Instagrammable picnic spots around D.C.

Media Credit: Phebe Grosser | Staff Photographer

The back of the Lincoln Memorial overlooks Arlington Memorial Bridge and the Potomac River, a fantastic spot to snap some pictures at sunset.

We may have just gotten some snow, but warm weather is on its way.

Take advantage of the upcoming sunny days by planning a picnic around the District. The city has plenty of picnic spots, but when everyone is trying to catch some time outdoors, the areas might get crowded.

Here are a few off-the-beaten-path spots where you can lay out a blanket and share a meal with friends:

Gravelly Point Park

Just a few hundred feet away from Ronald Reagan National Washington Airport, Gravelly Point Park is a popular spot to watch airplanes take off. This massive grassy patch of land is about the size of two high school soccer fields and borders the Potomac River. There’s plenty of room to toss around a frisbee or spread out your picnic blanket while keeping your distance from other groups. At the park, you can enjoy the sound of airplanes jetting off, lounge in the grass, stay for sunset or get a few photos with planes overhead.

George Washington Memorial Parkway. Open sunrise to sunset. Free.

Backside of the Lincoln Memorial

The monuments are obvious choices for a nice picnic, but you might not know all the best spots to set up. An overlooked hidden treasure of the monuments is the backside of the Lincoln Memorial. This side of the memorial overlooks the Arlington Memorial Bridge and Potomac River, where you can also get a view of the sunset. Be wary of bringing open alcohol containers on this federal property – you could get stopped by a park ranger.

2 Lincoln Memorial Circle. Open 24 hours. Free.

Yard of the National Cathedral

The National Cathedral is surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds. And since the church isn’t currently hosting in-person services, the area doesn’t attract too much foot traffic. Head to the outside of the cathedral for a serene midday picnic with friends that feels like you’re sitting near a European cathedral. There’s a grocery store within walking distance from the cathedral if you want to pick up your picnic goods on the way. 

3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Open 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Free.

Graffiti cliff above Key Bridge boathouse

Upperclassmen – you may know this spot from Vern Express rides to Mount Vernon Campus classes. If you’re leaving the Georgetown shops on M Street, walk west on K Street to find this tucked away treasure. You’ll find an old stone staircase just off Water Street that will take you to a ledge above the old Key Bridge Boathouse. The spot attracts locals for the years of graffiti that cover it and its view of the Potomac River. If you want to add a little adventure to a picnic date, check out this hidden gem. 

Alexandria Aqueduct Ruins. No official hours. Free.

Steps of the Georgetown waterfront

If you’re looking for a more vanilla spot to enjoy a picnic in Georgetown, set up your meal on the large cement steps at the edge of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, just past the complex of restaurants. Beforehand, you can stop by Baked & Wired and grab a few sweet treats and some iced coffee to spruce up your picnic basket. Then, walk down to these steps that give you an up-close view of the river and all its wildlife. You’ll almost always get a chance to pet a few dogs in this higher foot-trafficked area.

3303 Water St. NW. Open 24 hours. Free.

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens

This European-style estate with 13 acres of gardens may seem out of place in D.C. The estate, which is opening to the public March 2, sits just north of the Smithsonian Zoo in the Forest Hills neighborhood of D.C. With five gardens including the lunar lawn and French parterre, you can choose from a view of outdoor picnic spots. Pack an indulgent basket of snacks like chocolate covered strawberries, meats and cheeses for this fancy picnic getaway.

155 Linnean Ave NW. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets $10 with student ID, $18 general admission.

Enid A. Haupt garden at the Smithsonian Castle

The National Mall is another obvious choice for picnics when the weather warms up, but it can get uncomfortably crowded. If you venture just behind the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall, you’ll find a garden with access from Independence Avenue. In the background of the red brick castle, this garden, which is a part of the castle grounds, gives off major dark academia vibes. Dress in your most dark academia aesthetic, pack a bottle of red wine, bring a book to enjoy and pretend like you’re studying abroad at the University of Cambridge.

1050 Independence Ave SW. Open 24 hours. Free.

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