Dear PoPville – Where Can I Have a BBQ in a DC Park?

Photo by PoPville flickr user bajidc

“Dear PoPville,

I want to do a 20-50 person barbeque/picnic in one of DC’s parks. I would like there to be a BBQ pit/grill already there, but other than that not much else for requirements. I was also wondering if there is a need for a permit to do something like that?”

Anyone know where/if there are good parks in DC with bbq pits/grills?

87 Comment

  • Several of the parking areas all along Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park have stone barbecue pits (of varying degrees of quality). I don’t know if these need to be reserved the same as the pavilions, but I’m sure if you contact the Natl Park Service you can find out.

  • The picnic shelter near Pierce Mill in Rock Creek. You’ll need to reserve it, but I don’t know how. also, aren’t there bbq facilities in West Potomac Park near where the Awakening used to be?

  • For Rock Creek reservations you have to go in person to:

    DC Department of Parks and Recreation
    3149, 16th St. NW
    Washington, DC 20010
    phone 202-673-7647

    The fee is $7.00 per permitted period.


  • I would say the picnic area on Piney Branch between Beach Drive and Arkansas Ave would be your best bet. Big area, lots of grass and such. I do think you need to reserve these areas to ensure you get them. I think the NPS has an arrangement where you pay a trivial fee (something like $50?) and you have it reserved.

    • andy

      as far as I know from driving past, it is a non-stop Salvardoran grill fest down there, permit or not.

  • andy

    Also try up the hill near the horse corral or whatever it’s called. At least one or two barbecue pits up there and it’s a relatively underused large space.

  • This sounds like a good questions for 311 or the Dept of Parks and Rec. Maybe the OP could ask them.

  • First, let me correct you as politely as possible.

    You can’t “have a barbeque” anywhere.

    As a native Southerner, hearing pople say, “I want to do a 20-50 person barbeque/picnic in one of DC’s parks” is like me going to Manhatten and telling al the folks there that “I want to do a 20-50 person bagel/picnic in one of New York’s parks”

    As mentioned in the linked video, “BBQ is not a verb. It is a type of meat prepared in a specific way, varying based upon region”

    • In the sentence “I want to have a barbeque”, the word “barbeque” is a noun.

    • Merriam-Webster begs to differ:

      Definition of BARBECUE
      1 a: a large animal (as a steer) roasted whole or split over an open fire or a fire in a pit
      b: barbecued food
      2: a social gathering especially in the open air at which barbecued food is eaten
      3: an often portable fireplace over which meat and fish are roasted

      verb \ˈbär-bi-ˌkyü\
      Definition of BARBECUE
      transitive verb
      1: to roast or broil on a rack or revolving spit over or before a source of heat (as hot coals)
      2: to cook in a highly seasoned vinegar sauce
      — bar·be·cu·er noun

      • Thank you.

        Those of us from other parts of the country call it a BBQ. Others call it a cookout. Others grilling. The world does not revolve around the South.

      • Mirriam Webster is wrong. They also think this is a word.

        Let me assure you, it most surely is not.

        Sorry, we own the word, “Barbeque.” You don’t get to use it any way you wish anymore than I can put Philly Cream Cheese on a loaf of white bread and tell a Jewish Manhaattanite it is a bagel and he had better not argue.

        BBQ is a full pig cooked over charcoals for at least 12 hours, and served as pulled pork with a vinegar and pepper based sauce. No ketchup, no mustard, no beef or chicken. Sorry.

        (Also, while I am 100 percent correct, don’t take me too seriously. Take every thing with a grain of salt, or more appropriately, a dash of vinegar. It is all a joke)

        • Us Texans beg to differ with your no beef condition. I’ll take my smoked brisket any over some vinegar-soaked pig (ever wonder why yall have to put vinegar on it?). And my friends can throw burger/chicken/guinea pig or whatever meat (no tofu) they want over my pit as long as they enjoy the good beer and the good times.

          I thought a self-proclaimed southerner would have been a bit more hospitable.

          • Watch the video. We allow you into the brotherhood, but begrudgingly.

            I love smoked beef brisket as well. But it is smoked beef brisket.

            A good NC BBQ doesn’t soak in vineger. The vinegar is used lightly, generally a a couple of squirts over the pig before smoking. Only bad BBQ is soaked in anything (see so-called Kansas City BBQ. Good meat doesn’t need to be soaked in ketchup and molassas. Silly Missourans.)

