Not so long ago, my husband’s job required we relocate to Washington, D.C. for a full year, and the temporary move from our mountain wilderness in Colorado to the intensity of the capital city was tough for me. While immediate access to world-renowned museums, dining and cultural venues also made it fabulous in many ways, what made it most bearable for this outdoor lover were my regular forays to the United States Botanic Garden, where I could immerse myself in nature, even if just for part of an afternoon.
While the 10 rooms and two garden courtyards that comprise the space are amazing at any time of year, I loved it most after autumn left the trees bare, and the quiet of the indoor conservatory was filled with winter sunlight spilling through the graceful glass, transforming it into a magical refuge.
Happily, there are plenty of stunning botanical gardens in all corners of the world that stay warm (and even green) all year-round. If you’re searching for a wintery landscape, the Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City is home to the Crystal Bridge Conservatory, which spans two separate climate zones and provides a protective 13,000 square feet of display area for 750 species of plants. There’s even a cascading indoor waterfall and a bridge that overlooks a tropical forest.
One of the most spectacular controlled botanical spaces in the world can be found in Cornwall, England. The Eden Project is a collection of colossal biomes erected within an immense crater. Each biome is a climate-specific biological community nurtured by geothermal energy. Separate structures house the Western Australian Garden, Mediterranean Biome and Rainforest Biome. There are also exhibitions, outdoor gardens, play areas, dining and accommodations that include camping and hostel spaces. The Eden Project even offers a therapeutic horticulture program designed to support those suffering from anxiety, depression or other social challenges through hands-on immersion in nature.
Not far away in North Yorkshire, England, the RHS Garden Harlow Carr, operated by the Royal Horticultural Society, is situated on what was once a royal hunting ground and part of the Forest of Knaresborough. A Winter Walk is offered along paths lined with winter-flowering shrubs including Sarcococca and Daphne. The path leads into woodlands where winter aconites cover the earth. After your walk, settle into the cozy space at Betty’s Café Tea Rooms and Shop to enjoy a cup of tea and something sweet to nibble. Don’t ask me how I know, but luscious cake trolley favorites include Grande Raspberry Macaroons and Warm Treacle Tart.
Back stateside at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, (about 15 miles from DC) a wonderful tropical garden can be found within the Atrium, while nature trails lead past the glorious, soaring silhouettes of leafless trees and dreamy mist rising from the surface of frozen lakes. The gardens also host a Winter Walk of Lights, offered until after New Year’s Day. Areas include the Fountain of Lights, animated Lakeside Lights and a Holiday Nature Walk.
The Grinch reimaged in intricate ice carvings, superfast indoor snow tubing and a Ferris wheel ride with Santa high above the D.C. area. Sound like fun? You and your family can experience all this and lots more this holiday season at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
By Hainan Airlines
Not a fan of giant cruise ships? This might be the year to put Celestyal Cruises on your radar, especially if your dream family destinations are the Greek Islands, the eastern Mediterranean and, new for next year, the Adriatic.
The sun-soaked beaches and piazzas of summer often come to mind when we envision what makes the perfect Italian holiday. However, there’s something to be said for visiting the country during the off season, as it presents itself as an entirely different place, with unexpectedly delightful new ways to appreciate its dolce vita in the forms of food, wine, art, culture, and sophisticated urban life. This is particularly true in Piedmont (a.k.a. Piemonte), which sits at the top of the “boot” and attaches to France.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
Christmas is always a fun time of year to explore a new city. This year, head to San Antonio for Christmas with a Tex-Mex flair. This Texas city may not get snow for a white Christmas, but there are still plenty of holiday decorations and festivities to create a memorable, family-friendly experience.