Washington is a political city, but it’s also a haven of tranquility if you know where to look.
Right where M Street NW veers onto Key Bridge and traffic is bumper to bumper, you’ll find Francis Scott Key Memorial Park, a quiet space where visitors can take in views of the Kennedy Center, the Potomac River and the Rosslyn skyline.
The Harwood family rested there one Saturday afternoon after exploring Georgetown. “This is a great place to stop,” said Kathy Harwood, who attended George Washington University and now lives in Groton, Mass., with her husband, Jon, and three school-age children.
“We were looking for a place to eat our cupcakes,” said Jon, sitting on a low stone wall and pointing to a pink cake box. The children played, admiring the tulips and U.S. flag flying overhead.
The park celebrates Key, who lived in a nearby house and wrote a poem that became the lyrics of the national anthem. His bronze bust rests on a stone pedestal. Columns stand in semicircles on the red brick pavement. A border of shrubs and trees shields the park from cars. For a stroll after your park visit, take the staircase down to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath or head left out of the park and walk across Key Bridge.
About a mile and a half north, up Massachusetts Avenue NW across from the British Embassy, is the Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden.
Off the sidewalk, across a footbridge, nestled on the hillside is a sanctuary honoring the Lebanese American poet (1883-1931). An engraving at the entrance reads: “His legacy is the powerful simplicity of his words, which continue to inspire those who long for peace, search for love and strive for justice.”
“It’s a beautiful, peaceful place,” said Amanda Kay, a Dupont Circle resident, who says she walks by all the time with her Australian shepherd-beagle mix, Emma, on their way to a dog park.
A bust of Gibran and birds made of bronze decorate the polished stone wall framing the garden entrance. Grass and flowering shrubs surround stone benches that encircle a star-shaped pool — a hidden, picturesque escape in a bustling capital.