Washington D.C. is home to many beautiful parks. More than 20% of its land is set aside for green areas, and 98% of its people live within a 10-minute walk of a park. If you are hard to know which to visit first, this guide to the best parks in Washington D.C. Will help you to find one.
1. National Mall
The National Mall, the District of Columbia’s most well-known green space is one of the best parks in Washington D.C. The park is home to the most iconic D.C. monuments. If you like to visit there, you can start from the western end at the Lincoln Memorial. Then you can properly see the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool. The Korean War Veterans Memorial is located just south of the pool.
After visiting it, you can go to the other side to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The World War II Memorial with its series of somber columns is at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool. The German-American Friendship Garden sits beneath the towering obelisk of the Washington Monument. Also, you can see the White House and its grounds north of the Memorial. The Smithsonian museums sit in the park between the Capitol Building and Washington Monument. Union Square sits at the easternmost end, with the Capitol Building and the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial.
The National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Gallery of Art are located along the northern side of the Mall. Smithsonian Castle, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian sitting on the opposite side of the green. You can easily visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory from here.
- Official website: www.nps.gov/nama
2. Tidal Basin Trail
To keep the Washington Channel clear for ships, the silt in the canal is flushed out into the Tidal Basin, a man-made holding pool that is filled by the Potomac River as the tide rises and empties into the Washington Channel as the tide falls. The landmarks surrounding the Tidal Basin make this are a top tourist attraction. The best time to visit here is during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Tidal Basin Loop Trail encircles the body of water, starting and finishing at the southern end of the National Mall, close to the Washington Monument. You can start your journey at the Japanese Lantern. It is a 350-year-old lantern made of granite. It was a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo as well. Next, tourists will approach the site of the 1912 plantings. After that, you can see the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It is a series of stunning monuments accompanied by sculptures and reliefs that commemorate his contributions to the country.
Next, you will see the Japanese Pagoda. After that, you will see the Inlet Bridge, which passes over the gates that allow water to flow from the Potomac River into the basin. The next landmark is the Jefferson Memorial which sits within a massive Classical Roman rotunda. You will find the Indicator Tree – an enigmatic cherry tree of unknown origin that blooms about one week before the rest of the cherry trees between a copse of crabapple trees and the Outlet Bridge. Along the northeast side of the water, you can see more than 2,500 Yoshino cherry trees as well.
3. Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park is one of the best parks in Washington D.C. and it spans over 1,750 acres that stretch in a column from the northern corner of the city to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium, the main visitor center are located near the center of the park. It offers exhibits, kids’ programming, planetarium shows, and hiking information.
The park has numerous recreational facilities that include a golf park, an equestrian center, soccer fields, and the Fitzgerald Tennis Center. The park has many designated picnic spots, a lot of bike-friendly routes, and a range of trails for different fitness levels, including a quarter-mile paved wheelchair-accessible trail. The charming Boulder Bridge, Mountain View Overlook, and Peirce Mill, a working grist mill constructed in the early 19th century, are just a few of the attractions.
- Visit 5200 Glover Road NW, Washington, D.C.
- Official website: https://www.nps.gov/rocr
4. Bartholdi Park
Bartholdi Park which displays the U.S. Botanic Garden’s outdoor collections is one of the best parks in Washington D.C. It is located just off the eastern end of the National Mall. Bartholdi Park was created in 1932 and underwent a complete renovation in 2016. The park has beautiful ornamentals, like roses and other perennials, and many leafy trees. The most popular spot of the park is the “Fountain of Light and Water”, also called Bartholdi Fountain. It was created in 1875 by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The central sculpture stands at a height of 30 feet tall and weighs over 15 tons.
- Visit: 245 First Street SW, Washington, D.C.
- Official website: https://www.usbg.gov/bartholdi-park
5. Georgetown Waterfront Park
The Georgetown Waterfront Park is one of the best parks in Washington D.C. It spans 10 acres along the banks of the Potomac River between 31st Street NW and 34th Street NW. The summer season is the best time to visit here. The most popular spot in the park is Percy Plaza, which is home to a large spray fountain. The Percy Plaza is located on the eastern end of the park.
