Washington, D.C. – Gardens, Museums, and Estates off the Beaten Track

Want to see more in Washington, D.C. than the standard museums at the National Mall? Here’s an insider’s look at some of D.C.’s best and often overlooked attractions. I am a local, and these are some of my hometown stand-outs.

#1 Glenstone Museum

Probably my favorite museum in the D.C. Metro area is Glenstone Museum. I admire this one in particular because it is set on 200-plus acres and there are art installations in the woods.

How would you like a 37-foot high Jeff Koons masterpiece in your backyard? His magnificent Split-Rocker has over 50,000 flowering plants. #SplitRocker2000 is worth the trip alone, but Glenstone offers surprises and delights at every turn. For example, as we were walking the nature trails, an unexpected audio installation made us jump.

The art pieces are quite striking, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. The @GlenstoneMuseum owners toured the world to purchase their eclectic collection. They own around 1,300 pieces that change out periodically. Understandably, you can’t take photos inside the museum, which, actually, is smart idea as I read recently how “Selfie attempt results in damage to artwork by Salvador Dali and Francisco Goya.” It’s nice to unplug and immerse yourself and experience all the art. Plus, I love how the architecture at @glenstonemuseum makes you feel as if you are in the wilderness when sitting in the museum and gazing outward.

I am grateful to live in such a beautiful city full of art, free to the public. I hope to return soon and stroll through their beautiful artwork to enjoy the seasonal landscape.

Insider tip: you will need to reserve tickets as the Glenstone is booked in advance. Bonus –  the visit is free!

#2 Dumbarton Oaks

A garden is a friend you can visit anytime @dumbartonoaks. The museum and garden at Dumbarton Oaks are such gems in Georgetown, D.C. I hope you will be able to walk through the enchanting oasis and enjoy the magic of its landscape.

Dumbarton Oaks started as a country house for Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss. The 53-acre grounds are perched at the highest point in Georgetown. A year after their 1920 purchase, the Blisses teamed with Beatrix Farrand, a landscape gardener, to design the garden of their dreams. Mildred Bliss and Ms. Farrand worked hand in hand for 30 years designing and deciding every detail of the treasured garden. Along with plants, they chose hardscape such as benches and urns as well as drawing the footprint with terraces and borders.

It is always a treat to visit Dumbarton Oaks Garden. I love how the landscape changes every week, and how this tranquil place makes me feel like I’m walking inside another world, like inside a fairy tale. Each visit the foliage surprises me with new colors. I look forward to seeing the unexpected at each sojourn and discovering a new treasure previously missed. Check on their website for which flowers will bloom next.

Insider tip: I recommend visiting this garden for Cherry Blossoms to avoid the downtown traffic in Washington, D.C.

#3 United States National Arboretum

You may want to wander the fields of 446 acres of loveliness at the United States National Arboretum. Used as a botanical research center, the Arboretum is fantastic work of landscape architecture. Its 22 Corinthian sandstone columns have a long history. They witnessed presidential inaugurations from Andrew Jackson to Dwight Eisenhower when they were part of United States Capitol serving in the east central portico. They also witnessed rallies, protests, and other acts of democracy. The columns were dismantled from the Capitol in 1958 and finally made their home at the arboretum in 1990. The restoration, relocation, and dedication ceremony took a little time.

Insider tip: Best time to visit is May. That’s when to catch the Spring bloom at its height.

#4 Hillwood Museum

Another stunning property in Washington, D.C., the 25-acre Hillwood Museum is the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post Cereal fortune. Hillwood’s noted collection of Russian and French decorative arts is sure to rev your creativity along with dazzle your eyes. When Ms. Post envisioned the garden in the 1950s, she saw flowers blooming in the Spring and Fall – the times she was in residence. Nowadays, the garden puts on a yearlong show. There are a variety of gardens, including Japanese and French inspired ones. Be sure to add @hillwoodmuseum to your list. This is a must see.

Insider tip:  Call  re: photo shoot policy.

I love discovering and exploring new places to share with you, especially when found near my home. If you like the quiet corners of public places, you will appreciate these locations. (Bonus – No need to edit people out of your social media posts.) I frequent them when on a break from my busy travel schedule.

I hope you get a chance to visit the Glenstone, Dumbarton Oaks, Arboretum, and Hillwood. As always, check on reserving your tickets in advance. These are popular places.

What special places are near your home? Please share with us. We’d love to hear about them.

Until next time …

 

 

 

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