        • ‘Barbecue’ is in the *original* Webster dictionary. And it ‘belongs’ to the original inhabitants of the Caribbean. However, it does affirm your anti-Texan bias towards hog.

        • I’m taking this to the authority. Here is what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say on the issue. See item 4.

          Oxford English Dictionary | The definitive record of the English language
          barbecue, n.
          Pronunciation: /ˈbɑːbɪkjuː/
          Forms: 16 barbecu, 16–17 borbecu, 17 barbicue, 16–18 barbacue, 17– barbecue, (18 babracot).(Show Less)
          Etymology: < Spanish barbacoa, < Haitian barbacòa (E. B. Tylor) ‘a framework of sticks set upon posts’; evidently the same as the babracot (? a French spelling) of the Indians of Guyana, mentioned by Im Thurn. (The alleged French barbe à queue ‘beard to tail,’ is an absurd conjecture suggested merely by the sound of the word.)… (Show Less)
          Thesaurus »

          1. A rude wooden framework, used in America for sleeping on, and for supporting above a fire meat that is to be smoked or dried.
          1697 W. Dampier New Voy. around World ii. 20 And lay there all night, upon our Barbecu's, or frames of Sticks, raised about 3 foot from the Ground.
          1697 W. Dampier New Voy. around World iv. 86 His Couch or Barbecu of sticks.
          1879 J. W. Boddam-Whetham Roraima xiv. 155 For preservation, a barbecue is erected, and the fish are smoked over a fire.
          1883 E. F. Im Thurn Among Indians of Guiana ii. 47 Fires, above which were babracots loaded with beef.
          1883 E. F. Im Thurn Among Indians of Guiana xi. 248 A babracot is a stage of green sticks built over a fire on which the meat is laid.

          1697—1883(Hide quotations)

          2. An iron frame for broiling very large joints.
          1736 N. Bailey Dict. Domesticum 347 When the belly side is‥steady upon the gridiron or barbecue, pour into the belly of the hog, etc.

          1736—1736(Hide quotations)

          3. A hog, ox, or other animal broiled or roasted whole; see also quot. 1861, and barbecue v. 2.
          1764 S. Foote Patron i. 6, I am invited to dinner on a barbicu.
          1825 Schuylkill Fishing Co. in Bibliographer Dec. (1881) 25/1 A fine barbacue with spiced sauce.
          1861 E. B. Tylor Anahuac iv. 95 A kid that had been cooked in a hole in the ground, with embers upon it.‥ This is called a ‘barbacoa’—a barbecue.

          1764—1861(Hide quotations)


          a. A large social entertainment, usually in the open air, at which animals are roasted whole, and other provisions liberally supplied. Also attrib. orig. U.S.
          1733 B. Lynde Diary (1880) 138 Fair and hot; Browne, barbacue; hack overset.
          1809 ‘D. Knickerbocker’ Hist. N.Y. (1849) iv. ix. 240 Engaged in a great ‘barbecue,’ a kind of festivity or carouse much practised in Merryland.
          1815 Salem (Mass.) Gaz. 30 June 3/2 An elegant Barbacue Dinner.
          1881 H. W. Pierson In Brush 90 On any occasion when the barbecue feast was to be the agreeable conclusion.
          1884 Boston (Mass.) Jrnl. 27 Oct. 2/3 At the Brooklyn barbecue, which Governor Cleveland recently attended, 5000 kegs of beer were dispensed.
          1935 Words Mar. 6/2 Today the American countryside is heavily sprinkled with barbecue stands.
          1938 D. Runyon Take it Easy 302 They are down in Florida running a barbecue stand.
          1957 Daily Mail 5 Sept. 11/5 Anywhere they [sc. Americans] can find a clearing with a barbecue-pit set up, they bring out masses of steaks‥and the bag of charcoal to make the fire.
          1968 Globe & Mail (Toronto) 3 Feb. 41/3 (advt.) Lovely covered patio with built-in barbecue.
          1968 Peace News 21 June 7/4 (advt.) London WC i. 7.30 p.m. 29 Great James Street. Summer Peace Party and Barbecue.

          1733—1968(Hide quotations)

          b. A structure for cooking food over an open fire of wood or charcoal, usu. out of doors, and freq. as part of a party or other social entertainment.
          1931 Sunset June 10 (heading) How to build a barbecue.
          1933 C. McKay Banana Bottom vii. 88 Her husband‥had been the best barbecue-builder of Banana Bottom.
          1965 Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 9 Oct. 17/9 To make a flowerpot barbecue get a clay flowerpot.‥ When all the charcoal is red start cooking.
          1975 Islander (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 17 Aug. 8/2 We all know the taste of corn roasted on the barbecue.
          1980 Daily Tel. 26 June 3/1 A 10 ft high 8 ft wide barbecue with two chimneys‥in the garden‥has got to be pulled down.
          1986 Pract. Householder July 15/1 The delicious aroma drifting across a neighbour's fence of food cooking over charcoal is enough to make anyone yearn for a barbecue of their own.

