Renee Sklarew, author of The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., invites you to enjoy spring in our nation’s capital and beyond.
The National Arboretum is a living, breathing museum perched along the Anacostia River in the northeastern section of Washington, D.C. A staff of scientists and educators, along with 150 volunteers, are devoted to maintaining the Arboretum’s 440 acres of landscaped gardens and expansive green spaces.
This is one of the least-crowded places to see cherry blossom trees, but the thrill continues as hundreds of other plants begin to bloom in the spring. The Arboretum is famous for the giant azalea bushes that have been here for half a century. The National Arboretum is more than just a place to enjoy nature’s beauty—its underlying mission is to cultivate new and improved plants and trees that can withstand environmental issues like climate change.
The 53-acre Dumbarton Oaks garden sits at the highest point of vibrant Georgetown; and spring is when it’s most alluring. A parade of blossoming plants fills the weeks of spring—first the delicate dogwood trees and tulips, then the hanging wisteria vines and weeping cherry trees, heirloom roses, and a riot of peonies; the latter bursting forth in May, their showy faces drooping from the weight of such gorgeousness.
The Washington National Cathedral–Flower Mart festival, held the first weekend in May, is filled with music, crafts, kids’ activities, and a huge plant selection. During spring, All Hallows Guild, stewards of the gardens and grounds of the Cathedral, host Tour & Tea in the Tower, garden walks, and bird-watching in Olmstead Woods. Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. (famous for co-designing Central Park) designed the landscaping around the Cathedral, adorned with irises, peonies, and blooming shrubs.
Also in May is Passport DC, when visitors can tour more than 70 embassies and join in hundreds of cultural activities throughout the month. The events and shuttles are free. Take a peek behind the scenes of the international diplomatic corps to sample food, music, crafts, dance, and other performances from around the world without leaving DC. Presented by Cultural Tourism DC.
If flowers make you sing with joy, you’ll launch into an opera at Burnside Farms (Nokesville, Virginia). Just over an hour from Washington, D.C., 8 acres of spring blooms spread their glory across the fields. You know how you can’t pick other people’s flowers? Here you can! Burnside’s annual Festival of Spring typically begins in mid-April into May. This is the largest pick-your-own-flower event in the world! Burnside’s tulips and daffodils are there for the pickin’ when you buy a Passport. For kids who’d rather play, the farm has a playhouse, corn hole game, sandbox, and barnyard animals.
Less than an hour from the nation’s capital is Brookside Gardens (Wheaton, Maryland). This extensive garden paradise is a Maryland treasure. The property encompasses 54 acres, with 32 acres of cultivated gardens. Founded by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1965, its European landscape architect was inspired by garden styles found in Germany and Switzerland. The gardens are designed like separate rooms with different themes, including the Wedding Gazebo, Azelea Walk, Aquatic Garden, Japanese Tea House, Rose Garden, and Winter Garden. The stunning conservatory complex is like a tropical hideaway in the summer. Not to be missed!
Solomons Island located one and a half hours outside of Washington, D.C., is where the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay meet in Calvert County, Maryland. The town feels like a typical beach town with a boardwalk and adorable bed-and-breakfast inns with water views. Solomon’s Tiki Bar hosts outdoor happy hour every evening, when you can watch the fishermen return to the dock with their seasonal catches. The spring season is famous for rockfish and softshell crabs. Visitors can tour the Calvert Marine Museum and two historic lighthouses, Piney Point, Point Lookout, and much more.