As places begin to re-open we wanted to continue to give you outdoor options to help avoid crowds as well as indoor destinations while also allowing you to spend time appreciating the natural beauty around us. There are many beach and state parks that are open and just a short drive from DC. This post we wrote covering overnight trips for families also showcases some caverns, state parks, falls and creeks worth the drive. Finally, this outdoor post has many options that give families plenty of space to distance themselves including lakes, farms, trails and gardens.
Anne Marie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center– Solomons, MD
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is located in scenic Solomons, Maryland, where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay. The sculpture garden features a 1/4 mile walking path that meanders through the woods past permanent and loaned sculpture, including over thirty works on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. The award-winning Arts Building includes rotating exhibition space, a gift shop, and a sunny patio. Annmarie presents a variety of popular annual festivals, rotating exhibitions, family activities, and creative public programs. The Studio School offers classes for all ages and abilities – from pottery to dance – taught by professional artists and arts educators. Come explore this special place where art and nature meet and don’t miss the Family Discovery Garden and Fairy Lolly!
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary– Lothian, MD
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary is located within the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River, in southern Anne Arundel County. It was established in 1985 and is operated by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks. The Sanctuary protects about 1,700 acres of unique tidal freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, upland and riparian forest, creeks, meadows, pine and sand barrens, and fields along the Patuxent River. This protected land provides a safe haven for a high diversity of plants, insects, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and microbes, and to rich native american cultural resources. The public comes to enjoy the 19 miles of trails and the many educational programs and to experience the wetlands, forests, and streams.
Patuxent Research Refuge– Laurel, MD
Patuxent has 25 miles of bike roads and trails, including paths that wind around a lake. In addition there is fishing, bird watching, educational opportunities and hunting.
Watkins Nature Center– Upper Marlboro, MD
Watkins Nature Center offers close-up wildlife investigation with its resident live animals, hands-on exhibits, interpretive programs, and special events. Live animal displays include insects, amphibians, reptiles, and birds of prey. The nature center also features indoor and outdoor ponds, a songbird feeding area, a butterfly/hummingbird garden, composting area, and an outdoor nest box exhibit. Nature hikes, campfires, animal shows, puppet shows, crafts, summer day camps, and other programs attract over 90,000 visitors each year.
Brookside Nature Center– Wheaton, MD
Brookside Nature Center, located in Wheaton Regional Park in Wheaton, Maryland, offers programs for all ages and lovely woods to get your daily Rx of nature. Nestled within 536 acres of Wheaton Regional Park, the facility offers quality programs for people of all ages, interests, and abilities. Learn about the forest habitat on accessible interpretive boardwalks, gaze at a great blue heron at the ponds on the nature grounds, discover a wooded nature play area, and even step back in time at the 1870s at the Harper Homestead. After exploring miles of hiking trails, be sure to stop by the nature center building to visit feathery and scaly residents. The exhibits feature live animals (reptiles, amphibians, and arthropods) and an observation beehive that is abuzz with activity. They are sure to inspire questions and will teach naturalists of all ages how to be engaged with the outside world.
Rock Creek Park– Washington, DC
Rock Creek Park is truly a gem in our nation’s capital. This 1,754 acre city park was officially authorized in 1890, making it the third national park to be designated by the federal government. It offers visitors the opportunity to escape the bustle of the city and find a peaceful refuge, recreation, fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and thousands of years of human history. There are over 32 miles of hiking trails and paths to explore. Included in Rock Creek Park is a horse stable, biking opportunities, a planetarium, golf course, boathouses and playgrounds.
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens– Washington, DC
Sparkling in the sun on a breezy day, this natural area of Anacostia Park has origins in a 1926 act of Congress to preserve the forests, water quality, and recreation value of the waterways of Washington, DC. The park reflects the policies that affect rivers and wetlands. Birding, wildlife viewing, photography, water garden enthusiast, education, leisure walks, relaxation, painting, art, picnics or volunteer in a clean-up; whatever your reason may be, come enjoy a day in your National Park. Follow the boardwalk trail as it passes through lush aquatic vegetation and habitat that leads you out to Kenilworth marsh and see shore birds wading and hunting for food. For more of a hike on a dirt path, try our .7 mile River Trail that leads you away from the ponds and into a wooded shaded area with the marsh on one side and the Anacostia River on the other.
