Category Archives: Nature

Serenity Now: 10 Places to Find Peace and Calm in DC

 

Sometimes you’re looking for an out-of-the-house activity that doesn’t actually involve much… activity.   You just want to find a locale that is pretty and quiet, where you can chill out and think (or not) — especially during this strange and uncertain time when there is so much information to digest and new circumstances to comprehend.  Whether with kids, in the company of other adults, or solo, having a place to go to process everything (or not focus on it for awhile), can be good for everyone’s well being.  You might want to wander around beautiful grounds, take a break in nature, meditate in a tranquil place, or just lounge and enjoy the surrounds.  Here are 10 spots that are perfect for that, where you can find some peace and calm.

 

The view from inside a gazebo at the Arboretum

National Arboretum
The 450 acres of gorgeous grounds contain a bunch tucked away spots, where you can hang out and unwind, you just have to explore beyond the popular parts to find them. There are gazebos in the middle of plant collections, benches placed under the prettiest trees, swaths of grass amid blooming flora, and uncrowded trails and paths that wind all around. Skip the old Capitol Columns that tend to draw lots of visitors and head to the Asian Collection, the dogwoods and conifers, the hollies and magnolias, the hill full of azaleas, or Fern Valley (when it’s open again). Whether you roam around or discover a secret place to sit, your surroundings will be beautiful and calm. The National Arboretum is open Mon-Fri 1-5pm, and Sat-Sun 8am – 5pm, and admission is free. Read more about it here and here.

 

The Franciscan Monastery’s pretty, peaceful garden

Franciscan Monastery Garden
The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America is an “Oasis of Peace” in Brookland. It consists of the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre, beautifully landscaped grounds immediately surrounding,  and a garden adjacent to that. The Rosary Portico, long concrete open air passageways, run along the perimeter of the inner grounds, the inside walls adorned with Christian symbols and ceramic plaques. In the garden, pretty flowers and plants and tall trees grow among replicas of Holy Land shrines. The public is welcome to enjoy it all. There are paths to stroll and lots of benches if you just want to sit and reflect. Garden hours are 9am – 4:45pm daily (though the church is closed right now), and admission is free. Read more about the Franciscan Monastery here.

 

Wander in the woods at Tregaron

Tregaron Conservancy
This secluded locale in Northwest DC that stretches between the Washington International School and a residential area — you can see the backyards of homes as you walk along some of the paths — offers a nice little nature break. Trails wind through the 13 acres under tall leafy trees, with a lily pond, large meadow, and a couple of stone stairways adding a bit of a fairy tale feel. You could very well have it all to yourself — we’ve wandered through without encountering a single other visitor. And if you wanted to extend your walk, the park trails lead right to the Klingle Valley Trail. Access Tregaron at 3100 Macomb Street NW or 3031 Klingle Road NW.

 

A hidden gem of the Botanic Garden

Bartholdi Park
This outdoor area of the U.S. Botanic Garden is often missed by visitors because of its location across Independence Avenue from the Conservatory. But the lack of people is part of what makes it such a lovely spot. The Bartholdi Fountain is the centerpiece of the park, and it’s surrounded by colorful flowers and paths winding among the plants. A couple of tables with umbrellas, plus several benches are there, so you can sit and relax amid it all. It’s so lovely and serene, you’ll forget there’s a busy thoroughfare just beyond its edges.

 

A little oasis within Yards Park

River Street Gardens at Yards Park
If you can snag one of the wooden lounge chairs in this small section in front of the boardwalk on the east side of Yards Park, it’s a great place to chill out. Overlooking the Anacostia, you can sit back and take in river views, surrounded by birch trees and greenery that make it a relaxing enclave within the bigger, bustling Capitol Riverfront. The park is open from sunrise until two hours after sunset, and admission is free.

 

 

Nature and presidential tribute at Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island
Something about its location within the Potomac River makes the park feel like an isolated escape.  You have to cross a bridge from Virginia to access it even though it’s technically in DC.  A couple of trails traverse the island through woods and along the water, some parts of it on a boardwalk over marshy areas.  And in the center of it all is the Memorial Plaza, a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt, with fountains and stone benches.  Whether you walk the grounds or just sit and relax,  you’ll be immersed in a soothing setting.  Roosevelt Island is open 6am – 10pm, and admission is free.   Read more about it and get a good glimpse in this KFDC post.

