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Best Parks in Washington, D.C.

March 29, 2014 9:00 AM

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Rock Creek Park. (Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rock Creek Park. (Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

With the Spring Equinox comes warmth, sunshine and blooming flowers. Unleash your inner naturalist. Visit one of these best parks in Washington, D.C. and see what kind of beauty lies among the hustle and bustle of our nation’s capital.

Hillwood Gardens
4155 Linnean Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 686-5807
www.hillwoodmuseum.org

Home to cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens is situated on 25 acres of lush gardens and natural woodlands. Journey down Friendship Walk and admire beautiful flowers in bloom such as boxwood, rhododendrons and azaleas. Or visit the French Parterre gardens and listen to the soothing sounds of moving water among cherubs and hedges. The grounds of the Hillwood estate are divided into “outdoor rooms,” with each “room” corresponding to the mansion’s interior design. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens offers docent and self-guided tours of the property and features a comprehensive art collection, cafe and museum shop.

Rock Creek Park
3545 Williamsburg Lane N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 895-6000
www.nps.gov/rocr

Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and into a natural oasis full of meadows, streams and majestic trees. Known as the fourth oldest national park, Rock Creek is home to towering oak, black walnut and beech trees and beautiful blooms like the cardinal flower, buttonbush and skunk cabbage. More than 200 types of animals call Rock Creek Park home including the red-shouldered hawk, eastern box turtle and the Hay Spring amphipod. Rock Creek Park provides plenty of things to do including hiking, bicycling and horse trails, picnicking, boating and playgrounds as well as a planetarium program. The park is also home to the Carter Barron Amphitheater and an 18-hole public golf course.

Related: Best Parent Gathering Places In Washington DC

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
1900 Anacostia Drive S.E.
Washington, DC 20020
(202) 426-6905
www.nps.gov/keaq

The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens features thousands of water plants, water lilies, lotuses, bamboo and water hyacinths. Watch beautiful butterflies float overhead or search the grounds for native species like minks, foxes or otters. A variety of amphibians, reptiles, birds and bugs call the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens home including frogs, turtles, non-poisonous snakes and night herons. Head over to the northern end of Anacostia Park and be amazed at the sights and sounds found along the marshes and magnolia bogs. Open year round, the park offers visitors a variety of things to do including hiking, bird watching and canoeing as well as a variety of educational activities.

Washington National Cathedral Gardens
3101 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 537-6200
www.nationalcathedral.org

Recognized as the “most commanding spot in the entire Washington area” by Rt. Rev. Henry Yates Satterlee, the Washington National Cathedral Gardens features 59 acres of stunning landscape artistry. Wander along historic boxwoods, cedars and fig trees in the Bishop’s Garden. Or follow the Pilgrim Way, a stone footpath that leads the way through native wildflowers and shrubs found on the property. The Washington National Cathedral Gardens also feature an amphitheater, more than 40 statues, plaques, artifacts and fountains and a gift shop. Self-guided tours are available as well as special events including tea gatherings and family festivals.

Related: Best Places For Horseback Riding In The DC Area

US National Arboretum
3501 New York Ave. N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 245-2726
www.usna.usda.gov

There is always something in bloom at the US National Arboretum. Situated near the US Capitol Building, this beautiful park features more than 440 acres of gardens and winding roadways and serves as a research and conservation facility for plants, trees, shrubs and turf. Hop on the open-air tram and tour the beautiful and historical property or pack a picnic and enjoy it among the National Grove of State Trees. The US National Arboretum is also home to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, the National Herb Garden and the Flowering Tree Collection, and offers a wide variety of educational programs and events, self-guided tours, gardener clinics, festivals, art exhibitions and family events.

Susan Diranian is a freelance writer living in Ashburn, VA. She is covering Travel & Outdoors. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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