Top 7 Outdoor Activities in D.C.
Cherry Blossom
The Great Outdoors in the Capital City

There’s simply no other city on Earth like Washington, D.C. – and that’s not just because of a certain famous house, home to a certain famous world leader. Whether you’re seeking art and culture, foodie hotspots, or getting back to nature, there are outdoor things to do in D.C. for every kind of traveler. 

As always, Red Roof is here with some local expertise and hot tips on the local haunts many other vacationers to the city simply don’t have the opportunity to see. Here are Red Roof's top fun outdoor activities in D.C. – from the famous to the best kept secrets in town.

theodore roosevelt island
Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of the best outdoor activities D.C. can offer, not least since it celebrates Roosevelt’s legacy while also honoring his commitment to conservation. Natural beauty meant the world to President Roosevelt, and the abundant greenery of this state and many others inspired him in countless ways. It’s something to ponder as you pace the tastefully kept walkways and routes that thread through Theodore Roosevelt Island. 

The skyline of the city will be etched against a vast sky and kept at bay by the sprawl of the Potomac River, but don’t worry about featuring this in your itinerary of outdoor things to do in D.C. if you’re prone to seasickness. That’s because you can easily reach Theodore Roosevelt Island by foot, using the scenic bridge off the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Theodore Roosevelt Island mixes woodland, marshes, wetlands and an impressively grand statue of the great man himself. Pack a camera!

sculpture garden
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Of course, we could easily write an article on the visitability and brilliance of the National Gallery alone – but while focusing on the outdoor activities DC gives its guests, it’s the fabulous Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery that gets our full attention today. Take a stroll through it yourself, and you’ll easily discover why. Powerful and evocative works from generations of modern artists dot this well landscaped space.

The National Gallery Sculpture Garden is an evergreen feature on any list of fun outdoor activities in D.C. not only for its art, however, but also because of the events hosted here throughout the year. Naturally, depending when your vacation to Washington, D.C. is happening, there will be more events on the Sculpture Garden calendar in some seasons than others. For example, the summer season sees jazz music fill the Sculpture Garden every Friday afternoon. Don’t get the winter blues if that’s the time of year you’re visiting though, as the outdoor things to do in D.C. don’t stop in the Sculpture Garden just because the sun stops shining. In fact, winter is when the beautiful ice rink is brought out to play.

great falls park
Great Falls Park

Home to as many sweeping vistas and lush green hideaways as it is rugged landscapes and ruthless rapids, Great Falls Park attracts both adventurous outdoorsy types as much as it does artists in search of inspiring landscapes to paint, families looking to get back to nature and – of course – vacationers looking to enjoy outdoor things to do in D.C. 

Whether you visit for a vigorous hike or a simple tour of the scenery, Great Falls Park is an affordable day out for anyone looking for fun outdoor activities in D.C. While there are several trails and sights to explore in Great Falls Park, the most famous of these is the Billy Goat Trail. Popular with hikers, the Billy Goat Trail traces the curve of the Potomac River a ways, before lacing through the rugged hinterlands for scenic sights and sounds aplenty. If you’ve never taken in its splendors before, and feel up for tackling its almost five mile sprawl, the Billy Goat Trail is one of the most famous and beloved outdoor activities D.C. can offer.

capitol riverfront
Boating on the Capitol Riverfront

How are your sea legs? No matter your level of nautical prowess, the paddle boats, kayaks, canoes and touring boats available from the Capitol Riverfront give you a serene way of seeing the Potomac River – all while gathering plenty of photogenic angles on some of the city’s most famous landmarks besides. The most famous landmarks in all of Washington, D.C. are its monuments and landmarks. Naturally, exploring the verdant parkland by foot and soaking in these richly storied structures is always one of the best outdoor activities D.C. can give – yet there’s something to be said for seeing these same edifices from the comfort and solitude of your own boat on the water. 

