It’s high tourist season in hot, humid Washington, D.C., where you’ll find tons of people shopping, dining, and exploring the city’s historic sites. If you’re visiting the area this summer, I hope you’ll take time to get away from the crowds. It really is possible to find quiet spaces of reflection; here are a few spots where you can take a break and get some inner peace. These are all outdoor gardens, so be sure to bring a hat and a nice cool beverage!
Mary Livingston Ripley Garden
Jefferson Drive & 7th Street SW, Washington, DC (there is also an entrance at Independence Avenue SW & 7th Street SW). Metro Station: L'Enfant Plaza
You could almost miss this lovely, curvy garden if you look at it from Independence Street; the space was initially intended to become a parking lot. Most of the tourist foot traffic remains on Independence Avenue and on the National Mall, and there are lots of park benches and shady places where you can bring a sandwich, sit quietly, and admire the beautiful trees and plants. Ripley Garden is also very close to the beautiful Enid A. Haupt Garden. Shoppers, if you’re mood for browsing, check out the terrific museum gift stores in the National Museum of African Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, also nearby.
100 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC (cross street Independence Avenue SW). Metro Station: Federal Center SW
This garden is a favorite among DC locals; while you’ll find some tourists here, most of them visit the United States Botanic Garden without ever crossing the street over to Bartholdi Park. A beautifully restored fountain created by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (the creator of the Statue of Liberty) graces the middle of the park, and the landscaping changes with the seasons.
If you walk east, up the hill on Independence Avenue, you’ll pass the Capitol Building on your left, office buildings for the House of Representatives on the right, and you’ll reach the Library of Congress on the left, just a few blocks away from the park. I mention the LOC because it, too, has a great gift store with lovely paper products, so you can combine solitude and shopping.
Tenth Street Community Park
1117 10th Street NW, Washington DC (10th Street NW btw L & M Streets NW). Metro Station: Mt. Vernon Square/Convention Center
This tiny strip of park space exudes quiet, peaceful charm. It also provides quotation inspiration from Marian Wright Edelman, Margaret Mead, and others. You can buy a latte at the café next door, sit at one of the garden’s outdoor tables, and admire the modern sculptures or watch your kids play (there is a small playground on site).
Old City Farm & Guild
925 Rhode Island Avenue NW (on Rhode Island btw 9th and 10th Streets NW). Metro Station: Shaw/Howard University
This beautiful urban garden center was once a barren concrete wasteland in front of a shuttered public school. People come to shop, and office workers come in from time to time with their lunches – and sometimes yoga mats – to relax awhile before going back to their jobs.
So walk in, say Hello to the friendly team at Old City Farm, sit for a spell, and buy a host/hostess plant if you’re staying in town with a friend!