The holidays always bring an extra bit of magic to the US Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C, and this year’s Pollination Station train exhibit is no exception. The hall leading into the exhibit is a buzz with childhood enthusiasm, and let me tell you, it’s spreading.
Head into the East Gallery of the Conservatory in the US Botanic Garden and you will find Pollination Station in full bloom. Trains chug next to you, and overhead, as you marvel at each little house, wall and tunnel built from plant materials. You and your children will delight at the bees working away for their queen, some learning in the classroom, while others get rocked in their nurseries, or at least that’s what the dioramas in the giant beehive lead us to believe.
Parents, have no fear, Thomas is on the tracks. Your little ones do not have to fret as mine almost did when he couldn’t find his beloved friend from the Isle of Sodor. However, you do have to remind your children (and eager adults) to keep their hands to themselves. This is a not a hands on exhibit, and should be treated like artwork. The exhibit has a definite entrance and exit, and lingering for hours isn’t possible, as many families are lined up outside to catch a glimpse just like you. If your children want to watch trains for a bit longer, head out of the Pollination Station exhibit and explore the rest of the US Botanic Garden Conservatory, as you hunt for a few more trains and pollinators.
US Botanic Garden
Pollination Station isn’t just a train exhibit, it is also a scavenger hunt throughout the US Botanic Garden Conservatory. Find any stamp booth and grab a pamphlet where your child can see the five different plants throughout the conservatory that they need to search for. Each plant has a corresponding booth with a stamp on it so your children can track their progress. Not only will this keep your child engaged, but it will also allow you to explore the conservatory and see all the US Botanic Garden has to offer.
Enter the Garden Court and you will find many Washington, D.C. landmarks created from plant materials, including the Supreme Court, White House and Lincoln Memorial. Quiz your kids to see if they recognize any of the famous U.S. capital buildings.
Directly across from the Pollination Station train exhibit, through the Garden Court, you will enter a room containing one of the largest Christmas trees in Washington, D.C. Here you will also find another train. This is where you can sit on a bench to rest your feet, while your children walk around and around the tree base as they follow the toy train, check out the little town home replicas and wonder why they can’t have a tree that big at their house.
Trains aren’t the only thing your children will enjoy during their visit. Head into the rainforest where you can get above and below the plants. In winter, the orchids are in bloom, bringing a burst of color to an otherwise dreary sky outside. Step out of the rainforest and you will find a desert, along with other climates you can visit in the U.S. You never know, it may just inspire your next vacation. Whether or not a train is involved, well, that’s up to you.
Know before you go
- U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20001
- Hours: open 10am-5pm daily, including all weekends and holidays.
- Admission: free
- Parking: There is some street parking available. Weekends can be easier to park. The metro can also get you there on a busy weekday.
- Closest metro station: Federal Center SW (head towards the U.S. Capital. The US Botanic Garden is next door.)
- Strollers? Yes, but you must keep it with you at all times.
- Special programs: ask for a Junior Botanist kid’s backpack of exploration, for ages nine and above, at the Visitor Services desk.