Washington, D.C. is home to some of the most beautifully landscaped public park facilities, overseen by the National Park Service as part of the city's historic protected landscape. More than 24 million annual visitors explore the parks and urban green spaces of the National Mall, which is home to famed landmarks such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and cherry tree-lined Tidal Basin.
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Anacostia Park is one of Washington, D.C.'s largest public parks, spanning more than 1,200 acres throughout the city's Anacostia neighborhood along the Anacostia River waterfront. The park, which has been overseen by the National Park Service since 1933, is developed around a seawall along the river's banks and is located at a Nacotchtank indigenous site originally explored by Captain John Smith in 1608. Park visitors can enjoy ample space for summer recreational activities, including day-use picnic sites at the Anacostia Park Pavilion, which is also home to a roller skating rink. Baseball, basketball, and tennis courts are available for visitor use, along with the 18-hole Langston Golf Course, which offers a public driving range. A boat ramp is available for direct access to the riverfront, with three concession-operated marinas open to the public throughout the year.
1900 Anacostia Dr, Washington, DC 20020, Phone: 202-472-3884
2.Battery Kemble Park
Battery Kemble Park preserves the historic Battery Kemple fortifications, which were constructed in 1861 and served as the anchor of Washington, D.C.'s Fort Circle. The fort, which was named for West Point Foundry superintendent Gouverneur Kemble, sites at a height of 387 feet above the Potomac River sea level, located in Northwest Washington's Palisades neighborhood along what is now Nebraska Avenue. Visitors can explore the remains of the National Park Service-administered battery, which was reacquired by the United States government in 1923. Abundant populations of pine, chestnut oak, and bamboo trees line the park, which is home to a wide variety of native bird species. Running and nature walking are popular at the park during the summer months, which becomes a favorite family sledding spot during snowy conditions.
3035 Chain Bridge Rd NW, Washington, DC 20016, Phone: 202-895-6070
Canal Park is a three-acre sustainable park in D.C.'s Navy Yard district, occupying three city blocks adjacent to the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro station. The park, which was designed and opened to the public in 2012, is named for the historic Washington City Canal, which operated throughout the first half of the 19th century to connect the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers via the National Mall. A linear rain garden in the park is designed to evoke the canal's memory, with three pavilions modeled to recall its former floating barges. Low-impact ecological features include street-level runoff filtration systems, which manage stormwater and supply waters for the park's seasonal fountains. Throughout the year, the park hosts a variety of seasonal markets and public special events, including an outdoor ice skating rink operated during the winter months on the site of the park's fountains.
200 M Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
4.The Capitol Hill Parks
The Capitol Hill Parks are an umbrella collection of a number of urban parks near the United States Capitol Building, all managed by the National Park Service as a single unit. Four main parks in the unit include Capitol Hill's Folger Park, which is named in honor of Secretary of the Treasury Charles J. Folger and offers unique concrete-and-pebble fountain benches for relaxation and atmosphere. Lincoln Park, Capitol Hill's largest park, spans seven acres between 11th and 13th Streets NE and SE and is home to a grassy turf area popular with neighborhood dog owners. Marion Park, commonly known as Turtle Park, offers a children's playground, while Stanton Park, also referred to as Stanton Square, is preserved from Pierre L'Enfant's original city design. Additionally, 59 city triangles and squares are also maintained under the park umbrella, including spaces at the Eastern Market Metro Station, Seward Square, Twining Square, and the Maryland and Pennsylvania Avenue Medians.
1900 Anacostia Drive SE, Washington, DC 20020, Phone: 202-690-5185
5.The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
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The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is an expansive national historical park spanning throughout areas of Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia along the original C&O Canal towpath on the Potomac River. The historic canal route, which operated between 1831 and 1924, served as a primary coal transportation route between the Allegheny Mountains and the Washington, D.C. region. In 1961, the former route was preserved as a National Monument in order to protect many of its historic structures. Today, more than 20,000 acres of park area is operated between Cumberland, Maryland and D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood. Seven NPS-operated visitor centers throughout the park offer interpretive exhibits detailing the canal's history and use. More than five annual visitors also utilize the park's facilities for fishing, boating, hiking, cycling, and camping. Since 2013, a portion of the park's bicycle paths have been designated as part of the newly-created U.S. Bicycle Route 50.
