Washington D.C. City Guide

By: Ann Cochran

Relaxing & Unwinding in Washington, DC

©2006 Washington, DC, Convention and Tourism Corporation Two Great Falls parks along the Potomac River givevisitors to DC a beautiful spot to enjoy nature.

Relaxation can take many forms in and around Washington. DC's Rock Creek Park is the largest natural national park in any American city, established in 1890. It inspired the creation of future national parks, of which there are plenty around the area. They all provide opportunities for walking, biking, picnicking, and other leisurely pursuits.

Charles L'Enfant, a French-born architect and urban designer who served in the American Revolutionary Army, was chosen to design Washington. His plan identified parks and open spaces as an essential element in an urban design. It's that forward thinking that allows locals, and hopefully out-of-towners, to watch congressional staffers play softball on the National Mall, taking your own strolling along the Potomac River, or hiking at Rock Creek Park. Do as the locals and find time to enjoy the thousands of cherry blossoms in full bloom around the Jefferson Memorial each spring. Other times of year the area is still a beautiful view.


In the Know: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Washington, DC

In the Know: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Washington, DC

Stroll through the numerous plants and seasonal blooms housed at the US Botanical Garden (100 Maryland Ave). It's one of the oldest botanic gardens in the country and the ideal place for quiet reflection and a stroll. You should head to the conservatory to view the tropical, subtropical, and other special plants.

Strolling along the boardwalk and enjoying a mesmerizing view of the Potomac River is a sinch at Washington Harbor (3000 K St NW).

Two wonderful parks are both called Great Falls, one park on the Maryland side of the Potomac River and the other on the Virginia side.

In the middle of the Potomac, the 91-acre Theodore Roosevelt Island was named for our 26th President, considered the country's first environmental leader. It's considered a wilderness preserve that you can explore in a free 60-minute guided tour offered through the Park Service. If you go, you're sure to come across the 17-foot statue of Roosevelt.

On the river below Georgetown University north of Key Bridge, there's a wonderful bike and boat rental facility. Fletcher's Cove (4940 Canal Rd NW) has been in this spot since the 1850s. The Capital Crescent Trail and the C & O Towpath come together here, and run parallel. The Capital Crescent Trail, 13 miles from Georgetown to Silver Spring, Maryland, is popular for biking, rollerblading, and walking. The C & O Towpath follows the Potomac River from Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, Maryland.

For organized outdoor activity, every county in the metropolitan area has public golf courses that range from decent to incredible. The most convenient is Washington's East Potomac Public Golf Course (970 Ohio Dr SW) with 36 holes of golf, a driving range, and a golf school with a full program of instruction.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the U.S. Navy Band's Concerts on the Avenue series is held 8 pm Tuesdays at the Navy Memorial (701 Pennsylvania Ave NW). On the west side of The Capitol on summer Wednesday evenings, the U.S. Marine Corps Band (also known s The President's Own) performs.

Authors of substance and style read from their new bestsellers at Politics and Prose (5015 Connecticut Ave NW), an independent bookstore, community center, and coffeehouse with a packed calendar. The almost-nightly events often highlight politics, government, the media, and public policy.

If getting out of town is appealing, there are many day trip options that are an hour drive or less. Middleburg, Virginia is horse country; its National Sporting Library (102 The Plains Rd, Middleburg) is the only library in the country devoted to equestrian matters. The tiny, tony town also has lots of unique shops and good restaurants. For great gourmet take-out, go to Market Salamander (200 West Washington St), on the main drag, for macaroni and cheese with truffles, fine fried chicken, crab cakes, and cheeses of the world.

In Annapolis, Maryland, a 45-minute drive in decent traffic conditions, you can walk the cobblestone streets, visit the Naval Academy, and learn to sail or crew a ship. You can also just sit, eat and drink, and look out on the water.

There is so much to see in Washington, DC, that the prospect of striking out on your own might be daunting. Fear not -- keep reading for our guide to organized tours.