The Washington Post
Best picnic spots by the water photo
(Ann Cameron Siegal)

Best picnic spots by the water

Ann Cameron Siegal | Special to The Washington Post  |  Updated 04/11/2011

When warm weather arrives, pack a picnic and head for the water, where your spirits can't help but be soothed. Unless otherwise noted, these sites offer free parking on-site and allow picnicking by the water's edge. Many offer picnic tables, but bring a blanket and find your own cozy niche.


Cosca Regional Park

Clinton, MD

There's a pleasant surprise at the back of this 690-acre park. While others enjoy the ballfields, tennis courts, campground, miles of hiking trails and nature center, solace-seekers head down the hill from the expansive playground to the cozy 11-acre lake bordered by trees and a mile-long trail. A few benches and picnic tables dot the east side of the lake, while the west side is all wooded.


Lake Needwood

Rockville, MD

It's hard to believe that this 75-acre lake is only 10 minutes from downtown Rockville. A meandering three-mile trail along the wooded shoreline offers numerous idyllic spots for spreading a blanket and savoring the setting.


Bladensburg Waterfront Park

Bladensburg, MD

This part of the Anacostia River was once a thriving shipping port in the 18th century. Today, the waters are navigated by kayaks, canoes and paddleboats, rented on weekends at the far end of the park. The rest of the week, this historic waterfront is the perfect place to catch up with a friend, do some bird-watching or just take a breather from the area's hubbub.


Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Washington, DC

This 12-acre haven for water lily aficionados has been part of the national park system since 1938. Today, more than 45 shallow man-made ponds tout various blooming aquatic plants from May to early September.


Riverbend Park

Great Falls, VA

Enjoy the waterside picnic area with grills near the visitor center and boat ramp, or better yet, walk a bit along the waterside trail to find a cozy nook of your own. It's shallow and rocky on this part of the upper Potomac River, so boat traffic is limited to paddlers and small fishing boats -- just enough to be picturesque, without disturbing the tranquility.


Georgetown Waterfront Park

Washington, DC

Who would have guessed that a seven-acre park just below Whitehurst Freeway would be a place of solace for many? A surprising oasis of greenery, it offers a well-landscaped setting with waterside views of Theodore Roosevelt Island and the Kennedy Center. Park benches, paved paths, flowering plants and sprawling lawns make a very inviting setting between Washington Harbor and Key Bridge.


Tidal Basin

Washington, DC

Once you get past cherry blossom season, it's amazing how easy it is to find a peaceful setting even in the height of tourist season. Bennie Watson Jr., a retired D.C. government employee, chooses this as a place to find solace. "My blood pressure goes down when I'm here," he said, seated on a bucket, fishing pole in hand.


Constitution Gardens

Washington, DC

Constitution Gardens, a 52-acre park with a lake, trees and winding paved paths, was completed in 1976. It offers an enticing respite between the Vietnam Memorial and the Washington Monument. You won't see it from Constitution Avenue because of the gently rolling topography throughout the park. Kids love watching the abundant waterfowl and trying to spot turtles or frogs.


Hains Point

Washington, DC

Hains Point in East Potomac Park is all yours on weekdays, with plentiful free parking, benches and picnic tables. A few fishermen and some bicyclists often will be your only company as you watch the tour boats go by. However, on nice weekends you have to arrive early. Parking spots fill up fast.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Washington, DC

You may not immediately associate water with the FDR Memorial. That is, until you take a book and allow yourself to revel near one of its large fountains.


Belle Haven Park

Alexandria, VA

Several waterside areas are far enough away from traffic to be enjoyable. The Belle Haven picnic area (nine miles from Mount Vernon) offers wide swaths of grass between the road and the water, a number of picnic tables and plenty of room to stretch out.


Riverside Park

Alexandria, VA

Near the George Washington Parkway, Riverside Park (1.3 miles from Mount Vernon) also offers a good vantage point for boat watching.


Collingwood Library and Museum on Americanism

Alexandria, VA

For a cozier setting, check out these grounds (five miles from Mount Vernon), where a long, narrow tree-lined grassy swath slopes to picnic spots by the river.


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