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Washington, D.C.’s Summer Oases

Summer is a great time to visit any city, especially Washington, D.C., a place that offers plenty of opportunity to play outdoors in between exploring the capital’s top spots. To prevent your trip from feeling like a forced march through museums, take time to enjoy the District’s oases.

D.C. insiders know that the U.S. Botanic Garden provides a mini-retreat on Capitol Hill. Come here for a pleasant respite from D.C.’s must-see attractions. The garden court features fountains and tall palms. The jungle evokes a tropical rain forest with its ferns and palms and the orchid garden is fragrant with hundreds of delicate flowers.

This summer meet the other side of pretty plants: the carnivorous ones that lure, catch and eat insects. Discover how the Venus flytrap “grabs” its prey, how the butterwort “glues” critters to its leaves, and how the American pitcher plant’s nectar makes bugs woozy enough to topple into the plant’s digestive enzymes. Slurp. The special exhibit runs through October 8, 2012.

In bustling Georgetown, if you know where to go, you can enjoy green lawns and cool off at the new spray park. Dumbarton Oaks, an historic mansion that showcases a collection of pre-Columbian and Byzantine art, also features 10 acres of gardens. Stroll pathways shaded by cherry, willow and maple trees and admire the hillsides blooming with roses, poppies and other colorful blossoms.

Also in Georgetown, grab some shade in the garden of the Old Stone House. The structure dates to 1765, making it the oldest pre-Revolutionary building still standing in the District. In 1767 the owners added a second level and a front store, which today sells Colonial themed maps, guides, glass and other souvenirs. Just a few doors away, Sprinkles, a very modern cupcakery, lures locals with a range of sweets, including vegan cupcakes and mini-treats with no sugar for dogs.

Fortified, head straight down Georgetown’s Wisconsin Avenue to the Potomac River and catch the breeze off the water. This new section of the Georgetown Waterfront Park debuted in fall. It offers walkers a mile plus path and green lawns that stretch from Washington Harbour to the Key Bridge.

Importantly, the new park makes the river more accessible. Now, thanks to steps that lead to the still murky Potomac, you can watch kids feed the ducks, see kayakers paddling and cheer for the teams in Washington’s regattas. And if you really want to get wet, slide through the park’s centerpiece, an arcing spray fountain at the Wisconsin Avenue plaza.

The city also gained another kind of park this spring: the Maloof Skate Park at RFK Stadium, site of September’s Maloof Money Cup D.C. opened to the public in May. At the 15,000 square foot professional facility, watch the city’s best rippers ride the steps, stairs and ledges fashioned after those in Freedom Plaza. Budding champs and newbies can practice at the park too—just bring your own boards and helmets.

Although Washington, D.C.’s museums are top-rated, there’s also much more summer fun in the city.

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