 

A grand Cathedral backdrop at the Bishop’s Garden

Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral
While many find calm and comfort inside the Cathedral, this gorgeous area on the south side of the church offers that in its own way. The terraced, walled garden is as tranquil as it is beautiful, featuring an array of colorful flowers, a variety of plants, statues, and medieval and modern structures incorporated into the design. Walk through it all along the stone path or pick a seat on a bench or in the gazebo for a calming break.

 

The Parterre, the main part of the Haupt Garden

Enid A. Haupt Garden
The grounds between the Smithsonian Castle and Independence Avenue (and nearby offshoots) are always well-groomed, vibrant with flowers, and an inviting outdoor space. You can stroll around and get a close look at the plants and flowers or find a bench to sit and savor it all. Neat little side areas, like the Moongate Garden adjacent to the Freer|Sackler and the Fountain Garden next to the National Museum of African Art, have water features and artistic designs that are pretty to view and relaxing to hang out by. The Haupt Garden is open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free.

 

Peaceful grounds at the cemetery

Congressional Cemetery
It doesn’t get much more peaceful than a cemetery. Sure, the thought of hanging out among the dead and buried might be eerie to some, but others find the stillness comforting.  At this Capitol Hill site, the serene environs are also beautiful, their 30 acres studded with all types of gravestones — large and small, simple and intricate — and you can walk among them on several paved paths that stretch across the grounds.  You’ll also find many quiet places to sit, some even at gravesites, where you can contemplate life (and death) or just find calm in the silence. Note: Right now, the cemetery is only open to K-9 members and day passers, but it’s included here for when the public is welcome again — hopefully, soon.

 

Plenty of space to stroll and de-stress at Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks Garden
The beautiful grounds of the historic Dumbarton House in Georgetown is one of the prettiest places in DC, in my opinion. Tucked away in a relatively non-bustling area of the neighborhood, a visit there feels like a little escape right in the city. A variety of sections feature different kinds of flora, and there are numerous paths — brick, stone, grass, stairs — to access them, often with delightful surprises on the way. Roaming around is a great way to de-stress and clear the mind, and scattered throughout are nice small nooks with seating as well as open spaces. Garden hours are 2-6pm Wed-Sun. Admission is $10/adult, $5/age 2-12 from mid-March – mid-November (free the rest of the year). Note: Dumbarton Oaks Gardens are closed right now due to COVID, but it’s included here for hwen the public is welcome again — hopefully, soon.

 

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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Free, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend

Ride On: Bike Routes for Everyone Around the DC Area

 

Considering how much we love biking (3/4 of our family, anyway), this post should have been written ages ago.  But given the rise in biking popularity during COVID, this is a perfect time to get on it. As more people have been taking to two wheels for outdoor recreation, they are also seeking more routes to rides.  The DC area has plenty of them to cruise along; even more, there is something for every age and rider level.  Here are some of our favorites, plus a few suggested by fellow biking enthusiasts. Whether easily accessible from home or requiring a drive then ride, all of them are very pedal-worthy.  Happy Biking!

 

Riding nearby the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens on the Anacostia River Trail

Anacostia River Trail
Running along the Anacostia River from the Capitol Riverfront in Southeast DC to College Park, MD, this is a great trail for all levels of riders. Not only is it mellow with just a few gentle hills, it’s a route that can be tackled all in one ride or in shorter stretches, depending on what you’re up for. Ride the length of Anacostia Park, along the wetlands of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, by the river to Bladensburg Waterfront Park, and around Lake Artemesia in College Park — all of them offer scenic sights and/or fun stops on the way. Read more about biking part of this trail to Kenilworth and about Anacostia Park and Bladensburg Waterfront Park.

