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. 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."
Best known for its vast collection of azaleas, (a popular porch-flower), this 446-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.
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.
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 hotspot 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. So if you're planning to spend a day outdoors without venturing far away from civilization, then Capital Crescent Trail is your destination.
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.
A variety of European park styles are on display here at Meridian Hill Park, from long French promenades to Renaissance terraces. Waterfalls and pools abound among curling pathways. Especially delightful is the water staircase, a terraced waterfall. Nearby is the historic Adams-Morgan neighborhood, which features myriad ethnic restaurants and eclectic shops.
Farragut Square is the epicenter of corporate Washington DC, so don't be surprised to see lots of serious-looking people walking about. The square though, is filled with an upbeat ambiance where picnickers can enjoy the sounds of street musicians in summer. On Thursdays in the summer months, the square hosts free jazz at lunchtime. A statue of Civil War Admiral David Farragut stands in the middle of the square, spyglass in hand. Farragut coined the phrase “Full speed ahead!” during the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama.
If you are looking for a spooky time during your visit to the United States' capital, look no further than DC Ghost Tours. The tour company specializes in the hauntings of Lafayette Park and Capital Hill, and revels in scarring and engaging their audience with stories of murder, intrigue, and the paranormal. The tours generally last 90 minutes and are predominantly outside, so bring a jacket for those cooler evenings. Be sure not to wander too far off from the group... or you might find yourself face-to-face with one of Washington DC's infamous ghosts.
With its origins going back to 1791, President's Park is an important landmark in the nation and the capital's downtown area. Composing of the White House, White House Visitor Center, Lafayette Square and The Ellipse (President's Park South), it spans across 82 acres (33.18 hectares) of manicured land. Throughout the parkland you will find memorials, statues and structures that are an ode to the national history and its heroes. Managed by the National Park Service, it features two trails that lead you to various attractions within the park. The Northern Trail takes you to the White House North Lawn and visitor center, Department of the Treasury, Lafayette Park, Blair-Lee House (President's official guest house) and First Division Monument. The Southern Trial to The Ellipse, Haupt Fountains, National Christmas Tree and White House South Lawn. There are many activities for kids as well. These include Junior Ranger programs, interpretive walks and other special events.
Situated in front of the White House within President's Park, the Zero Milestone is based on Ancient Rome's Golden Milestone, and is the physical representation of the idea that all roads lead to Washington DC, the United States' capital. The initial idea was to record the distance to important places in the United States on the stone, but only certain locations within the DC area were ever engraved on the two-by-four block. The idea of the milestone was initially raised and supported by Dr. S.M. Johnson, who was a member of the Good Roads Movement, which called for paved roads across the United States. The Zero Milestone represents the starting point of the United States paved road system, which in turn can be seen as a representation of the unification of the United States.
Whether you want to explore the national monuments during the day, or go on a ghostly tour by night, Washington Walks has a tour to fit your needs and desires. The company offers two-hour tours Thursdays through Sundays, though the start time of each tour changes often. Spook the kids by taking them on a tour that explores Washington DC's most haunted sites, or go for on a walk that teaches you about one of the many neighborhoods in the Washington DC area. Whatever tour you choose, you'll be sure to walk away with a head full of fascinating stories and a spring in your step.
A part of the President's Park, the Ellipse is a vast open space encircled by an oval trail. The park is home to a number of monuments, including the famous Ellipse Meridian Stone. Also known as the President's Park South the park doubles as an entertainment venue, hosting numerous local events including military pageants, musical events, garden tours and others.