Flingers, First Trip to DC?

Martin Luther King Memorial along the Tidal Basin

Gardening get-togethers like the Garden Blogger Fling and Garden Writer events are the best possible ways to see great private gardens, and the Fling attendees coming to the Washington, D.C. area next weekend will see lots of them.

But like Elizabeth, when I visit a city that’s new to me for a gardening event, I often take time off from the private gardens to see the city. Be a tourist! For her it’s making time to see art museums and in D.C., maybe some of the other fabulous and free Smithsonian museums.

My own touristy adventures include taking a citywide tour in Seattle, being driven to some crazy-interesting places in Pittsburgh by a locally raised garden writer, and skipping a few gardens to watch the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco, just after marriage equality was declared by the Supreme Court.

Lincoln Memorial at dusk.

So for any Flingers visiting DC next week who’ve never seen seen DC’s amazing sights, here’s what I and the dozen other gardening locals I consulted with recommend you see here.

We seem to agree that the number one regret heard from DC visitors is not having allowed enough time in the Mall and Monuments area to see the iconic spots they’ve seen on TV and in movies all their lives. I’ve lived here 46 years, working near the famous sights (including in the Capitol building) and still get goosebumps every time I see them up close. Corny but true.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Visitors often miss the favorite memorial of local gardeners because it’s not on the Mall itself but along the Tidal Basin, close to the Jefferson and MLK Memorials. That’s of course the FDR Memorial, the only one in town designed by a landscape architect.  Nearby, visitors climb the stairs up the Lincoln Memorial, where so many important events in our history took place. They’re equally moved by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where family members can be seen taking impressions of the names on the wall. From there it’s a quick walk to the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and the new African-American History and Culture Museum.

An easy walk to the north is the White House, which visitors love walking around, especially if they like the current occupant. (I visited the gardens or residence five times during the Obama years.)

Grand Reading Room in the Library of Congress.

Another easy walk from the Mall is eastward to the Capitol with its spanking new visitors center, and the Supreme Court and Library of Congress just across the street. They’re all special spots that bring up dozens of memories, I bet.

So with this unabashedly biased pitch for the attractions of the surprisingly beautiful city that I love so much, I wish this year’s Flingers a wonderful visit!

See the gardens and landscapes of the Mall/Monuments area in this post, though I wouldn’t recommend seeing the sights via the slow bus route I took for the story. 

Photo credits: Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Library of Congress (by Carol H. Highsmith) and MLK by Harvey Leifert. 


  1. The Vietnam Memorial is indeed moving, even for this Canadian. Haven’t been back to D.C. in more than a decade. Looking forward to seeing it again. I might even walk to the White House, regardless of occupant.

  2. Spot on, Susan., with the goosebumps. I’m old enough to remember all the controversy over the design of the Vietnam Memorial, the “so-called stupid plain black wall”, from when it was built and then saw it for the first time almost 20 years later and was humbled and astonished by the power of it, that long walk down into and around the wall with all those names of young men and women engraved. Many of the other sites are just as awe-inspiring….the Holocaust Museum, National Archives, etc.

  3. A couple of fine articles on the National Arboretum in D.C. One good, one bad.



    Also, two things I enjoy doing when I take the half hour trip to the museums and gardens on the Mall is to slowly drive by or get out and walk the home gardens on Capitol Hill. Many are into pollinator plantings. Also, D.C. is attempting to up their tree canopy to prior levels and they encourage homeowners to care for inventoried street trees even when not on their property. Want to identify the tree you just walked by? You might well be able to do it with this map:

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