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Skirted by the surging waters of Rock Creek, the National Zoological Park is a forerunner for the title of America's finest wildlife facilities. It was created by Congress in 1889, making it one of the oldest zoos in the country. The zoo was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and New York's Central Park. The zoo is famous for its giant pandas from China but you will find all sorts of creatures, both familiar and exotic. The zoo's Asia Trail gets you acquainted with fishing cats, clouded leopards and other Asian animals. Also, the zoo is home to the Elephant Trails, Lemur Island, Cheetah Conservation and Great Cats, where you can witness mighty lions and tigers in action. Birds and reptiles from across the world also call the Smithsonian National Zoological Park their home.
The gorgeous U.S. Botanic Garden conservatory presents botanical variety, from the desert to the tropics, along a series of calm and gently meandering paths. A particular waterfall and garden display the flora of the dinosaur age. Seasonal displays include Christmas greens and poinsettias in December and January, chrysanthemums in autumn and blooming flowers at Easter. A part of the United States Botanic Garden (USBG), the National Garden, was opened in October 2006 and includes the carefully-designed Butterfly Garden.
Best known for its vast collection of azaleas, (a popular porch-flower), this 446-acre (180-hectare) garden park has much else to offer. Fountains, pools and open space separate a series of focused gardens at the United States National Arboretum. The National Bonsai Collection, a gift from Japan, is a fascinating exhibit of tiny trees. Other notable sections are the aquatic garden (filled with lotuses of many varieties) and the National Herb Garden.
The Huntley Meadows Nature Center in the Hybla Valley of Virginia, is a wetland park. Established since 1975, the park is home to a variety of wildlife, especially birds. Visitors can make use of observation decks to spot wildlife or walk along designated trails. Various creeks run through the vast expanse of the park and one can find beaver dams built across them at many places. The visitor center provides more information about the flora and fauna residing in the park.
Located inside Watkins Regional Park, the Old Maryland Farm is an educational agriculture center than teaches kids and adults alike about the ins and outs of farming and sustainable living. Kids will marvel at the garden and barnyard displays, and will love the farm animals they will get to see. However, it is important to note that the farm is not a petting zoo, and kids will not be able to pet the animals unless they sign up for a volunteer animal care course. There are also plenty of other classes to participate in that range from gardening tips to farm-related topics.
Whether you visit Queen Anne Farm in the summer or fall, you are sure to find some lovingly grown produce to take home with you. In the summer, this family-run farm sells fresh, pesticide-free produce like tomatoes, sweet corn, and watermelons. The fall turns this adorable farm into a pumpkin-lovers paradise, where you can purchase seven kinds of pumpkins, along with butternut squash, Georgia candy roaster squash, and little red potatoes. Make sure to bring the kids so that they can pick out pumpkins for carving at the pumpkin patch, explore the corn maze, and pet farm animals at the petting zoo.