We were skeptical going in that it was going to be as nice as everyone had noted in their reviews on trip advisor, especially since you're not sure where to park and it's not in the best part of town. But...it was really great. We went at around 9 in the morning, so right before most people get there. You should stop off at the Arboretum House - they have a great gift store. Follow the trail around towards the picnic area and make sure you stop off at the brick structure as there are more gardens with great photo opportunities. If you follow the trail around to the picnic area, there's another parking lot (so you have the option to drive there instead of walking). It then rounds back around to the coliseum, which is really amazing! It's a great photo opportunity. We with the fountain had been running, because I think we would have had the full effect. It's almost feels like you're at the Parthenon, without all the crowds and nasty, strict Greek guards yelling at you :). If you walk around the trail, it leads to the to the Japanese gardens, which are really amazing. I would advise making sure you stop by and get a map, because there is a lot to see and you may miss it. The Japanese Gardens terrace was closed, which was also a bummer. The only thing we'd wish we'd done was done the tram ride, I think it would have been a great way to see all of what we missed. We have two toddlers (3 and 4), and they loved it too! Really great part of DC, not to be missed!
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