          1931—1986(Hide quotations)

          5. An open floor on which coffee-beans, etc. may be spread out to dry.
          1855 C. Kingsley Westward Ho! xix, The barbecu or terrace of white plaster, which ran all round the front.
          1883 Cassell's Mag. Aug. 528/1 The [coffee-]beans‥are carried to the ‘barbacue,’ an open space paved with cement or asphalte, where they are spread on matting‥to dry.
          1885 A. Brassey In Trades 235 A barbecue is the name given, in Jamaica, to the house which contains the threshing-floor and apparatus for drying the coffee.

        • There is also a verb form

          Oxford English Dictionary | The definitive record of the English language

          Pronunciation: /ˈbɑːbɪkjuː/
          Forms: 16–18 barbacue, barbicu(e, 17– ikew, 17– barbecue.(Show Less)
          Etymology: < barbecue n.(Show Less)

          1. To dry or cure (flesh, etc.) by exposure upon a barbecue; see the n. (senses 1 and 5).
          1661 E. Hickeringill Jamaica 76 Some are slain, And their flesh forthwith Barbacu'd and eat.
          1775 J. Adair Hist. Amer. Indians 408 They cut them [pompions] into‥slices, which they barbacue, or dry with a slow heat.
          1796 J. G. Stedman Narr. Exped. Surinam I. xv. 391 They use little or no salt, but barbacue their game and fish in the smoke.
          1840 W. Irving Chron. Wolfert's Roost (1855) 291 Loaded with barbacued meat.

          1661—1840(Hide quotations)

          2. To broil or roast (an animal) whole; e.g. to split a hog to the backbone, fill the belly with wine and stuffing, and cook it on a huge gridiron, basting with wine. Sometimes, to cook (a joint) with the same accessories. See also barbecue n. 3.
          1690 A. Behn Widdow Ranter ii. iv. 25 Let's Barbicu this Fat Rogue.
          1702 C. Mather Magnalia Christi vii. vi. 43/2 When they came to see‥the Bodies of so many of their Countrymen terribly Barbikew'd.
          1769 E. Raffald Experienced Eng. Housekeeper (1778) 111 To barbecue a Leg of Pork.
          1823 C. Lamb Diss. Roast Pig in Elia 288 Barbecue your whole hogs to your palate.
          1920 J. M. Hunter Trail Drivers of Texas 82 We killed and barbecued a beef.

        • MH: the south has owned nothing since your asses got handed to you and your little rebellious stupidity.

          You lost, you lose. Shut up and get back to work. The south still owes the USA for the cost of that little temper tantrum.

          • The unique culture that is the US South is, oddly enough, not defined by a war that occured over 150 years ago.

          • The unique culture that is the DC south is no more unique than the midwest, the west, the midatlantic, or the northeast.

            This supposed unique culture is not even monolithic across the southern region, as TX and GA are no more alike than MN and NH.

            And most of the “unique culture” you speak of does not recognize the end of that war anyway. Rise again you will. Keep flying the flag of treason you will.

            Sorry, tired fo hearing about this vaunted “southern culture” Besides 8 different types of BBQ… what else you offering as “unique” culture?

          • This should get you started, However, I have serious doubts if you actually care enough to set aside your vitrol in order to learn about cultures outside those you are familiar with:



      • Thanks for providing the correct spelling, too.

    • Actually, BBQ is an adjective rather than a noun. So you’re wrong as well.

      So where are we having our BBQ?!?!?!?!

    • Get over yourself.

    • Good thing BBQ wasn’t invented in the South.

    • I’d like to point out that hamburgers and chickens breasts as seen in the photo are “grilled” and not “barbecue-ed”.

      There is a difference.

    • Douche-Bag

    • Languages and word usage evolve. Regardless of how it is used in the South (where English is ALWAYS spoken properly) “barbecue” certainly can be used as a verb:

      bar·be·cue [bahr-bi-kyoo]
      noun, verb, -cued, -cu·ing.

