Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is such a gem in Washington DC and it’s FREE. I went all the way to Thailand to boat around in a lake of lotus flowers, but this huge garden of lotuses was right in my backyard!
Lotus at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
One of the main attractions of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is the lotuses and lilies that bloom here!
There are quite a variety of them and some are HUGE. The two most photographed varieties are the Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and the American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea).
The Sacred Lotus are the bright pink ones and the American lotus are the cream with pink tips on the petals.
Hours and Location
1550 Anacostia Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20019
Standard Hours are Monday – Friday, 8am to 4pm
For 2021 the Park has extended the hours on certain days for the lotus viewing:
The park will be open until 8 p.m. on Fridays July 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st, to give everyone more time to see the lotus and lily flowers. The park has a picnic area where you can bring your own food. Most Fridays, they will have a food truck on-site where you can buy dinner or a snack.
Parking at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Kenilworth Park has on-site parking right next to the lotus ponds and it’s free, but it fills up quickly on the weekends especially during peak lotus bloom.
When I got there at opening around 7:45 am there were already a few cars in the parking lot, by the time I left the parking lot was completely full.
When is Lotus Peak Bloom at Kenilworth
The lotuses bloom from May to August but peak bloom for about 2 weeks in mid-July.
I went two weekends in a row on July 12th and July 18th. Both times were amazing! Because not all the flowers bloom at once you will find different areas in bloom!
2021 Lotus and Water Lily Festival
The National Park Service holds an annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens during peak bloom. For 2021 the Festival itself will be virtual.
The following events have been planned for the Virtual 2021 Lotus and Water Lily Festival:
- July 8 – 7:00 pm – Opening Ceremony (Virtual)
- July 9 – 4:00-8:00 pm – Extended Hours
- July 10 – 1:00 pm – Lotus Tea (Virtual)
- July 13 – 10:00 am – 1pm – Lotus Craft
- July 15 – 12:00 pm – Shaw Water Gardens history talk (Virtual)
- July 16 – 4:00-8:00 pm – Extended Hours
- July 17 – 1:00 pm – Origami
- July 18 – 1:00 pm – Virtual Garden Tour en Español (Virtual)
- July 19 – 12:00 – Opening Ceremony Replay (Virtual)
- July 20 – 12:00 – Water Lily Family (Virtual)
- July 22 – 12:00 – Hardy Water Lily (Virtual)
- July 27 – 12:00 – Lotus or Lily? (Virtual)
- July 28 – 1:00 – Lotus Craft
- July 29 – 12:00 – The Manchurian Lotus (Virtual)
For more information on the Festival go here.
Best Time to Visit Kenilworth Aquatic Park for Lotus Blooms
The best time to view the lotuses is early in the morning before the heat forces them to close their blooms. Also, it tends to be less crowded in the morning hours. I visited on Sunday morning right at 8 am and there were already a few people!
By the time I left at around 10:30 am the parking lot was completely full and they were only allowing people into the lot as each car left. You can find street parking and walk into the park.
I saw a few picnic tables next to the ponds in the shade where you can have a quick break from the heat.
In the morning the tables were empty but when I left all the tables were full.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Photography
Photography is definitely allowed here! And you can use your tripod.
The people I saw here early in the morning were all photographers with tripods. I actually took most the shots in this post with my tripod.
Covid-19 Conditions at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens & Park
Because of the pandemic, in 2020 the NPS made the loop around the gardens 1 way only. I’m not sure if they will enforce the same thing for 2021.
You will see signs for the direction of the path. They have also closed the narrower walkways around the bright pink lotuses with blockades. I did see several people, unfortunately not obey the barriers and go in there anyway.
Please don’t do this and follow the rules. For a current map of the lotus ponds at Kenilworth click here.
The NPS has closed the buildings and restrooms inside the park.
Everyone I saw there wore a mask which is great!
The paths are really to narrow to properly social distance once it gets crowded. And basically by 9 am it was kind of crowded.
Taking kids to see the Lotus at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
I did not take my child with me because of the narrow pathways and the heat.
Personally I knew it would be hard for her to keep a mask on when it’s so hot outside. I did see several families with kids though, and even a few babies in carriers and strollers.
It is hard to maintain social distancing around the ponds of lotuses though.
If I took my child I would go when they first opened and hang out for may an hour before it gets crowded on Saturday or Sunday. Or go during the week when it’s less busy.
Tips for Visiting Kenilworth Aquatic Garden Lotus
- Wear sneakers or hiking sandals because this area is a marsh and can be muddy
- Spray bug spray before going
- Wear sunscreen as not all the paths have shade
- There are lots of bees here so if you have a phobia or an allergy I’d avoid this garden
- Go early in the morning to avoid crowds
- It does get hot so bring water
Want more flower fields near Washington DC? Purple Rain Lavender Farm in Maryland has stunning lavender fields and so does Springfield Manor Winery. If you are up for a drive, Lavender by the Bay is my favorite lavender field on the east coast! McKee Beshers sunflowers are about to bloom in mid-July. If you miss those flower fields 5 more sunflower fields in Maryland and Virginia bloom in August and September, including my favorite in Clear Meadow Farm. And if you want to pick your own flowers definitely check out these flower fields that offer pick your own near Washington DC or spend a day at Butler’s Orchard and pick your own fruits too. For even more flowers these gardens in DC offer spectacular blooms all year round!