As our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. is unsurprisingly chock-a-block with museums — like the can’t-miss National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Natural History, and National Portrait Gallery — so some visitors can’t help but forget about D.C.’s “great outdoors.” But the capital city is actually very green with numerous parks and open woodsy areas along the Potomac River. Better yet, temperatures remain in the high 60s through October, so the outdoorsy season in D.C. is longer than at some other destinations along the East Coast. So pack a light jacket (or a parka if you plan on making a mid-winter trip) and head to our nation’s capital for some outdoor fun — below are our favorite D.C. outdoor activities and the hotels that are convenient to each.
Do: Visit the National Zoo
The National Zoological Park, established in 1889, is sure to please all ages. Young ones will enjoy the Kids’ Farm petting zoo where cows, miniature donkeys, and goats graze near the zoo’s vegetable garden, and adults will be happy about the free admission. The zoo is home to over 400 species and is most renowned for its giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, on loan from the Chinese government.
Tucked away in a leafy residential neighborhood less than ten minutes from the zoo by foot, D.C.’s biggest hotel is a blur of conventioneers — huge meetings are its bread and butter. The Marriott Wardman has lovely grounds, a decent fitness center, and pleasant common areas. Rooms have up-to-date electronics and comfortable beds, but they’re nothing special for the price — you may also want to consider the nearby (and generally less expensive) Omni Shoreham.
Do: Bike the Capital Crescent Trail
The 10-mile Capital Crescent Trail runs from Georgetown to Bethesda, Maryland along the Potomac River. It’s one of the best maintained trails in the city and has beautiful views as it winds along the Potomac, through wooded parks, and on the sidewalks of upscale neighborhoods on the edge of the capital. Pick up from the southern trailhead under the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Georgetown or start at any point along the trail.
The 86-room Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, located near the end of the Capital Crescent Trail, is housed in an historic industrial building with the original brick and steel beams and a cozy slate fireplace in the lobby. Service is excellent and its central Georgetown location is superb, but rooms, while luxurious, are bit underwhelming for the price.
Do: Canoe the C&O Canal
The C&O Canal, which operated from 131 to 1924, runs from Georgetown to western Maryland. Today, it’s a haven for canoeists, offering calmer waters that are still interesting to maneuver. Canoe and kayak rentals and tours are available all along the canal.
Steps from the C&O Canal, the Four Seasons consistently hits the high notes with luxuriously appointed rooms, a Michael Mina restaurant, a massive tri-level fitness center, and exceptional service from a devoted staff. This hotel is Georgetown’s top luxury option and one of the best in the city.
Do: Go to a Redskins Game
The Redskins may not have had the best 2009 season (or 2008 for that matter), but things have taken a turn for the promising with the hiring of new quarterback Donovan McNabb, and the 2010 season for the Redskins is one of the most highly anticipated. The seasons kicks off on Sept. 12 when the Redskins take on the Dallas Cowboys on their home field in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Getting to the FedEx Field Stadium from D.C. isn’t the quickest feat, but at least public transportation makes it cheap with a series of buses and an inexpensive taxi ride. The first bus stop is less than a five minute walk from the business-focused Renaissance Mayflower. Given its location — between Dupont Circle and the White House — it’s a decent choice, but also consider the Westin Washington and the Courtyard by Marriott Embassy Row.
Do: Horseback Ride in Rock Creek Park
A perfect spot to take in the scenery on horseback, the wooded Rock Creek Park has thirteen miles of dirt trails for horseback riding along with an Equitation Field. If you’re looking for lessons or guides, head to the nearby Rock Creek Horse Center.
Stay: Omni Shoreham Hotel
For the most part, the Shoreham is a hulking, fairly bland-looking 834-room convention-focused business hotel. But there’s more to this historic hotel. Evening turndowns; a beautiful outdoor pool; a great gym; a quaint but still convenient location just north of Dupont Circle; a haunted room on the 8th floor — it’s an excellent choice for the price.
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