Friday Question of the Day – Favorite Peaceful space in DC?


A reader wrote in asking:

“For avid readers, who would like a relatively quiet place to read, yet in a somewhat amenable location for eats and coffee, where are good locations in DC?”

I’d def. be curious to hear folks recommendations but I’d also like to expand a bit – where are the places you go to unplug in DC – if you just want to relax and breathe? Besides my go to Meridian Hill Park, when I’m on the Hill I love the Bartholdi fountain and the nearby Botanic Gardens. Where are your favorite spots to just chill (indoors and outside?) And of course for folks who like to read/study away from home – where are your go to spots?

And here’s the view from those seats pictured above:

Bartholdi Fountain near the Capitol.

63 Comment

  • i used to do my high school summer reading at the big fountain on the southwest side of the national gallery of art. no one really came through there, it was shaded, and i get nostalgic for having hours and a bag of apples and just some books to read. also, RIP columbia heights coffee as a good place to read on rainy days.

  • Dumbarton Oaks or Montrose Park — pick up a sandwich at Stachowskis on your way over! The Botanic Gardens, the Arboretum, though neither have food very close you could easily find some food on your way to or from. The Spanish Steps. Some of the public libraries. There are a few more or less abandoned tiny cemeteries around NW that I find oddly appealing, and they are all quiet except for the occasional dog walker.
    If I want a drink, the Venetian Room in the Hotel Lombardy is a refreshing change of pace from the LOUD decor of all the other bars in town.

  • Hillwood….totally worth the yearly membership fee.

    • I’ve never heard of Hillwood and am trying to figure it out from their website. It seems like a pretty mansion that is a notch below a museum. Do you need to be a member to visit? As a member, are you allowed to just…hang out there? Does it function as a social club of some sort?

      • There’s a mansion and gardens. The house itself (Marjorie Merriweather Post’s) is definitely worth visiting once. She managed to maintain a lifestyle from another era (footmen, etc.) well into the 60s.
        The gardens are lovely and you could return in different seasons to enjoy the changes. I think the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks are more interesting and appealing, but the beauty of DC is that we don’t have to choose only one!

      • No, you don’t have to be a member to visit. It’s a $15 “suggested donation” to visit for the day, or $50 for unlimited for the year. And yes, you can hang out as much as you want. The grounds are huge and peaceful, include a bunch of different themed gardens with benches and picnic spots scattered throughout. It’s gorgeous!

  • The Olmstead Woods and the Bishop’s Garden on the grounds of the National Cathedral are wonderful, quiet spots for a walk or just being still.

  • binpetworth

    Indoors: Non-fiction room in Petworth Library
    Outdoors: Meridian Hill park, the park on Hamilton St between 13th & 14th NW

  • The courtyard of the Portrait Gallery / American Art museum is a great indoor space. Lots of natural light, fairly quiet for the size, decent cafe adjacent to the atrium.

  • The Franciscan Monestary & Garden in Brookland is one of my favorite spots for stepping away from things.

  • SW duck pond!

  • justinbc

    Easy answer for me: Lafayette Square if I’m at work and need a break, especially beautiful during magnolia blooming season…Lincoln Park when I’m at home…Dumbarton Oaks when I want to really immerse in the serenity.
    My 2 favorite spots at Dumbarton, one for spring and one for fal:

    • palisades

      I’ve lived here (palisades obviously) for about 8 months. Still haven’t checked out Dumbarton Oaks. Definitely something I’ll be doing this weekend thanks to those pictures

  • The outdoor patio behind Firehook Bakery & Coffeehouse in Cleveland Park.

  • I grab a cup of coffee at Baked ‘n Wired and find a relatively uncrowded spot along the canal to sit.

  • My favorite indoor and outdoor spots have been mentioned. So I’ll just chime in to encourage people to chill. Like a stereotypical DC resident and parent, the idea of spending an afternoon just chilling is something I can’t remember doing recently. But it sounds nice, and would probably make me a better neighbor (and driver).

  • Crispus Attucks Park in Bloomingdale is lovely and surprisingly sheltered from the sounds of the nearby roads.

    • +1. Drunkenly stumbled into Crispus Attacks late one night, and was really impressed with how nice and serene it was.

  • The Sculpture Garden at the Hirshhorn. Sunken and surrounded by brick, even when it’s 40degs out you can sit, be comfortable, read and actually get a tan. Shhh, don’t tell anyone 🙂

    • 40 degrees Celsius, I assume?

