Just minutes from the White House and the thriving commercial center, Washington, D.C. relaxes into a nature-lover’s paradise. Whether you’re traveling in a car, on a boat, on a bike or on foot, take some time to explore the outposts of natural beauty that lie both in and around the nation’s capital.
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Kayaking, Canoeing or Rowing
Explore Theodore Roosevelt Island, tackle the Potomac’s raging Great Falls or just drift lazily along in a canoe or kayak. For those looking for a workout, join the university and recreational crews that row the Potomac early and late in the day. Bring your own, or rent one at Thompson Boat Center or, for a more historic experience, try Jack’s Boathouse near the Georgetown Waterfront.
The majestic Potomac is one of the best bodies of water in the region for a relaxing day of sailing. There are several marinas on the Southwest waterfront, Old Town Alexandria and Arlington. A day on the river offers a new way to see the capital city and all of its historic monuments and institutions. Lessons are available at the Washington Sailing Marina, just south of Reagan National Airport on U.S. Route 1.
This well-trodden towpath traces the historic canal from its Georgetown beginnings to Cumberland, Maryland. Join the local bikers, hikers and rollerbladers who tackle the pieces of the path.
Biking is one of the best ways to navigate the nation’s capital. Visit Washington, D.C.’s familiar monuments on a guided tour with Bike the Sites. Two- and three-hour overview tours of the city are offered daily from March through November. The Washington, D.C. area has several distance bike trails, including the C&O Canal, the Mount Vernon Trail, the Capital Crescent Trail and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, all providing scenic vistas, well-groomed paths and physical challenges.
Sportsmen traverse the falls and rapids on the Potomac River just west of Georgetown in search of smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, perch and other freshwater species. For fishing advice, stop by Fletcher’s Boathouse. It’s nestled along the C&O Canal just west of Georgetown, and the staff always knows what’s biting.
Washington, D.C. is also located surprisingly close to well-known outdoors destinations. A short trip from Washington, D.C. will take you to the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, the scenic Chesapeake Bay and the unforgettable Skyline Drive. During the winter skiing is available less than two hours from downtown. Stuck with a day indoors? Plan an indoor adventure at the National Geographic Explorers Hall or the National Museum of Natural History.
When city designer Pierre Charles L’Enfant laid out his plans for the nation’s capital, he envisioned a majestic Federal city situated among shady trees and ample green spaces. The cheery daffodils, tulips, roses and delicate cherry blossoms that frame the city's attractions provide a delightfully green environment for the city, as magnificent federal buildings dissolve into calming urban oases. Catch your breath in one of these wonderful parks and gardens, or in one of the many squares and circles throughout the city.
National Arboretum (Closest Metro: Union Station)
Perched on one of Washington, D.C.’s highest points, the National Arboretum rambles over 444 acres. Whether blanketed in spring green or autumn gold, this prestigious horticultural institution offers a welcome refuge from Washington, D.C.’s busier tourist attractions. Ten miles of hard surface roads wind through the scenic grounds, making it ideal for exploration on bicycle, on foot or by car.