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DC's Parks and Gardens

With more than 230,000 acres of parks, DC is a nature-lover’s paradise. Picnic in or retreat to one.

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Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, formerly the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, is set on 25 manicured acres which include a Japanese-style garden.

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Find more than 3,500 varieties of flowers and plants at Hillwood, including azaleas, violets and rhododendrons

Hillwood's gardens were designed for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and located at one of her former homes. Wooded paths connect the gardens and encircle the sweep of lawn on the mansion's south side. Among Hillwood’s delights: a Japanese garden featuring a waterfall and bridge, a rose garden and greenhouses containing more than 5,000 orchids.

While visitors may not enter the friary, they are welcome to stroll the cloisters, and visit replicas of Holy Land shrines and gorgeous domed Blessed Sacrament chapel. All are welcome; there is no charge for admission.

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See daffodils, dogwood and cherry trees among replicas of Holy Land shrines

Flowers, trees and shrubs grow lavishly on the 40-acre grounds of the Franciscan Monastery. The garden includes pathways and authentic replicas of Holy Land shrines. Tropical treasures cultivated in the monastery’s greenhouse include hibiscus, lantanas, tiger lilies, giant caladiums and palm and banana trees.

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Anacostia was founded in 1926 as part of Congress’ efforts to preserve the city’s forests, water quality and recreation. Be sure and check out the annual Waterlily Festival in July.

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Kenilworth is the only National Park site devoted to aquatic plants

Kenilworth is tucked away in Southeast DC along the east bank of the Anacostia River, the city’s last tidal marsh. The gardens span 14 acres, with 45 ponds that sustain more than 100,000 exotic water lilies, ferns and lotuses, the East Coast’s foremost collection.

The original Capitol Columns were moved to the National Arboretum because they couldn't support the weight of the Capitol dome. The Corinthian columns now have a home in the gardens of the Arboretum and make a perfect place for a picnic.

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Perched on one of DC’s highest points, the National Arboretum rambles over 444 acres

Whether blanketed in spring green or autumn gold, this prestigious horticultural institution offers a welcome refuge for outdoors enthusiasts. Ten miles of hard-surface roads wind through the scenic grounds, making it ideal for exploration by foot, bicycle or car.

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Divided into East and West Potomac Parks, this swath of green space covers some of the city’s most memorable sights

West Potomac Park includes spectacular views of the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Constitution Gardens, the Reflecting Pool, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the FDR Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Tidal Basin, framed by the famous cherry trees. East Potomac Park also blooms with cherry blossoms in the spring.

Tudor Place

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The stately grounds of the Tudor Place estate include five acres of beautifully landscaped gardens

Owned by Martha Custis Peter, granddaughter of George and Martha Washington, the gardens have retained the expanse of green lawns, parterres and woodland originally developed by the Peter family. The sloping South Lawn contains the specimen trees planted in the early 19th century. Formal plantings such as the Flower Knot and English Box make up the North Garden.

A living museum of plants domestic and exotic, the United States Botanic Garden has displays inside and out. This public facility was part of George Washington's vision for the capital city.

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The garden is home to a collection of more than 10,000 varieties of orchids

Azalea, lilies and orchids bloom within the glass-and-aluminum conservatory, while specialized areas of the facility explore primordial plants, medicinal plants and other topics of interest. The Botanic Garden also features an exotic jungle and a tropical rainforest in which climbing vines race toward the top of the tiered greenhouse. The Botanic Garden hosts a variety of permanent and visiting exhibitions.

Ringed by manicured English-style gardens, the National Cathedral rises from the tallest point in Washington. Its 112 gargoyles have some of the best views of the city.

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Visitors can purchase herbs and vinegar from the gardens' herb garden

Located atop the highest point of the city, the 57-acre grounds of the cathedral include a variety of gardens. The Bishop's Garden is the setting for magnolias, orchids and exquisite flowers. The Little Garden is designed to look like a medieval herb garden surrounded by hedges of old English boxwood. The cathedral is also home to a rather mysterious treasure, the Glastonbury thorn tree. True to legend, it has bloomed only on Christmas Day and during  Queen Elizabeth's and Prince Charles' visits.