 

Enjoy some of DC’s most iconic sights biking the National Mall

National Mall
In non-COVID times, one of the best things about riding on the Mall is all the great museum stops you can make along the way. That’s currently not as much of an option, as you can only access the National Gallery with passes and enjoy the gardens. But that also makes it an a excellent area to ride with kids right now for another reason: Without the usual tourist crowds to visit the museums, little (and big) riders have plenty of space to navigate the gravel paths and roads; no more winding their way through hordes of people. Biking the Mall is also a convenient way to tour the memorials and generally cover more ground in one outing.

 

Riding a stretch of Ohio Drive at East Potomac Park

Hains Point/East Potomac Park
The road that runs the perimeter of most of the park is popular with both competitive cyclers and recreational riders. It’s a flat, scenic route, making it nice for family bike rides — easy to pedal (when it’s not windy), and there are views of the rivers as well as airplanes taking off and landing at DCA. While cars do drive on it, the speed limit is very slow, and there is plenty of room for both bikers and drivers. Bonus: There are even more activities to enjoy there, including mini golf, FootGolf, regular golf, playground fun, and tennis. Read more about Hains Point in this KFDC post.

 

On the boardwalk at Kingman Island

Kingman Island
Located between the Anacostia River and RFK parking lot, the park is technically part of the Anacostia River Trail.  But the way it’s situated makes it a good place to bike on its own, especially with kids who like a bit of mountain biking that isn’t too rough. You can ride there or park in the lot, then cruise on in — biking is permitted around the island and on the boardwalk trail. Stop to take in river views, look out for birds and turtles, and make time after for the playground located on the new RFK Fields close to the park entrance. Read more about Kingman Island in this KFDC post.

 

On the way to Fletcher’s Boathouse on the Capital Crescent Trail

Capital Crescent Trail
Part of the rails-to-trails system, this route used to be part of the B&O Railroad. It runs between Georgetown and Silver Spring, some of it along the Potomac River with pretty views of the water occasionally seen between the trees from the trail above. A nice stretch to ride with kids is the couple of miles from the start at Water Street in Georgetown to Fletcher’s Boathouse. You can take a break there, have a snack or a picnic, even rent a vessel for some paddling. Read more about this ride (and paddling from Fletcher’s) in this KFDC post.

 

Fantastic scenery comes with a Great Falls bike ride

Great Falls Park
It’s best known for amazing scenic views and hiking, but Great Falls is a fun place to ride as well. The C&O Canal runs on the Maryland side, and is a nice flat gravel path, though you may have to wind through a lot of people as you go, since the park always gets lots of visitors. On the Virginia side, biking is permitted on the Difficult Run Trail, Ridge Trail, and Old Carriage Road. With kids it’s best to stay on Old Carriage, which is flat and closest to the parking lot; the other two are more strenuous rides. Read more about Great Falls in this KFDC post.

 

See airplanes at Gravelly Point on the Mount Vernon Trail

Mount Vernon Trail
If you haven’t yet ridden this trail, you’ve definitely seen it as you’ve been driving on the George Washington Parkway. It’s a paved 18-mile stretch along the Potomac River between Roosevelt Island and Mount Vernon, and with parking lots along the way, it’s easy to pick short parts to ride. Given that it’s all along the water, the whole thing is pretty scenic, and there are some fun places to stop and see even more. Roosevelt Island is great to explore (no biking in the park, though), and the Lady Bird Johnson Memorial is neat to view. Gravelly Point next to DCA is awesome for airplane watching — they take off and come in for landing right overhead. Further down in Alexandria, there are some boardwalk areas to ride over, plus the waterfront, where you can stop for a snack, play time, or to stroll around. Of course, Mount Vernon, George Washington’s former digs are a great attraction, too.

 

A two-wheel tour of the National Arboretum

National Arboretum
One of the loveliest locales in the city is also a great place to bike. All of the riding is on roads, but there’s barely traffic, and low speed limits keep the cars slow. It’s a nice way to see the many plant collections; since the Arb is so large, it’s tough to cover it all on foot in an outing.  Some uphills might be hard for kids, but if you have to walk bikes a bit, at least it’s amid the gorgeous surrounds. Stop and explore plant collections, the Old Capitol Columns, Bonsai exhibit, and Washington Youth Garden (when open).   Current hours are 1-5pm Mon-Fri, and 8am – 5pm Sat-Sun. See more about the National Arboretum here and here.

