The National Mall is the centrepiece of downtown Washington. It is an open air National Park and it and many of the features within it and near it are run by the National Park Service. The National Mall runs from the Washington Monument to Capitol Hill at the East end and the Memorial Parks (sometimes referred to as the National Mall West area) runs from the Lincoln Memorial to The Washington Monument. Many other cool things are right near by including the National Archives, the White House and the Capitol Building.
I’ve already reviewed many of the features of the National Mall and Memorial Parks such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and other National Park Service features, the Smithsonian Museums with in depth reviews of our favorites, the Air and Space Museums and the Natural History Museum. But there were a few more aspects that I’d like to highlight that we enjoyed with our kids that didn’t fit into any of my previous posts.
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Unlike most of the Museums and Galleries along the National Mall the National Gallery of Art is not run by the Smithsonian Institute. We didn’t make it inside the Gallery, but they also operate the sculpture garden located between the National Gallery of Art and the Natural History Museum. The Sculpture garden opened in 1999 and surrounds the pre-existing fountain that doubles as a skating rink in the winter months. The sculpture gardens features contemporary art sculptures and is a great place to introduce kids to art.
The great thing about outdoor art galleries for kids is that it’s okay to be loud, and it’s okay to run around. Although you can’t climb on the art, it’s a lot less stressful to take your young kids through a sculpture garden than an indoor art gallery.
When I heard that you could rent skates and skate around in the middle of the sculpture garden, I was enchanted with the idea. Gordie had never been on skates and Nicky still couldn’t even walk so we didn’t end up doing it but I still think it’s really cool that you can.
Surrounding the skating rink are many different large sculptures.
There are also gardens. I imagine those would be prettier in warmer months.
I love how this sculpture is echoed in the crane in the background.
Gordie was amused running around the gardens but was still a little young to to appreciate the sculptures themselves.
This house was one of my favorite pieces. It’s only made up of 3 pieces (2 wall pieces and a roof piece), but the way it’s constructed it looks like it is actually house shaped. If you look at the bottom of the house in this picture you can get an idea of what it really looks like.
United States Botanic Gardens
http://www.usbg.gov/ The United States Botanic Gardens was another place we enjoyed taking the kids. It’s open all year round and there’s a large indoor conservatory so you can see some rich green colors even in the winter. A couple sections including the children’s garden are closed during the winter but there is still a lot to see. Oh, and like so many DC attractions, it’s free too.
The Botanic Gardens are located to the South East of Capitol Hill. They are the oldest continually operating gardens in the United States and is
home to almost 10,000 plants, some over 165 years old.
It was cold the day we went here (actually that pretty much described every day on our trip) so it was a really nice break to be able to walk through the warm indoor gardens.
Gordie has always been fond of flowers so we were pretty sure he was going to enjoy our visit too.
And there were some really interesting flowers too.
We let Gordie use our pocket camera so he could take some picture too.
Inside the main room there there a couple of bridges which Gordie loved walking over and terraces along the walls that you can go up and see the gardens from a different perspective.
There are a number of smaller themed rooms including dessert plants, and medicinal plants that you can access off the main room.
There is also a room that talks about the the countless ways in which plants enrich human life. There’s also a lot of opportunities to smell different kinds of plant derived fragrances. Gordie thought that was a lot of fun, and the display with all the metal flowers was really pretty too.
In the middle of the National Mall, in front of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries building you can find the Smithsonian Carousel. The Carousel brings a bit of whimsy that you really don’t find any where else in the National Mall. The original Carousel was installed in 1967 and was replaced by the current carousel in 1981. The current cost to ride is $3.50 per person and it is open almost every day of the year.
When Gordie saw the carousel as we walked towards it he was super excited to ride it. Even if it was snowing a little bit.
The horses are beautiful but Gordie elected to ride in the little ice cream cone shaped seat.
So you can’t even see him. In warmer months, you can even find popcorn wagons, outdoor puppet and musical performances. That wraps up our trip! I am so happy that we were able to go, I can hardly believe how many cool things we saw. I had always wanted to go to Washington, DC but never thought I would actually end up going. Now that we’ve been I really hope to go back with the kids when they are a little bit older.
Where have you always wanted to go? Do you think you’ll end up going?
[…] The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden is centered around a fountain that doubles as a skating rink the the Winter. Across the mall you’ll also find the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden. If you are feeling a little more confident, the Hirshorn Museum features contemporary art exhibits – the art displayed may not always be beautiful but will rarely be boring making it a great starter museum for kids. […]