Outdoor escapes

Outdoor escapes

With spring weather in full stride, the call to be outside is inevitable. On Capitol Hill, the natural tendency is to swarm the popular House and Senate parks. But for those who prefer to avoid the crowds, The Hill took the opportunity to survey some of the off-the-beaten-path outdoor spots nearby where staffers and members of Congress can escape their hectic office climates for a brief respite. Whether for lunch with a colleague or just for a moment of solace, these locales should be on your list to help you soak up spring.

John Marshall Park

If you’re looking for some strategic gaming during your afternoon break, the John Marshall Park is a sure bet.

Nestled between the Canadian Embassy and the U.S. District Court on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the park is a five-minute walk from the Capitol, and it boasts a half-dozen permanent metal chess boards in the stone walls that double as seating.

Metal and wooden benches also abound throughout the three levels of this park, with a giant statue of its namesake — former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall — presiding over it. This park spans a block but is far enough from the street that the noisy traffic running nearby is but distant background noise. You’ll find shade in the park’s perimeter and sun exposure on the dandelion-dotted patch of grass in its center.

Georgetown Law Center

The Georgetown Law Center is perfect for the staffer who needs a couple of minutes to himself. Just a five-minute walk west of Union Station, this quaint piazza includes a series of wooden benches around a large clock tower. Though not as big as some of the other parks on our list, this hidden gem — situated at First and F streets NW — is a sure escape for the days when you just need to leave Capitol Hill behind for a moment.

Stanton Park

Only several blocks east of the Capitol, Stanton Park, with its jungle gym and expansive wooden benches, can offer staffers a little levity in their day. The space, at 4th and C streets NE, is smattered with hopscotch boards, loose balls and other traces of youthful cheer. The park’s center is set off by a circle of bushes and curved benches perfect for kicking back with a book or sharing lunch with a friend. If nothing else, the park’s antics will surely ease the day’s stress. After all, there’s nothing like watching children playing tag to put the day into perspective.

Folger Park

Folger Park is hidden on the backstreets of Capitol Hill, but it’s just a five-minute walk southeast of the Capitol. With cracked asphalt walkways and dried-up fountains strewn with lichen, this park, at 2nd and D streets SE, has an old-time feel to it. The park is split into two sections. On the north side, giant trees provide shade for scores of benches, and on the south, an open field of grass beckons a big blanket and picnic basket. One warning: Squirrels abound.

Bartholdi Park

If you seek inspiration from flowers, go to Bartholdi Park, just west of the Rayburn House Office Building. It has a wide variety of plants, flowers and trees, including Greek buttercups, Turkish mint, amaryllises and tulips. The park’s fountain is under repair, and a construction wall blocks it from view. But on the west side are some secluded benches for peace and quiet. This park is the perfect place to study the flora or take a breather from an otherwise demanding schedule.