A Guide to National Parks in the District of Columbia

D.C.’s top five national parks feature monuments, live music, and even an endangered species. They are all free to the public and open year-round.
Written by Melanie Johnson
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Updated on Sep 27, 2022
Beautiful vegetation, impressive monuments, and rich history—the National Parks in the
District of Columbia
have it all! Rock Creek, Anacostia, Capitol Hill, Fort Dupont, and Kenilworth & Aquatic Gardens are parks you must check out when in D.C.
A trip to a national park can be restorative, enriching, and thought-provoking. D.C. has several national parks nestled into its bustling urban landscape. The nation’s capital’s parks offer something for nature-lovers, adventurists, and tourists alike to enjoy.
Here to guide you through the top five national parks in D.C. is
car insurance
. We’ll cover everything you need to know in order to prepare for D.C.’s epic national parks, as well as the car insurance protection you should have as you set off on your trip.
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Rock Creek National Park

Location: 5200 Glover Rd, NW Washington, DC 20015
Hours of operation: From sunrise to sunset (unless otherwise noted)
Admission price: Free

What makes Rock Creek National Park special

Rock Creek has a long and complex
  • In the 1600s and early 1700s, European Americans took Rock Creek from the American Indians, who called Rock Creek home for thousands of years. 
  • Rock Creek became one of the first federally managed parks in 1809.
  • During the Civil War (1861 to 1865), Rock Creek was deforested. Its trees were felled to prevent Confederate soldiers from passing through. 
Rock Creek is located in the middle of D.C. and is home to many
, including one endangered species: Hay's spring amphipod—a small aquatic crustacean that resembles a shrimp. 

What to do in Rock Creek National Park

Rock Creek is open year-round and offers many outdoor activities to partake in, including hiking, golfing, and picnicking. If indoor activities are more your jam, Rock Creek has those too! 
  • Visit the planetarium
    —the only planetarium in the National Park Service! Go see the stars. 
  • Check out the Nature Center Exhibit Hall for a rundown on the plants and animals you might see at Rock Creek. 
  • Visit the
    live animals
    who live at the Nature Center, including Pokey the Eastern Box Turtle and Oscar the Eastern King Snake. 
  • Participate in a
    ranger-led program
    to learn more about the history of the park.
  • Volunteer in
    Extreme Clean Up
    and give back to Rock Creek! 

When to visit Rock Creek National Park

Weather in D.C. can be erratic, so plan your trip wisely!
Spring and fall are the most pleasant times to visit Rock Creek. The average high temperatures in the spring and fall are 67 F and 69 F respectively, and the lows are 44.3 F and 48.3 F
July is the hottest month at the park and January is the coolest. D.C. is susceptible to light droughts in the summer and hurricanes in the late summer into fall. 
Pro Tip If you’re traveling with your pup, make sure to keep them leashed the entire time they’re in the park! It’s D.C. law. 

Anacostia National Park

Location: 1900 Anacostia Drive, S.E. Washington, DC 20020
Hours of operation: From sunrise to sunset
Admission price: Free

What makes Anacostia National Park special

Like Rock Creek, Anacostia National Park is in the heart of D.C. It runs along the Anacostia River.
Also like Rock Creek, Anacostia Park has an intricate
  • Native Americans lived in and roamed Anacostia Park for at least 10,000 years before European Americans laid claim to it. 
  • The NacotchtankIndians lived along the eastern shore of the Anacostia. “Anacostia” is the Latinization of the Algonquian name “Nacotchtank.”
  • In the early 1900s, the land was transformed into a park. This was a decades-long process that involved dredging the river and building seawalls. 
  • In 1933, the management for Anacostia Park was turned over to the National Park Service.
Today, Anacostia Park is going through another
. The National Park Service is asking for your feedback to help make the park even better!

What to do in Anacostia National Park

Whether you’re an outdoor or indoor person, there’s something for you at Anacostia National Park! 

When to visit Anacostia National Park

The park is open year-round
To take advantage of the skating and boating opportunities, we recommend visiting the park in the spring and summer. Spring in D.C. is mild and there are beautiful bloomingflowers
Summer can be hot and humid, while fall cools down, and you’ll be able to see leaveschangingcolors. The winter, as you might expect, can be very cold with temperatures dropping below freezing.

