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THE BEST PARKS AND GREEN SPACES IN DC

10 PLACES

UPDATED OCT 31, 2019

We love city living, but sometimes, you just need to unplug and get outside. Luckily, we've got your go-to guide to all the most beautiful green spaces and parks within the District limits.

author

BROOKE AUXIER

FITT WASHINGTON-DC CONTRIBUTOR

On a spring or summer day, this park, located near the U Street Corridor in NW, resembles the mall of an East Coast college campus. There’s no shortage of ways to enjoy this patch of greenery: you can run through it, organize a game of bocce or a soccer match, bring your pup for a stroll, or post up on a bench for an afternoon of prime people-watching.

Is your inner tree-hugger on edge, but you don’t want to leave the District? Head to the Arboretum, located in NE, which spans 446 acres! The campus is organized into gardens and collections–so there’s plenty of natural beauty to see during your trip to the arboretum (which you can explore by car, bike, or foot). And huge bonus: admission is always free!

Rock Creek Park is huge! It runs along a number of DC neighborhoods, so chances are good that you’re never too far from some sprawling green space! If you’re fixin’ to go hiking, try the Valley Trail or the West Ridge Trail. You’ll also want to get in a good walk, run, or bike to explore some historical structures, including Peirce Mill. Back in the day, it was a functioning mill. But now, it’s a totally Instagram-able brick building in the middle of the park.

Where can you go to catch beautiful views of the Potomac River, the Anacostia River, and the Washington Channel? Look no further than Hains Point, sitting in East Potomac Park. This little slice of heaven is a great and quiet route, perfect for a bike ride or a walk. Keep the day rolling by swinging away on the East Potomac Golf Course, a nearby beautiful and lush 18-hole expanse!

Did you know there’s an island right in the middle of DC? You heard it here first (…maybe)! Theodore Roosevelt Island is smack in the middle of the Potomac River, just north of the National Mall. Explore the wooded areas, swampy sections, and designated trails of this tranquil island by foot or bike. What’s more, you can also take in the wildlife from the water! Bring your own kayak or canoe and take a trip around the island…maybe even paddle to Roosevelt Island from Georgetown if you’re feeling ambitious!

Need to get a little wild? Head to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo to say hello to some wild animals and furry friends! The zoo, located in NW, nestles right up to Rock Creek Park, so it’s a true tree-lined escape. The zoo is great for exploring the animal kingdom, but it’s also a great place to walk or run for exercise (the hills throughout the zoo are no joke).

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Ditch the busy streets of Georgetown and make for the greenery in the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks tucked up near 32nd and R streets in the NW neighborhood. The lush green space has acres of mini gardens (The Rose Garden, The Pebble Garden, the Star Garden, just to name a few) for guests to explore. The gardens are quiet, stunning, and are a true escape from city life. A trip here will only set you back $10.

The Chesapeake & Ohio (or C&O) Canal path stretches for 184.5 miles, starting in Cumberland, Maryland. It then follows along the West Virginia and Virginia borders and, lucky for District dwellers, ends up all the way in Washington, DC! Pack your bike or some granola bars for a jaunt on the trail, right at the Georgetown waterfront (near Thomas Jefferson Street NW.) The path is scenic -you’ll get a peek of the Potomac and you’ll get some fresh air, too!

Head to the northeast side of the Anacostia River to find 12 acres of practically untouched nature at the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. With a trip to this Anacostia park, you can expect to see flowering aquatic plants, trees, trails, ponds, and birds. But don’t wear your best sneakers! Because mud.

Sure, it may be obvious…but the National Mall is a great green space that locals are often quick to overlook. And although the area can get crowded (…tourists), you don’t necessarily have to hit the main mall (we’re talking the area between 14th and 17th streets) to get the green space you crave. Instead, ponder some serious thoughts by the reflecting pool, circle the lawn surrounding the U.S. Capitol, or stroll around the Ellipse.

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