Tell me about some awesome DC public spaces and places.
April 16, 2013 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I recently discovered DC's indoor public pools. I also saw the Titanic Memorial for the first time. What other indoor or outdoor public spaces and places am I missing?

I feel like I miss things in this city, despite living here for seven years. I just recently learned that Wilson and Takoma have awesome indoor public pools! And recently I've been enjoying running to the lesser known parks, arts, and memorials. What am I missing that's free and DC-specific?

Bonus for out-of-the-way places in NW, like these sculptures in a small park in 16th Street Heights.
posted by quadrilaterals to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

I think most people don't realize that there are still remnants of forts in DC, like Fort Stevens. Meridian Hill Park isn't hidden, but you might have missed some of the statuary, like Dante or Joan of Arc, or even odder, President James Buchanan. The rest of that site, DC Memorials, might also provide inspiration. Have you been to the Spanish Steps yet?
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:59 AM on April 16, 2013

The stairs from The Exorcist in Georgetown
posted by atlantica at 8:03 AM on April 16, 2013

Not lesser known by any stretch of the imagination, but the Sunday drum circle at Meridian Hill Park was one of my favorite things to go to. Great for those summer nights to pack a picnic and a book and just enjoy the city.

The outdoor pools in DC are also pretty great if you can get there early enough. Banneker is always a party.

You could always hunt out the original boundary stones for the city.

Rock Creek Park is gorgeous, full stop. Any time you can spend there (even just driving through) is worth your time.
posted by Flamingo at 8:05 AM on April 16, 2013

You might like the United States Botanic Garden near the Capitol.
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:11 AM on April 16, 2013

Have you ever been in the National Building Museum? It's the former (post-Civil War) U.S. Pension Bureau office and the interior is gorgeous.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:14 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Local bands play summer concerts twice a week in Fort Reno park every year. It's a great place to bring a picnic, your dog, and/or your kids. (and to play Spot Henry Rollins.)
posted by nonasuch at 8:19 AM on April 16, 2013

I've always loved the National Arboretum.

There is so much stuff in the National Mall it's crazy. For example, if your at the Lincoln Memorial, go south on Ohio Drive, and there's a huge park area down there, with soccer fields where you can watch cricket matches during the weekend. Then keep going past the Jefferson Memorial, and there's the Potomac Golf Course, and finally Haines Point, which is a great little park across the river from National Airport.

Then there are the random museums like the National Building Museum.
posted by slogger at 8:19 AM on April 16, 2013

There is some amazing grave statuary at Rock Creek Cemetery. E.g. the Adams Memorial.
posted by stopgap at 8:29 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The National Arboretum, especially the pond! The dogwood will be in bloom soon, and I can't wait!

Constitution Gardens

Dumbarton Oaks

I love the way the smaller parks, like Folger Park on the Hill, look before the trees are fully leafed out and before the mowing starts!
posted by jgirl at 8:52 AM on April 16, 2013

I highly recommend the Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden - just a fun place to walk around and get up close with many different styles of sculpture. Also, if you haven't seen the installation of 'The Awakening' at the National Harbor, it is WELL worth it. Pictures don't do it justice, altho you'll likely see it covered in clambering children. Which, considering it is a sculpture of an enraged giant clawing his way out of the earth, actually adds something to the overall presentation.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:19 AM on April 16, 2013

DC has a ton of national parks. Why not get a passport and try to get all the stamps?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:43 AM on April 16, 2013

Jetlagaddict mentions the fort remains throughout the city, but did you know that there's a whole eight-mile trail in the far southeast/northeast that links a bunch of them together? Most underrated day hike in DC. (Start from the northeast end-there's a trail entrance not far from the Minnesota Avenue metro station.)

It's coming up on the perfect time of the year for the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. So many gorgeous water lilies.

The Anacostia Community Museum is probably the least-known Smithsonian museum, but it gets great local interest exhibits. It's small and the exhibits change up a lot, so check the web site before you schlep out there. While you're there, pop into the Anacostia Art Gallery around the corner. (Can't find a good link but believe me, you'll notice it.)

Keep an eye out for the DC Preservation League's walking tours of St Elizabeths Hospital. They don't happen often, but they are, until the homeland security construction ends, the only way to get yourself onto a place called "the point" that will give you one of the best panoramic views of DC.

If you like rec center pools, especially if you like to swim laps, you should know that the pool at Deanwood rec center is new and clean and, in my experience, always has empty lap lanes. Right off the metro too.

You've probably passed it a million times, but take a moment sometime to appreciate how truly and hideously ugly the temperance fountain across from the Archives is. I also think that the mural on the side of the Discovery Channel building in Silver Spring is hideous and good for endless lulz, but ymmv. My favorite "serious" art museum is the National Museum of American Art (same building as portrait gallery), which somehow flies under a lot of people's radars. The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly alone is worth it.

Some days I don't think I miss anything about DC, and then I write posts like this and remember the good parts.
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:25 AM on April 16, 2013

It's not quite public (tours are free, but donations appreciated) but the Franciscan Monastery has stunning grounds and a miniature replica of a Roman catacomb, the Lourdes Grotto, and of Holy Land sites.

Speaking of Anacosta, there's also the Frederick Douglas National Historic Site, with an entirely different perspective across DC.

And it's definitely more touristy, but the Einstein memorial is still a great place to sit and play with acoustics.

Have you been to the islands yet? There's the Navy Merchant Marine memorial and lots of trails on Theodore Roosevelt Island, which for some reason no one seems to mention.

The Navy Yard (requires photo ID and registration) has quite a lot of enormous anchors and various military paraphernalia in parks along the river by the Navy Museum.

And in other navy news, there's the National Headquarters of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812, which uses a topgallant mast from the U.S.S. Constitution as its flagpole.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:45 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Crispus Attucks Park in my 'hood is a fantastic little gem of a place. Our community yard sale and food fair is happening in a few weeks, and that would be a perfect time to check it out!
posted by evoque at 10:56 AM on April 16, 2013

A list of 61 "Hidden Gems" from the Washingtonian. I thought I was pretty knowledgable but a few dozen were new to me.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:19 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tagging on to the Franciscan Monastery, the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception over by Catholic University often gets overshadowed by the National Cathedral, but it is far more interesting and beautiful, in my opinion. Tours are free, it is enormous, and each of the zillion chapels utilizes a different art style or is inspired by a different country or culture. You absolutely don't need to be religious or Catholic to enjoy a visit.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 11:55 AM on April 16, 2013

Dumbarton Oaks

Blast! I thought I was the only one. It's literally steps away from Rock Creek Park and right in the middle of Georgetown, and yet it feels totally like you're way out in the country, just hiking along a stream.
posted by psoas at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2013

(FYI, once triathlon season picks up, Wilson is going to be insanely crowded. Check out some of the other free indoor pools or, after Memorial Day, its insane number of free outdoor pools.)
posted by psoas at 12:58 PM on April 16, 2013

Oak Hill Cemetery is pretty neat!
posted by Gonestarfishing at 1:48 PM on April 16, 2013

Seven words: Canadian Embassy. Echo dome. Go there. Yell.
posted by pjaust at 1:48 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria! Awesome views from the top, kitschy mason art, and you get to learn about how Buzz Aldrin authorized a Masonic lodge on the moon. No really.
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:59 PM on April 16, 2013

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