1850 Dual Highway, Suite 100, Hagerstown, MD 21740, Phone: 301-739-4200
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Constitution Gardens is a 50-acre park within Washington, D.C.'s National Mall, located adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The gardens' lands, which were once submerged under the Potomac River, were developed in the early 20th century by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and formerly housed offices for the United States Navy until the mid-2oth century. In 1976, the gardens were developed by landscape architect Dan Kiley and formally dedicated as part of the American Bicentennial celebration. Since 1982, the gardens have been overseen by the National Park Service and attract several million annual visitors each year. A memorial to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence sits within Constitution Gardens Lake, which is framed by a semicircle showcasing the signatures of the Founding Fathers. Each year, the gardens host an annual immigration naturalization ceremony for new United States citizens.
Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20024, Phone: 202-426-6841
© Dumbarton Oaks
Dumbarton Oaks is an historic estate within Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood, best known as the former residents of Robert Woods and Mildred Barnes Bliss. The property's use as residential land dates back to the turn of the 19th century, when it was acquired by William Hammond Dorsey. The estate that currently stands today is most attributed to Edward Magruder Linthicum, who gave the estate the name The Oaks, a reference to the residence of United States Vice President John C. Calhoun. It was renamed as Dumbarton Oaks following its acquisition by the Blisses in 1920 and was substantially enlarged with Colonial Revival design elements, increasing its grounds to 54 acres of surrounding landscape. Today, the estate is home to a renowned research institute and museum collection, which features more than 200,000 significant research library items and substantial collections of Byzantine, European, and Pre-Columbian art. Its gorgeous estate grounds are open to the public as a 27-acre public park, overseen as a unit of Rock Creek Park. Seasonal events are held on the park's grounds, including lecture and concert series.
1703 32nd St NW, Washington, DC 20007, Phone: 202-339-6401
8.Fort Dupont Park
Fort Dupont Park is one of Washington, D.C.'s largest public parks, located near the Anacostia River waterfront and bounded by the neighborhoods of Greenway, Fort Dupont, Benning Ridge, and Penn Branch. The park, which is named in honor of its Civil War-era fortress remains, is overseen by the National Park Service and encompasses the adjacent Fort Chaplin, Fort Davis, and Fort Stanton neighborhood parks. 10 miles of walking and biking trails are offered throughout the park, running between Grant and Erie Streets. Park visitors can enjoy opportunities for nature walking, picnicking, and ranger-led programming, with indoor ice skating opportunities offered throughout the winter months at the Benning Stoddert Recreation Center. Ranger-led programming elaborates on the park's Civil War fort usage. The park also presents a famed summer concert series each year, drawing notable regional and national touring acts.
Minnesota Ave SE, Washington, DC 20019, Phone: 202-426-7723
9.Fort Reno Park
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Fort Reno Park is home to Washington, D.C.'s highest natural point, located within the city's Tenleytown neighborhood. The park preserves the historic Civil War-era fortress of the same name, which was the location of the District of Columbia's only Civil War battle in 1864, when Confederate troops led by General Jubal A. Early attacked the fort as part of the Battle of Fort Stevens. Today, the land surrounding the fort is overseen as a public park by the National Park Service and is home to a marker commemorating its 409-foot-elevation high point, overseen by the Highpoint Foundation. Baseball and tennis fields are open to the public for visitor use, along with several large grassy areas for relaxation and picnicking. Due to its elevation, the park serves as a popular spot for fireworks watching on the Fourth of July, as displays throughout Maryland and Northern Virginia are visible from its heights. An annual free concert summer series has been held each year at the park since 1968.
