Gardens of Washington DC by Old Town Trolley

Old Town Trolley Tours are a great way to see the sights of Washington – including stunning public gardens and landscape-style memorials. So for plant-lovers, a local garden writer has compiled these tips and images of the best gardens along the Trolley Tour route. Just refer to stop numbers and titles.

2. White House 


The White House Gardens and Grounds are open to the public one weekend in spring and another weekend in fall. See find out more, and especially WHEN, read “How to See the White House Gardens and Grounds. And click here for interesting info about this iconic garden.

3. Navy Memorial/National Gallery of Art


The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden combines art, plants and a fountain for cooling off or ice skating. In the summer it hosts free jazz concerts on Friday nights.

5. U.S. Capitol, U.S. Botanic Garden, Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial


The Capitol Grounds include 290 acres, with its central 58 acres designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, considered the greatest American landscape architect of his day. Learn lots more here.

Leave lots of time to see the U.S. Botanic Garden, at the foot of the Capitol. Top attractions include the Rose Garden, an all-native Regional Garden, inside the Conservatory, and across Independence Avenue, Bartholdi Park, a favorite of local gardeners. This is the most-visited botanic garden in the U.S., in most years.
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Nearby is the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which opened in November of 2014 and immediately drew raves. It’s beautiful and moving.

6. Air and Space Museum, Museum of the American Indian, Hirshhorn Museum

Gardens on the Mall side of the Air and Space Museum are appreciated for their flowering cherry and magnolia trees in the spring and the stunning bark of their river birches in the winter.

american indian

The Native Landscape at the Museum of the American Indian includes four habitats: upland hardwood forest, wetland, cropland, and meadow.


Don’t miss the sunken Sculpture Garden on the Mall side of the Hirshhorn Museum, above.

7. Holocaust/Mint/Smithsonian Castle
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Between these two attractions and the Tidal Basin you’ll see a “Tulip Museum” in the spring and beds of drought-tolerant perennials in the summer.


There are terrific Smithsonian Gardens at this stop, including the entrance gardens at the Castle and Freer Gallery, a rose garden near the Castle, and the serpentine Ripley Garden just east of the Castle – another big favorite among local gardeners.


Across the street from the Smithsonian Metro entrance is a vegetable garden, one of the USDA’s many People’s Gardens. It’s adjacent to the USDA’s Farmer’s Market, open Fridays May-October.

9. FDR and MLK Memorials 
Park Service

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is a favorite of locals. Designed by the world-famous landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, it’s a series of water-filled garden rooms, each telling the story of a different Roosevelt administration.

To license this image go to:

Photo by George Brown.

Just nexxt door around the Tidal Basin is the Martin Luther King Memorial.  It opened in 2011, so its trees and smaller plants are still filling out but already, its cherry blossom show is impressive.

10. Lincoln, Vietnam War, Korean War, and WWII Memorials 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial exemplifies the new landscape-style memorials that’s winning design competitions and converts to a new style. Though controversial at first, its modernist design by 21-year-old Yale student Maya Lin came to be extremely popular with veterans and the general public. Dedicated in 1982, the American Institute of Architects ranked the memorial #10 on their list of America’s Favorite Architecture.


The Korean War Memorial

Another landscape-style memorial, this one dedicated in 1995, is winning admirers.

12. American History Museum

The American History Museum’s Victory Garden, authentic to the types of victory gardens grown during WWI, is located along the museum’s east side.

13. Natural History Museum


Constitution Avenue is much prettier thanks to these tropical plantings along front of the Natural History Museum.


Also at this stop is the Smithsonian’s Butterfly Habitat Garden, which runs along 9th Street between Constitution and the Mall. It’s a complex and stunning garden for all pollinators, not just butterflies, and succeeds in a very tough spot.

14. Newseum/National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden combines art, plants and a fountain for cooling off or ice skating. In the summer it hosts free jazz concerts on Friday nights.

18. Washington National Cathedral

Bishops Garden3

One of DC’s top hidden gems is the Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral. The entrance to the sunken garden is near the Cathedral’s popular cafe.