7 Outdoor Things to Do in Washington, DC

Summer is the season for spending time outdoors. Those of us who live in or near Washington, D.C., know that there is no shortage of activities to take part in. From kayaking on the Potomac River, to hiking on the trails of the Shenandoah National Park, here are seven of the best outdoor activities in Washington DC.

Outdoor Activities in Washington DC

Kayaking on the Potomac

There are plenty of companies that offer kayak rentals and lessons all along the Potomac but the most convenient one for those staying in Washington, D.C., is a company called Boating in D.C. Formerly known as Jack’s Boathouse, Boating in D.C. has three locations: one in Maryland’s National Harbor and two locations in Washington, one in Georgetown and another near Nationals Park. The company rents out single and double kayaks with rates starting at $15 an hour. Before booking, check out popular affiliated merchant sites like Groupon and Travelzoo which offer discounts on rentals as much as 50%.

Outdoor Activities in Washington DC: Kayaking on the Potomac
Kayaking on the Potomac

Biking on the Mount Vernon Trail

Cyclist and hiking enthusiasts will revel in the beautiful scenery that the 17-mile long Mount Vernon Trail offers. The trail starts at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and ends up in Rosslyn. It passes through several parks including Fort Hunt Park (between mile 2-3), Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve (mile 7), and Daingerfield Island. It also cuts through the historic city of Alexandria and alongside Reagan National Airport. The trail is paved, well marked and follows the curvature of the Potomac River for the most part. The stops along the way feature restroom facilities, picnic tables, and water fountains.

Outdoor Activities in Washington DC: Mount Vernon Trail
Mount Vernon Trail

Picnicking in one of DC’s Parks

Washington, D.C., has a number of urban parks that come with recreational and picnic facilities. The picturesque Rock Creek Park on the northwest quadrant of the District is one of the largest and features a number of historical and notable attractions including Peirce Mill, the Old Stone House, and the Rock Creek Nature Center and Planetarium. Then there’s the National Mall, the long span of green grass that commences from the Lincoln Memorial and end on the footsteps of the United States Capitol. To the southeast lies Anacostia Park, a 1,200-acre park that hosts a number of outdoor things to do in Washington, DC. In addition to the designated picnic areas, the park also incorporates an 18-hole golf course and three marinas.

Outdoor Activities in Washington DC: Beach Drive, Rock Creek Park, Washington DC
Rock Creek Park: Photo Dion Hinchcliffe / CC 2.0

Play Ball on The National Mall

If you happen to be walking along The National Mall (aka The Mall) on a nice day, you’ll likely see many pick-up games of softball and soccer on the grassy area just to the west of the Washington Monument. Locals will bring along portable nets and markers and complete a game or two sandwiched between some of D.C.’s most recognizable monuments. On a clear day, the area also has a great sunset view.

Outdoor Activities in Washington DC: Grassy Lawn of the Mall
Grassy Lawn of the Mall

Take on a Boat Cruise of the Potomac

One of the most fun outdoor things to do in Washington, DC is to go on a boat cruise on the Potomac River. There are at least three harbors to choose from within a 15-mile radius of the White House. The one in the District lies in the neighborhood of Georgetown. Several companies offer hour-long cruises as well as ferry services to Old Town Alexandria, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and the National Harbor in Maryland.

Outdoor Activities in Washington DC: Sunset on the Potomac
Sunset on the Potomac

Catch an Outdoor Movie Screening

Washington, D.C., plays host to a number of outdoor movie screenings in the summer. Each neighborhood in and around the District has a particular theme but the most popular of them all is Screen on the Green, which is now on it’s 17th year. For four weeks, locals and visitors alike will have the opportunity to catch a free movie every Monday, beginning July 20 to August 10, on a giant 20’ by 40’ screen located on The National Mall.

Outdoor Activities in Washington DC: Screen on the Green
Screen on the Green

Hiking on Shenandoah National Park

Though technically not in the District, I decided to include this activity as one of the best outdoor things to do in Washington, DC mainly because so many locals drive to Shenandoah National Park to hike. The park’s close proximity to the nation’s capital makes it a popular day trip spot, and with miles and miles of hiking trails suited for all skill types, it’s easy to see why it attracts plenty of nature enthusiasts. Some of the park’s most common hikes include Old Rag Mountain, Dark Hollow Falls, and Moorman’s River.

Outdoor Activities in Washington DC: Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park
Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park

About Iris A

Website: http://www.travelingwithiris.com

Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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