So many of us neglect to spend quality time outside, basking in the glow of the summer sun. The summer months are a perfect opportunity to make the best out of all the outdoor attractions Washington DC has to offer, while also ensuring your body gets its healthy dose of Vitamin D. We’ve put together a list of our favorite parks and open-air hangouts for you to discover your new favorite spot in the nation’s capital.
Outdoor things to do in DC this summer
Rock Creek Park was one of the first national parks developed by the federal government. Dating back to 1890, the park is a DC treasure that affords visitors a scenic getaway from the hectic pace of the day-to-day in the nation’s capital. Boasting 32 hiking trails, landmarks such as Civil War strongholds, colonial houses, and activities like horseback riding, picnicking, and the opportunity to play tennis or golf, among others, a trip to the Rock Creek Park can quickly fill up your day with immersion in nature.
Where: Rock Creek Park
This sprawling DC urban park is conveniently located in the trendy Columbia Heights neighborhood. One of the gorgeous features of the park is its thirteen-basin cascading fountain, which just so happens to be the longest in the country. The park also has many other notable monuments, such as statues of Joan of Arc and Dante and the James Buchanan Memorial.
When: Year-round, open during daylight hours
Where: 400 15th St NW
The National Mall is one of the biggest parks in the nation, aptly nicknamed “America’s front yard.” Located in the heart of DC, the National Mall is flanked by the Lincoln Memorial to the west and the US Capitol to the east. You’ll find that a stroll in the National Mall is like a walk through history due to its position as the stage for many groundbreaking movements, proximity to historical monuments, and world-class museums. Though the beauty of the park during daylight hours cannot be overstated, the subdued wonder it becomes once the sun goes down makes it a real treat for a moonlit visit.
When: Year-round, open 24 hours a day
Where: National Park
This man made island is better known when coupled with the neighboring Heritage Island, situated on the Anacostia River. This is the perfect haven for fishing, boating, biking on the boardwalk trail, picnicking, and also, for those who truly appreciate the aesthetic splendor of the island.
When: Year-round, 9AM-5PM
Where: 575 Oklahoma Avenue NE
This DC hangout is the perfect melting pot of culinary experiences, shopping opportunities, and open-air attractions; there is no place quite like Dupont Circle. Every Sunday of the year, the Dupont Circle Farmers Market attracts droves of people for the thrill of picking out the freshest of produce, baked goods, meats, and locally-sourced meals.
When: Every Sunday, 9am-2pm
Where: 1500 20th Street NW
A living exhibition just a short 2-mile hop from the Capitol, the US National Arboretum houses astonishing gardens in the heart of DC, a bonsai museum, and blossoming cherry trees, among other gems. During the summer, you can follow the Azalea Blossom Watching and, if you’re lucky, get a chance to see the July daylilies bloom.
When: Year-round, 8am-4:30pm
Where: 3501 New York Ave NE
The Tidal Basin is perhaps best known for the National Cherry Blossom Festival it hosts each spring, but this DC reservoir has a lot more going for it. You’ll find few places in the city better suited for exploring, owing in part to the staggering amount of iconic monuments located at Tidal Basin. The main 3 are the Jefferson Memorial, the MLK Memorial, and the FDR Memorial. If you’d like a more informed approach, the National Park Service offers free walking tours on the Tidal Basin grounds, and it isn’t difficult to explore the full extent of its 1.8-mile loop.
Where: Tidal Basin and Ohio Drive NW
Great Falls Park owes its name to the striking view of the Potomac River gaining momentum and spilling over the spiky rocks before flowing through the Mather Jorge. Though the Great Falls Park is a 15-mile drive from DC, you can be certain the trip is well worth your while. There are 3 Falls Overlooks near the visitor center, so you can get the full scope of the stunning vista. You can also enjoy the biking and hiking trails that stretch for miles, go climbing, fishing, or enjoy a nice horseback ride.
Where: 200 Old Dominion Drive – McLean, VA
Built around the concept of mimicking a “real forest,” the Theodore Roosevelt Island was developed as a tribute to our nation’s 26th president. Through the remarkable wilderness setting of this DC park, you can enjoy ranger-led activities to explore the island, bird watching, hiking, jogging, and also engage in kayaking or canoeing.
Where: Theodore Roosevelt Island
There is nothing like the view you’ll get of the vast DC landscape while you’re out on the Potomac River, navigating by the Georgetown Waterfront. While you’re paddling, you can glance at DC at large and also observe some of its most important monuments. Key Bridge Boathouse offers a wide array of water sports options, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, hydro-biking, as well as guided tours both during the daytime as well as during twilight hours for you to get the most out of your sightseeing adventure.
When: Year-round, 9am-8pm (recommended for warmer months)
Where: 3500 Water St NW
Whether you’re looking for a leisurely visit to DC’s lively greenery or a more action-packed, adrenaline-inducing escapade, there is no shortage of outdoors activities in DC.
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