20 Beautiful Places to Visit in Washington, DC, That Locals Rave About

Updated on June 23rd, 2023

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Nestled along the banks of the Potomac River, this vibrant capital city boasts a plethora of breathtaking sights, where history meets beauty at every turn. From iconic landmarks steeped in political significance to serene natural landscapes that offer a much-needed respite from the bustling city life, Washington, DC, is a treasure trove of awe-inspiring beauty. 

Whether you’re in the market to buy a home in Washington, DC and currently browsing listings on Redfin, or are looking to rent an apartment in the city, there is no shortage of beautiful places to discover. Join us on a journey as we unveil the most beautiful places in DC, from its iconic landmarks to its hidden gardens, that make this city a truly remarkable destination to call home. 

Government building in DC

1. Georgetown 

Michelle Elyse, owner of Michelle Elyse Photography, says the most beautiful place in Washington, DC, is the Georgetown neighborhood. “Strolling along the Canal helps me to envision all of the other people who have strolled here before, and I love wandering around the streets to admire the beautiful historic homes. Then, once I work up an appetite from wandering scenic sidewalks, I can pop into one of the many adorable Georgetown eateries. I’m always so happy to spend time at this spot- whether for a photo session, or just leisure.” 

“Georgetown offers diverse activities for all ages. Its unique shopping scene ranges from well-known chains to boutique gems, catering to various styles,” states Troy “Seven” Timberlake, local photographer and owner of Ex Voto Studio. “Exploring the shops makes for a delightful day, complemented by the neighborhood’s fantastic restaurants. Georgetown offers both daytime activities and a vibrant nightlife, with countless bars and clubs. Additionally, walking along the scenic C&O Canal is a beloved activity, enjoyed by joggers, bikers, and picnic-goers. Georgetown is a must-visit for anyone seeking a refreshing break from museums and government buildings in Washington, DC.”

C&O Canal
Photo Courtesy of Ex Voto Studio

2. Dumbarton Oaks

“About 15 years ago, I stumbled upon the open gates to a private garden in the Georgetown neighborhood,” shares local photographer, Elisenda Llinares. “If you haven’t yet discovered the breathtaking oasis known as Dumbarton Oaks, allow me to paint a picture for you. As you approach, a sprawling lawn stretches before you, leading you to a stunning mansion that seems to emerge from a fairy tale. The aged branches of a majestic Japanese maple greet you, guiding your path as you turn a corner and enter a beautiful rose garden. Each step takes you deeper into the enchantment, ascending stone steps adorned with wisteria-covered arches and passing fountains guarded by cherubs. At the pinnacle of this sensory symphony, cherry blossoms grace the horizon, nestled atop a hill adorned with wildflowers. This ever-changing landscape, tended to by Harvard University, is a testament to the genius of renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. Designed between the 1920s and 1940s for her dear friend Mildred Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks faithfully preserves the original vision, inviting you to fall under its spell time and time again.”

Staircase in Dumbarton Oaks
Photo Courtesy of Elisenda Llinares

3. Book Hill Park

“After picking up some used books and some old-school albums at the French Market in Georgetown this year, my family and I stumbled upon a narrow and windy staircase that we had never seen before,” shares Kim Moehnke, owner of Pure Love Macaron. “We took the steep stone staircase up to discover the most quaint, little park where I imagine a picnic complete with local pastries, french macarons, and champagne for a date night in DC or a quiet place to read alone with a cup of coffee and a decadent cookie from Levain, my favorite cookie shop in Georgetown. Book Hill Park is a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.”

4. Old Town Alexandria

“Aside from the iconic National Mall, Old Town Alexandria holds a special place in my heart,” explains Jennifer Blankenship, owner of Jennifer Blankenship Photography. “This charming neighborhood boasts an array of quaint restaurants and delightful ice cream parlors that never fail to satisfy our cravings. Among them, Mia’s Italian Kitchen holds a special spot as our favorite dining spot in the area. I love the enchanting streets and hidden alleyways that beckon exploration. It’s easy to lose track of time as you wander through the cobblestone paths.” 

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Blankenship Photography

5. Belle Haven Marina

Personal Trainer Bianca Russo of Bianca Russo Fitness suggests checking out Belle Haven Marina, a can’t-miss item on the DC bucket list. “On sunny days, head to Belle Haven Marina in the DMV area. Rent a canoe, kayak, SUP, or sailboat, and enjoy the Potomac River’s views, including the National Harbor ferris wheel. Aviation enthusiasts can observe planes landing at National Airport. Remember to call ahead for reservations.”

6. BlackRock Center for the Arts

“The BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, MD, is a local art center that provides classes, exhibits and performances by local and regional artists,” explains Mike Redmond, freelance photographer and owner of Third Act Images. ”This is a must-visit place near DC and is probably one of the most diverse places in the most diverse city in the US. 

