Exploring D.C.’s Natural Charms

By Alexandra Burguieres

The dollar is plummeting. Our planet is imploding. The polar ice caps are melting and our grandmothers keep nagging us to visit but there are no flights to Florida under $500. Maybe what we all need is a good escape to nature—a chance to put all that summer reading we did as kids to good use and go Walden for a while.

But we at IT know not everyone has the time or inclination to build a tiny cabin alongside a snowy pond and live in it for two years. Sometimes we only have a few days, a week at most, to commune with the Earth Goddess. For these travelers, the eco-friendly nature lovers with full-time jobs and family members who would be a little upset if they disappeared entirely, there’s Fodor’s book of 239 Great Places to Escape to Nature Without Roughing It—a thorough (Thoreau? Sorry for the bad pun) directory of places that encourage a return to Mother Nature.

It’s a great list, the only problem is the places are mostly a sizable distance from the nation’s capital. In a recent article by USA Today, Fodor’s Travel editorial director Laura Kidder shared her favorite selections from the massive list. Colorado, Washington state, Connecticut, Texas—all the regulars are represented; but, as seems to be a recurring theme throughout America’s history, the District of Columbia is sadly deprived of representation.

So we put together a little list of places for D.C. nature lovers to explore when civilized society gets too taxing (get it?). Maybe D.C. doesn’t have acres upon acres of Wild West land like that of Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas, or the pine, cedar, fir, and stone lodges that define the Sundance Resort in Utah; but that doesn’t mean we’re completely devoid of natural charm. Nope, for the budget-conscious and Disctrict-loving folks among us, there are plenty of woods in which to retreat.

Everyone knows the dense foliage and rolling creeks of Rock Creek Park offer hiking and biking paths, but what about the ranger-led programs and downloadable-to-ipod self-guided walking tours? Others on our very own D.C. favorites list, fun for families and hermits alike:

The National Arboretum

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Constitution Gardens

Dumbarton Oaks Garden

Theodore Roosevelt Island Park

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Search Trips

Hillwood Gardens

Meridian Hill Park

So take that, Fodor’s! Admittedly, these places are not intended as long-term nature retreats—they’re more appropriate for day trips.

If you want to stay longer, you will have to build your own tiny cabin, and this may be frowned upon by park rangers. Go ahead and use Fodor’s guide if you’re looking for longer-term lodging, but if you want a mini-vacation in the heart of the nation, don’t neglect these natural gems!

Photo courtesy of gattoraffa via Flickr.

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