Spring has sprung here in DC, and one of my favorite ways to relax and turn off my worries about everyday life is to find a quiet and beautiful place to explore. Washington, DC is full of majestic memorials and green parks but they can often be so swarming with tourists that visiting becomes aggravating rather than peaceful. So beyond the standard monuments, presidents’ homes and national parks in the area, here are a few peaceful places around the city that feel miles away from the stress of everyday life. They may not exactly be a secret, but they are a bit off the beaten path.
#1. The Hillwood Museum
Hillwood is an estate located near Rock Creek Park in Northwest DC that once belonged to Marjorie Merriweather Post (think the Honey Bunches of Oats fortune) and is truly a gem right smack in the middle of the city. The mansion displays her collection of rare art and furniture from around the world. But the real joy of Hillwood is exploring the surrounding estate. There is a proper English garden, traditional Japanese water garden with waterfalls and stepping stones, a bright flower garden, and a chalet used to house rotating displays of art. At $18 per adult ticket, it’s expensive compared to the free Smithsonian museums, but well worth the money.
#2. Glen Echo Park
Glen Echo is just a few miles outside of Washington in Montgomery County, MD. At the turn of the 20th century, it was an amusement park with everything from bumper cars to an outdoor pool. Glen Echo is now run by the National Park Service and currently serves as an arts community. Walking through the park is a throwback to art deco architecture and you can take dance classes in the Spanish Ballroom, or pop in to a free art show featuring prominent and amateur artists. It is a wonderful place to spend some time if photography is your hobby. Plus, the historic carousel still runs from May-September for just $1.25 a ride.
#3. Franciscan Monastery
Did you even realize that Washington had a Franciscan Monestary? We’re talking monks in belted brown robes, and all. I only recently discovered it myself, and it’s beautiful. Regardless of your religious inclination, this is a wonderful place to visit for some cultural and architectural enrichment. On Mondays-Saturdays you can take a free tour of the monastery (the church interior) as well as the gardens as a walk-in or part of a guided tour.
#4. U.S. Botanic Garden
The National Mall and its museums are often overcrowded with tourists, but right next the the Capitol building is the lesser-known U.S. Botanic Garden, a beautiful greenhouse and surrounding outdoor gardens filled with a plethora of plant species, exotic flowers, trees, etc. The Botanic Garden is open everyday from 10am-5pm and admission is free.
#5. National Park Seminary at Forest Glen
This place imparts the feeling of being in a fairy tale. The National Park Seminary (near Silver Spring, MD) was a girls’ boarding school in the early 20th century and later became an annex to Walter Reed army hospital. The seminary is unique because of the unique structures that were once part of the school campus including a Japanese pagoda, Swiss chalet, Dutch windmill, formal ballroom, and beautiful walking paths framed by greenery. Many of the structures have been converted into private homes, but you can still take a guided walking tour around the grounds and enter some of the buildings. Tours are the fourth Saturday each month for $5 per person.
(Images for this post are a combination of my own and Google images. Visit these cool places and snap some pics of your own!)