Most services rent out boats by the afternoon, or by the hour, but definitely feel free to shop around. If you’re feeling too keen on some rest and relaxation to pedal your paddle boat or row your way across the river, there’s something for you too – guided boat tours that’ll whip you around the historic sights while you kick back and relax.

Cycling the City

While it’s well known and fondly regarded that Washington, D.C. is very friendly to walkers and pedestrians, it’s no slouch when it comes to catering for the cycling crowd either. If you’re bringing your own bicycle on your stay with us, you might as well consider the entire city itself to top the list of outdoor activities D.C. can offer.

Yet for tourists and vacationers, one of the most fun outdoor activities in D.C. is booking a cycling tour and seeing the sights speedily, safely – and with a pretty low carbon footprint besides. There are numerous cycling services you can book throughout the city, each catering to different kinds of visitor. If you’re looking for a self guided tour, you can certainly get one for an affordable fee – but you can also join a cycling tour of Washington, D.C. led by an experienced guide too. 

There are plenty of bespoke bicycle services on offer too. DC Cycling Concierge interviews visitors to decide what cycling routes to recommend, delivers a bike ready and waiting to their accommodation, and whisks you away on a guided tour with an experienced D.C. native who can show you perks of the city so hidden away that even our comprehensive guide doesn’t yet know about them.

national arboreteum
The National Arboretum

For those with green fingers and lovers of gardens of all ages, what could be better than America’s greatest garden, the National Arboretum? Easily reached by car or cab, the National Arboretum is rich in outdoor things to do in D.C. – whether you’re a culture buff, a lover of nature or simply keen to see an astonishing national treasure in all its splendor. 

One of the most iconic parts of the National Arboretum can be found at its heart, where a hilltop hosts the majestic Capitol Columns. Tall, imposing, pale and timeless, they look every inch as though they could have mysteriously appeared here from the legends of Ancient Rome. Yet the Capitol Columns are as American as they come, and so too is the spirit with which the National Arboretum was founded in the 1920s. Established to ensure that the ecological safety, environmental beauty and economic activity of the D.C. region remains good and healthy, this is a special place indeed. 

As well as conserving many at risk or endangered plant species, the National Arboretum has also long functioned as a bastion of botanical research for the entire United States. That means that not only are you strolling among many of the most distinctive forms of plant life our fragile planet can offer – but also witnessing firsthand how diligent conservationists are ensuring that future generations continue to understand the importance of plants and their roles in our lives.

rock creek park
Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is spread over 1,700 acres of verdant green land, making it the perfect place to simply vanish from the noise and the hubbub of the city when the mood takes you. Rock Creek Park is the home to many of the best outdoor activities D.C. offers – that includes the Smithsonian Zoo, where pandas and penguins play, as well as Meadowbrook Stables. How does touring Rock Creek Park on horseback sound? If you trust your own two feet more than even the most dependable of horses’ hooves, you’ll find that countless trails thread and wind their way through Rock Creek Park too. 

Outdoor activities to do in D.C. often call Rock Creek Park home, with good reason. As a venue, it’s enormously spacious and easily reached from every part of town – but also blessed by crisp clean air and a dedicated team who keep it clear of litter and well tended all year round. In fact, many of these park rangers are happy to offer you guided tours of Rock Creek Park, which themselves can lead to some of the best nuggets of wisdom and hidden slivers of history in all of Washington, D.C. And for history buffs? Head up to the preserved cannons and battlements of Fort Stevens, where President Abraham Lincoln once addressed the troops during the Civil War.

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Stay with Red Roof

Outdoor activities D.C. offers its visitors are plentiful indeed – this is a city just as suitable for outdoorsy folks as it is those who love café culture of wine tasting. This versatility is such a big reason why vacationers love a city break in Washington, D.C. – and why it’s the host of many of the biggest business trips in the country too. 

Where to rest up and recover when the fun and exploitation is over? Look no further – Red Roof is right here with you. Book a room at one of our affordable, pet-friendly hotels today.