100 Maryland Ave. SW
HOURS: Mon.-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
The toastiest place in DC on a chilly winter day is the conservatory of the U.S. Botanic Gardens, a subtropical paradise southeast of the Capitol  containing more than 40,000 plants, including 5,000 orchids and thousands of roses.
This greenhouse, built in 1932 and completely renovated in the late 1990s, charms the senses: The fragrance of lingering blooms wafts through the air; the sun’s rays warm the hothouse; vibrant orchids and roses dance with the slightest movement; the sounds of a jungle waterfall tickle the ear.
The concept for a national botanic garden dates to the founding fathers: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison worked to establish one on the Mall by 1820.
Today, the space comprises the conservatory; the lovely National Garden, with a Butterfly Garden, Rose Garden, and the First Ladies’ Water Garden; and Bartholdi Park, a formal, lavish landscape that contains an ornate Victorian-era fountain and examples of current American horticulture.
Crowds flock to the conservatory after Thanksgiving and through the month of December for the garden’s holiday display of model trains, festive poinsettias, Christmas trees, sparkling lights, and miniatures of buildings found in the nation’s capital, all created from all-natural materials.