4000 Chesapeake St NW, Washington, DC 20016, Phone: 202-245-4715
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10.Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
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Frederick Douglass National Historic Site honors the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass, one of the United States' most prominent African American citizens throughout the 19th century. The site, which is located within Southeast D.C.'s Anacostia neighborhood, preserves Douglass' former Cedar Hill estate, where he lived from 1877 to 1895. The 20-room Victorian-style home served as a lookout point after Douglass' 1876 appointment as District of Columbia marshal and was host to many lavish high society parties throughout the remainder of Douglass' life. Since 1962, the house has been overseen by the National Park Service, open to the public as a living history museum facility offering daily half-hour guided tours. An interpretive center also offers exhibits on Douglass' life and career.
1411 W St SE, Washington, DC 20020, Phone: 202-426-5961
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Garfield Park was part of Washington, D.C. city planner Pierre L'Enfant's original design for the city's public lands, originally envisioned as a site for the creation of a grand cascade at its purchase in 1792. Though the cascade never materialized, the public lands that the park now sit on were developed throughout the late 19th century, located in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood near what is now Interstate 695. Despite many threats from private construction development over the years, the park remains a popular recreational area in Southeast D.C., offering tennis, bocce, and basketball courts for visitor use, along with a children's playground and picnic sites. The park is included as part of the National Register of Historic Places-listed Capitol Hill Historic District, which has been preserved since 1976.
2nd St SE & F St SE, Washington, DC 20003, Phone: 202-673-7647
12.The George Mason Memorial
The George Mason Memorial honors United States Founding Father George Mason, best known as the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which served as a model for the creation of the United States Bill of Rights. The memorial, which was dedicated in 2002, is located within Washington, D.C.'s West Potomac Park along the Tidal Basin, which buts up against the Potomac River waterfront at the western end of the National Mall. A life-sized sculpture of Mason sits along a bench area overlooking a circular reflecting pool, which features a fountain that operates during the summer months. An inscription on the monument showcases quotes related to Mason's Federalist politics and anti-slavery viewpoints. A trellis and circular hedges also flank the memorial, which is administered by the National Parks Service as part of the National Mall park complex.
900 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024, Phone: 202-426-6841
13.Georgetown Waterfront Park
Georgetown Waterfront Park is a 225-mile park project linking portions of existing parkland between Cumberland, Maryland and Mount Vernon, Virginia along the waterfront of the Potomac River. The park, which was completed in 2011, is best known for its urban Washington, D.C. section within the city's Georgetown neighborhood, located within the Georgetown Historic District along the neighborhood's waterfront between 31st Street NW and the Key Bridge. Visitors can enjoy the park's lovely labyrinth landscape section or splash in its centerpiece fountain on hot summer days, located at the intersection of K Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW. Other park attractions include river steps, a cable pergola, stormwater runoff rain gardens, a living bank bio-edge habitat, and pollinator gardens. A designated pathway is offered for cyclists, inline skaters, and pedestrians along the park's waterfront, offering unparalleled views of nearby Theodore Roosevelt Island.
3303 Water St NW, Washington, DC 20007
14.John Marshall Park
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John Marshall Park is an urban park space in Washington, D.C.'s Judiciary Square neighborhood, located directly north of the National Mall's National Gallery of Art facility. The park is named in honor of former United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, who served the nation's highest court between 1801 and 1835. A sculpture along the park's northern end depicts the justice playing chess, commissioned by artist William Wetmore Story in 1883 and serving as a cast of Story's original sculpture, which adorns the interior of the Supreme Court building. Another sculpture, The Chess Players, is located along the park's eastern side.
Washington, DC 20001, Phone: 202-426-6841
15.Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is a 700-acre public park located along the Anacostia River waterfront in Washington, D.C.'s northeasternmost corner, near the Maryland state border and the neighborhoods of Kenilworth and Eastland Gardens. The park's lands were originally purchased in the 1880s by Civil War veteran Walter B. Shaw, who cultivated a commercial collection of water lilies and other plants that reminded him of his native Maine. Following Shaw's death in 1921, his daughter, Helen Shaw Fowler, successfully campaigned for the protection of the gardens by the United States government as a public park facility. Today, the gardens are overseen by the National Park Service's National Capital Parks-East division and have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can view Shaw's collections of rare water lilies and lotuses or peruse the Kenilworth Marsh, D.C's only remaining tidal marsh habitat. A wide variety of flora and fauna call the park home, including 257 species of birds, 650 species of insects, and a number of native mammal, fish, and reptile species.
