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Outdoor Activities in Washington, DC

Hike, bike, boat and picnic in the nation’s capital

Walk your way through DC and beyond

With its ample sidewalks, abundant public parks and miles of panoramic trails, Washington, DC is an extremely exercise-friendly destination. In fact, a recent study by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University named the nation’s capital the most walkable city in the country.

Want to take advantage of those top honors? We suggest you start by exploring Rock Creek Park. The 2,000-acre park in Northwest DC is an urban oasis with 32 miles of trails for hiking and plenty of paved roads (closed to cars) for biking. You can even go horseback riding in the National Park Service-run outdoor destination.

The Capital Crescent Trail, which runs from Georgetown all the way up to Silver Spring, MD, also offers scenic pathways for hikers, bikers and joggers, while the 185-mile C&O Canal trail, which runs through Georgetown, boasts beautiful views of DC’s oldest neighborhood.

Pedal and paddle past the city’s iconic sights

Sure you can see DC by tour bus, but for those wanting to take advantage of our bicycle-friendly city, Capital Bikeshare or Bike and Roll are great ways to check out DC’s must-see sights.

There are dozens of Capital Bikeshare racks across the city where you can borrow a bike with a day pass, or book a tour to see the sights via bicycle (or even a Segway!) with Bike & Roll. Miles of bike paths and bike lanes mean you can peddle past everything from the monuments and memorials to quaint neighborhoods in all four quadrants of the city.

If you want a new view of the monuments, you can rent a paddle boat in the warmer months and make your way around the Tidal Basin, or get out on the glorious Potomac River by renting a canoe or kayak from Thompson Boat Center in Georgetown or even a standup paddle board at the Key Bridge Boathouse.

Relax with a picnic in the city

If you simply want to relax outdoors, pack a picnic and head to one of DC’s lovely public or private parks.

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens allows guests to picnic in the historic home’s gorgeous gardens. Meridian Hill Park, which was once a part of John Quincy Adams’ private estate, is run by the National Park Service today. The park still features the original cascading fountain and on Sundays, locals get together for a boisterous drum circle—and it’s a lovely place for a picnic.

The National Arboretum, a 446-acre park with a diversity of flora and fauna (bonsai trees, azaleas, flowering cherry trees to name a few) is also home to the Instagram-worthy original Capitol Columns. The park has designated areas for picnicking, as does Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, another outdoor oasis featuring waterlilies, lotuses, bamboo and more on the banks of the Anacostia River.

Would you like to explore more outdoor options in DC? Check out more options for nature and outdoor activities.