the best outdoor activities in washington d.c.

plenty to do on a warm day in the capitol.

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by Michelle Gage

If you find yourself in Washington D.C. over the summer, make sure you don’t find yourself indoors too much. The museums and monuments in D.C. are unmatched, but there are plenty of reasons to spend your time outside, too!

Take a trip to the Smithsonian National Zoo. The zoo boasts over 2,000 animals and gives them all great care. At the zoo, you can see 400 different species. Be sure to stop by some of the most popular exhibits – The Great Ape House, The Great Cats, The Cheetah Conservation Station or The Bird House. The best part is that you can enjoy these exhibits for no cost. Entrance into the zoo is free to you!

On a nice, sunny summer day, eat outside. Nicknamed The Sauna Bar, DC9 Roofdeck doesn’t disappoint. As you can probably guess, you are able to enjoy your hearty meal while looking out over the city. Enjoy an outdoor bar and the occasional dance party, featuring DC9’s hosting DJ.

Take to the water for a paddleboard or kayak lesson. Even unskilled athletes can enjoy the outdoor activity. The Key Bridge Boathouse is a popular spot for this activity. A little sunshine and cardio can put a smile on anyone’s face. This is an all-ages experience; bring your whole family in on the fun.

Take a walk to the Watermelon House. Yes, you read that right. It’s the perfect summer sight to view. Located at 1112 Q Street, this house is one art lovers won’t want to miss. As the story goes, years ago, the owners wished to have their home painted red. Sadly, they weren’t pleased with the results, but devised a plan to make the best of it!  Instead of starting fresh, they make lemonade out of lemons – so to speak. They painted the home like our favorite summer fruit.

Plan to spend a few hours at The Yards Park. It’s a waterfront recreation area, featuring a boardwalk and outdoor performance center. This location is the center of The Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District. Bring a packed lunch, put floaties on the kids and head over to The Yards Park!

Gallivant around the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks. This historic estate, located in Georgetown, is clad with brick. While visiting, stop by the Fountain Terrace. Occasionally, you can catch a concert or lecture series held here.

The United States National Arboretum is a site that can’t be missed. Functioning as a major center of botanical research, this site conducts research on shrubs, trees and floral plants. Wander the site, in search of the great garden sculptures.

Be sure to visit The Smithsonian Butterfly Garden. Open year round and seven days a week, you have no reason to miss this! Watch the beautiful butterflies swirl around you. Be sure to wear your sunscreen, glasses and comfortable walking shoes. To take the full tour, you’ll need to set aside about three hours, when strolling leisurely.

Stop by the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, on the island bearing his name. There is a trail worth walking, right off The Memorial. Pack your granola bars, water bottles and get the family geared up for an outdoor hike.

We can’t talk about DC without mentioning  the glorious cherry blossoms. Hop on your bike and ride to Hains Point to see them show off! The best blooms arrive in the springtime, of course.

Crispus Attucks Park hosts many events, including community days, soccer games and movies in the park after dark! With additional opportunities to volunteer at the site, something is always happening here.

Meridian Hill Park, built in the early 1900’s, features many prominent statues, including Joan of Arc. This park boasts many engagement shoots and weddings. The stunning site is a place to make memories. One of the most dramatic features is certainly the thirteen-basin cascade fountain – a view worth seeing!

Make plans to take in the Wineries in Loudoun. Take to their trails with a glass in hand! Called “D.C.’s Wine Country,” you are sure to get a sip of something sweet. On a beautiful summer day, you can get lost walking around the vineyard, with family or friends. For some of the best grapes around, visit Loudon!

Get yourself to Jazz in the Garden at The National Gallery of Art. The magical combination of jazz, art and sunshine is picture perfect. Grab some grub and a few beers and pack up for a picnic in the park. For those who like something a little fruitier, you can purchase their secret recipe sangria on site. On Fridays, the six acre garden gets crowded pretty quickly, so be sure to snag your spot early!

You can’t go to D.C. without sitting down for a boozy brunch. The Sequoia has plenty of outdoor seating, making it a city hot spot. Take in the wonderful waterfront view of The Potomac and get to sipping! Stop by on Sundays for unlimited mimosas and a trip to the breakfast buffet – featuring waffles, pancakes and make-your-own doughnuts.