Ask the affable Capitol Hill police officer stationed at the foot of the west face of the Capitol for tips about visiting and he says, “Be prepared to walk.”
Within the 290-acre Capitol complex, these enclosed park grounds of nearly 60 bonny acres are sublimely strollable, just as intended by landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (sound familiar? New York’s Central Park is his handiwork, too), when he plotted them from 1874 to 1892. Curving walkways, clusters of trees (over 100 varieties), and plantings of seasonal flowers are among the pleasures here. Olmsted was careful to position landscape features in ways that frame the view of the Capitol, not obscure it.
Sculptures placed along the bottom periphery portray memorials to presidents Garfield and Taft, and to naval heroes who died at sea during the Civil War. Seek out Olmsted’s little jewel box, the hexagonal, red-brick Summer House, in a northwest corner of the grounds, for a peaceful respite, a bit of shade, and a stolen kiss or two.
FYI: The Capitol often offers walking tours of the grounds.
Metro: Capitol South on the Silver, Blue and Orange Lines or either Union Station or Judiciary Square (4th St. between D and E streets) on the Red Line.