Now that we’re well into warmer weather, I decided to write about local places that are best enjoyed outdoors–and that are slightly off the beaten path. While these spots are by no means undiscovered, they are also not tourist traps like the National Mall during summer months. As a result, you can avoid the tourist rush as people descend upon DC come warmer temperatures. If the arrival of May has you itching to spend more time outside, read on for my recommendations!
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Located in Southeast DC, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is open 362 days a year and entry is free. The park offers opportunities for birding, wildlife viewing, wildlife photography, and simply enjoying a peaceful walk while listening to the sights and sounds of nature. Kenilworth is comprised of a variety of habitats, including ponds, marshes, and wooded areas. As a result, it attracts an abundance of different bird species, including several different types of swallows, herons, woodpeckers, wrens, ducks, and hawks to name a few.
If birds aren’t your thing, the park is also home to five different kinds of frog species, two toad species, and several species of salamander. In addition to amphibians, there have been a variety of reported mammal sightings, including beavers, muskrats, deer, foxes, and even minks! And, if you’d like to push your visit to Kenilworth a few weeks out, late June and early July bring a gorgeous display–in the early mornings, the pond’s water lilies and lotus flowers unfold and show off their beauty for a few hours before the midday heat arrives.
Theodore Roosevelt Island and Memorial
Moving outside of the District, Theodore Roosevelt Island is located just over the bridge in Arlington, Virginia. Given Roosevelt’s laudable conservation efforts during his presidency, it is only fitting that this National Park is named in his honor. Roosevelt Island, once a plot of overgrown farmland, was transformed in the 1930s into a space for citizens to enjoy nature.
In its present form, Roosevelt Island consists of forest and swampland, and has three walking trails that take visitors through different areas of the island. The “Woods Trail” passes by the memorial plaza, which features fountains and a statue of Roosevelt. Park entry is free, and there’s no need to be in stellar shape–the longest trail is only 1.5 miles and the shortest is a just a third of a mile–great for getting everyone outdoors!
United States National Arboretum
The United States National Arboretum brings us back inside District lines. Located in the northeast section of the city, the arboretum was established in 1927 and today it features an impressive selection of plants, shrubs, and trees for visitors to admire. The arboretum boasts collections of dogwoods, azaleas, magnolias, and perennials to name a few, in addition to an herb garden and an onsite bonsai museum. The arboretum has a fairly active calendar of events, although some of those events are currently virtual, including a lecture on the 2021 return of the periodical cicada! Visitors can wander freely through the 9 miles of winding roads and across the 446 acre campus, which is open to cars, bikes, and pedestrians. If you’re looking for an urban escape that doesn’t require leaving the city, strolling through endless peaceful gardens and observing rare bonsai sounds pretty great to us!
If reading about these local places where you can enjoy the natural world has you ready to sell your house and flee to the country, please contact Lise at 240-401-5577 for expert advice on buying and selling real estate in the DC area!