The Sculpture Garden is one of the most underrated (and instagramable) places to check out in D.C. It’s part of the National Gallery of Art (which is right across the street) and includes over a dozen sculptures ranging in size from small to giant. In addition to these sculptures, the garden includes new plantings of native American species of canopy trees, flowering trees, shrubs, ground covers, and perennials that compliment the powerful art installations.
There are few different entrances to the actual garden – one on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, three on 7th Street, and two on the National Mall between 7th and 9th Streets NW. The Garden opens right at 10am and is open every day until 7pm. Except, of course, on Fridays which during the late spring and throughout the summer it stays open until 9:30 with live music, beer & wine, and lots of millennials on picnic blankets to enjoy the weekly “Jazz in the Garden” event.
One of my favorite areas of the deceptively huge garden is the main fountain area. The lip of the fountain is large enough to sit on (and even dip your feet off in, if it’s summer and you’re dying to cool down), and the large fountain sprays offer a cooling respite, even on the hottest of August nights in D.C. Speaking of the fountain, every year from December to March this fountain turns into an actual skating rink you can visit, which really makes NGA a great place to visit all year round.
This is a lovely place to stroll through, take a break in the shade from walking around the mall, and even grab a bite to eat. You can check out the Pavilion Cafe (menu here) for a quick bite while enjoying panoramic views of the garden. While not exactly cheap fare, you can still get a personal pizza for under $10, and the reviews are usually pretty good. Since The Mall is a bit of a food-desert, the Pavilion Cafe is a pretty good spot to stop if you’re starving.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the garden and about the art and flowers that inhabit it, you can also embark on a self-guided tour with the help of this handy-dandy site provided by NGA.