Nature Calls: Green Spaces for Spring
For the five-ish fickle months that constitute winter in this city, we long for those warm, muggy days that demand outdoor activity. And when spring temperatures finally arrive and stick around, we find any excuse to head outside (rooftop happy hours? Yes, please). Luckily, the D.C. area claims a handful of green spaces that make it easy to welcome spring.
Tidal Basin—Thousands of visitors flock to the reservoir year round for access to the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial and the FDR Memorial, but come spring, it’s all about the cherry blossoms. The annual rite paints trees and grounds in pale pink, providing pretty scenery for walks and runs, paddle boats and bike rides—not to mention endless photo ops. Experts predict this year’s short peak bloom period to be March 26 through 30, with the basin serving as ground zero for the National Cherry Blossom Festival (think boat tours and scavenger hunts) from March 20 to April 14.
U.S. National Arboretum—This “living museum” was established by Congress in 1927, and encompasses 446 acres of trees, shrubbery, flowers and aquatic plants, in addition to museums and outdoor sculpture. Bring a picnic and tour the vast expanse of greenery, best known for its bonsai collection (one tree is more than 400 years old), its grove of U.S. state trees and its three gardens of eye-popping azaleas. History buffs know to head to the park’s Ellipse Meadow, where you’ll find the collection of original Corinthian columns that supported the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol from 1828 to 1958.
Dumbarton Oaks—Just enough removed from the commercial bustle of Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks constitutes one of D.C.’s most peaceful hidden gems. Formerly a residence for a stately Washington family, the property now partially serves as a Harvard University research institution, a museum and a green getaway. Wall mosaics, sculpture and statues create a refined atmosphere, but the garden’s most alluring feature, in place through April, is the mesmerizing “Cloud Terrace.” The piece, created by artistic partners Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot is a sparkling mesh of wire and more than 10,000 Swarovski crystal pendants, suspended and reflected above a reflecting pool.
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden—The estate of socialite and heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, Hillwood certainly reigns as northwest D.C.’s most fabulous destination. On a self-guided tour of the stately mansion, find stylish treasures from imperial France and Russia (crowns, jewels, Faberge eggs, etc.). Take a guided tour through the acres of land transformed into individual “garden rooms”—each with a unique, dramatic style. A parterre evokes the romance of 18th-century French aristocracy. A Japanese garden features a bridge over a serene, cascading stream.
Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park—Stroll up 16th Street from U Street toward Columbia Heights on a Sunday evening, and you’ll hear the drums. A beloved tradition carried on for more than a decade, the weekly drum circle at Meridian Hill Park draws a diverse crowd from around the city to make music, dance, tightrope-walk, read, picnic, play sports and generally bask in the good vibes at the top of the hill. Any day of the week, wander around the vast stone statues, relax on the gently sloping green, or climb the stone steps to the top for a sweeping view of the city. A much-awaited sight of spring? Water cascading down the dramatic 13-basic fountain at the center of the park (pictured above).
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