Outdoor Activities Washington, DC
While walking around the National Mall and visiting the monuments and memorials might be the best outside activity in the District, there are also beautiful gardens, trails, and water activities for visitors to experience. Take a paddle boat out for a tour of the tidal basin or explore the gardens of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Cherry blossoms and tulips are in bloom during the spring and the leaves turn bright yellow and red during the fall with both seasons bringing great weather to the District.
The National Zoological Park is part of the Smithsonian Institute and free to the public. The zoo covers 163 acres and includes seventeen large exhibits that house over 2,000 animals. The giant pandas are one of the main attractions, especially with their new baby Bao Bao, but other zoo exhibits have recently been renovated as part of the zoo’s multi-phase redevelopment plan. As you walk downhill through the zoo, look up for orangutans using the wires above to explore. Don’t miss the amazon house near the south entrance which features a rain forest and an aquarium of fresh water stingrays and arapaima. The zoo is a short downhill walk from the Cleveland Park Metro Station or an uphill walk from Woodley Park Metro.
Located two miles from the nearest metro station (Rhode Island Red line or Stadium Armory Orange/Blue line) in NorthEast Washington, DC, the United States National Arboretum consists of 446 acres of gardens, trails, and reflecting pools. While the location might deter some visitors, those who do make the visit will appreciate the peacefulness of the arboretum compared to DC’s more popular attractions. The most popular collections include the original 1828 United States Capitol Columns that were removed in the 1958 renovation, the Bonsai Museum, and the Azalea Collection during spring. The National Arboretum is free and open to the public year round except December 25th.
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens:
The former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post is now a beautiful museum surrounded by thirteen acres of formal gardens. The Hillwood museums contains over 17,000 pieces from her private collection including Imperial Fabergé Eggs, furniture by Jean-Henri Riesener, and a portrait of Catherine the Great. The gardens include a putting green, rose garden, green house, Japanese garden, and brick walks surrounded by tulips and azaleas. Admission: Adult $15, Student $10, Child (6-18) $5 Address: 4155 Linnean Ave NW Hours: Tues – Sat 10am – 5pm Sun Openings Vary
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden:
Located between the Natural History Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art West Building, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden consists of a full block of outdoor art, gardens, and a large center fountain surrounded by shaded benches. Pathways lead to over twenty art installations that include Roy Lichtenstein’s House I, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser Scale X, Sol LeWitt’s Four-Sided Pyramid, Roxy Paine’s Graft, Robert Indiana’s AMOR, and Lucas Samaras’s Chair Transformation Number 20B,. Visitors should check the National Gallery of Art website for guided tours of the garden’s exhibits.
Rock Creek Park:
Rock Creek Park contains over 1,700 acres throughout the Washington, DC area and is administered by the National Park Service. The park includes trails, streams, and biking paths. Under the Rock Creek Park administration also falls the Old Stone House, Meridian Hill Park, Dumbarton Oaks Park, Georgetown Waterfront Park, and Peirce Mill each of which is worth visiting.
Tidal Basin Paddle Boats:
For those wanting to view the Jefferson Memorial and cherry blossom trees from the water, renting out a paddle boat in the tidal basin is an option from mid March until Columbus Day weekend. During the cherry blossom festival from March 20th until April 13th, rentals are at their peak and can be made in advance online. Rentals are $12 per hour a two passenger boat and $19 for four passengers. Address: 1501 Main Ave SW
Great Falls Billy Goat Trail:
Branching off from the C&O canal towpath and following closely along the Potomac River, the Great Falls Billy Goat trails offers just over four miles of great views and sometimes difficult boulders to circumnavigate. Choose the difficult section or opt for an easier path on Virginia’s side of the river. Bring plenty of water, food and wear shoes suitable for hiking. Also, do not attempt to go in the water, as the Potomac is far more dangerous than it appears. Address: 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, MD
Kayaking on the Potomac River is a great way to see some of DC while out on the water. Three of the primary kayak rentals can be found not far from Georgetown. Key Bridge Boathouse, Thompson Boat Center, and Fletcher’ Boathouse are all good choices for kayaks and canoes. Check their websites though, as the open season and hours do vary. Thompson Boat Center: 2900 Virginia Ave NW Key Bridge Boathouse: 3500 Water St NW Fletcher’s Boathouse: 940 Canal Rd NW, Outdoor activities Washington, DC