1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019, Phone: 202-692-6080
Lincoln Park is the largest urban park protected as part of the Capitol Hill Parks umbrella, which oversees four large urban parks and 59 connector spaces as part of one National Park Service unit. The park was originally developed in 1791 as part of city planner Pierre L'Enfant's original design for Washington, D.C. and was named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln in 1867. A statue of Lincoln, originally dedicated in 1876 with a keynote address by Frederick Douglass, depicts the president holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation out to a freed African American. Other monuments within the park include a memorial for activist Mary McLeod Bethune, the first monument in the District of Columbia to honor an African American woman.
Washington, DC 20003, Phone: 202-690-5185
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17.Meridian Hill Park
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Meridian Hill Park is one of the most beautiful urban parks in Washington, D.C., located in its north central corridor between the vibrant neighborhoods of Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. The park is located on the site of the 1819 Meridian Hill mansion, a National Historic Landmark which is best known today as the former home of President John Quincy Adams. Between 1912 and 1940, the estate was converted into a Neoclassical-style urban park space. Today, it showcases the longest cascading fountain in North America, which extends for 13 basins down a series of staircases. Other features within the park include a statue of historic figure Joan of Arc and a series of lower-level landscaped gardens, which offer concrete walkways and visitor benches. The park is best known as the weekly site of Sunday afternoon drum circles, held each weekend since the 1950s.
16th St NW &, W St NW, Washington, DC 20009, Phone: 202-895-6000
Montrose Park is a 16-acre public park in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood, originally operated as a picnic ground as part of the estate of ropemaker Robert Parrott. The park was added to Georgetown's Rock Creek Park following lobbying by activist Sarah Louisa Rittenhouse and was acquired by the United States government in 1911. Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, located adjacent to Dumbarton Oaks Park and Oak Hill Cemetery along R Street Northwest. Many prominent park features are preserved from the land's estate use, including a summer home and a 500-foot ropewalk, originally constructed in 1804. Two sets of tennis courts have been added to the park since its government acquisition, along with a large children's playground and connector trails to nearby Rock Creek Park.
Washington, DC 20007, Phone: 202-282-1063
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19.The National Mall and Memorial Parks
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The National Mall and Memorial Parks is one of Washington, D.C.'s most iconic tourist attractions, receiving more than 24 million annual visitors from around the world. The long, landscaped park complex is located near the city's downtown district and is flanked by several of the city's federal government buildings, including the White House and the United States Capitol Building. Major memorials contained within the National Park Service-managed complex include the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Constitution Gardens, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Many of the museums within the Smithsonian Institution umbrella are housed within the Mall, including the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Gallery of Art. On the western end of the Mall, the Tidal Basin is home to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, surrounded by iconic growth of blossoming cherry trees.
900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC 20024, Phone: 202-426-6841
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20.The National Museum of American History's Victory Garden
The National Museum of American History's Victory Gardens are located on the east lawn of the museum's Behring Center facility, located within the National Mall complex. The gardens showcase a period-typical World War II-era victory garden, a type of garden planted throughout the war to ensure food supply for troops and civilians throughout the country. Gardens were planted in cooperation with government agencies, businesses, and civic organizations as an effort to help communities grow food and bolster war efforts. Though many of the millions of the gardens that once lined the nation's urban and suburban spaces have now vanished, the story of victory gardens has been immortalized through a number of documentary films, books, seed collections, and photography retrospectives. 20th century-era heirloom plantings are showcased at the museum's garden, with plantings rotating during different growing seasons.
