Updated: May 15, 2022
As a local, I’m still discovering more that DC has to offer and I’m all for sharing these hidden gems below. Everyone knows about some of the outdoor spots in DC like Rock Creek Park, the National Zoo, and the National Mall, but there are so many outdoor hidden gems in DC to explore beyond that!
After living in the area for 9 years, I’m here to share my secrets with you! Avoid the touristy spots in DC and try these instead. Here are some of the best outdoor hidden gems in DC.
Hillwood Gardens and Estate
4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, 10 am – 5 pm
Hillwood Gardens and Estate are located right near the very popular Rock Creek Park and is truly gorgeous! The Estate was owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post who was way ahead of her time acting as CEO of Post Cereal in the early 1900s. Her estate in DC is now a beautiful museum with 13 acres of gardens. The grounds are beautiful and you can enjoy a picnic or purchase drinks and food there.
2, 1454 1/2 Q St NW, Washington, DC 20009
If you’ve ever wanted to see some fun, anonymous local art, you need to take a walk through the Logan Circle neighborhood to get a look at the ever-changing installation of Barbie dolls in front of one of the buildings. They’re rarely disappointed by the rows of Barbies in fun different scenarios throughout the year. Grab a coffee at Slipstream and walk down Q Street for some fun!
Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America
1400 Quincy St NE, Washington, DC 20017, 9 am – 5 pm
This Monastery is located in Brookland and has recreations of different parts of the Holy Land. It was originally built back in the late 1800s and is now a favorite spot for outdoor garden walks, prayer, and more. It’s beautiful and relaxing to walk around the hilly gardens here!
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019, 9 am – 4 pm
The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are a National Park dedicated to showcasing different water plants. It was originally founded right after the Civil War by Walter Shaw who studied thousands of water plants, water lilies, lotuses, water hyacinths and bamboo. The flowers bloom May to September/October every year and its so beautiful!
The First Capitol Columns
3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, 8 am – 5 pm
The First Capitol Columns are a pretty cool space to see in DC! They are located inside the National Arboretum which is worth a visit all on its own, but this area of DC is often missed by visitors who don’t realize the important history they will find inside the National Arboretum. It is an arrangement of twenty-two Corinthian columns that were a part of the United States Capitol from 1828 to 1958.
Kingman Island and Anacostia River Trail
575 Oklahoma Avenue NE, Washington DC, 20002, sunrise to sundown
Kingman Island is a man-made island along the Anacostia River in Northeast DC. It’s a lesser-visited spot along the water with great views! The area is perfect for running, walking, biking, and exploring in general. There are spots for fishing and kayaking that make it a perfect outdoor space around DC.
700 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
This former church has been repainted and reimagined into a home for art and music. They host events and things inside throughout the year, but the outside and surrounding area are worth a visit all on their own! On any given day, you’ll find people doing a photoshoot outside. It’s a beautifully reimagined space.
Blocks of 9th, 10th, M and O Sts., NW.
Hidden inside alleyways near Logan Circle/Shaw, you’ll find Blagden Alley. Craft cocktails and coffee, street art, and one of the city’s most popular new restaurants await you and almost all of it is hosted inside beautiful historic buildings.
This neighborhood has been around since the 1870s as almost a neighborhood inside a neighborhood. You’ll love strolling through this fun area of DC! Grab a coffee, dinner, shop, or just hang out enjoying the art that can be found around every corner.
1801 E St SE, Washington, DC 20003, 8 am – 8 pm
This cemetery was founded over 200 years ago and today, people are able to visit this beautiful space daily. Congressional Cemetery was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011 and owned by Christ Church, Washington Parish. Walking the grounds is a walk through the history of DC and see the natural landscape along the Anacostia River.
Meridian Hill Park
16th St NW &, W St NW, Washington, DC 20009, sunrise to sundown
Today, you’ll find 12 acres of fountains, gardens, and green space where comes together. The steps are modeled after the Spanish Steps in Rome and they offer beautiful views of the fountains and space. Every Sunday at 3 PM for 40 years, there is a drum circle that starts. But it’s no longer just drums, now you’ll find a multicultural mix of drummers, dancers, tight-rope walkers, hula-hoopers, yogis, and jugglers. The scene is inviting, positive, and shows off what DC does best – bringing people together. It’s fun for the whole family!
Washington Memorial Parkway, sunrise to sunset
Gravelly Point is technically in Arlington outside DC, but I can’t make a list of outdoor hidden gems in DC without including it. It’s located within walking distance of DC and so I say it counts!
Gravelly Point is part of the National Park service and the wide open green spaces allow you to watch huge planes flying into DC just above you. It’s along the water and in addition to seeing the planes fly over, you get a great view of the Potomac and monuments as the planes go above your head. Bring a picnic or frisbee for some added fun.
George Washington Memorial Pkwy.Rosslyn, VA 22209, sunrise to sunset
This island was dedicated as a memorial to President Theodore Roosevelt, early champion of conservation. It is accessible by footbridge from the parking lot, off the north-bound lane of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and includes a memorial plaza with a 17-foot statue of Roosevelt as-well-as nearly 2-miles of trails through forest and wetlands. Walking around the island, you’ll get great views of the Potomac, wildlife, and Georgetown.
1307 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, 11 am – 5 pm, Thursdays 11 am – 8 pm
Did you know that DC’s second-largest industry during the 1800s was breweries/making beer? DC was a hot spot for all types of beer makers and one of these was Christian Heurich. His castle (home) is now a museum that is open to the public daily. The gardens are open for happy hour on Thursdays (complete with a remake of his famous beer from the 1800s – Senate Beer) for you to enjoy the outdoor space.
These outdoor hidden gems in DC are the perfect way to explore the city in a whole new way!