Invoke your imagination for a glimpse into 18th century Georgetown, when the 184.5-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was constructed here to transport tobacco shipments to Western Maryland. The park is now a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts in the big city. Adventurous cyclists can ride and camp the entire C&O Canal trail to Harper's Ferry, WV, while others can take much shorter rides among picturesque forests and white water rapids through D.C. and into Maryland. In the winter, hike or cross-country ski for a workout in the elements.
Located at the highest point of Georgetown, the gardens on this 50-acre property are the brainchild of landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, who was hired by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss in the 1920s to curate every detail, terrace, bench and border at their new country house over 30 years. Envisioning Dumbarton Oaks to become a “home of the humanities,” the couple eventually gave their property to Harvard University in 1940, along with specialized collections of captivating Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art, which is now curated in a museum for the public. Guided tours of some rooms in the stately manor house are available, but you may enjoy soaking up the view while lounging under a cherry blossom tree with a book.
Early in the morning dedicated intramural and Georgetown University crew teams launch their boats nearby, but show off your paddling prowess on a rented paddle board, canoe or kayak from Jack's. After working up an appetite on the Potomac River, where you will get a unique (and uncrowded) view of Washington's most famed monuments, opt to barbeque on Jack's gas grills. Those not comfortable with navigating the waters can book a guided twilight tour, where you could snag a close-up of beavers, eagles, herons, and fox.
A private museum with rare 19th and 20th century paintings by Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Cézanne, Chagall, Miró, and Stella, along with prominent Washington artists, the Kreeger sits on nearly six acres of sculpture-filled gardens. In homage to David and Carmen Kreeger's stewardship of the arts, the museum hosts lectures, musical concerts and receptions to engage the public and enhance its appreciation of art, architecture and music. Families should plan ahead to catch story time and Saturday art workshops, which could entail studying the museum's collection of famous portraits followed by painting one.
Six generations of First Lady Martha Washington's descendents lived here between 1805 and 1983, and it shows: with more than 15,000 decorative arts and archeological artifacts, it is the largest Washington Collection outside of their home at Mount Vernon. Set on nearly six acres, the manor was designed by William Thornton, who also designed the U.S. Capitol. Tudor Place is a playground for learning, incorporating walking tours of the neighborhood to show how Tudor's slaves' and servants' lives were shaped by major events in the nation's capital. Check the Web site for upcoming teas, gardening workshops, and children's events for the public