Although Washington, D.C. is a sprawling metropolitan area, it is not difficult to find pockets of green space. Nearly twenty percent of the city is parkland, providing ample space for communities to come together to socialize. The 146-acre National Mall is the most recognizable to D.C. residents and visitors alike. However, there are dozens of other options throughout the city, in every neighborhood, that provide unique and quiet respite from the bustling environment of the District.
Dumbarton Oaks is situated on the highest point of the Georgetown neighborhood. It is part of a century-old estate and features sweeping grounds divided into over a dozen sections. The park is an intricately designed landscape of meadows, woodlands, wildflowers, ponds, and constructed waterfalls. Dumbarton Oaks offers recreation as well as restorative beauty for Washington, DC residents and visitors.
Rock Creek Park is located in the Northwest quadrant of the city. Within it are 32 miles of trails for runners, hikers, and bikers and a 14 mile-long creek. There are also several picnic areas, a golf course, and recreation fields for soccer, kickball, football, and Frisbee. Rock Creek is a perfect place to trade the pavement for on your morning workout, or to spend an entire day away from the city.
Meridian Hill Park in Northwest showcases Italian style gardens, Spanish Steps, and a great water fountain. The park is a more bustling green escape than others in DC, as it overlooks downtown and the monuments home. It is also home to a famous drum circle on Sundays during the summer.
National Arboretum is located on the banks of the Anacostia River and covers 412 acres in Northeast DC. This serene location is the research and cultivation grounds for many species of plants and flowers. Some of the most notable aspects of the Arboretum are columns from the original US Capitol, almost all of the state trees, and an impressive bonsai collection. It is an impressive space that allows you to feel miles away from city life.
Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle is a “secret gem amongst national treasures.” Found right off the National Mall, this small Victorian-inspired garden has many places to sit down. As a bonus perk, there is also free wifi in the garden, so you can post pictures of your day’s adventures while taking a rest.
U.S. Botanic Gardens feature both indoor and outdoor gardens. The indoor Conservatory is composed of eight rooms, while the National Garden is outside on the grounds and Bartholdi Park is located right across Independence Avenue. Altogether, these 3 components of the Botanic Gardens contain over 10,000 plants.
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens are in the Northeast quadrant of the city. This is the only location dedicated to water-loving plants. Consequently, the grounds are filled with cultivated ponds with waterlilies and lotuses and the last existing tidal marsh in the District. Kenilworth’s 700 acres are traversed with a boardwalk trail.
Roosevelt Island is the most remote of the green spaces in DC, as it is actually an island in the Potomac River between the city and Virginia. It is easily and only accessible on foot, as no bikes are allowed. The island has many walking trails and a secluded monument to President Teddy Roosevelt.
Shenandoah Valley is located 75 miles from the city in western Virginia, and is part of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. The region has ample hiking trails and fascinating caverns to visit. There are hotels to stay in throughout the area, but almost all parts of the Shenandoah act as camping grounds. This is a great place for a quick weekend getaway.