DC’s Secret Garden: Dumbarton Oaks


Fountains here, "sparkly garden" ahead at Dumbarton Oaks


‘How in the world have I lived in DC for so long and not visited this place?!’

That very thought kept popping into my head as Levi, Sasha, and I wandered around the oh-so-glorious gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, the historic estate tucked away in a relatively non-bustling area of Georgetown. (Actually, I do kind of know why — which I’ll get to in a bit — but I still could not stop mentally kicking myself for missing out on something so incredibly divine for so many years.) That’s because the Gardens are absolutely enchanting. Absolutely. Enchanting.

Follow the red brick road...

Follow the red brick road…

It starts when you walk in to the East Lawn, a large expanse of freshly manicured green grass bordered by shade trees and lovely plant clusters. A walking path circles that area and leads to even more, even better landscaped magic.  Stone and brick passageways meander in every direction to many different areas, each one seeming more lovely than the last.  Some of them you arrive at directly, the path leading to the next obvious place.  Others you feel like you encounter by chance, as if  you’ve discovered a secret oasis within the larger, wonderful retreat.

Horses! Fountains! What's not for a kid to love?

Horses! Fountains! What’s not for a kid to love?

One of the first areas we came to was the rose garden with over 50 varieties of the bloom. Nearby, a cutting garden and growing garden contain an array of flowers and herbs. Some of the loveliest areas are the terraces, some bedecked with fountains and statues, others showcasing the gorgeous plant and flower collections, a couple with beautiful pebble mosaics in the ground. (Many of them have charming names, but I couldn’t keep track because I was so rapt by it all.)

View of the rose garden

View of the rose garden

Sasha’s favorite part was the “sparkly garden,” which contained a simple small pool of water amid a floor of white pebbles. Above it, crystals hanging from mesh wire above glinted in the sun, creating the “sparkly” effect that also reflected off the water. We arrived there via Fountain Terrace (I think), which had two fountains within a grass plat surrounded by colorful flowers.  A breathtaking scene, to say the least.

The path to the "sparkly garden"

The path to the “sparkly garden”

Loveliness abounds

Loveliness abounds

We made our way through the gardens generally going east to west, and up and down the hill.  The long stone stairways and curving paths, bordered by both wildly growing plants and manicured flora were as much as part of the experience as the terraces and collections. This all took us to the massive lawn stretching behind the mansion, where Levi and I had major backyard envy (seriously, you could fit about 200 of our backyards in it).

Oh, the parties I could throw here...

Oh, the parties I could throw here…

I should note that seating is plentiful throughout the garden.  There are beautifully carved wood and stone benches and chairs, tables under umbrellas, and plenty of space on the soft, grassy areas. These would be perfect for taking a break and just hanging out to enjoy the tranquility and gorgeous surroundings. (We did just that on our way out, stopping on the East Lawn and kicking off our shoes while Sasha ran around.)

A final, barefoot frolic on the East Lawn

A final, barefoot frolic on the East Lawn

The thought that kept popping in my head when we finally left:  ‘I have to return soon.’

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens are located at 1703 32nd Street NW. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 2-6pm mid-March through October, and 2-5pm November – mid-March. (Remember that part about how I kind of knew why I hadn’t visited yet?  I’d tried a couple of times, but always at the wrong time.) Admission is $8/adults, $5/children ages 3 and up, free for 2 and under during mmid-March through October, and free November through mid-March. There are a lot of stairs and bumpy stone paths, so if you’re bringing a little one, I recommend a carrier over a stroller.


Filed under All ages, DC, Exhibit, Free, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

3 Responses to DC’s Secret Garden: Dumbarton Oaks

  1. We first went after reading the book The People in Pineapple Place (we made a whole Pineapple Place tour of Georgetown) and I had the same reaction. How in the world did we miss this up to now?!? The museum is nice too, I’ll add. And it’s actually free. They have a nice pre-Columbian collection that my kids enjoyed.

    • Linda @ KidFriendly DC

      Farrar, thanks for the insight, both about the book and the museum – I’ll have to check them out!

  2. Pingback: Summer Bucket List 2015 | The Meanest Momma

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