 

A W&OD bike trail bridge near Falls Church / Photo credit: Antony-22, Wiki Commons

Washington & Old Dominion Trail
The W&OD, as it’s more commonly called, is a rail trail that runs 45 miles in Northern Virginia from Shirlington to Purceville. It’s all paved and fairly flat, plus there are a bunch of trailheads to access, so it’s easy to do short stretches.  A trail from Glencarlyn Park connects to it, where along with a playground, there is a learning loop for newbie cyclists.  There are signs along the route that tell the stories of people and places along the rail line. Depending on the section you ride, there may be parks and places to stop for a snacks.

 

The Sligo Creek Trail in fall / Photo: Wiki Commons

Sligo Creek Trail
We haven’t ridden this one, but it gets lots of raves from others. Over 10 miles long, it spans from Prince George’s to Montgomery County, running from Hyattville through Takoma Park and up to Wheaton. It’s often touted as a great trail for kids because there are lots of parks and playgrounds along the way, including Wheaton Regional Park (follow the link to read about the great playground) and the lovely Brookside Gardens.

 

Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park is closed to traffic on weekends

Rock Creek Park
There is a paved path that runs along the Rock Creek Parkway that I probably wouldn’t recommend for kids, as parts are next to fast moving traffic and could be scary for them. But it’s fun for older (and bolder) riders, surrounded by greenery and the creek flowing nearby. On weekends, Beach Drive is closed to traffic, and cyclers can enjoy the car free roads, though there are some uphill areas that could be tough for some. An area of Rock Creek near Lake Needwood in Maryland is better for young cyclers.

 

Lovely trails in Quiet Waters Park

Local Parks to Bike
These spots don’t have biking routes that span for miles through different areas, but they have paths that make for nice shorter rides in contained areas:
Burke Lake Park | Burke, VA
Lubber Run Park | Arlington, VA
Mason Neck State Park | Lorton, VA
Cabin John Regional Park | Bethesda, MD
Wheaton Regional Park | Wheaton, MD
Quiet Waters Park | Annapolis, MD

 

 

In the woods at Schaffer Farms

Mountain Biking
There are a bunch off-road trails around the area for those seeking rides with more challenges and obstacles. You can bike along rooty paths in the woods, cruise single track that span open fields, navigate twists and turns around trees, and practice tricks in parks made just for that. Levi has been mountain biking a long time, and Owen has gotten into it over the past year (I join on the easier rides), and these are some places they recommend:
Schaeffer Farms | Gaithersburg, MD
Fountainhead Regional Park | Fairfax Station, VA
Patapsco Valley State Park | Ellicott City, MD
Fort Dupont Park | Anacostia, DC
Meadowood Trail | Lorton, VA
Laurel Hill | Lorton, VA
Massanutten Mountain Bike Park | Massanutten, VA

 

Do you have a favorite biking route you don’t see listed here? Please share, if so!

 

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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Free, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Open Swim: Places Around the DC Area that Welcome the Public to Take a Dip

Cool off in the river at Patapsco Valley State Park


It’s summer, it’s blazing hot, and many of us are looking for places to enjoy the quintessential seasonal activity — swimming! — to cool off and have some fun. I’ve recently shared a couple of links with some beach and swimming hole recs, but they weren’t especially comprehensive and/or lacked details, so I decided to compile my own round-up of places around the area to take a dip. We’ve been to many of these spots, and those we haven’t visited either get kudos from friends or have been touted enough by other resources to warrant inclusion. And if you know of other great locales to swim that are within day trip distance, feel free to share in the comments.

BEACHES on the BAY

Sandy Point State Park
Where: 1100 East College Parkway | Annapolis, MD
Hours: Daily, 7am – sunset
Admission: $5-7/May – Sept weekends, $4-6/weekdays

Enjoy views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from the beach at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis. At nearly 800 acres, it’s a big beach park with lots of recreational opportunities — swimming, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, hiking, and more. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are lifeguards on duty. And snack food and beach and picnic supplies are available.

