Sometimes you just want to sit in the shade and eat your food truck gyro in peace. But finding a quiet spot in this region can be next to impossible. Here are seven small, less well-known parks, gardens, and green spaces in and around DC–we mostly skipped more obvious “hidden gems” like the National Arboretum in favor of smaller, less-visited spaces.
Columbus Circle and Delaware Avenue, Northeast
Just north of the more crowded Lower Senate Park is a grove of trees dedicated by the Maryland Daughters of the American Revolution in the 1930s. The small plaque here explains that this land (like all of DC except for the chunk we gave back to Virginia in 1846) “was once a part of Maryland, and was…her gift to the United States.” (They seem to expect a “You’re welcome” more than 200 years later.) The plaque adds that soil from “Maryland’s historic spots” was placed at the base of each tree. The plaque does not mention who placed the frog statue.
10 G Street, Northeast
The green roof and labyrinth on the APA building
Getting here takes just a tiny bit of planning, but it’s worth the two minutes to sign in with building security and ride the elevator eight floors to the top. The American Psychological Association, the primary tenant of this building, installed a green roof and labyrinth in 2008. It remains open to the public 8 am-5 pm Monday through Friday. Once on the roof, you’ll find a green space with chairs and tables under shady pergolas and a tiled labyrinth. A sign gives helpful tips for how to meditate as you walk the labyrinth, but it’s okay to just grab a chair and veg out.
1515 Marion Street, Northwest
The Marion Street Intergenerational Community Garden
This treasure of a garden is only a short walk from the Convention Center and the Shaw Metro. Butterflies and bees flit around the verdant space, where flowers, vegetables and herbs are currently in peak growing mode. Stop by the recently renovated Giant to grab a snack to eat at the garden (obviously, the veggies growing here aren’t free for the picking), or come by during the garden’s “Open Times”, 4-6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays until November, to meet the staff, see cooking demos, and create art.
1307 New Hampshire Avenue, Northwest
Heurich House Garden
The Brewmaster’s Castle is only open at certain times, but the manicured grounds behind the house of DC’s most notable brewer are open every weekday from 9-5. Enter on Sunderland Place, Northwest, and grab a bench or a seat at the picnic table to eat a bagged lunch from one of Dupont’s many options. On Wednesday afternoons (11:30-2 pm) the museum is open for self-guided tours (suggested donation $5). The gate on the New Hampshire Ave side of the gardens has Christian Heurich’s original monogram sculpted into the iron. History!
1201 East West Highway, Silver Spring
Canada Dry Plaza
The 1946 Canada Dry bottling plant, saved by the Silver Spring Historical Society in the early 2000s, is now condos. But you can still enjoy the plaza out front, a sunny square with some extremely unpractical (but attractive) concrete and granite furniture. Silver Spring Historical Society president Jerry McCoy tells Washingtonian that a Colorado-based artist designed the furniture to mimic the historic building. Both are in the “streamline moderne” style, or for us architectural ignoramuses, Art Deco.
Alley between Pendleton, Oronoco, N. West, and N. Payne streets, Alexandria
Let’s be honest. This is not the fanciest spot on this list, but it warrants inclusion because it is really, really secret. It’s one of the city of Alexandria’s tiniest parks, tucked into the space inside a city block. Plus, it does have a nice bench and some flowering trees, and if you do go here, you’ll have privacy from everyone except the folks whose backyards (and parking spaces) overlook the park. So maybe go while they are at work.
Slightly northwest of the Capitol
This little hexagonal building designed by Frederick Law Olmsted is the least “hidden” of the parks, gardens and plazas on this list–and the only one to see more than one other visitor using the space during the time we visited. Still, it’s really quite nice and rather underrated. The temperatures inside the brick hexagon really do feel cooler than those outside (something to do with thermal mass?). Bring your out-of-town guests and they’ll really feel like you showed them something cool.