The Georgetown Waterfront Park is like a Joni Mitchell song in reverse: They unpaved a parking lot and put up paradise. A 10-acre sliver of local paradise, anyway.
Where there once was a big fenced-in blacktop area where you could overpay to leave your car for a few hours, is now a wonderful stretch of recreational space right along the Potomac River. And with elements that make it great for play and relaxation, plus a location that’s both scenic and convenient, it has become one of our family’s go-to spots to hang out this summer.
First, there is the fountain, which is no doubt the main draw for many people with kids, especially on a hot day. The line of sprays that arc over about a 50-foot area are as appealing to look at as they are refreshing to run through. For the most part, kids (and accompanying grown-ups) play in them most, but the occasional park sun bather or passing jogger will detour to cool off under the sprinklers, too. It’s a great way to enjoy water play with little ones — they get to splash around in a relatively safe environment, and there’s not as much commitment as there is a with a pool (i.e., I don’t necessarily have to don a swimsuit to dash through the sprays). There are also several benches facing the fountain, so it’s easy to see the kids if you want to sit while they play. You can also spread out a blanket in the grass nearby and watch from there.
The park’s offerings go well beyond the fountain. Nearby the sprays is a tiered cement seating right along the river banks where you can see and feed ducks and watch kayakers and boaters go by. And all around, from the Washington Harbour to the start of the towpath, is a long expanse of grass dotted by trees and other recently planted shrubs and flowers. There is seating throughout, both on benches and open areas on the lawn.
A stone path runs along the edge of the park closest to the river, and narrow paved paths traverse within. Along the former, large granite blocks with etchings of historic images are pretty fascinating to see — pictures of crew teams, the Key Bridge, and other iconic scenes are accompanied by facts about the area. And for some added amusement, there is a large flat cement labyrinth within the grass that you can walk on and navigate to the middle.
If I have one complaint about Georgetown Waterfront Park, it’s the lack of shade. There are no umbrellas or canopies of any kind, and because the park is so new, most trees were just planted and aren’t yet big and leafy. But it’s easy enough to take a break from the sun on Water street where it’s sheltered, or you can make that your opportunity to grab lunch at one of the many nearby eateries in Georgetown. Hey, you can even see a movie or do some shopping while you’re in the neighborhood, too.
Georgetown Waterfront Park is located between Water Street and the Potomac River in Georgetown. You can usually find parking along Water Street, often closer to the towpath. Otherwise, park in closer to M Street and walk down. It’s also easy to get to by bike and the DC Circulator Bus. It’s open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free.