Spread over 530 acres (214 hectares) Cabin John Regional Park park is among the largest community parks in the Bethesda region. The Cabin John Regional Park has something for everyone, featuring picnic spots, playgrounds, athletic fields, tennis courts, a nature center, a dog park, skating rink, trails, a campground and a miniature train. The adventure playground and the totem pole are park's special attractions which are immensely popular among the little ones.
The gorgeous U.S. Botanic Garden conservatory presents botanical variety, from the desert to the tropics, along a series of calm and gently meandering paths. A particular waterfall and garden display the flora of the dinosaur age. Seasonal displays include Christmas greens and poinsettias in December and January, chrysanthemums in autumn and blooming flowers at Easter. A part of the United States Botanic Garden (USBG), the National Garden, was opened in October 2006 and includes the carefully-designed Butterfly Garden.
Early morning is the time to catch the blooming water-bound plants of this park. Run by the National Park Service, the 12-acre marshland park is often overlooked by visitors who head for better-known Washington sites. As a result, the park is an uncrowded getaway. Nature-lovers and children especially will enjoy more than 100,000 flowering plants and fauna sightings.
This 52-acre park is located north of the Reflecting Pool amid the capital's many famous monuments and memorials. A beautiful place for a stroll, the paths wind through the trees taking you to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a lake and a memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Steeped in history, this is a must-see on any DC tour.
Freed slaves first settled this area, once known as Uniontown, just after the Civil War. Today, this 1200-acre setting, including Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, is enjoyed by children and adults alike. The park offers a range of activities including tennis, basketball, roller-skating, an indoor pool and an ice skating rink. In addition, there is a recreation center, hiking trails and fishing and boating. Golf lovers will enjoy Langston Golf Course, an 18-hole course with a driving range.
Best known for its vast collection of azaleas, (Washington's favorite porch-flower), this 444-acre (180-hectare) garden park has much else to offer. Fountains, pools and open space separate a series of focused gardens at the United States National Arboretum. The National Bonsai Collection, a gift from Japan, is a fascinating exhibit of tiny trees. Other notable sections are the aquatic garden (filled with lotuses of many varieties) and the National Herb Garden.
Heralded as "a garden for the ages," the Washington National Cathedral Gardens and Close were born out of a collaboration between architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and Florence Brown Bratenahl, wife of the dean of the Washington National Cathedral. Together, Bratenahl and Olmsted filled the cathedral's gardens with native plants, plants that figure in Christian legends, and historically-interesting plants - such as the boxwood cuts that were taken from George Washington's Hayfield Manor. The gardens were added to and expanded in the 1920s and 1930s. Visitors today can enjoy this beautiful pocket of nature while they wander the Bishop's Gardens and admire the old growth forest of Olmsted Forest on the Close.
Settled on the hilly lawns of a naval fort in upper northwest Washington, the Observatory measures the times and positions of the stars. Visitors may watch a short movie and view the precision clocks and high-powered telescope. Though it is not generally open to the public, visitors can catch a glimpse of its fine Victorian exterior. Tours are held on select days. Up to 90 people are admitted per tour and prior reservations need to be made through their website.
Skirted by the surging waters of Rock Creek, the National Zoological Park is a forerunner for the title of America's finest wildlife facilities. It was created by Congress in 1889, making it one of the oldest zoos in the country. The zoo was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and New York's Central Park. The zoo is famous for its giant pandas from China but you will find all sorts of creatures, both familiar and exotic, crawling about the place. The zoo's Asia Trail gets you acquainted with fishing cats, clouded leopards and other Asian animals. In addition, the zoo is home to the Elephant Trails, Lemur Island, Cheetah Conservation and Great Cats where you can witness mighty lions and tigers in action. Birds and reptiles from across the world also call the Smithsonian National Zoological Park their home.
Surrounded by a scenic park, the Gulf Branch Nature Center of Arlington offers a number of interesting and educational programs and activities. The friendly and knowledgeable staff here will introduce you to the regional flora and fauna along with the natural history of the area here. After a tour of the center, go for a hike a on the trails in the park, visit the pond and check out the splendid gardens. You'll find details about upcoming events and other park features on their website.
The Rock Creek Park contains a beautiful wild forest and serves as an oasis for city residents and tourists. Attractions include picnic areas, winding trails and bike paths, a nature center, a public golf course, tennis courts and stables. The centerpiece is a working gristmill, complete with a turning water wheel. Rock Creek Parkway runs alongside the meandering creek. Parts of the road are closed to traffic on weekends and turned over to cyclists and roller bladers. Although the Metro is nearby, a car is required to visit many of the key sites in a single trip. The park is also a popular spot in the winter for sledding, snowballs and other outdoor merriment.