Washington D.C isn’t as much of an outdoor oasis as it is a history and art lover’s dream. The United State capital entertains over 43 million visitors annually to its 25 national parks, 4 national trails, 74 national historic landmarks, and 137 archeological sites. The National Register of Historic Places lists 621 buildings in its 68 square miles. The District of Columbia is also home to 11 of the 19 Smithsonian Museums. The best thing about Washington D.C.? There are a ton of free things to do. From the Smithsonian Museums to the national mall and memorials to the U.S. Capitol Building. One big tip is to ignore the driving directions and take the subway. It’s safe and extremely convenient for getting around the city at a low rate!
Find a Park Near You
National Parks & Historic Sites
African American Civil War Memorial
1925 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
Over 200,000 African-American soldiers and sailors served in the U.S. Army and Navy during the Civil War. Their service helped to end the war and free over four million slaves. The African American Civil War Memorial honors their service and sacrifice.
1900 Anacostia Dr, Washington, DC 20020
Whether you exercise along the river trail or relax by the water, Anacostia Park is a breath of fresh air and a space to unwind amid a bustling city.
Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument
144 Constitution Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
Home to the National Woman’s Party for nearly 90 years, this was the epicenter of the struggle for women’s rights. From this house in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court, Alice Paul and the NWP developed innovative strategies and tactics to advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment and equality for women. President Barack Obama designated the national monument on April 12, 2016.
Capitol Hill Parks
Washington, D.C.; See list of parks in the map above
The Capitol Hill Parks include several park areas east of the U.S. Capitol. Included in this group are Folger, Lincoln, Stanton, and Marion Parks, the Eastern Market and Potomac Avenue Metro stations, and several smaller land parcels such as Seward Square, Twining Square, the Maryland Avenue Triangles, the Pennsylvania Avenue Medians, and 59 inner-city triangles and squares.
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
Various States VA, MD, DE, DC, PA, NY
Four hundred years ago Englishman John Smith and a small crew of adventurers set out in an open boat to explore the Chesapeake Bay. Between 1607 and 1609 Smith and his crew mapped nearly 3,000 miles of the Bay and rivers and documented American Indian communities. Smith’s map and journals are a remarkable record of the 17th-century Chesapeake. Come and join the adventure on the Chesapeake Bay!
Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site
1538 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Before Dr. Carter G. Woodson, there was very little accurate written history about the lives and experiences of Americans of African descent. Today a National Historic Site, Dr. Woodson’s home served as the headquarters for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Dr. Woodson established Negro History Week here in 1926, which we celebrate today as Black History Month.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Potomac River, DC, MD, WV; one site is Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20418
Preserving America’s early transportation history, the C&O Canal began as a dream of passage to Western wealth. Operating for nearly 100 years the canal was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River as coal, lumber, and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market. Today it endures as a pathway for discovering historical, natural, and recreational treasures.
Chesapeake Bay Watershed, DC, DE, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV
NPS helps you learn about and enjoy the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America. Here, you can visit major league cities, colonial towns, American Indian landscapes, farms and fishing villages. You can learn to kayak, pick crabs, go fishing, tour a lighthouse, slurp oysters, and slow down to enjoy the natural beauty of the Chesapeake.
Civil War Defenses of Washington
Minnesota Ave SE, Washington, DC 20019; Washington, DC, MD, VA
On forested hills surrounding the nation’s capital are the remnants of a complex system of Civil War fortifications. Built by Union forces, these strategic buttresses transformed the young capital into one of the world’s most fortified cities. This month, we will feature Fort Totten, part of the Northern Defenses and engaged during the Battle of Fort Stevens.
Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20024
Officially established in 1965, National Mall and Memorial Parks actually protect some of the older parklands in the National Park System. Areas within this premier park provide visitors with ample opportunities to commemorate presidential legacies; honor the courage and sacrifice of war veterans, and celebrate the United States commitment to freedom and equality.
511 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
Explore Ford’s Theatre NHS, discover Abraham Lincoln’s life in Washington, D.C., the struggle for a united country, and the motivation behind Lincoln’s assassination. The National Park Service and the Ford’s Theatre Society present a variety of programs year round.
Fort Dupont Park
Minnesota Ave SE, Washington, DC 20019
Welcome to Fort Dupont Park in Washington DC! At 376-acres, the wooded park was once home to earthen fort built to protect the capital during the Civil War. Today, visitors can see the fort’s earthworks and escape to the great outdoors. Activities include picnics, nature walks, biking, gardening, environmental education, music, and ranger-led programs.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242
These words by President Roosevelt ushered the United States into World War Two and defined what it is to be an American. Stop by this secluded memorial and begin to understand the Roosevelt legacy in the park’s largest memorial.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
1411 W St SE, Washington, DC 20020
Frederick Douglass spent his life fighting for justice and equality. Born into slavery in 1818, he escaped as a young man and became a leading voice in the abolitionist movement. People everywhere still find inspiration today in his tireless struggle, brilliant words, and inclusive vision of humanity. Douglass’s legacy is preserved here at Cedar Hill, where he lived his last 17 years.
