Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens: A Hidden Gem
One of the great things about living in a city is that there are constantly new things to discover. After spending nearly 4 years exploring D.C., I finally discovered the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens - a wonderful hidden gem for the nature lover looking for something other than the National Arboretum (although that's great too!)
I first heard about the Aquatic Gardens from my roommate, Jamie (who is always very in-the-know), who told me to go check it out for this year's Lotus and Lily Festival. If you have not yet been to the Aquatic Gardens, stop what you are doing right now and go check them out! They have events ALL WEEK to celebrate the festival, so do yourself a favor and go spend some time observing some truly magical plants.
Here is a link to the park's website with all the information: https://www.nps.gov/keaq/index.htm
Here are some tips on visiting the park:
- If you're going to see the lotuses, GO EARLY IN THE DAY. The tend to open up the most in the morning and then slowly close throughout the day, so they won't be as impressive in the afternoon. However, if that's the only time you can go, then by all means don't miss out just for that reason. Plus it tends to get busy right away. I got there at 9:30 am, 30 minutes after they opened, and I had to park on the street it was so packed.
- Bring a camera - the fanciest one you have. This is a perfect place to practice your photography skills. I was completely unaware of the beauty that awaited me, so all I had was my iPhone camera. Sufficient, but lamentable that I didn't take my DSLR.
- The parking lot is small, so if you're going at a busy time (like the weekend), be prepared to park on the street and walk back. It's not hard to find street parking though, especially if you go earlier in the day, and it's free, so it's not a huge deal.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Except for the boardwalk, pretty much everything is dirt and grass. I wore flip flops and kind of wished I had worn something a little more substantial (like my Keens, or sneakers).
- Plan on spending an hour and a half to two hours at the park. I had an hour and made it through the pond area and the boardwalk, but didn't get to the marsh area, which I would have liked to see. There is a picnic area, so you can take in the scenery as you enjoy lunch.
- The park is free, so no need to worry about fees or entrance passes.
The Lotus and Lily Festival runs every summer (this year it runs from July 15-22. The website shows activities and events happening every day, but here are some that looked exciting to me:
- Thursday, July 20: Exploring the marshes and Anacostia River by canoe (5:30-7:30 pm)
- Friday, July 21: Night tour of the park to see the night blooming Victoria Lilies and "other things that come out at night"
- Saturday, July 22: Music in the Gardens from 5:30-9:30pm. "Bring a picnic and a blanket and enjoy the jazz and R&B sounds of the band, Nucleus. See the rare night blooming lilies afterward!"
Finally, here are pics from my visit:
Have you been the Aquatic Gardens? What other hidden gems in DC would you recommend?