Overview of our visit to the United States Nation Arboretum, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, and Union Market in Northeast Washington, D.C. plus a recipe for Homemade Spinach Fettuccine.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
United States National Arboretum
The United States National Arboretum is located in Northeast Washington, D.C. near the Maryland border just off of New York Avenue (Route 50) and Bladensburg Road. It is open daily (with the exception of Christmas) from 8 am to 5 pm. Look here for more complete hours and directions. Parking and admission are free.
Created in 1927, the sprawling 446 acres are home to the collections-based research facility and public garden of the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a focus on conservation, ensuring safe food and agricultural products, sustaining the agricultural economy, and enhancing natural resources.
We parked in the lot in front of the main Administration Building and Visitor Services, but there are other smaller lots scattered throughout the park. Check out the map here for designated parking, bathrooms, and other services.
A favorite section of mine was the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum located next to the Visitor Center. Here you will find a collection of bonsai in three different pavilions with a meditative garden. Fifty-three of the bonsai trees were given to the museum by Japan to commemorate the United States Bicentennial in 1976. Today, there are more than 300 trees that rotate among the pedestals. As a note, the hours for the museum are shorter than the rest of the park- 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The Japanese White Pine photographed above has been in training since 1625 and even survived the blast of Hiroshima thanks to a tall wall in the nursery. The tree was donated by Masaru Yamaki, but its full history was not revealed until a surprise visit to the museum by his grandchildren in 2001.
Another highlight for the Arboretum are the National Capitol Columns. The twenty-two sandstone Corinthian columns now at the top of a meadow south of the visitor center were a part of the U.S. Capitol’s east portico from 1828 to 1958. The surrounding area was under renovation during our visit, but you will also find a reflecting pool and an overall great spot for photos here.
We also spent some time in the Youth Garden. This 1 acre organic garden features an area to learn how to plant and tend to vegetables along with a small play area.
Other collections featured on the grounds include the Asian Collections (emphasis on plants from China, Korea, and Japan), Azalea Collections (late April), Dogwood Collection, Fern Valley, Friendship Garden, Gotelli Conifer Collection, Holly and Magnolia Collections, National Boxwood Collection (most complete living collection of boxwood in the world with over 100 species and varieties across 5 acres), National Grove of State Trees (trees from every state and DC), National Herb Garden (over 800 herbs from around the world), and Perennial Collections (daffodils, peonies, and daylilies from late February to July).
We really loved the United States National Arboretum and wish we didn’t wait until it was almost time to move to visit for the first time. It was the beginning of summer so the area was quite hot (especially around the columns where the shade is minimal), but all seasons of the year have their own unique highlights and blooms. Some of the paved paths are stroller-friendly while others are best navigated by foot. Like the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens below, the Arboretum is easiest to get to via automobile.
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
The Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens can be found at 1550 Anacostia Avenue NE on the east side of the Anacostia River across from the United States National Arboretum. As the only national park with a focus on water plants, this tranquil garden is another wonderful place to relax within the city. With the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, the park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Check here for the visitor center’s seasonal hours. Ranger-led programs are also available throughout the week. Parking and admission are free.
We visited during late August and had such a fun time exploring. There were still plenty of blooming aquatic flowers (the best time to visit is May to early September to see the waterlilies and lotus flowers). Try to plan your visit for earlier in the morning on hot days as the flowers will start to close when the temperature reaches around 90˚F.
Evan spent his time searching for bugs and especially loved the abundance of dragonflies. Claire was on a quest to find a turtle and finally spotted one resting on a log towards the end of our visit. Other animals that can be found in the gardens include frogs, toads, salamanders, dozens of birds, snakes, and skinks.
Check for specific dates, but the park is also home to the Lotus and Water Lily Festival every summer to highlight the lotus flowers at their peak with activities, workshops, performances, and more.
The parking lot, book store, and visitor center are wheelchair/stroller accessible, but many of the paths around the ponds are uneven and often muddy. Ticks can be found near the tall grass areas along with poison ivy. Dogs are allowed in the park, but only on a short leash. For those who enjoy hiking, most of the trails are on the shorter side at less than a mile.
