We have been waiting for a place like The Yards Park for a long time. The waterfront expanse along the Anacostia in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood is one of the best additions to the area in a long time. Not only is it aesthetically glorious, but it also has turned a once-unused space into an urban oasis of recreation and relaxation for the public.
At the edge of the park is the Lumber Shed, which is temporarily being used as a covered pavilion. It’s a historic building that was once used by the Navy, but renovations will eventually transform it into a retail/dining location with glass walls to capitalize on the sweeping river views. During last weekend’s grand opening festival it housed art exhibits and food vendors, and even in its non-renovated state, was a nice place to escape the hot sun but still enjoy the outdoors. (2017 Update: There’s even more to enjoy now, as The Yards has developed quite a bit since this was originally posted — more eateries, kayaks for rent during the warm seasons, a fantastic summer concert series, and lots of fun events hosted there.)
The elements surrounding the pavilion are even better. A few open green spaces will make for excellent areas to spread out a blanket for picnics and room for kids to run and play. If you want to enjoy a meal above ground, there are plenty of tables along the water in the Overlook area. A canopy of metal beams creates a stunning overhead art display, and plans to stretch canvas across them for shade is also intended to evoke a recollection of sails on the water.
Below that, the Boardwalk runs a quarter-mile along the river and connects to Navy Yard Riverwalk Trail. During the festival, bands played there to an audience sitting on a tiered grassy area facing the river—a lovely place to see live entertainment.
One route to all of this is via The Pedestrian Bridge, a fantastic sculptural element of the park with large concrete rings circling the bridge and beams running above it. Just behind it on the Boardwalk, a light tower is illuminated at night, a sight that I have yet to see, but have no doubt is beautiful.
Finally, I’ll get to the best part of the park — the water features. The Canal Basin and Waterfall are magnificent, especially for kids. On the upper level, the in-ground fountain sprays water in rows and invites folks to come play. On festival day, it was all squeals and giggles as kids ran through the sprays and soaked in the water. Of course, adults are welcome to get wet, too, though if you just want to cool your heels, there are areas where the water is a nice, gentle trickle.
And it doesn’t stop there. On the level below is a waterfall gushing into a shallow pool, where guests are free to wade and play. Take the kids on the path behind the waterfall—they will be mesmerized by the liquid wall they can skim their fingers along.
In case it’s not already apparent, here’s the gist of my review: I love the place. Go check it out–I have a feeling you’ll be on the same page.