Calvert Cliffs State Park
Where: 10540 H. G. Trueman Road | Lusby, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: $8/vehicle

Well known as a fossil hunting locale — as its cliffs erode, prehistoric remains of marine life are revealed — but it’s also nice for beach fun, swimming, and hiking. To access the beach, you have to tramp a couple of miles through woods (and there are even more trails if you’re up for it), but the walk is worth it for some sand and surf. Open daily sunrise – sunset, and admission is $5-7/vehicle.

Flag Ponds Nature Park
Where: 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway | Lusby, MD
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am – 6pm | Sat-Sunday, 9am – 8pm
Admission: $8/vehicle

Not only is there plenty of sand for playing and nice mellow waters for swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, it’s also a great spot for fossil hunting — look for shark teeth and other prehistoric remnants along the shores while you’re there, too! Hours are 9am – 6pm on weekdays and 9am – 8pm weekends from Memorial to Labor Day. Admission is $8/car. See more pics of Flag Ponds, and check out the official site here. Note: The park is currently open to Calvert County residents only, but this could change, so check back.

Bayfront Park
Where: 7255 Bayside Road | Chesapeake, MD
Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk
Admission: $18/adult, $10/child for non county residents

A nice little spot in Chesapeake Beach, MD. With a small but nice stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, shark teeth to fin, and cliffs edging the shoreline, it’s a great place to spend a day — especially with little ones since they can’t roam too far. The only downside is the steep admission fee. Note: The park is currently open to Calvert County residents only, but this could change, so check back.

Cape Henlopen State Park
Where: Lewes, DE
Hours: Open daily, 8am – sunset
Admission: $8-10/vehicle

It’s a little over two hours from DC, but still doable as a day trip if you leave early, especially on a weekday when there is less traffic. We just did this and had a fantastic day at the beach — packed up the car with a cooler and beach gear, got on the road early, and were on the beach by 10:30am. Enjoyed dinner outdoors and ice cream in town before heading back, arrived home at 9:15pm. Totally worth the time in the car.

LAKES & RIVERS

Patapsco Valley State Park
Where: 8020 Baltimore National Pike | Ellicott City, MD
Hours: Daily, 9am – sunset
Admission: $3-5/person weekend, $2-4/vehicle weekdays

There are several nice, shallow swimming areas in the park’s Patapsco River, most notably in the Avalon section near Cascade Falls. There are several entrances, and Avalon and Hilton are closest to that area. Depending on where you park, there is some up (and down) hill hiking on rooty trails, something to be aware of with little trampers. KFDC Tip: If an area is at capacity and closed, try another part of the park instead — list of areas via main park link above. See some pics from a visit there. (Note: A KFDC readers just alerted me that Howard County is not allowing river swimming as of July 1. While this is not reflected on the Patapsco Valley State Park website, be aware that it may not be permitted thee.)

Cunningham Falls State Park
Where: 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road | Thurmont, MD
Hours: Daily, 8am – sunset
Admission: $3-5/person

There are two parts to this park, and the lakes and beautiful waterfall (and camping) are located in the William Houck Area, three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77. The lake area welcomes swimmers and has a beach for hanging out. You can wade in the pools of the falls area, too. It’s a short hike to access, and there are a couple of trails to take, the half-mile Lower Trail is easy, and the 3/4 Cliffs Trail is more difficult with lots of rock scrambling.

Purse State Park
Where: Nanjemoy, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: Free

This is best if your main purpose is fossil hunting — it’s a great place to go for it — and you want to get in some “beach” time, too. Wear swimsuits, bring a picnic, and be sure to check the tide table so you can make the most of your time there.

Point Lookout State Park
Where: 11175 Point Lookout Road | Scotland, MD
Hours: Open daily, 7am – sunset weekdays, 6am – sunset weekends
Admission:

Located on a peninsula between the Chesapeake and the Potomac, the park includes a beach area where visitors can hang out and swim on the river side. A picnic area shaded by trees is nearby and close to the parking lot as well.

