It has been unseasonably warm the past few weeks in the Washington DC area which means time for outdoor fun. I’d like to say that is unusual, but Washington DC likes to throw a few beautiful days at us each winter. I think this year is unusual because it’s been more than a few days. It actually feels like we’ve had more warm days than cold days so far in December.
When these days happen, it’s important to get out and USE them. Many of the activities that are crammed full of people in the summer and on spring break are EMPTY in the winter. In fact, a beautiful winter day is the best time to visit the city as far as I’m concerned.
Here are my top five favorite outdoor activities in Washington DC on a beautiful winter day…
- Visit the monuments. Obviously, the old standbys are there: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial. But it you are looking for something different, check out the Martin Luther King Memorial or the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. If you are feeling really adventurous, cross the river into Virginia and visit the Air Force Memorial, the Pentagon Memorial, or the Iwo Jima Memorial. I promise you that none will disappoint and they are all lovely places to visit in beautiful weather.
- Check out the National Arboretum. With four smaller areas to investigate (the Aquatic Garden and Koi Pond, the Friendship Garden, the National Herb Garden, and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum), as well as lots of walking trails, there’s something for everyone. Even in the winter things are in bloom (and if my yard is any indication, this winter things are in bloom that shouldn’t be.)
- Got kids or just a kid at heart? Head to the Smithsonian Zoo. Parking is expensive, but the actual zoo entry is free and you can walk to it from the metro. In addition to all the awesome animals (panda baby, anyone?), in the winter, they light up the zoo with Zoolights. Check out the cool lights, see the nocturnal animals, and get your “snow” tube fun in. (OK, no snow in the snow tubing, but that’s ok, because on a warm day in December you might be in shorts.)
- Take a cruise. Dinner cruises, moonlight cruises, casual daytime cruises… You name it and you can probably find an option. Cruises leave from various places in DC, from National Harbor, and from Alexandria, VA. Some allow you to stop and explore and get back on another boat, while others are meant to be an event in and of themselves.
- Hit up one of the many trails in the area – Rock Creek Park, C&O Canal, Capital Crescent trail and the Mount Vernon Trail are all lovely places to go for a walk or bike ride. Rock Creek Park even allows horse back riding!
I have to admit – winter is not a bad time to be in DC most years. Sure, some years we get crazy cold and some years we get walloped with snow, but most years there are a few days in each of the cold months where you actually want to do outdoor activities. (Weather not cooperating? Here are some fun things to do in Washington DC when it’s cold out…)