In front of the fountain, some steps were originally intended for spectators of rowing regattas. A labyrinth built for reflection is a more peaceful monument that may be found at the opposite end of the park. The park is also home to several eco-conscious elements, including lovely pollinator gardens to keep the bees at work, the Bio-Edge replacing old concrete retaining walls, and rain gardens to prevent erosion.
- Visit: 3303 Water Street NW, Washington, D.C.
- Official website: https://www.nps.gov/places/georgetown-waterfront-park.htm
6. Georgetown Waterfront Park
Both parks are located between Georgetown and Embassy Row. The west half of the area is Dumbarton Oaks Park and the east of the area is Montrose Park. Both parks are open for the public to enjoy. The gardens of Dumbarton Oaks were designed by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand in 1921 for Mrs. Mildred Bliss. The gardens were split into two distinct areas and they are a formal garden and a natural garden.
If you visit there, you can see Dumbarton Oaks Museum which sits near the park. Montrose Park is home to the former estate of Richard Parrot and he built a mansion in the Federal style, the Boxwood Gardens, and the picturesque Ropewalk. If you visit there you can see the Ropewalk, but the mansion is no longer here. Tennis courts and a playground are also included in the park.
7. US National Arboretum
The National Arboretum is one of the best parks in Washington D.C. It is located in Northeast Washington. The best time to visit here is near the end of April. During this time tens of thousands of blossoms cover the slopes of Mount Hamilton. The wall of color on the Glenn Dale Azalea Hillside makes an amazing view as well. The area is home to thousands of flowers and trees. If you visit the Asian Collections you can find blooming plants all year round.
The Asian collection covers 13 acres and has a Korean Hillside, Japanese Woodland, and a Chinese Valley. The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is another attraction of the park. It started with a gift of 53 trees from Japan and now it houses more than 300 expertly curated specimens. You can see groupings of trees representing all 50 states in the Grove of State Trees.
The Arboretum also has the Gotelli Conifer Collection which displays a variety of evergreens. The National Boxwood Collection features more than 180 taxa, a lush fern valley, and a dogwood collection. If you visit the Arboretum, you will see many gardens that feature historic roses, perennials, wildflowers, annuals, and herbs. Arboretum’s Washington Youth Garden allows visitors to work together to grow food while learning about gardening, nutrition, and horticultural science.
- Official website: www.usna.usda.gov
8. Smithsonian Zoological Park
The National Zoological Park is located in the Woodley Park neighborhood just south of Rock Creek Park. It is one of the best parks in Washington D.C. No trip to Washington D.C. would be complete without visiting to the zoo. The zoo is home to 2,700 animals representing 390 species and it covers a total of 163 acres. The National Zoo is popular for its successful giant panda breeding program. The Elephant Trail is another popular thing in the zoo.
The National Zoo is home to five Asian elephants and provides plenty of space for them to play, splash and roam. If you visit there, you can see a Great Cats exhibit which includes African lions and Sumatran tigers. The Great Ape House is home to orangutans and gorillas. Lemur Island home to three varieties of adorable critters and Gibbon Ridge, with its siamangs and white-cheeked gibbons, are another highlight of the zoo.
- Visit: 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, D.C.
- Official website: https://nationalzoo.si.edu
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Frequently Asked Questions
How many parks are there in DC?
The District of Columbia contains more than 30 national parks. The National Park Service, a department of the US federal government, oversees and maintains each one of them.
Is there a water park in DC?
Kings Dominion. One of the biggest water parks in the region is this one. It occupies a 20-acre land area. There are both adult and child water slide options at this pool. A quarter-mile river is nearby where you can float thanks to the mild water.
How come Washington Square Park is so popular?
The Square has served as a gathering spot for people to relax, play, enjoy, and hold protests for for two centuries. In addition to serving as a neighborhood favorite public park, it also serves as a campus green, a crossroads, a venue for performances, and a draw for tourists from all over the world.
Which park in DC is the most well-known?
The National Mall. The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are two famous monuments that can be found on the broad, green National Mall. The White House lies to the north, while the dome-shaped U.S. Capitol is at the eastern end. Moreover, Smithsonian museums border it, and softball teams, runners, and school groups frequently gather on the park’s lawns and walks.