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Summer Exploring: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

2018 July 22
by Becky

Last summer, Finn and I journeyed over to this hidden spot along the Anacostia river, just inside the DC boarder. I’d learned about the spot from my tried and true all-things-DC-for-kids resource Kid Friendly DC, and boy was she right about this place…it’s incredible. So, since it was on the top of this year’s summer bucket list, we headed over to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last week—this time with Ethan in tow.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Ponds

The gardens are made up of large manmade ponds with wide paths for walking between and around them, making this place totally stroller friendly. Amongst the reeds and cattails are framed views of blooms and sneak peeks of swampy creatures like giant bull frogs, tiny fish, and plenty of turtles. The boys made quite a tally of animal sightings.

This turtle was so tiny, hard to capture his miniature size on camera. Just swimming under and around the lily pads. If I was a turtle, this is where I’d want to live.

Turns out, we timed things perfectly because the lotus and water lilies were in peek bloom. We thought about waiting and going over the weekend for their annual festival, but since the forecast said “rain, rain, rain”, we opted for the Friday before. It was the most perfect day to be outside surrounded by nature.

Overall we’ve been so lucky with weather this summer. There was one week of real heat, during which we were gone (ha!), but otherwise it’s been delightful, barely hot enough to head to the pool (though we’ve been going anyway). I feel like we’re on a mission to spend as much time in all these fabulous outdoor spaces as humanly possible before the real summer weather hits.

Anyway, my personal favorite part of these ponds is the underbelly of the operation. Where the creatures hide, where tiny, perfect leaves float in clusters among the lily pads. It’s shady and kind of magical under there.


Due to the peek blooms, crowds were bigger this time than our visit last year, but still very manageable. Navigating the ponds was easy and the kids had plenty of opportunities to run around. Finn found a treasure—a seed pod from the middle of a lotus—which he carried through the whole visit.

We spent about an 2 hours looking around, people watching, and taking pictures. Our last stop was at the back of the gardens, for a walk along the boardwalk that takes visitors out to the marsh. As if this place wasn’t lovely enough, it opens up to a huge river marsh area full of birds, butterflies, and more creatures.

There is plenty of seating to do some serious bird watching, but my boys aren’t quite that patient (like not even close) so we did more of a walk-by viewing of the area. We were there at low tide so it was very muddy, but the water is up two feet at other times of the day.

I’d say this is a top choice for where to spend a lovely morning in DC, and it’s different for every season so worth making a few trips. I’d love to see the marsh in Fall color, I’ve heard it’s spectacular. Now if only it had a children’s garden with some sheep statues it would fill the gap made by leaving our beloved Botanical Gardens behind in St. Louis! I’ll be sure to make the suggestion next time I’m there.

3 Responses
  1. Sandy schon permalink
    July 23, 2018


  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    July 24, 2018

    Your pictures are amazing Becky!

  3. January 22, 2019

    I keep meaning to do a blogpost about my retro embroidery stash! Will add it to my blogging to do list right now

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