DC’s Cherry Blossoms demand the spotlight in spring, but the city is a wonderland of gorgeous natural sights outside of the Tidal Basin. From The National Capitol Columns to a lotus garden awash in animal life, here are a few worth your time.
The U.S. National Arboretum
Serving as a major center of botanical research in the US, the collection of trees, shrubs, and floral plants at the U.S. National Arboretum is often overlooked. The Arboretum is a favorite of locals and one of the best places in DC to catch your breath after a long week in the city.
The National Capitol Columns, a gorgeous collection of bonsai trees, and resident bald eagles recently born in one of the park’s poplar trees (check them out here on the Eagle Cam or on Instagram using the hashtag #dceaglecam). If you’re up for an adventure, check out the Full Moon Hike offered seasonally at the Arboretum.
The U.S. National Arboretum is 3.1 miles from the Capitol Hill Hotel, but unfortunately is not on a metro line. It is best to take this trip by car if possible.
3501 New York Avenue, NE; 202-245-2726
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is a wonderful place to experience the plants and animals of the Anacostia River. Ducks, geese, egrets, kingfishers, and herons love to hang out here, so pack your camera.
If you have ever wanted to step into one of Monet’s water lily paintings, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is your spot. Because of a zigzagging walkway through the pond, visitors have easy access to the wildlife (and a spectacular display of lotuses and lilies in June and July), making this a favorite place for photographers and tourists alike. Pack a picnic – there’s a peaceful spot just past the visitor center at the edge of the ponds.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are 4.7 miles from the Capitol Hill Hotel and easily accessible by car.
1550 Anacostia Avenue, NE; 202-692-6080
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt, America’s 26th president and favorite of President Barack Obama, was an avid outdoorsman and the first president to make conservation a focal point of his time in office. Theodore Roosevelt Island, an 88 acre retreat across from the Georgetown Waterfront, is a tribute to his efforts. The island contains trails and boardwalks, including an easy 1.6 mile loop.
A bronze statue of Teddy Roosevelt situated alongside tall granite tablets inscribed with quotes is the centerpiece of the island, but locals come here to get their nature fix. This wooded sanctuary is a great place to trail run or take a walk near the water while enjoying gorgeous views of the Georgetown Waterfront, The Kennedy Center, and Rosslyn. Birdwatchers and binoculars are a fixture here, as are local photography classes.
If traveling by car, the island is 5.2 miles from the Capitol Hill Hotel and is accessible from the northbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, after Roosevelt Bridge, exit sign, turn right into the parking lot. By Metro: exit Rosslyn Metro station, walk toward Key Bridge, and take the short connecting trail downhill from the downstream side of the bridge, across the parkway, and into the parking lot for the island.
Theodore Roosevelt Island.