DC was built on a marsh, a beautiful, brackish, low-lying ripple of saw grass and steel-blue water, wind-coaxed and tide touched by the inflow of the Potomac from Chesapeake Bay. You’d never know all that now, of course, unless you come to the USA's only national park devoted to water plants. See the natural wetlands the District sprang from; look out for beaver dams, clouds of birds and the more traditional manicured grounds, quilted in water lilies and lotus.

The gardens are a lovely refuge, and you'll likely have them to yourself. A cool boardwalk juts out into the water at the park's southwest edge. The Anacostia River Trail starts from near the visitor center. Kenilworth is about a mile walk from the Metro.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby attractions

1. United States National Arboretum


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2. Congressional Cemetery

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3. Gallaudet University

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4. Franciscan Monastery

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Also known as Mt St Sepulchre, the monastery offers serene grounds with 42 acres of tulips, dogwoods, cherry trees, roses – and some peculiar re-creations…

5. Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial


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6. Lincoln Park

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Lincoln Park is the lively center of Capitol Hill’s east end. Joggers and stroller-pushing families zip past the Emancipation Memorial, a statue of a…

7. Emancipation Memorial

3.07 MILES

Freed black slaves raised the funds to erect this 1876 memorial, which portrays the snapping of slavery’s chains as Abraham Lincoln proffers the…