students that pulled up, tour operators know about this Christmas Day option, but we need to let the hometown crowd know that there is an alternative to crowded movie theaters and bad Chinese food when the house starts to close in on them and they need a little air. Also surprisingly open on Christmas Day itself is Mt. Vernon, one of these years I'll make it over there to see that in full holiday regalia.
The day after Christmas, I toured Hillwood to see the Christmas decor and the winter interest in the gardens. This was my first time seeing it at this time of year and it is was stunning. During the growing season you don't realize how many gorgeous conifers and other evergreens are on the estate. The orchid house is a big draw as well. The perfumed air hits you as you enter and They close for the whole month of January, so you need to get over there quickly.
We have done in depth Daytrip articles in Washington Gardener magazine on Mt. Vernon, Hillwood, and the USBG, which can be purchased in our back issue collection. It is always fun to revisit them and see how they change each season.