United States National Arboretum– Washington, DC
Established in 1927 by an Act of Congress, the Arboretum is 446 acres with 9.5 miles of winding roadways. One of Washington’s most notable and unusual landmarks is at the Arboretum; the National Capitol Columns. You will also find a large bonsai collection, miles of trails and a grove of state trees. Washington Youth Garden has a butterfly garden and a natural play area abuts both sides of the garden, while a teaching pavilion provides shade on hot summer days and protection from the rain.This map will help you plan your visit to a popular and well-deserved destination.
United States Botanic Garden– Washington, DC
Steeped in history, rich with tradition, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a living plant museum that informs visitors about the importance, and often irreplaceable value, of plants to the well-being of humans and to earth’s fragile ecosystems. The Children’s Garden is seasonal and open Spring-Fall and gives kids a chance to get hands-on in a garden where they can explore and use gardening tools and watering cans. Be sure to stroll outdoors to the National Garden.
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Garden– Washington, DC
Hillwood’s spectacular gardens capture the vision Marjorie Post conceived when building the estate in the 1950s. She designed the gardens to flower in the spring and fall, when she was in residence at Hillwood. Today, they offer something beautiful in every season. Children’s programs offered.
Tudor Place– Washington, DC
On over 5 acres, Tudor Place is one of America’s last intact urban estates from the Federal Period. The open lawns and garden rooms are a delight, and a useful historical record of landscape design over time. Thomas and Martha Custis Peter put their land to agricultural and ornamental uses and the garden is designed in five styles. Children’s programs offered.
Dumbarton Oaks– Washington, DC
In 1920, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss purchased a fifty-three-acre property described as
an old-fashioned house standing in rather neglected grounds, at the highest point of Georgetown. Within a year, the Blisses hired landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand to design the garden. Working in happy and close collaboration for almost thirty years, Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand planned every garden detail, each terrace, bench, urn, and border which is stunning in every season.
Huntley Meadows Park– Alexandria, VA
Huntley Meadows Park connects you to treasured homes and habitats. The park is home to a nationally significant historic house, majestic forests, wildflower-speckled meadows and vast wetlands bursting with life. Some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area is here. There is a half-mile raised boardwalk that winds through the 1,500 acre wetland and leads to an observation tower. The wetland also can be reached via a paved, one-mile hike-bike trail
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens– Vienna, VA
Explore 95 acres of ornamental display gardens and unique native plant collections at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. Discover local flora and fauna among lakes, forests and meandering walking trails. Take in majestic views of the Piedmont hills, explore the Korean Bell Garden or pay a visit to our restored 18th Century log cabin. The Atrium contains an indoor tropical garden available to host your next meeting or event. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is also home to the annual Winter Walk of Lights, a spectacular holiday light show featuring dozens of illuminated displays.
Green Spring Gardens– Alexandria, VA
Green Spring Gardens is a must-visit park, a year-round gold mine of information and inspiration for the home gardener. It’s an outdoor classroom, a museum, and a national historic site. Its mission is to connect the community to natural and cultural resources through horticulture, education, and stewardship. The park has a wooded stream valley with ponds, a naturalistic native plant garden, more than 20 thematic demonstration gardens, a greenhouse, a plant shop, two gift shops, a historic house, and a horticulture reference library. The gardens and educational programs focus on practical landscaping and gardening techniques that are appropriate for the Washington metro area.
Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum– Sterling, VA
The Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum is dedicated to preserving, promoting, and bringing to life the rich agricultural history of Loudoun County. Through our interactive exhibits, the Museum highlights 250 years of Loudoun’s agricultural heritage. A huge variety of events for children can be found here.
Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve– Alexandria, VA
Dyke Marsh is one of the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetlands in the Washington metropolitan area. Its 485 acres of tidal marsh, floodplain, and swamp forest can be explored by boat or on foot. The Haul Road Trail follows an old mining road through each type of habitat in Dyke Marsh. The trail is three-quarters of a mile long, flat, and paved in a combination of pea gravel and boardwalk. The best way to explore the tidal guts of Dyke Marsh is by boat. There are a boat ramp and boats for rent at the Belle Haven Marina.