George Washington Memorial Parkway
DC, MD, VA
The George Washington Memorial Parkway was designed for recreational driving. It links sites that commemorate important episodes in American history and preserve habitat for local wildlife. The parkway and its associated trails provide a scenic place to play and rest in busy Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019
In an age-old dance wind, water, and land combine here. Sparkling in the sun on a breezy day, this natural area of Anacostia Park has origins in a 1926 act of Congress to preserve the forests, water quality, and recreation value of the waterways of Washington, DC. The park reflects the policies that affect rivers and wetlands. Come, join the dance.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
900 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024 https://www.nps.gov/kowa/
Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.
LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac
George Washington Memorial Pkwy, Washington, DC 20037
From this distance, the seat of national power appears pristine across the river, so President Johnson came here often when he needed to escape from the stresses of building a Great Society. After he died, his wife chose this place for his memorial. A landscape of serpentine paths, white pines, a granite monolith, and an open meadow honors his legacy of social justice and conservation legislation.
2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037
“In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” Beneath these words, the 16th President of the United States.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024 https://www.nps.gov/mlkm/
Located in downtown Washington, D.C., the memorial honors Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
1318 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005 https://www.nps.gov/mamc/
Mary McLeod Bethune achieved her greatest recognition at the Washington, DC townhouse that is now this National Historic Site. The Council House was the first headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and was Bethune’s last home in Washington, DC. From here, Bethune and the NCNW spearheaded strategies and developed programs that advanced the interests of African American women.
National Capital Parks-East
1900 Anacostia Dr, Washington, DC 20020
Welcome to National Capital Parks-East. We invite you to journey to parks Beyond the Capital of Washington, D.C. National Capital Parks-East is 13 park sites, parkways and statuary covering more than 8,000 acres of historic, cultural, and recreational parklands from Capitol Hill to the nearby Maryland suburbs
National Mall and Memorial Parks
900 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024 https://www.nps.gov/nama/
Each year, millions of people visit National Mall and Memorial Parks to recreate, to commemorate presidential legacies, to honor our nation’s veterans, to make their voices heard, and to celebrate our nation’s commitment to freedom and equality. Note: The Washington Monument is currently closed for modernization of the elevator.
Washington, DC 20001
A street unlike any other. It is known the world over as the heart of the Nation’s Capital. America’s history has marched, paraded, promenaded, and protested its way along the Avenue.
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
The corridor between the Chesapeake Bay and the Allegheny Highlands, DC, MD, PA, VA; one site is Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge
Linking the tidal Potomac and upper Youghiogheny river basins, the evolving Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail network lies within a corridor rich in historic pathways and waterways. You can travel this historic corridor today—on foot, bicycle, and horse and by boat—exploring contrasting landscapes between the Chesapeake Bay and the Allegheny Plateau.
President’s Park (White House)
1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20230
Every president except George Washington has called the White House and its surrounding grounds his place of work, rest, and solitude. Recognizable around the world, the White House stands as a symbol of democracy. The White House and its park grounds serve not only as the seat of the executive branch of the government of the United States of America but also as an iconic place for civil discourse.
Rock Creek Park
Washington, DC 20008
Rock Creek Park is truly a gem in our nation’s capital. This 1,754-acre city park was officially authorized in 1890, making it the third national park to be designated by the federal government. It offers visitors the opportunity to escape the bustle of the city and find a peaceful refuge, recreation, fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and thousands of years of human history.
Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail
DC, MD, VA
For three years the young United States was embroiled in the War of 1812 and the Chesapeake Bay region felt the brunt of it, choked by shipping blockades and ravaged by enemy raids. Through sites and landscapes in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and throughout Maryland, the Trail tells the stories of the events, people, and places that led to the birth of our National Anthem.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
In the 1930s, landscape architects transformed Mason’s Island from neglected, overgrown farmland into Theodore Roosevelt Island, a memorial to America’s 26th president. They conceived a “real forest” designed to mimic the natural forest that once covered the island. Today miles of trails through wooded uplands and swampy bottomlands honor the legacy of a great outdoorsman and conservationist.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
701 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242
Author of the Declaration of Independence, statesman, and visionary for the founding of a nation.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20245
Honoring the men and women who served in the controversial Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial chronologically lists the names of more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country.
2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024
Built to honor George Washington, the United States’ first president, the 555-foot marble obelisk towers over Washington, D.C. The Washington Monument is currently closed to visitors to allow for modernization of the elevator.
Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail
MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, DC
In 1781, General Rochambeau’s French Army joined forces with General Washington’s Continental Army to fight the British Army in Yorktown, Virginia. With the French Navy in support, the allied armies moved hundreds of miles to become the largest troop movement of the American Revolution. The effort and cooperation between the two sides led to a victory at Yorktown and secured American independence.
World War II Memorial
1750 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
Through stone architecture and bronze sculptures, the World War II Memorial recognizes the ways Americans served. The memorial also honors those who fell and recognizes the victory they achieved to restore freedom and end tyranny around the globe.
For more sites and attractions, visit the Official Washington D.C. tourism site.
Have any additional suggestions? Please list them below.
Plan Your Next Adventure
Comments are closed.