A continuing series about awesome social distance activities in DC to keep you entertained during the outbreak and inspired to keep daydreaming about your next adventure in the Nation's capital.
So, you want to get outside to enjoy the weather for the long Memorial Day weekend but still avoid crowds of people, Well, unfortunately, you can cross Meridian Hill Park off the list.
But we've curated some less-populated options for you to enjoy. Here are eight less well-known parks, gardens, and green spaces in DC–we mostly skipped more obvious “hidden gems” like the National Arboretum in favor of less-visited, but still lovely, spaces.
So pack a picnic and get out there and enjoy nature in (relative) solitude! Remember to wear a mask and social distance. Let's be safe out there.
Anacostia Dr SE
This 1,200-acre green space is a hidden gem that also happens to be the biggest park on the east coast (bigger than Central Park in NYC!). It has great trails for cycling, jogs or long walks and conveniently connects Anacostia to Navy Yard and to H Street corridor. It also has beautiful riverfront views with almost endless open grass area for picnics, play, etc and it happens to be one of the best bird-watching locations in DC.
1850 Constitution Ave NW
For a park so close to downtown DC, this 50-acre expanse roughly between the Lincoln and World War II memorials is surprisingly little-visited. Sit and read, people-watch, daydream, or simply gaze at the ducks and geese gliding in the pond in the shadow of the Washington Monument. (If you’re lucky, you might spot a great blue heron on the bank.) Don’t miss the memorial to the Declaration of Independence’s 56 signers.
1400 Quincy Street NE
While the architecture of the Monastery will definitely catch your eye, the upper and lower gardens, and even vegetable garden provides respite from the hustle and bustle. The Franciscans have close to 50 acres that includes a large shrine church, monastery, public gardens, shrines and chapels, central courtyard, a small forest and meadow that includes a hermitage and more than 75 beehives, greenhouse, cemetery, and a private park with picnic tables. These beautiful grounds and walking paths are open to the public, providing access to a truly peaceful, even spiritual, setting.
Kingman and Heritage Islands
The approximate address of the entrance to the Islands is via RFK Stadium Parking Lot 6, located at 575 Oklahoma Avenue NE
Kingman and Heritage Islands are natural parklands found on the Anacostia River in Northeast DC. There are over 50 acres of green space to be explored on these two island habitats. This Southeast gem is a little off the beaten path, but is perfect for people looking for a spot removed from the crowds. You'll find heavily wooded trails, broad bridges over the river, and peace and quiet. Wooded trails, river views, and wetlands comprise much of the sights to be experienced when visiting the park.
Choose between the .7-mile Kingman Island Trail and the half-mile-long Heritage Island Trail; both have great river views and ring with the cheery sound of birdsong; more than 100 species call these isles home over the course of the year. Trails in the park are open for walking, hiking, and bicycling, plus boating and birding to hiking and fishing are some of the outdoor adventures in this urban greenland.
Southwest Duck Pond
6th and I St SW
The Southwest Duck Pond is a labor of love for the community it serves. The pocket park is a charming oasis with a bubbling fountain and three “peninsulas” jutting out into the water, each providing space for intimate clusters of two or three lounge chairs. The park is essentially a dense collection of private bubbles, with a dozen or so seating clusters located far enough away from each other for privacy, but close enough for a pleasant people-watching experience. The Duck Pond is a small square with just 480 feet to each side, but the canopy of shade trees make it feel like a vast green living room. Many Southwest Washingtonians enjoy yoga, circuit training, ice cream socials, holiday events, and the farmers market here.
700 George Washington Memorial Parkway
With his 17-foot likeness rising from an interior plaza, Teddy Roosevelt commands center stage. But as a fitting tribute to the first conservationist in chief, nature reigns on this 88-acre island in the Potomac. Getting a piece to yourself is as simple as taking the 1.5-mile perimeter trail. A boardwalk cuts through marsh and swamp forest, with views of Georgetown. A boardwalk cuts through marsh and swamp forest, with views of Georgetown. Parking lot accessible from northbound lanes of George Washington Memorial Pkwy., or arrive via footbridge from Arlington.
Entrances at 3100 Macomb St., NW, and 3031 Klingle Rd., NW
A historic woodland garden, free and open every day, with 13 acres of peaceful wooded paths, a lily pond, stone bridges, streams, and native meadows that surround the original mansion (now home to the Washington International School), greenhouse, dacha, gardener’s cottage, and carriage house. You’ll find a forest of trees, 2,000 daffodils, numerous bushes and a variety of flowers. The lily pond has 70 aquatic plants, many goldfish and a pair of ducks. The estate’s original buildings are sited atop a steeply sloped hillside; from the back terrace of the house, visitors experience sweeping views of the property, which is traversed by bridle and woodland paths.
US Capitol Grounds
Boundaries are Independence Avenue on the south, Constitution Avenue on the north, First Street NE/SE on the east, and First Street NW/SW on the west.
With the US Capitol as a backdrop, the 59-acres of green space around the nation’s seat of government is a lovely, yet consistently overlooked gem, despite the millions of workers and visitors that frequent the area. Originally a wooded wilderness, this urban plot boasts paved walking areas, fountains, a reflecting pool and over 100 varieties of trees and bushes , and thousands of flowers. Many of the trees have historic or memorial associations and bear plaques that identify their species and their historic significance. Benches along the paths offer pleasant spots for visitors to appreciate the building, its landscape and the surrounding areas.
Walking the grounds, you’ll come upon the brick hexagon Summerhouse designed by architect Frederick Law Olmsted on the West Front lawn). Designed to meet the many complaints that visitors to the Capitol wanted a place to rest and have some water after their long trip to the Capitol, inside you'll a lovely hidden oasis with a fountain and cooler temperatures, heaven in the summer. You'll also come across the Taft and the The Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon (Constitution Avenue between New Jersey Avenue and First Street, NW). The 27 bells inside the carillon rings out a few notes every 15 minutes with a longer tune on the hour. A melody plays twice a day at 11:00am and 5:00 pm. In addition, the bells ring at 2:00 pm on the 4th of July in observance of the time the Declaration of Independence was signed.