      – verb (used with object)
      to broil or roast whole or in large pieces over an open fire, on a spit or grill, often seasoning with vinegar, spices, salt, and pepper.

      to cook (sliced or diced meat or fish) in a highly seasoned sauce.

      – verb (used without object)
      to cook by barbecuing or to entertain at a barbecue: If the weather’s nice, we’ll barbecue in the backyard.

    • What does douchebag mean in the south?

    • So, what’s your second point, MH? C’mon, if you’re going to preface your comment with a passive-aggressive “”First, let me correct you as politely as possible,” at least include a second point, such as ACTUALLY ANSWERING THE OP’S QUESTION. What a dick.

    • I think no one is confused. we all know what this person meant. it’s not that deep.

    • As a fellow southerner, get over yourself you douche!!

  • In Rock Creek Park, the 8 or so largest areas, some with shelters, must be reserved. Those are all taken for this summer on the weekends (must reserve early), but you may be able to snag a weeknight.

    There are another couple of dozen picnic areas in RCP that don’t need reservation. Those are first come, first served. (The signs on the ones needing reservation say “Area 8, Call xxx for Reservations”; the signs on the unreserved places just say “Area 22”.)

    The information above about reserving the large areas is correct – go to DC Parks & Recreation on 16th St. in person (yes DC Parks, although it’s for a National Park). It cost $7.

    The are some nice unreserved areas on Glover Road and Ross Drive (near the horse corral mentioned above).

    There is a nice map available at DC Parks and likely elsewhere of the picnic areas throughout RCP and the regulations.

    Note that most of the unreserved picnic areas don’t have bathrooms nearby.

    There are options other than RCP, though I’m not familiar with the details of how to use them.

  • Just get to Rock Creek Park early (by 10 am), drive around and find your perfect spot, and then set up and wait for the party to show up. That’s what my friends and I do and we’ve never been bothered, even when we’ve had more than 50 people out there. There usually are grills.

  • There is a big picnic area in the Arboretum, I think it has grills/pits, too. Maybe you can bring your own. Not sure how to reserve, though. I’ve never reserved the picnic tables, but never used the grills. The great thing about the Arboretum is that it is huge, and doesn’t have cars speeding past.

  • Also, at/behind Carter Barron. Reservations needed, as others have observed.

  • Will you be serving any vegan options?

  • Fletcher’s Cove, along the C&O canal + Potomac river, just off Canal Road. Bonus that you can walk over and rent a boat from Fletcher’s Boat House while you’re out there.

  • Rock Creek is probably the best choice. You could also definitely do it on the hill at the Emery Rec center Park They have pits there, trees to get shade under and is usually pretty vacant.

  • I think we need to have a competition. Grant Circle vs Sherman Circle. BBQ and bands at each.

  • Would just like to point out there are many southerners who are not obnoxious like MH.

    I’m curious about locations near/on the mall. Are there any spots that allow grills?

  • Rockcreek is a good option, just keep in mind that there are no bathrooms there though.

    • Picnic areas 1 (Peirce Mill) 24 (near Carter Barron Tennis stadium) 6 (just north of Military Rd.) and 10 (just north of Sherrill) all have bathrooms. Areas 8 & 9 are also not too far from 10. Area 8 also has good creek nooks to tree-pee.

      If you’re doing it on a weekend be sure everyone knows how to navigate the closed parts of Beach Drive.

      If you don’t mind a bit of a drive (lovely 8 miles along Clara Barton Parkway) check out Carter Rock, just past Glen Echo, before Great Falls.

  • Anacostia Park!

  • ALL of Rock Creek park is available to you

  • Haines point. It’s lovely.

  • To aid in settling this argument over Barbecue, Edna Ferber wrote about it her 1952 book, “Giant”.

    Dramatized in the film “Giant” with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson describes how Barbecue came from the word Barbacoa:

    “Best food you ever ate, honey. That’s real Mexican Barbacoa.
    Where we get the word Barbecue from…

    …Calf’s head, see we take it and wrap in clean white cloth and wrap it tight in canvas put it down in a pit of hot mesquite coals, stays down there 18 hours or so and boy them brains is sure sweet.”

    Elizabeth Taylor faints in his arms.

    Watch and listen to Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor at the 2:15 mark of this video from 1956 “Giant” on their Reata Ranch in Texas in this good slice of Americana:

    And to answer the reader’s question, I like the picnic cookout area near the waterfall by the old Pierce Mill on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park:

  • saf

    Rock Creek Park, area #!

  • The poster “just had a barbecue in RCP” and a few others were the only worthwhile posts in this entire debacle of a conversation.

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