Get Away from It All: Wide Open Spaces and Secluded Destinations in America's Capital Region

Lincoln Memorial, sunset, reflecting pool, National Mall
The Lincoln Memorial at sunset
Georgetown, waterfront, kayak, Potomac River, Washington DC
Kayak along the Georgetown waterfront for panoramic views of the DC and Virginia skylines
National Arboretum, Capitol Columns, Washington DC
Explore the stunning plant collections and the Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum
Rock Creek Park, DC, joggers, couple
DC’s Rock Creek Park is one of the largest and oldest parks in the US
Dumbarton Oaks offers 10 acres of landscaped gardens and pathways
Lincoln Memorial, sunset, reflecting pool, National Mall
Georgetown, waterfront, kayak, Potomac River, Washington DC
National Arboretum, Capitol Columns, Washington DC
Rock Creek Park, DC, joggers, couple

Looking to escape the crowds and revel in some well-earned relaxation and solitude on your next holiday? Whether it’s a hidden gem museum, a vast national park, or a secluded beach, we’ve uncovered some of the more off-the-beaten path attractions and quiet spaces for a get-away-from-it-all vacation to Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Washington, DC

If this is your first time visiting Washington, DC, the major attractions along the National Mall are bucket-list worthy – from the renowned Smithsonian museums to the iconic monuments and memorials that define DC’s landscape. The 2-mile long National Mall is nicknamed “America’s front yard” thanks to its green spaces and wide, pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevards. To avoid the crowds, consider visiting in off-peak seasons such as winter (January-February) or during off-peak times. In early morning you can expect to capture great sunrise images of the memorials along the Tidal Basin. Evenings are also a great time to tour the memorials when they’re dramatically lit and crowds are smaller.

Some of the less visited but noteworthy museums in the city include the National Building Museum, a marvel of architectural engineering that is dedicated to examining America’s architecture, engineering, design and urban planning. The Kreeger Museum rests on five acres of sculpture-filled gardens and features 19th and 20th century paintings, including works by Monet, Picasso, Renoir, and Cezanne as well as works by prominent DC artists.

Among the National Arboretum’s 446 acres, visitors can explore stunning plant collections, the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, and the National Capitol Columns, a permanent installation of 22 Corinthian columns that supported the east portico of the US Capitol building when it was built in 1828. Dumbarton Oaks in the historic Georgetown neighbourhood includes 10 acres of landscaped gardens and pathways. At nearly 1,800 acres, DC’s Rock Creek Park is one of the largest and oldest parks in the US (twice the size of Central Park in New York City!). The park offers miles of trails and numerous recreation opportunities from tennis to horseback riding to golf. The park borders the Smithsonian National Zoo and includes an entrance to the zoo inside the park. Cedar Hill, the home of abolitionist and statesmen Frederick Douglass, sits atop one of the highest hills in Anacostia, a historic neighbourhood in southeast DC. Climb the 85 brick steps to the home to enjoy the remote elevation and unparalleled view of DC, Maryland and Virginia.

With the Potomac and Anacostia rivers running through the city, it’s easy to get out on the water to gain a different perspective of Washington, DC. Take out a paddleboat near the Georgetown Waterfront for panoramic views of the DC and Virginia skylines or along the Tidal Basin to view the city’s famous monuments from the water.  Kayaking and canoeing the Potomac is a popular pastime; you'll find plenty of outfitters who can rent you all the gear you need. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (a National Historical Park) runs parallel to the Potomac for 184.5 miles (297 km), offering an additional waterway for canoes and rowboats. The towpath, which separates the canal and river, creates an idyllic backdrop for quiet strolls and is a favourite path for cyclists and runners.

Explore more of Washington, DC.

Discover the wide-open spaces of Maryland and Virginia

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