Man playing an instrument
Photo Courtesy of Third Act Images

7. Kennedy-Warren apartment complex

“Located only a few blocks north of Washington’s famed National Zoo sits one of the region’s largest and most majestic examples of Art Deco architecture and design: the 12-story Kennedy-Warren apartment complex at 3133 Connecticut Avenue, NW,” explains Doug Abbey, Managing Partner at iconsDC, a collection of unique designs for the home and office inspired by the Capital City. “Design details of every conceivable material, including stained glass, metal, wood, and masonry, are prominent on both the exterior and interior spaces – especially the lobby and ballroom. Their riots of period motifs are assured to delight visitors of any age.”

8. Reflecting pool of the Cherry Blossoms

Redmond also recommends the reflecting pool at the peak of the Cherry Blossoms. “I always try to go at sunrise and it is almost a magical experience watching the sun come up with the blossoms and monuments in the background.”

Cherry Blossoms in DC
Photo Courtesy of Third Act Images

9. United States Botanic Garden 

“One of the most beautiful places in DC is the United States Botanic Garden,” says Soyini Goerge, Maker and Owner of Yinibini Baby, a local shop selling toddler and baby clothing made from organic cotton. “It’s a great place to learn about different types of flora and is also a great place to relax. I especially enjoy the Tropical forest, for it reminds me of the Caribbean. It’s my go-to place for relaxation and peace. The sound of running water and the smell of the plants and flowers create a serene space, one in which I can clear my mind and feel rejuvenated and inspired.”

10. The National Arboretum

“Set on 446 acres of lush botanical collections and breathtaking vistas, the US National Arboretum is a must-see for new locals,” states local photographer Jen Joseph Photography. “What makes this verdant oasis unique is its meticulous curation of plants from around the world, and architectural features like the iconic Capitol columns. The arboretum offers solace and respite from the city while remaining easily accessible by car.”

The Capitol Columns
Photo Courtesy of Jen Joseph Photography

11. Anacostia Park 

“My favorite beautiful place in DC is Anacostia Park,” shares Sharla Thomas, founder and therapist at You Matter Spa & Wellness Center. “I love the way the Park Service preserves the meadows for wildlife, and cherish the playful adventures with my dog along the water’s edge, where she never misses a chance to dive in.” 

12. Rock Creek Park

“I fell in love with DC for its vibrant greenery, but I soon realized there was more to this city than meets the eye,” says DC photographer, Melissa Lyttle Photography. “Moving to Washington, DC with my wife opened my eyes to the diverse neighborhoods, incredible food scene, and unique local culture. However, most visitors don’t know that DC boasts a forest in the heart of the city. Rock Creek Park, the country’s third national park, offers miles of trails, scenic views, and serene picnic spots. It even connects to the city’s bike trail system, providing a peaceful escape from the urban hustle and bustle. DC truly has it all.”

Joelle Firzli, co-founder of Tribute Collective, a sustainable fashion and homeware store, also mentions Rock Creek Park as their favorite spot in DC. “As DC’s biggest park, it offers a serene escape from the bustling city. The park’s lush greenery and peaceful atmosphere is a great way to connect with nature and enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. The park is also a great place to meet friends, they have nice and secluded picnic areas that are perfect for a relaxing outdoor meal. Before heading to the park I usually stop by Each Peach Market in Mount Pleasant to pick up a salad, a sandwich, or fruits and veggies. The Market has friendly staff and their commitment to supporting local farmers and businesses resonates with my values.”

Cyclist in Rock Creek Park
Photo Courtesy of Melissa Lyttle Photography

13. The Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

“One of my favorite hidden gems in Washington, DC is the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens,” says SE Carter, founder of Chaos Candle Company. “This water garden is home to a captivating array of water lilies, lotus blooms, dragonflies, butterflies, and other fascinating aquatic wildlife. The mornings are an ideal time to visit, allowing you to relish the tranquility and evade the presence of avid nature photographers equipped with telescopic cameras.”

“For a truly magical experience, mark your calendar for July when the Lotus and Water Lily Festival takes place,” suggests Carter. “This special event showcases the mesmerizing beauty of summer lotus blooms in the garden, offering a delightful feast for the senses. It’s an opportunity not to be missed in exploring the wondrous world of aquatic flora and fauna at its finest.”

14. The old Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge

“Situated near the Georgetown boathouse, along the Potomac River, lies the captivating ruins of the old Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge,” says Chris Kane travel blogger and photographer of eCKsplorer. “This gem, adorned with graffiti, offers breathtaking views of Rosslyn and the Potomac River. It serves as a serene escape on delightful spring and summer days, providing a peaceful respite away from the bustling crowds. Here, you can relish the beauty of the nation’s capital without venturing into the popular tourist hubs.”