Another fun stop near the United States National Arboretum and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is Union Market. Located at 1309 5th St NE, Union Market is a mostly indoor market home to dozens of food stalls, shops, and pop-ups. This area is more accessible via the metro (NoMa-Gallaudet U New York Ave Station along the red line) and there is also free parking right in front of the building.
Union Market is open Tuesday-Sunday. The hours for the specific vendors may vary. It tends to get packed during peak meal times and particularly on the weekends. We have had the best luck with parking and finding a table right at opening and during off hours.
I especially love the variety of food found here. You can get everything from South Indian dosas at DC Dosa and fresh seafood at The District Fish Wife to falooda and Asian groceries at Toli Moli, Korean-style tacos at Takorean, Ethiopian at Gorsha, comfort food at Puddin‘, and so much more.
You can even pick up fresh food to take home such as homemade pasta and sauces from Cucina al Volo (photo above).
In addition to all the permanent stalls, pop-ups are regularly featured. At the time of this writing (August 2018), the market is also temporarily home to B Doughnut (malasadas photographed above), Bôn Matcha, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, Suburbia, and Uzu.
I also enjoyed the beautiful handmade Wagashi (和菓子, Japanese confections) at Matsukawaya in collaboration with the Teaism booth.
Other current stalls include Almaala Farms, Arepa Zone (another personal favorite), Bazaar Spices, DC Mediterranean, Craft Kombucha, DC Empanadas, Harvey’s Market, Ooey Gooey Crispy, Panorama Bakery, Peregrine Espresso, Lyon Bakery, Red Apron Butchery, Salt & Sundry, South Block Juice Co., Trickling Springs Creamery, Sloppy Mama’s BBQ, Bidwell, Politics & Prose, Blue Bottle Coffee, District Cutlery, Rappahannock Oyster Co., Neopol Savory Smokery, Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits, and Buffalo & Bergen.
Homemade Spinach Fettuccine
Back at home, we were inspired by Cucina al Volo in Union Market to make our own spinach fettuccine. Fettuccine are long, flat ribbons of pasta about 1/4 inch thick. To create the spinach fettuccine, blanched spinach is squeezed of all excess moisture and combined with the flour and eggs to form the bright green dough (Pasta Verde). I used all-purpose flour, but you can also make the dough with 00 flour if available or a combination of the two.
I had the help of a food processor and pasta machine to make the spinach fettuccine, but everything can also be made by hand. If not using a food processor, finely chop the squeezed spinach before mixing with the flour and eggs. I rolled the pasta with a pasta machine starting at the highest setting and all the way down to the thinnest setting, but you can also roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/16th inch thick and cut into long ribbons 1/4 inch wide.
The freshly cut spinach fettuccine can either be arranged in nests on a parchment-lined baking sheet or hung on a drying rack. Evan personally prefers when I bring out the drying rack. He calls it his car wash when all the noodles are arranged across it. He also thought my photos needed a little help and added what appears to be a zombie stormtrooper lego to the photo below.
The pasta can be boiled straight from the nests/rack or frozen for future use. The kids love the spinach fettuccine paired with a simple tomato sauce, but the noodles are also perfect with cream, seafood, vegetable, or meat-based sauces.
Homemade Spinach Fettuccine Recipe
Adapted from Making Artisan Pasta
Homemade Spinach Fettuccine
- 6 ounces fresh spinach
- 2 eggs
- 10 1/2 ounces (~2 cups) all-purpose flour
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook just until wilted and bright green, a minute or two.
Drain the spinach and rinse under cold water. Squeeze well to remove all excess moisture.
Place the spinach in a large food processor along with the flour and eggs. Process until the mixture comes together and forms a smooth ball. If too wet, add a little more flour. If too crumbly, add a little water.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until soft and elastic. Form into a ball and cover with a damp cloth or wrap in plastic. Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour.
Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Place one on floured work surface and cover the remainder.
Roll the dough into a thin sheet using a pasta machine or rolling pin, until it is about 1/16th inch thick. Roll through a fettuccine attachment on the pasta machine or cut by hand into ribbons about 1/4 inch wide.
Arrange the fettuccine into small nests on a parchment-lined baking sheet or on a pasta drying rack to dry for a few minutes to an hour. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta in batches, careful not to overcrowd, and boil until they rise to the surface. Remove to a colander and drain.
Serve immediately with desired sauce.