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Part of the original design for the federal city, this massive park stretches from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial. It has played host to many momentous, world-changing events throughout history including the 1963 March on Washington, the Million Man March and several presidential inaugurations. Today, the National Mall serves as a place for reflection, a memorial to American heroes, a symbol of freedom and a forum for the exercise of democracy through protests and rallies. The Smithsonian museums, the Vietnam Memorial, the Reflecting Pool and the iconic Washington Monument are a few of the most well-known of the National Mall's many iconic sites. Certainly, any visit to Washington DC should start with a tour of the United States National Mall, aptly named "America's front yard."
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.
One of the most popular rail trails in the country and also the most used, the Capital Crescent Trail is a pleasant 11-mile (17.70 kilometers) stretch covering through Georgetown on Water Street till Silver Spring. Set on the once deserted Georgetown Branch rail line, it is a haunt for rollerbladers, hikers, skateboarders, walkers, bikers and joggers. Most of the trail is asphalt and is also used for commuting. Winding through parks, wooded areas, water bodies and local attractions, it is indeed a landmark in the locality and the nearby areas.
Along the city's waterfront is the wonderful Yards Park that opened in September 2010. A stunning example of how urban planning can play such a vital role in ensuring that city-dwellers enjoy their time in the city, this park comes replete with fountains, a pool, jogging tracks, biking trails, waterside lawns, shopping spots, cafes, bars and more. A special platform has been constructed to host outdoor events like concerts, community get-togethers, dog shows and festivals.
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.
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.
Brookside Gardens is a public garden located inside Wheaton Regional Park. It is open for public visits without any charge. Spread across 500 acres (202 hectares), major features of the garden include an aquatic park with ponds and a gazebo, a azalea garden, a butterfly garden and a children’s garden. Some of the other highlights include a dazzling fragrance garden, a Japanese tea house when visitors can sip on a variety of tea, a nature center, a lovely woodland walk, and much more.
Great Falls Park, straddling both banks of the Potomac River, offers stunning views. The more attractive side of the park lies in Virginia. Rushing whitewater pours through steep, jagged crevices into a narrow gorge. Photographers, hikers, and nature-lovers find much to enjoy here. The park offers many trails, and the towpath of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal parallels the river. Fishing is allowed, but only with a valid permit. Kayaking, canoeing and rafting is recommended for advanced outdoors-men only. The Maryland side also features Great Falls Tavern with displays of canal history. One-hour round trip barge excursions are offered on a restored stretch of the canal from April to November.