1300 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560, Phone: 202-633-1000
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President’s Park, officially known as the White House and President's Park, is an official park designation encompassing the grounds of the White House, Lafayette Square, and the Ellipse, overseen as a public park facility by the National Park Service. Publicly-accessible parts of the park space include the seven-acre Lafayette Square, located directly north of the White House along H Street, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1970. The 52-acre Ellipse, located south of the White House's fenced landscape area, preserves several notable monuments and is the site of a number of public special events throughout the year. Park visitors can also tour the White House Visitor Center, which showcases exhibits related to the residence's history, architecture, presidential occupants, and daily administrative operations.
1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20230
22.Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park is one of Washington, D.C.'s largest public parks, established as the third national park in the United States in 1890. The 1,754-acre park stretches throughout much of the city's northwestern quadrant, crossing the Maryland state border near the neighborhood of Chevy Chase. A plethora of public amenities are showcased throughout the park, including the legendary Carter Barron Amphitheatre, home to a famed outdoor summer concert series. The 18-hole Rock Creek Park Golf Course is open to the public in the park's upper section, while the free-admission Smithsonian National Zoological Park forms the park's southern boundary near the neighborhood of Woodley Park. Over 30 miles of visitor trails are offered, including cycling and horseback riding routes. Other attractions include a year-round tennis center, a boating center, and several children's playgrounds.
5200 Glover Rd, NW, Washington, DC 20015, Phone: 202-895-6000
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The Yards is a unique 42-acre development along Washington, D.C.'s Anacostia River waterfront within the city's Navy Yard district, accessible via the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro station. The park, which repurposes one of the city's oldest industrial neighborhoods, is one of D.C.'s newest public parks, bestowed with several major urban planning and landscaping awards since its 2010 public opening. Lovely open park space includes a boardwalk, splash pad water fountains, and a unique sculpture bridge, all designed by architect M. Paul Friedberg. The park's greater recreation area is also home to an outdoor performance space hosting events such as the DC Jazz Festival, as well as a wide variety of waterfront shopping and dining destinations.
355 Water Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
24.Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island spans 88.5 acres within the Potomac River, located near the Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown. The island was originally bestowed to the United States federal government in the 1930s as a memorial to the country's 26th president, transforming overgrown farmland area into a natural park facility overseen by the National Park Service. Since then, the island park has been featured in major motion pictures such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966. A memorial plaza showcases a statue of Roosevelt, surrounded by dense vegetation throughout the undeveloped island area. Several hiking trails traverse the island's swampland and marshland areas, including a boardwalk area. Visitors can access the island via a footbridge along the western banks of the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia.
700 George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean, VA 22101, Phone: 703-289-2500
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25 Best Washington, DC Parks
- Anacostia Park, Photo: Christian Hinkle/stock.adobe.com
- Battery Kemble Park, Photo: tachjang/stock.adobe.com
- Canal Park, Photo: Kristina/stock.adobe.com
- The Capitol Hill Parks, Photo: kirollos/stock.adobe.com
- The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Photo: Tono Balaguer/stock.adobe.com
- Constitution Gardens, Photo: Giuseppe Crimeni/stock.adobe.com
- Dumbarton Oaks, Photo: Dumbarton Oaks
- Fort Dupont Park, Photo: thongchainak/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Reno Park, Photo: Alex Green/stock.adobe.com
- Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Garfield Park, Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/stock.adobe.com
- The George Mason Memorial, Photo: naughtynut/stock.adobe.com
- Georgetown Waterfront Park, Photo: AndreasJ/stock.adobe.com
- John Marshall Park, Photo: Anatoliy Sadovskiy/stock.adobe.com
- Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, Photo: Kristina/stock.adobe.com
- Lincoln Park, Photo: Chris/stock.adobe.com
- Meridian Hill Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Montrose Park, Photo: flashmovie/stock.adobe.com
- The National Mall and Memorial Parks, Photo: Oleksandr Dibrova/stock.adobe.com
- The National Museum of American History's Victory Garden, Photo: rolffimages/stock.adobe.com
- President’s Park, Photo: sborisov/stock.adobe.com
- Rock Creek Park, Photo: Nick/stock.adobe.com
- The Yards, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Theodore Roosevelt Island, Photo: avmedved/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: sborisov/stock.adobe.com