National Parks Near Washington DC

You may think that national parks in the D.C. area are all about our cultural history. After all, The National Mall and Memorial Parks — including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the war memorials and others — are managed by the National Park Service and are the cultural epicenter of the city and, arguably, the whole country. But our nation’s capital is also ripe with outdoor opportunities, both within the city and just a short trip beyond. 

Photos

Ford's Theatre

Ford's Theatre

Five days after the Civil War ended, Abraham Lincoln arrived at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, to see an evening performance of a popular play. In the third act, John Wilkes Booth entered the president’s box and shot him in the back of the head. Today, see the restored theatre -- and hear a recounting of that fateful night -- by a National Park Service ranger.

Location: Washington, DC
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Maxwell MacKenzie  

George Washington Memorial Parkway

George Washington Memorial Parkway

The DC area isn’t exactly known for recreational driving; the GW Parkway is the exception. From north to south (and vice versa), the parkway offers a scenic, nearly 40-mile drive alongside the nation’s capital. Enjoy the view of woods and forests, the same land that George Washington would have traveled on horseback.

Locations: Virginia, Washington, DC
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Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, Wikimedia Commons  

Frederick Douglass House

Frederick Douglass House

Born into slavery, Frederick Douglass went on to become the most influential abolitionist of his day. In 1877, with years of public service behind him, Douglass settled into this home in the Washington, DC, area of Anacostia. Douglass lived in the hilltop home, which he called Cedar Hill, until his death in 1895.

Location: Washington, DC
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Walter Smalling for the Historic American Buildings Survey, Wikimedia Commons  

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

For nearly 100 years, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal carried resources such as coal and wood to communities along the Potomac River – including Georgetown in Washington, DC. Today, enjoy a canal boat ride. Also hike, camp, kayak, bicycle and canoe in the surrounding national historical park, which spans nearly 185 miles.

Location: Washington, DC, into Maryland and West Virginia
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Bo Nielsen, flickr  

Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry

The town of Harpers Ferry is located at the intersection of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. But what really put the town on the map was John Brown’s raid: In 1859, the fervent abolitionist led a group of 21 men in a raid upon a weapons arsenal. See where the 36-hour raid began and ended, with Brown’s capture at the armory fire engine house.

Location: 50 miles from DC, 80 miles from Baltimore
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Mark Fickett, Wikimedia Commons  

Hampton National Historic Site

Hampton National Historic Site

For 7 generations, the Ridgley family called this Georgian mansion home. Today, visitors can tour the 62-acre estate, located north of Baltimore, to see one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in America. Equally captivating is a tour of the slave quarters; Hampton was one of Maryland’s largest slave-holding estates.

Location: Baltimore County, MD
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Eli Pousson, flickr  

Antietam National Battlefield

Antietam National Battlefield

The bloodiest 1-day battle in US history happened in Sharpsburg, MD, in 1862 when Union forces began a 12-hour artillery bombardment of Confederate positions. For a time, a small number of Confederate soldiers held their ground on this bridge, far past the predictions of Union General Ambrose Burnside (for whom this bridge would later be named).

Location: 65 miles from Baltimore, 70 miles from DC
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Frank Kovalchek, flickr  

Captain John Smith Historic Trail

Captain John Smith Historic Trail

Glide along the waterways of the Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary, just as English explorer John Smith did between 1607 and 1609. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail extends 3,000 miles along the bay and its tributaries in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.

Location: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia & DC
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James River Association, flickr  

Oxon Hill Farm

Oxon Hill Farm

Experience farm life at Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm. The 289 acres, located in Prince George’s County, MD, include a barn, stable, feed building and livestock buildings for cows, horses and chickens. The farm’s centerpiece is Mount Welby, a 2-story brick structure built in the early 1800s by Irish immigrant Dr. Samuel DeButts. The farm was entrusted to the National Park Service in 1959.

Location: Less than 1 hour from DC, 1 hour from Baltimore
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Pubdog, Wikimedia Commons  

Old Stone House

Old Stone House

This house has been standing longer than America's been a country. Built in 1765, this 3-story home was constructed in several phases during the 18th century. Today, the home, which belonged for a time to an upper-middle-class family, endures in Washington, DC’s Georgetown neighborhood as the oldest unchanged building in the nation’s capital.

Location: M Street in DC's Georgetown neighborhood
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NCinDC, flickr  

Baltimore National Heritage Area

Baltimore National Heritage Area

As the name implies, Baltimore National Heritage Area is rich in history. Encompassing the Baltimore area, NHA attractions include the star-shaped Fort McHenry (pictured here), best-known for its role in the War of 1812, as well as Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods such as Federal Hill, Fell’s Point and Mount Vernon (to the north of downtown Baltimore).

Location: An hour's drive from DC
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Thinkstock  

President’s Park

President’s Park

Who knew? The president of the United States lives in a national park. Every president since John Adams has called the White House home. The 6-story, 132-room home, in the style of an Irish country manor, is part of the 18-acre grounds we know as President’s Park. Want to tour the White House? Make your request to your member of Congress 6 months in advance.

Location: View of Truman Balcony and Ellipse from Constitution Avenue

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Glyn Lowe Photoworks, flickr  

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Discover nature in the heart of the city. Encompassing 700 acres, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is located in the northeastern corner of Washington, DC, and the Maryland state border. Its position by the Anacostia River provides fertile ground for a variety of flora and fauna, as well as ponds topped with water lilies and lotus flowers. The park also contains DC's only remaining tidal marsh.

Location: Northeastern corner of Washington, DC
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NCinDC, flickr  

Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Pay a visit to Dumbarton House, a Federal-style house in Washington, DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. The home, which was completed around 1800, is part of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. The 290-mile route connects key sites and players in the Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812, including forts, battlefields and nature preserves.

Location: Visit any of 60 Chesapeake Bay Gateway along the trail
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NCinDC, flickr  

Clara Barton House

Clara Barton House

America’s most famous nurse lived here. The Clara Barton House in Glen Echo, MD, is where American humanitarian and Red Cross founder Clara Barton lived the last 15 years of her life. The large wood-frame house sits on 9 acres, and includes more than 35 rooms; it also served as the early headquarters of the American Red Cross.

Location: 2 miles northwest of Washington, DC
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Leon Reed  

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