Top 10 Parks for a Spring Picnic in the DC Metro

Spring is finally here (in case the pollen count had not already alerted you) and what better way to celebrate the season than by exploring the abundance of parks and natural areas that the DC area has to offer? From the lush gardens of the National Arboretum to the tranquil waters of Lake Needwood, there’s no shortage of natural beauty to discover in and around the nation’s capital. Whether you’re a nature lover, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat from the city, gather up your favorite food, a blanket, and a friend and head out to one of these beautiful parks in or around DC.

Rock Creek Park: Rock Creek Park is a 1,754-acre park that offers miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and recreational activities like tennis and golf. Parts of Beach Dr are closed to vehicles making it a fun place to ride a bike, roller-skate/blade, run, and walk! It also includes the National Zoo and the Carter Barron Amphitheatre.

Lake Needwood: Lake Needwood is a beautiful 75-acre lake located in Rockville, Maryland, surrounded by 1,500 acres of scenic parkland. The lake offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including boating, fishing, and hiking on the nearby trails. Visitors can also enjoy picnicking and grilling in the park’s many picnic areas.

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park: Visit Great Falls Park on both sides of the Potomac. Great Falls Park in Virginia is located just 15 miles outside of DC and offers stunning views of the Potomac River and the Great Falls. Want to stay on the Maryland side of the river? There is another Great Falls Park in Potomac, MD. Visitors to both sides can enjoy hiking trails and picnic areas.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island: Theodore Roosevelt Island is a peaceful 88-acre oasis located in the Potomac River, accessible by footbridge from Arlington, Virginia. The island is home to miles of scenic hiking trails, lush forests, and a variety of wildlife habitats. Visitors can also explore the island’s rich history through its monuments and exhibits dedicated to the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt, including the 17-foot-tall statue of the president located in the island’s central plaza.

Meridian Hill Park: Also known as Malcolm X Park, this park is located in the heart of DC. It is a beautiful 12-acre park that was recently updated by the National Park Service to make it more accessible and added more trees and shrubs. It features a cascading fountain, a historic statue, and a vibrant weekly drum circle.

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens: Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is a hidden gem located in Washington, DC, offering visitors a unique opportunity to explore the beauty of aquatic plants and wildlife. The park features acres of stunning water lilies, lotus flowers, and other aquatic plants, as well as hiking trails, fishing piers, and picnic areas. The annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival, held July 15-22, 2023, is a highlight of the year, where you can see the lotus and water lilies in full bloom.

Anacostia Park: Anacostia Park is a sprawling urban oasis located in the heart of Washington, DC, offering visitors a wide range of recreational activities. The park’s 1,200 acres includes hiking and biking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and athletic fields, as well as access to the Anacostia River for kayaking, fishing, and boating. The park also hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, including concerts, movie screenings, and cultural celebrations. It’s an ideal destination for families, nature lovers, and anyone seeking outdoor fun in the city.

National Arboretum

National Arboretum: The National Arboretum is a 446-acre living museum located in Washington, DC, showcasing over 6,000 species of plants and trees from around the world. Visitors can explore the park’s collections through self-guided tours, educational programs, and special exhibits. Highlights of the arboretum include the iconic National Capitol Columns, the Bonsai and Penjing Museum, and the picturesque Capitol Hill neighborhood vistas. It’s a must-visit destination for anyone interested in horticulture, botany, or simply seeking a serene natural escape in the heart of the city.

Fort Washington Park

Fort Washington Park: Originally built to defend the river approach to Washington DC, Fort Washington is a historic site located in Fort Washington, Maryland. Visitors can explore the fort’s rich history through exhibits, tours, and ranger-led programs. The park also offers scenic views of the Potomac River and opportunities for hiking, fishing, and picnicking. It’s a great destination for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Huntley Meadows Park: Huntley Meadows is a 1,500-acre natural oasis in Alexandria, Virginia, offering visitors the chance to explore a variety of habitats, including wetlands, meadows, and forests. The park’s boardwalk trails and observation platforms provide excellent opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. Visitors can also participate in guided nature walks, photography workshops, and educational programs hosted by the park’s rangers. It’s a must-visit destination for anyone interested in nature and outdoor recreation.

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