The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal used to function as a waterway for coal, lumber, and agricultural products to float to market for nearly 100 years. Today it’s enjoyed as a peaceful pathway to run, hike, or bike along, featuring a whopping 184.5 miles of trail that stretches from mile 0 in Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, Maryland. No need to stress at the sight of that overwhelming number though, there are plenty of points on the trail to turn around for a way shorter run.
Despite being DC’s oldest neighborhood, Georgetown remains one of the best areas of the city to spend time in — especially on an afternoon with optimal walking weather. Grab your morning brew at Grace Street Coffee Roasters or enjoy brunch al fresco at the euro-centric Kafe Leopold before strolling your way down M Street for some quality shopping.
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
This art museum always has an Instagram-worthy exhibition with themes like Disrupting Craft and Reforestation of the Imagination, but you can check out what’s currently on view before your visit here. Bring your cool friends here and explore the large-scale works from the annual desert phenomenon.
Put this at the top of the list of actually cool museums on the Mall. The massive institution has an endless supply of trivia fodder, but some of the coolest exhibits are sleepers, like the bone hall (giraffes only have seven neck vertebrae?!), the software that lets you turn your face into an early human, and all the crazy rocks in the geology exhibit.
The 446-acre National Arboretum is the perfect backdrop for some artsy shots, whether you strike a pose in front of the iconic National Capitol Columns or frolic in the grove of state trees. Don’t miss the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum where you can learn about miniature masterpieces.
Did you know you can get a library card for the Library of Congress? The free “Reader Identification Card” gives you access to the Library’s research areas and generally makes you a bookish badass. Settle in to a reading room and dig up some history.
This water wonderland is open year round, offering nature buffs the chance to spot birds, admire water lilies and lotus flowers, hike, paint, canoe, and picnic. There are plenty of benches around the park, so you can linger a while and enjoy the views.
With rotating exhibitions and works by legendary artists, this gallery never gets old. Bring your guests to admire classic paintings by Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Matisse, and Pollock while you explore fascinating temporary installations. Plus, during the warmer months, there are free jazz concerts in the Sculpture Garden.
Even though it’s just blocks from the hustle and bustle of M Street, this historic country house and garden feels eons away. The property has beautifully designed and kept grounds, from a hillside of cherry trees and a rose garden, to peaceful terraces and an old greenhouse.
McLean, Virginia & Potomac, Maryland
For outdoorsy visitors, Great Falls is one of the best National Parks in the region — and one of our favorite waterfalls. Marvel at the sheer volume of water rushing over the rocks, and then take in the scenery on one of the many hiking trails, like the challenging Billy Goat Trail complete with rock scrambles.