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. Also, 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.
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.
One of Washington's newest memorials, the Korean War Veterans Memorial pays tribute to the many who fought in the Korean War. Located near the Lincoln Memorial, this monument features statues of 19 soldiers carefully making their way through unknown terrain. Photographic images on a 164-foot granite wall pays tribute to the thousands of others who contributed to the war; nurses, mechanics, crew chiefs and support personnel. Inscribed on the wall are the words: "Freedom Is Not Free."
This pleasant park is situated just north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. With its flat terrain and location right on the water, the park attracts cyclists and boaters, but its biggest draw is probably the close proximity to the airport (a mere 400 feet away). People come to watch the planes land and take off, flying in low right above them. An added bonus is a nice view of the Washington skyline.
The Huntley Meadows Nature Center in the Hybla Valley of Virginia, is a wetland park. Established since 1975, the park is home to a variety of wildlife, especially birds. Visitors can make use of observation decks to spot wildlife or walk along designated trails. Various creeks run through the vast expanse of the park and one can find beaver dams built across them at many places. The visitor center provides more information about the flora and fauna residing in the park.
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.
Since its founding in 1935, the Wilderness Society has helped to protect 110 million acres of wild lands throughout the United States. It is no wonder then that a lover of wilderness like Ansel Adams would decide to leave 75 of his most beautiful landscape photographs to this crusading institution. The famous photographer's work can be seen in this permanent collection, along with several other pieces of his work that have been gifted to the gallery since Adams' death in 1984. The collection is housed in a stunning refurbished gallery that won the Merit Award for Interior Architecture from the American Institute of Architects in 2010.
Canal Park is a paragon of creative and sustainable urban planning in the heart of Capitol Hill. Design firm OLIN, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Planning has revamped a disused bus parking station into this beautiful garden and won international awards for the same. The elongated park features colored dancing fountains and uses water recycling methods that have won it LEED Gold certification. Modern art and sculptures dot the entire garden, while the expansive lawns are the site of public games, storytelling events, farmer's markets, festivals, environmental workshops and art exhibitions. In fact, it has become a hub for both free and paid cultural and community events in Capitol Hill. Every winter, the on-site ice rink opens up for a new season, where children and adults alike can enjoy hours of ice skating. This garden is also home to Park Tavern Restaurant, a beautiful spot for both alfresco and sustainable dining.