The National Gallery houses an extensive collection of European and American art in two spectacular buildings. In the grand, neoclassical West Building, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough are well-represented. The permanent collection includes works from the 13th to 20th Centuries, including a section devoted to Impressionism. An underground concourse with a cafeteria, an excellent gift shop and a walled-in waterfall takes you to the East Building. Designed by I.M. Pei, this triangular building is a key city landmark and home to famous pieces of art and other temporary exhibitions.
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.
The dinosaur skeletons on the ground floor of the National Museum of Natural History are sure to please the kids. But there is something here for everyone. The famous Hope Diamond is on display as well as a live coral reef, a walk-through mine and an insect zoo with thousands of live specimens. The Discovery Room encourages kids to touch, smell and taste the exhibits. If your feet need some rest, sit back and enjoy a film in the museum's Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater in the National Museum of Natural History.
Ratner Museum is a fine art museum, housing various paintings done in crayons, water colors and pencils. The frequently changing exhibits include wood work, sculptures, cloth designing and much more. The museum spans across three buildings, comprising of a conference room, a public library and children's literature center. There are various concerts, tours and lectures on various topics, that take place in the museum. So if you want to spend your day appreciating works of art and culture, Ratner Museum is your place to be.
The thriving Downtown Bethesda neighborhood is located at the intersection of the Wisconsin Avenue, Old Georgetown Road and East-West Highway. It features some of the most vibrant areas in the city, including the Bethesda Row, a hub for arts and culture. Besides a range of eating establishments and entertainment centers, Downtown Bethesda is also home to one of the Madonna of the Trail monuments and the Capital Crescent Trail.
Best known for its vast collection of azaleas, (Washington's favorite porch-flower), this 444-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.