Our visit to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America had nothing to do with getting religious (so, breathe easy). It really had to do with checking off another site from Thrillist's (via the Prince of Petworth) "Secrets of DC" post a few years back. We've been to many of the 13 places (see below!) on Dan Silverman's list, but the Franciscan Monastery has been at the top of my list for a while. We intended to go last summer, but after our trip to Italy, the kids had had their fill of basilicas for a while. But when this weekend promised a 60-degree sunny day, I knew we had to go check it out.
And it was amazing. Located in Brookland, the Monastery contains replicas of all the shrines you'd find in the actual Holy Land. It's enormous. And beautiful. And also contains some of the most calming outdoor gardens we'd visited in a while.
We lucked out and arrived right before the start of a tour. The tours are given by members of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, an organization that seems fascinating in its own right. Our tour lasted about 40 minutes and included a complete view of the church and catacombs. Since the catacombs was one of the items on our Italy agenda that we didn't get to, the kids were super excited to see the replicas at the Monastery.
After the tour, we explored the upper and lower gardens by ourselves. We lucked out and had a beautiful winter day of 60-degree weather and sunshine! The gardens were quiet, peaceful, and full of beautiful plants. We are absolutely going to return in spring because I think the place must teem with blooms.
All in all, a great hidden gem in D.C. I highly recommend a trip if you're looking for something different to check out.
The Franciscan Monastery is open from 9 am - 5 pm Monday through Friday, 9 am - 6 pm on Saturday, and 8 am - 5 pm on Sunday. Garden hours are 9 am - 4.45 pm. Click here to get all the info about tours. Admission is free.
p.s. thanks to KidFriendly DC for recommending nearby Brookland's Finest for delicious food!
p.p.s. have you been to any of the 13 places!? We've also been to: the Hense Graffiti Church; the O Street Mansion; Dumbarton Oaks; the National Arboretum; the Watermelon House in Logan Circle; Kenilworth Gardens; and Crispus Attucks park in Bloomingdale.