Capitol Hill Parks

Location: Various locations on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20003
Hours of operation: From sunrise to sunset 
Admission price: Free

What makes Capitol Hill Parks special

The Capitol Hill Parks are a collection of parks east of the U.S. Capitol, including Folger, Lincoln, Stanton, and MarionParks, the EasternMarket and PotomacAvenueMetrostations, and smaller land areas SewardSquare, TwiningSquare, the MarylandAvenueTriangles, and the PennsylvaniaAvenueMedians.
A few highlights:
  • Folger Park
    is one of the larger parks and was named after Charles J. Folger, the Secretary of the Treasury who died in office in 1884.
  • In
    Lincoln Park
    , you can see statues of Abraham Lincoln and
    Mary McLeod Bethune
    , a Civil Rights leader. 
  • In
    Stanton Park
    , there is a statue of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene on horseback, which was erected in 1878.
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What to do in Capitol Hill Parks

There is a lot of history to learn about in the Capitol Hill Parks, as well as beautiful nature to enjoy.
  • Walk, run, and bike to the various parks. You may also picnic on the grounds.
  • Visit
    Marion Park
    and learn about one of the first areas in Washington where black and white communities overlapped and clashed.
  • Visit the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Stanton Park.
  • Take your children to the various playgrounds located throughout the parks. 

When to visit Capitol Hill Parks

The parks are open year-round.
In the spring, you may see the blooming of D.C.’s famous cherryblossoms. Rain is common during this time. In the summer, temperatures typically range from 70 F to 90 F and there is a lot of humidity. Fall temperatures range between 40F to 70F, and in the winter you may see snow! 

Fort Dupont National Park

Location: National Capital Parks-East, 1900 Anacostia Drive SE, Washington, DC 20020
Hours of operation: From sunrise to sunset 
Admission price: Free

What makes Fort Dupont National Park special

Like all of the other D.C. parks, Fort Dupont has a
rich history
  • It was erected as a fort during the Civil War, though it was never very capable and was abandoned in 1864.
  • Runaway slaves took shelter here before making it to Washington. 
  • The National Capital Planning Commission acquired the old fort in the 1930s.
Where there were once military barracks, there is now a community garden! 

What to do in Fort Dupont National Park 

Fort Dupont is open year-round and has a lot to see and do, including sports, gardening, educational programs, music, and more!
  • Utilize the sports complex, which has tennis and basketball courts, a softball field, and even an indoor ice rink!  
  • Enjoy nature walks, biking,
    , and picnics. 
  • Take advantage of the ranger-lededucational programs to learn more about the park’s
  • Check out the
    Fort Dupont Park Summer Event Series
    , which has been running since the 1970s and celebrates music in the D.C. area.

When to visit Fort Dupont National Park

The park is open in all weather unless noted on the
We’d recommend visiting in spring and summer to take advantage of the concertseries and to enjoy all the outdoor activities in warm weather. 
If you visit the park during winter, you may see some snow! 

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Location: 1550 Anacostia Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20019
Hours of operation: Every day except ​​January 1, Thanksgiving, and December 25
Admission price: Free

What makes Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens special

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is a nature lover’s paradise! Located inside Anacostia Park, Kenilworth offers visitors the chance to see blossominglotus flowers and water lilies, as well as beavers building their dams. 
A bit on the park’s
  • The Nacotchtanks Indians used this land originally until it was taken from them.
  • A man named
    Walter Shaw
    eventually bought the land and turned it into an aquatic garden. His daughter, Helen Fowler, expanded the area and imported additional flowers to make it the National Park it is today.

What to do in Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

  • Go
    ! Kenilworth Park is home to many species of birds.
  • Check out what’s blooming in the
    Aquatic Gardens
    . No matter what season you visit, you’ll see something wonderful. 
  • Watch turtles sun themselves on logs (how sweet!) and watch beavers build their dams.
  • Take part in the
    Lotus and Water Lily Festival
    during the peak blooming period in July.

When to visit Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

The park and garden are open year-round.
July is a great time to take advantage of the many blossoming flowers and partake in the Lotus and Water Lily Festival. 
Spring and summer are prime months to hike and bike, but you can still enjoy the park’s beautiful natural surroundings in fall and winter. In short: it’s always a great time to visit, no matter the season! 

How to prepare to visit D.C.’s national parks

Before you race off to grab that adventure hat and break out the sunscreen, start your trip off on the right foot with these tips from car insurance guru Jerry. 
  • If you’re visiting D.C.’s parks from out of town, make sure
    your car’s maintenance
    is up to date. You’d hate to break down on your way! 
  • On that note, it’s a good idea to
    update your car insurance
    before any long road trip.
  • All the D.C. parks we mentioned are free, but consider purchasing an
    America the Beautiful nationwide pass
    if you want to visit other National Parks that cost money. It’s the beginning of a beautiful addiction.
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