The old Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge
Photo Courtesy of eCKsplorer

15. Lovers Lane

Louis Everard and Jennifer Nygard, owners of Everard’s Clothing, recommend checking out Lovers Lane, located within Dumbarton Oaks Park. “Lovers Lane is one of the most beautiful places in DC and is just a short hike down the trail that reveals a “doggy” beach for you and your furry friends to dip your toes in Rock Creek.”

16. The Enid A. Haupt Garden

Enid A. Haupt Garden might not be a total secret for locals, but it’s an often overlooked part of the area with all of the incredible museums surrounding it,” shares Lillian Cox, Co-Owner, Creative Director, and Head of Design at REWILD, a local plant and flower studio. “It’s an immersive retreat from the crowds, and just a great place for anyone who loves tropical plants. There is a bit more of a ‘hidden’ part on its far west edge, with an alley of amazing tropical plants along the east wall of the Museum of Asian Art with benches and seating tucked away amongst the plants. The plants are all potted and brought indoors in the fall, so this section can really only be enjoyed in the spring and summer.”  

“For folks interested in taking themselves on a full greenery scavenger hunt, head to the National Gallery of Art to enjoy a quiet moment in their East and West Garden Courts in the East Wing, before heading over to the U.S. Botanic Garden’s conservatory,” suggests Cox.

Lane of plants in DC
Photo Courtesy of REWILD

17. Fletchers Cove

Fletchers Cove is tucked on the banks of the Potomac about 5 miles from downtown, is one of my favorite spots for a weekend cookout,” shares Amanda McClements, founder and creative director of local boutique shops, Salt & SundryLittle Leaf, and The Sun Room. “Pack up a cooler, grab a picnic table and grill, and sprawl out on the spacious lawn. In the warmer months, you can rent and hop on a paddleboard or kayak from the boathouse and take a peaceful float up the river. One of my favorite things about living in Washington, DC is having access to nature like this so close to the city.” 

18. National Mall

“As a native Washingtonian and lifelong resident of DC, I’ve lived in every quadrant and in just about every Washington, DC, neighborhood,” shares Carolyn Toye, photographer for the photobook, The D.C. I See: Art of a Vanishing City. “I’ve dedicated my work, largely, to capturing images of the city’s classic and aging architecture. But, I would have to say that the most beautiful place in DC is the National Mall. I love that this open and expansive space of green grass and stone walking paths has served as the site of some of our city’s greatest events, memories, and moments. What I love more is that when I stop on the Mall each day to walk, I always find new places to explore and enjoy, and new treasures to photograph.”

Bench at sunset
Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Toye

19. Hillwood Estate

“Many people do not realize that Washington DC is one of the great garden cities of the world,” shares local Valerie Brown Photography and author of Capital Splendor: Gardens and Parks of Washington DC, showcasing the wealth of gardens and parks in Washington, DC and its environs. “One of my favorite gardens is the Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens located adjacent to Rock Creek Park in northwest Washington, DC. Hillwood is the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress of the Post cereal company. The home is now a museum with Russian and French 18th and 19th century decorative arts.

Brown explains further, “The exquisite gardens are a collection of formal garden rooms including a Japanese style garden, lawns, woods, and a putting green. Pictured is the Rose Garden with the home in the background. It is a lovely place to sit on one of the benches under the pergola and enjoy the fragrant roses.”

Beautiful garden in DC
Photo Courtesy of Valerie Brown Photography

20. City Center

City Center, nestled in downtown Washington, DC, is a captivating urban oasis for locals and visitors alike,” shares Benjamin Burgess, photographer at K Street Photography. “Its blend of modernity and historical charm, vibrant streets, and diverse cultural scene make it a photogenic paradise. From sleek glass exteriors to classic architecture, every corner tells a story waiting to be captured. The district’s dynamic energy, diverse culinary offerings, and community events create a vivid backdrop for stunning photographs. At sunset, the cityscape bathed in golden hues offers an enchanting spectacle. City Center is not only visually appealing but also holds a special place in the hearts of locals as a cherished gathering spot.”

Decorative umbrella's in the city center in DC
Photo Courtesy of K Street Photography

Washington DC is a city that truly embodies beauty in every aspect. Whether you’re captivated by the grandeur of the National Mall, enchanted by the serene beauty of Rock Creek Park, or inspired by the architectural wonders of Georgetown, the beauty and the people make DC a good place to live.

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.

Julia Weaver

Julia is a part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about real estate and design trends. Her dream home be a charming beachside home with lots of light.

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