Gunpowder Falls State Park
Where: 7200 Graces Quarters Road | Middle River, MD
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: $5-7/person

There are six areas of the park, and a swimming beach on the banks of the Gunpowder River is in the Hammerman Area, which is located in Middle River, MD. There are also playgrounds, canoe and kayak rentals, and hiking trails if you want more recreation.

Aguia Landing Park
Where: Stafford, VA
Hours: Open daily 8am – 8pm
Admission: $3-4.50/child, $4-6.50/adult

I read about this park in this article that I recently shared on the blog about beaches within day trip distance. It gets so-so reviews on Yelp, but there is a swimming beach with access to


SWIMMING HOLES & CREEKS

Seneca Creek
Where: 16315 Old River Road | Poolesville, MD
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Mentioned in this article, this “hidden” spot is located right off River Road on the way to Homestead Farm and the sunflower bloom at McKee-Beshers. You can apparently park at the Seneca Store parking lot (see address listed), and walk through a small field to the creek. Update: A KFDC reader just let me know you can’t park in the lot anymore, so you have to drive down the road a bit and park on the side of the road.

Overall Run
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VA
Hours: Ongoing
Admission: $30/vehicle

The flowing water from Overall Run Falls pools into a swimming hole that can be a nice reward after a long hike or an easier spot to access if you just want to swim. To keep it low key start from the Thompson Hollow trail head; for a long loop start at the Matthews Arm parking lot. FYI – We’ve done a portion of the hike to these falls before, but they were mostly dry, so I recommend doing some research (perhaps calling the park to check) before you go.

White Oak Canyon Trail
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VA
Hours: Ongoing
Admission: $30/vehicle

According to the NPS website, there are a range of hikes on this trail, from an easy two miles to a strenuous seven, to the waterfalls with several swimming holes along the way. It’s apparently popular, so expect to share the path and waters with others.

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU GO

* Generally, weekdays are less crowded than weekends at places.

* Capacity is limited at many spots, especially during COVID, so it’s best to get to places early or in the afternoon after early people leave.

* It’s a good idea to have a Plan B in case you do get turned away. See what other activities are nearby a location, so you can save the day, especially if it’s a long drive.

Do you know of other good swimming spots around the area? Please share in the comments, if so!


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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Social Distancing, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Tips for Families Viewing the Cherry Blossoms (2020)

[Note: This was originally written in 2011 (hence, the now very outdated Lost reference) and has been updated every year since. But because the tips always apply, I’m re-posting yet again, just with a few minor updates applicable to this year’s bloom. Also, I realize that coronavirus may be a factor as you make plans to see the flowers; however, I am not a health expert, but know that KFDC has an audience of smart, discerning parents, so I will leave those judgements up to you.]

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, it is NOT recommended to go see the cherry blossoms, especially at the Tidal Basin and on the National Mall, as it is NOT conducive to social distancing. Instead, view them virtually from home or just wait to set them next year.

🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸

Taking the family to the National Mall to see some pretty flowers sounds easy enough. If only it actually was. The cherry blossom peak, predicted to occur March 27-30 this year, is one of the best times to visit DC. The city is at its most beautiful, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival provides loads of fun activities to help enjoy it all. But viewing the famous blooms can also be a bit challenging without being aware of a few things. Here are seven recommendations to consider if seeing the cherry blossoms is on your family’s spring agenda.

