by Terry Granger
Once nicknamed “the forgotten river” the dying Anacostia Riverfront got a new lease on life with the help of a massive restoration initiative spearheaded by the Anacostia Watershed Society and developers of Nationals Park. With cherry blossom season at hand this is a great time to discover how a once neglected Southeast Washington, DC community became a world-class waterfront playground with family friendly activities second to none.
The Washington Navy Yard – still in operation, sits adjacent to a 42-acre parcel of land known around DC simply as The Yards. Situated along the banks of the Anacostia River you can splash, bike, stroll, sail, and dine the days and nights away in this reborn mixed-use urban oasis.
Five miles from the US Capitol, the wide riverfront esplanade offers over 36 restaurants, wine bars and bistros, ten acres of pristine parks, year round events, and maritime activities that keep visitors active, entertained and well fed. The lush, shady Yards Park is a peacefully enticing 5.4-acre respite from the lengthy museum and monument lines and a fresh green alternative to throngs of parade-goers, sign-waiving protestors, and traffic snarls of downtown DC.
The Great Lawn – a flat, grassy, emerald green jewel flanked by trees, walkways, and landscaping on the perimeter, thrives among architecturally diverse buildings and green-scape designs with water playgrounds, dancing fountains, and tranquil, shady benches.
A modern two-story glass structure called the Lumber Shed Building houses high quality eateries including Agua 301 (try the banana pancakes served during their all-day brunch), Osteria Morini – for a “soulful interpretation” on Italian cuisine, and Ice Cream Jubilee – named one of the 10 best ice cream shops in America – to name a few.
Kids frolic near a cool, cascading sheet of water that tumbles into a shallow 11-inch crystal blue wading pool below. The iconic white tubular structure called Yards Bridge carries pedestrians over the park’s water basin where they can stroll and bike through almost 2 miles of riverfront walkways. Take advantage of Capital Bikeshare for an easy, fun way to get around the parks and trails. https://www.capitalbikeshare.com
If you’re heading over to Nationals Park for a ballgame stop by The Bullpen before, during or after the game. It’s an essential part of the fan experience and its just steps away from the stadium. Take in a host of events from live music, food trucks and ice-cold beer and beverages. Foodies flock to Truckeroo, the monthly food truck festival at The Bullpen April through October. It’s a family friendly event featuring the trendiest gourmet food trucks DC has to offer along with a lively, fan-frenzy atmosphere.
The BullPen opens 2 hours before Nationals home games 6 months of the year. Check out the website for a list of food trucks and upcoming events.
Diamond Teague Park features a plaza, piers for water taxis, kayaking and canoe rentals.
For a bit of excitement you’ve got to stop by The Trapeze School Of New York for a daring adventure on the high-flying trapeze. TSNY offers lessons and classes 7 days a week for those seeking an adrenaline rush. Call ahead to book a lesson if you dare to fly! (202) 479-6861
Events at The Yards include kids club workshops, morning yoga in the park, riverfront farmer’s markets, evening concerts, and outdoor films when the weather warms up.
The Anacostia River Explorers offer free family-friendly boat tours where you can learn about the river’s rich history, habitat and wildlife, and the river’s diverse ecology. Kids ages K-12 are welcome with a chaperone. Spring tours start on March 31st.
Try paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing at The Yards Marina where you can rent by the hour. If river cruising is your style take in Friday night concerts during the warm summer months right on the river. Water taxis pull up to the marina docks where passengers can board or unload.
Parking lots between Yards Park and Nationals Park charge $2 per hour but rates go up during home games. Some metered street parking is available but stay local and avoid parking hassles altogether!
Leashed dogs are welcome in the park just not in the pools and fountains. Water is supplied by DC city water that’s been filtered, not from the Anacostia River. Blankets and lawn chairs are allowed for outdoor events and a calendar is available on the Capitol Riverfront website.
Yards Park and the Anacostia Riverfront is a destination venue for festivals, food, sports, and entertainment, where visitors enjoy a walk-able lifestyle community and an outdoor fitness haven to explore all that the Capitol Riverfront has to offer.
Where to stay…
Within walking distance or a short Metro ride there are literally dozens of hotels, Airbnb’s and short stay apartments to choose from. 8th Street Apartments by Stay Alfred offers all the comforts of home with loads of amenities and is walking distance or a short Metro ride to all the sites DC has to offer. If you prefer conventional lodging there is both a Courtyard by Marriott and a Homewood Suites by Hilton in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. If you are more the Airbnb type check out the authentic places to stay in a variety of nearby DC neighborhoods where you’ll feel just like a local.
The Anacostia Capitol Riverfront’s walkability, casual atmosphere and proximity to downtown DC make it the perfect place to spend a long weekend exploring this fresh, trendy waterfront treasure when visiting the nation’s capital.