      • Actually, I think s/he means 40 degrees F.
        Since the Hirshorn Garden is sunken and completely sheltered from the wind, as long as it’s sunny and you are reasonably well wrapped up it’s a pleasant place to sit even when it’s pretty chilly out. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it during a polar vortex but on an average, clear winter day it’s perfect to sit outside and get some fresh air.

  • Can I just say that this whole thread is making me feel so happy, and yes, peaceful…Great Friday question, POP!

  • Emmaleigh504

    I don’t have one in DC b/c I don’t need to getaway from anything in DC. Work on the other hand…. I like the little park in front of the courthouse in Alexandria. It’s quiet, yet has enough foot traffic for me to people watch.

  • In the Sculpture Garden there’s a Marc Chagall mosaic on your way to the bathrooms, sort of right behind the typewriter eraser, but on the other side of some trees. It’s in its own little clearing and is a perfect escape from everything. Plus, it’s gorgeous art.

  • I have so many! Chilling outside in the park is my favorite thing to do. A few spots: strolling on the C&O canal (as you walk away from Georgetown it becomes very peaceful) Dumbarton Oaks (the garden and also the adjacent trail), Montrose Park, the northern trails of Rock Creek Park, Glover Archbold trail, the woods around the National Cathedral, Meridian Hill Park, Constitution Gardens.

    But my favorite is walking up early on a Saturday or Sunday, getting coffee and a pastry from Baked and Wired, and sitting by the river at the Georgetown Waterfront. It’s so peaceful in the morning, like I have the neighborhood all to myself. I’m moving out of Georgetown next month and I’m really going miss all my Georgetown parks and chill out places. It’s the best thing about this neighborhood 🙁

  • The word is already out on many of them… In the case of Meridian Hill Park, it is still quiet 90% of the time. Only crowded and “loud” Saturday and Sunday afternoons and summer evenings sometimes… And that’s just the top part. The bottom part is almost always pretty serene.

  • The riding ring on Ridge Rd in Rock Creek Park
    The top of the reservoir at Ft. Reno Park near the corner of Fessenden and Belt Rd. It;s the highest point in DC and has a great view to the west/sunset.
    West Potomac Park

    • Ridge Road is great! I do a running route through there sometimes, and it is so peaceful, especially in winter, and especially when it closed by snow cover. You really just feel like you’re in the middle of the woods and not in DC.

  • The knot garden at Folger Library, hands down.

  • I love Bartholdi Park and the Bartholdi Fountain — was there just on Monday, and might stop by again today!
    When I was working near Pershing Park in a job I hated, Pershing Park was a really nice refuge. (And a wi-fi-equipped one!)
    Like others, I really like the enclosed courtyard (I think the Kogod Courtyard?) at the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum.

  • the garden behind the brewmaster’s castle in dupont is peaceful and never crowded. great for stress relief in the middle of a busy work day.

  • Rock. Creek. Park.

  • Secret Garden at Freer/Sackler. It’s totally zen.

  • The Library of Congress’s Main Reading Room

  • Downtown, I would nominate the Ripley Garden: tucked between the Hirschhorn and Arts & Industry, a wonderful but little-known and very peaceful garden:

  • The U.S Botanic Garden is my favorite as a nature-lover. I feel so calm and serene in there, and it’s super healthy to just spend some time there breathing in the warm, humid air that is so incredibly hyper-oxygenated from all the plants. Another nice spot is Meridian Park in Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant (15th Street). However, the Arboretum is by far the best bet for a nature “getaway” in the heart of the city. I also love the Catholic Basilica on the campus of CUA (Brookland-CUA). Regardless of one’s religious persuasion (or lack thereof) this place is simply a miracle of quiet and serenity.

  • I love the upper reaches of the Arborteum. Climb the stairs, and you’re surrounded by a tropical jungle. It’s a good way to clear the head.

    • I love that, too. And the woodland area. You can go for a walk in the woods without ever getting too deep into the woods.

  • The Arboretum hands down!

  • The Signers of the Declaration of Independence memorial: an island retreat in the heart of the city. The occasional tourist may stop by but most don’t even attempt to cross the bridge. Almost every time I’ve been there, there’s usually no one else.

  • A few oddly serene spots in the city that haven’t shown up so far:
    The Summerhouse on the Capitol grounds
    The science-on-a-sphere room in the Zoo’s Amazon House
    The back side of the Lincoln Memorial

  • Yards Park is pretty legit

  • Kahlil Gibran memorial is one of my favorites

  • Woodley Normanstone Park. It’s basically just a small patch of woods off Mass Ave, but there’s a trail running through it and almost no one ever there. You can completely forget you’re in a city.

Comments are closed.