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Top Parks and Gardens in Washington DC

Head to these green spaces when you need a timeout from sightseeing.

A woman walks through peaceful woods in the Washington DC area
Hi, I'm Karen!

Karen is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

Though Washington D.C is best-known for its monuments and museums, it also has a wide array of green spaces that offer respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. From the exotic plants of the United States Botanic Garden to the hiking trails of Theodore Roosevelt Island, here are some of the best parks and gardens in Washington, D.C. 

United States Botanic Garden

U.S. Botanic Garden, its plants and the White House beyond in DC.
The city's botanic gardens are a good place to find serenity.Foto: Rachael Martin / Shutterstock

Next to the Capitol Building, the United States Botanic Garden is home to plants from across the globe, including azaleas, lilies, orchids, and a tropical rainforest that spans different environments in the Conservatory.

United States National Arboretum

Pillars among the flowers at United States National Arboretum in Washington DC.
Bright plants on show at the United States National Arboretum.Foto: MarkVanDykePhotography / Shutterstock

As well as boasting 22 Corinthian columns that once formed part of the Capitol building, the United States National Arboretum showcases ornamental trees and plants, and is home to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. One of the best times to visit is in spring, when the azalea collection is in bloom. 

Theodore Roosevelt Island

A bridge across the water affects Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington DC.
Theodore Roosevelt Island and the placid surrounding waters.Foto: Andrei Medvedev / Shutterstock

Managed by the National Park Service, Theodore Roosevelt Island is a fitting memorial to America’s 26th President, who was known as the Great Conservationist. Perched on the banks of the Potomac River, the island is a wilderness preserve home to several hiking trails.

Washington National Cathedral Gardens

A sunny summer's day in Washington National Cathedral Gardens in DC in the USA.
Washington National Cathedral Gardens are a good place to spend an afternoon.Foto: Joh Bilous / Shutterstock

Sitting atop the highest point in the city, 59 acres (24 hectares) of landscaped gardens surround the Washington National Cathedral. Bishop's Garden is home to magnolias and orchids; Little Garden resembles a medieval herb garden; and Olmsted Woods is the last vestige of an extensive oak and beech forest.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Reeds on the pond at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington DC.
Flora at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.Foto: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

Especially appealing to birdwatchers, the 12-acre (5 hectare) Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is a National Park site where you can spot nesting, aquatic, and woodland birds such as night herons, indigo buntings, bald eagles, and great egrets. The gardens also feature exotic water lilies, which are celebrated during the annual 2-day Lotus and Water Lily Festival.

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