Thursday, May 10, 2012

Where to Visit: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Monet's dreamlike depictions of water lilies are among the most revered and recognizable pieces of art worldwide.  But you don't have to travel to Giverny to see the beauties that inspired these masterpieces -- D.C. has its own collection of majestic water lilies right on the ponds by the Anascostia river.

I know what you're thinking -- one does not typically think of "Northeast D.C." and "nature's splendor" as synonymous terms.  I had to see it to believe it myself.  But much like the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks evoke the feel of some faraway oasis, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens will transport you from the crowds and grime of D.C. to a quiet, magical world spotted with bright and unusual flowers and wildlife.
The Aquatic Gardens are home to a number of plants and creatures rarely encountered in daily city life.  Visitors can explore the gardens by walking along embankments between ponds, across small bridges that overlook the protected wetland marshes, and down a boardwalk that runs along the Anacostia River.  Bring your camera, as you'll want to get shots of the snapping turtles that glide by water lilies as neon dragonflies flit about.


Visiting hours are from 7:00-5:00, and there is no cost of admission.  Mid- to late-May is an ideal time to visit, as the flowers have begun to bloom but it's not yet oppressively hot -- an important factor to keep in mind as the lilies will close when temperatures are high.  Lilies typically begin blooming in mid-May, though early bloom dates are expected after an unusually mild winter.  They will stay in bloom throughout the summer, but those who visit on hotter days and wish to see the lilies before they close should plan to arrive in the morning, while temperatures are still cool.            

The gardens are about a ten minute walk from both the Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood metro stops, and there is a free parking lot for visitors.  For those concerned about safety, if you bring a friend and go during daylight, there is little to worry about.   

Beautiful, free of charge, and metro-accessible -- what better diversion could you ask for in the spring than a trip to the Aquatic Gardens?

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