Crowning the highest point in Georgetown is the private garden surrounding Dumbarton Oaks (31st and R sts., NW), a 19th-century Federal-style home purchased in 1920 by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, who later donated the property to Harvard University. Designed by legendary landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, the garden consists of outdoor “rooms” delineated by boxwood hedges, urns, and herbaceous borders. March through October, an $8 admission fee allows you to wander the 16 acres; it’s free in late autumn and winter.
Tucked between Dumbarton Oaks and Oak Hill Cemetery, Montrose Park (30th and R sts., NW) maintains an air of the country-estate grandeur that marked its beginnings. The land was developed by 19th-century rope maker Robert Parrott, who opened his property to Georgetowners for recreation. These days, you’ll find 16 acres of tree-shaded picnic areas, tennis courts, and trails. Walkers will enjoy ambling into Dumbarton Oaks Park, a 27-acre green space adjacent to the estate’s private gardens that connects with Rock Creek Park. A cobblestone path called Lover’s Lane connects the two parks.
Little-league games, neighborhood picnics, a community center—Volta Park (34th St. and Volta Pl., NW) is a favorite with families. In summer, the recently renovated outdoor pool is the draw. The tennis courts, baseball diamond, and open field—once used by the Kennedy brothers for touch-football games—are hits in cooler months.
A visit to Tudor Place (1644 31st St., NW) is a step back in time. The meticulously landscaped grounds of the home were designed for Thomas and Martha Custis Peter—he was the son of Georgetown’s first mayor; she was Martha Washington’s granddaughter. Some 200 years later, nearly six acres and much of the Federal-period design remain. A $3 fee grants access to the gardens for a self-guided tour; highlights include a Japanese teahouse, a boxwood ellipse, heirloom roses, and 400-plus varieties of trees, including a 100-foot tulip poplar.
With three well-maintained hard-surface courts, Rose Park (26th and P sts., NW) is your best bet for tennis. The courts fill up fast, so come early. If you have to wait, there’s plenty to hold your attention: a shady common space, two sandy playgrounds, a walking path to Rock Creek Park, and a farmers market, every Wednesday from 3 to 7, May through October.
When the weather’s warm, there’s no better place than Georgetown Waterfront Park (Wisconsin and K sts., NW), open since fall 2011. The $24-million, ten-acre park, connecting the Capital Crescent and Rock Creek Park trails, has a fountain, walking and bike paths, benches, and views of the Potomac, where you can take in crew races and the rowdy weekend boat scene. If the vista has you yearning to get out there, stop by Jack’s Boathouse (3500 Water St., NW) to rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. If you’re interested in renting a rowing shell or taking sculling lessons, try Thompson Boat Center (2900 Virginia Ave., NW).