1. Don’t drive if you value your sanity. Take the Metro, ride the bus, bike, walk, jet pack. Get here however you can, just leave the car at home. Traffic is beyond frustrating during the cherry blossom peak, and your chances of finding decent parking are about as good as hitting the Powerball with Hurley’s numbers (okay, slight exaggeration, but it ishard). The masses descend on Washington, DC, this time of year, and way too many do so in their vehicles. Besides, kids love riding the Metro — it’s like an urban version of Hogwarts Express. The Smithsonian stop on the Blue/Orange Line is mere minutes from all of the blossom action, but it’s also guaranteed to be crowded. Consider riding to L’Enfant on Yellow/Green, Federal Center on Blue/Orange, or even a stop downtown or in Penn Quarter and taking a nice stroll to the Tidal Basin for the blossom scene. Another good option is the bus — the DC Circulator will run between Eastern Market and L’Enfant Plaza, a convenient route with even more to do on both ends. And the 32, 34, and 36 routes of Metrobus stop at the National Mall close to the Washington Monument. *If you absolutely must drive and need parking you might find a spot at Hains Point, where there is free and metered parking, then walk or take the Cherry Blossom Shuttle ($1/person) to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin. There is also a parking garage at L’Enfant Plaza. Your best bet, though, might be to find a garage in the downtown or Penn Quarter area, then walk or Metro to the National Mall. You can ensure yourself a spot with Parking Panda, an online parking reservation service that lets you search for and reserve garage spaces in advance.

Flying amid the flowers

2. Visit on a weekday if you have the flexibility. Crowds are significantly smaller from Monday to Friday, so you can stroll around the Tidal Basin at a nice pace, and public transportation won’t be nearly as packed (though it still will be more crowded than usual). But if the kids are in school or daycare during the week, think about going later in the day. The National Mall and monuments look beautiful at sunset, and the blossoms make it even more sublime. In the same vein, if you can go super early, the morning light on the Mall makes for quite a picturesque setting, too.

Peak time around the National Mall

3. Consider using a child carrier instead of a stroller for little ones. This is especially applicable if you take Metro, since elevator lines can be very long and slow-going. I learned my lesson back in my kids’ baby days on a weekday and ended up taking my daughter out of the stroller and carrying both on the escalator, which was probably as unsafe as it was difficult. Even if you don’t take Metro, a carrier is still a wise option. Navigating crowded walkways while pushing a pram takes focus, and you could end up spending more time concentrating on not rolling over others’ heels than enjoying the sights you came to see. It’s a bonus for wee ones, too — perched on your back, your babe will get a better view of the blossoms.

4. Check the National Cherry Blossom Festival schedule, so you can plan your visit accordingly. Some of the city’s most anticipated events are part of the annual celebration, the Blossom Kite Festival, National Cherry Blossom Parade, and Sakura Matsuri among them, and there are many non-official festival happenings as well. Most events take place nearby the blossoms or an easy Metro ride away. Peak bloom is expected to occur mid-Festival this year, so you can enjoy blossom-inspired activities and the efflorescent trees at the same time. This post has details on the best cherry blossom season celebrations and activities for families.

Get a view of the blossoms from a paddle boat

5. Get a new view of the blossoms and enjoy a fun activity on the Potomac. Several companies offer boat rides along the river, many of them specifically for the season when the cherry trees are in bloom. Right now you can find great deals with Washington Marina National Ferry Corp, Capitol River Cruises, and Boomerang Boat Tours. Potomac Riverboat Company and DC Water Taxi are a couple more to check out. You can also opt for a paddling excursion and navigate the waters yourself.

Playing under blossoms at the Arboretum

6. Seek out other spots to see the cherry blossoms if you don’t want to deal with crowds and chaos around the Tidal Basin and National Mall. Several places around the DC-Metro area are well known for their annual cherry blossom displays. When I worked in Bethesda many years ago, it was an annual tradition for my colleagues and me to take a drive through Kenwood, a lovely neighborhood between Little Falls Parkway and River Road with cherry tree-lined streets. The National Arboretum also has a nice collection of the trees and offers a beautiful, peaceful environment in which to view them in bloom. Dumbarton Oaks Gardens is one of the prettiest places in DC and its annual blossoms only add to it. And Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, has a lovely collection of cherry trees, too.

7. Have your camera ready to take advantage of some of the best photo ops DC offers. The peak colors plus the memorials are about as iconic as you can get when photographing Washington. Get your kids to sit still — or even let them run and play for a fun candid — and you’ve got this year’s holiday card.

Can’t beat the blossom backdrop for photos



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Filed under 2020, All ages, Annual, DC, Free, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Special Event, Spring, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend