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D.C.'s Ten Secret or Underrated Parks and Gardens

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So Washington's a boomtown, now, at least according the Wall Street Journal. But thanks to the meticulous planning of L'Enfant and the no-ifs-ands-or-buts building height limit, no amount of urban growth and rejuvenation will keep Washingtonians from the sun, grass, trees and flowers that makes the city such a pleasant place to live. Sure, the District may not have New York's arts scene, Chicago's architecture, or San Francisco's restaurants — it holds its own in each of these categories, mind you — but Washington has greenspace galore. And while Rock Creek Park and the National Mall get most of the attention, there are many smaller, less heralded but equally fulfilling options for the in-the-know seekers of a shady tree, a park bench, and a little fresh air. With so many landscaped traffic circles, gardens tucked into nooks and crannies, and neighborhood parks, District residents are never more than a few blocks away from an underappreciated pocket of green, respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Brooks Hays

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1. Battery Kemble Park

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Chain Bridge Road
Washington, DC 20016

Nestled in the Palisades, west of Glover Park, this park was once home to a strategic encampment of Union soldiers, staked out to defend the city from Confederate raids. Today, it’s host to running trails, majestic giant pines trees, and a grassy, rolling meadow.Best for: running haphazardly with your dog, or when it snows, sledding.Photo by Geoff Livingston.

2. Crispus Attucks Park

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63 U Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001

Previously a concrete jungle better known for drug deals than dog walkers, Crispus Attucks Park is now a seemingly hidden oasis of greenery tucked amongst the Tudor row houses of Bloomingdale. Named for a freed slave who was killed by British gunfire during the Boston Massacre of 1770, the park is a petite gem of grass, flowers, trees, and walkways.Best for: a short stroll or a picnic.Photo by Flickr user rock creek.

3. United States National Arboretum

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3501 New York Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 245-2726
Visit Website

Certainly the biggest greenspace on the list, and perhaps the most well-known, the National Arboretum is still largely underappreciated, as its many wonders seem largely ignored by both locals and tourists. It's a sprawling oasis of flowers, bushes, and trees features meandering walking trails, spacious gardens, cherry blossoms, azaleas, and even abandoned columns (which look like ancient ruins) from the earliest days of the Capital.Best for: a spring time walk, smelling flowers.Photo by L. Shanley.

4. Montrose Park

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3099 R St NW
Washington, DC

The biggest park that nobody seems to know about, Montrose Park was once the land of rope making — yes, rope making — tycoon Robert Parrott. Parrott allowed local residents to use his grounds for picnics and leisurely strolls, and that generous spirit remains honored today. Tucked away from the noises of the city, the park’s ancient trees and open fields have the ability to transport visitors back to the 18th century. Directly next to the 27 acres of wilderness known as Dumbarton Oaks, and with a short path connecting it to Rock Creek Park, Montrose Park has everything...except crowds.Best for: a picnic, deep contemplation, bird watching.Photo by Flickr user NCinDC.

5. Heurich House Garden

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1307 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

Once the home of the “world’s oldest brewer,” who ran the Christian Heurich Brewing Company until his death at age 102, this Victorian mansion features a quaint garden, open to the public during lunch hours.Best for:a brown-bag lunch, a break from the 9 to 5. Photo by Valerie Paschall.

6. Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial

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Analostan Island
Washington, DC 20037

This 91-acre wilderness preserve, which honors the nation's 26th president and his commitment to public conservation, is the perfect place to truly escape the city. With more than 2.5 miles of interweaving trails, a variety of wildlife, a view of the Georgetown waterfront and a bronze statue of Roosevelt situated midst the woods, Teddy Roosevelt Island is an ideal afternoon adventure.Best for: bird watching, hiking, pretending you're Huckleberry Finn.Photo by Adam Fagen.

7. Logan Circle

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Rhode Island Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20005

Washington has more than 40 traffic circles, but this one is one of the best. Situated in the half-hipster, half-historic neighborhood off 14th Street, Logan Circle is one of the most peaceful, large and green circles. Outfitted with giant trees and plenty of shade, and surrounded by gorgeous, old row houses, it’s the ideal place to read a book in the open air without venturing far from home.Best for: pretending to read while people watching.Photo by Flickr user NCinDC.

8. Mitchell Park

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1801 23rd Street NW
Washington, DC
(202) 673-6871

Hidden in Kalorama, Mitchell Park is another neighborhood park unfrequented by the masses. With a fountain, a beautiful fenced garden, a play area for canines and small open patch of grass for humans, you can picnic, smell the flowers, or toss a frisbee. Regularly the host of giggling children and watchful parents, the park is well-enjoyed by locals, but never cramped for space.Best for: a picnic, walking the dog.Photo by Flickr user NCinDC.

9. Enid A. Haupt Garden

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1050 Lenfant Plz SW
Washington, DC 20560

This underutilized patch of grass, complete with flowers, fountains, and benches, sits next to the Smithsonian Castle, one of the more memorable looking buildings on the National Mall. While the hordes of tourists are huddled, drenched in sweat, on the steps of the various museums, in-the-know Mall-goers can escape to this oasis of green for some shade, a moment of peace, and the free Wi-Fi.Best for: checking your e-mail while smelling flowers.Photo by Flickr user cliff1066™

10. Meridian Hill Park

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2500 16th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 895-6000
Visit Website

Also known as Malcolm X Park, this 12 acre park is perhaps the most popular park on this list. But being a bit out of the way of Washington’s many tourist traps, it’s almost never overly crowded. Plus, for those willing to trek up the steep hill, it remains a treasure. Boasting a staircase of cascading water and European-style terraces, the park recalls Versailles. While the view isn't quite the French countryside, the high vantage point does offer enjoyable panoramas of the District.Best for: a picnic, a view of the city, watching the 4th of July fireworks.Photo by Alicia Griffin.

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1. Battery Kemble Park

Chain Bridge Road, Washington, DC 20016

Nestled in the Palisades, west of Glover Park, this park was once home to a strategic encampment of Union soldiers, staked out to defend the city from Confederate raids. Today, it’s host to running trails, majestic giant pines trees, and a grassy, rolling meadow.Best for: running haphazardly with your dog, or when it snows, sledding.Photo by Geoff Livingston.

Chain Bridge Road
Washington, DC 20016

2. Crispus Attucks Park

63 U Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20001

Previously a concrete jungle better known for drug deals than dog walkers, Crispus Attucks Park is now a seemingly hidden oasis of greenery tucked amongst the Tudor row houses of Bloomingdale. Named for a freed slave who was killed by British gunfire during the Boston Massacre of 1770, the park is a petite gem of grass, flowers, trees, and walkways.Best for: a short stroll or a picnic.Photo by Flickr user rock creek.

63 U Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001

3. United States National Arboretum

3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

Certainly the biggest greenspace on the list, and perhaps the most well-known, the National Arboretum is still largely underappreciated, as its many wonders seem largely ignored by both locals and tourists. It's a sprawling oasis of flowers, bushes, and trees features meandering walking trails, spacious gardens, cherry blossoms, azaleas, and even abandoned columns (which look like ancient ruins) from the earliest days of the Capital.Best for: a spring time walk, smelling flowers.Photo by L. Shanley.

3501 New York Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002

4. Montrose Park

3099 R St NW, Washington, DC

The biggest park that nobody seems to know about, Montrose Park was once the land of rope making — yes, rope making — tycoon Robert Parrott. Parrott allowed local residents to use his grounds for picnics and leisurely strolls, and that generous spirit remains honored today. Tucked away from the noises of the city, the park’s ancient trees and open fields have the ability to transport visitors back to the 18th century. Directly next to the 27 acres of wilderness known as Dumbarton Oaks, and with a short path connecting it to Rock Creek Park, Montrose Park has everything...except crowds.Best for: a picnic, deep contemplation, bird watching.Photo by Flickr user NCinDC.

3099 R St NW
Washington, DC

5. Heurich House Garden

1307 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

Once the home of the “world’s oldest brewer,” who ran the Christian Heurich Brewing Company until his death at age 102, this Victorian mansion features a quaint garden, open to the public during lunch hours.Best for:a brown-bag lunch, a break from the 9 to 5. Photo by Valerie Paschall.

1307 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

6. Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial

Analostan Island, Washington, DC 20037

This 91-acre wilderness preserve, which honors the nation's 26th president and his commitment to public conservation, is the perfect place to truly escape the city. With more than 2.5 miles of interweaving trails, a variety of wildlife, a view of the Georgetown waterfront and a bronze statue of Roosevelt situated midst the woods, Teddy Roosevelt Island is an ideal afternoon adventure.Best for: bird watching, hiking, pretending you're Huckleberry Finn.Photo by Adam Fagen.

Analostan Island
Washington, DC 20037

7. Logan Circle

Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20005

Washington has more than 40 traffic circles, but this one is one of the best. Situated in the half-hipster, half-historic neighborhood off 14th Street, Logan Circle is one of the most peaceful, large and green circles. Outfitted with giant trees and plenty of shade, and surrounded by gorgeous, old row houses, it’s the ideal place to read a book in the open air without venturing far from home.Best for: pretending to read while people watching.Photo by Flickr user NCinDC.

Rhode Island Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20005

8. Mitchell Park

1801 23rd Street NW, Washington, DC

Hidden in Kalorama, Mitchell Park is another neighborhood park unfrequented by the masses. With a fountain, a beautiful fenced garden, a play area for canines and small open patch of grass for humans, you can picnic, smell the flowers, or toss a frisbee. Regularly the host of giggling children and watchful parents, the park is well-enjoyed by locals, but never cramped for space.Best for: a picnic, walking the dog.Photo by Flickr user NCinDC.

1801 23rd Street NW
Washington, DC

9. Enid A. Haupt Garden

1050 Lenfant Plz SW, Washington, DC 20560

This underutilized patch of grass, complete with flowers, fountains, and benches, sits next to the Smithsonian Castle, one of the more memorable looking buildings on the National Mall. While the hordes of tourists are huddled, drenched in sweat, on the steps of the various museums, in-the-know Mall-goers can escape to this oasis of green for some shade, a moment of peace, and the free Wi-Fi.Best for: checking your e-mail while smelling flowers.Photo by Flickr user cliff1066™

1050 Lenfant Plz SW
Washington, DC 20560

10. Meridian Hill Park

2500 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Also known as Malcolm X Park, this 12 acre park is perhaps the most popular park on this list. But being a bit out of the way of Washington’s many tourist traps, it’s almost never overly crowded. Plus, for those willing to trek up the steep hill, it remains a treasure. Boasting a staircase of cascading water and European-style terraces, the park recalls Versailles. While the view isn't quite the French countryside, the high vantage point does offer enjoyable panoramas of the District.Best for: a picnic, a view of the city, watching the 4th of July fireworks.Photo by Alicia Griffin.

2500 16th St NW
Washington, DC 20009