Things to Do

Catch the Blooming Lotus Flowers at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens While You Can

Early blooms due to hot weather mean time is running short to see the park's colorful selection.

A lotus flower at Kenilworth. Photograph courtesy of NPS.
Summer 2024

About Summer 2024

All the best things to do in the DC-area this summer.

The picture-perfect lotus flowers at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens reached peak bloom over the holiday weekend, according to NPS Program Manager of Visitor Services Vince Vaise, but there’s still time to see the ephemeral blooms. 

Although the peak is already past, Vaise says you can still get a good view through this weekend of the park’s multicolored flower selection—including the yellow “American Lotus” and bright pink and purple hues of the “Asian Lotus.” But it’s best to act fast.

A pond of lotus flowers at Kenilworth. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

Peak lotus bloom usually happens around mid-July. But this year, hot and dry weather has led to the flowers showing their petals early, starting in late June. Some varieties of the water-loving flowers that typically bloom in late July or early August are currently flowering.

By comparison, last year saw late-blooming lotuses, as cooler summer temperatures caused the flower to come out closer to the end of July.

A pond of water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

Kenilworth’s other notable aquatic flower, water lilies, have a longer blooming period—so they’ll be viewable all month. ”For lily-watchers, try to come in the morning, since they begin to close up in the afternoons,” says Vaise.  “We have a few great ponds along the trail that are full of water lilies. They really make you feel like you’re in a Monet painting.”

Vaise recommends that guests bring suntan lotion and water. “And while you’re there, keep your eye out for local wildlife, and the many native flowers that are blooming around the marsh right now—including the purple Pickerel Weed,” he says. Park rangers, he adds, can answer questions about the plants on display.

A close-up look at a white winter hardy water lily. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

Kenilworth will host the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival on July 19th-21st. This year’s theme is “The Art of Lotus’ and Lilies,” and programming will include multicultural musical performances, arts and fitness classes, and tours through the garden’s flora and fauna. If you want to avoid the sweltering midday heat, the Gardens will be open later throughout festival week.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (1550 Anacostia Ave., NE) is accessible by Metro via the Orange line, or by bicycle via the Anacostia River Trail. Limited parking is also available. Admission is always free.

Omega Ilijevich
Editorial Fellow