After a couple of years of urging from my husband, we made a trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (The Lily Ponds) last weekend and I was amazed at the beauty and tranquility of this park. Located in an older neighborhood in Northeast DC, the Aquatic Gardens can easily be missed because entrances to Kenilworth Park are much more obvious, and not particularly desirable. However a drive around the corner reveals a parking lot and shaded path to The Aquatic Gardens.
I had never realized how captivating water lilies are, as they were blooming in mass on my visit. They are spectacular; a few ponds held pale pink, or hot pink, lilies. There is a luminescent quality to the white ones that is enchanting, each flower seemed more perfect than the last. There were a couple that were not blooming, yet the leaves seemed to defy gravity and boasted a spiritual artistic quality that could not be described.
The Aquatic Gardens have a couple boardwalks with suitable shaded spots for viewing the marshes or photographing birds and wildlife. There is also a gift shop and information area with some interesting blurbs about how these gardens got started, namely by Walter Shaw in the 1800s who named the pink opal lily after his daughter, renowned artist and lily cultivator in her own rite, Helen Fowler. This park is known worldwide for its unparalleled variety of water lily species, which bloom at different times over the Spring and early Summer.
The park is free to visit (parking is free, too) and the park closes at 6:30pm according to summertime notices. Everything seemed to be accessible by wheelchairs, with ramps built for the restrooms. There are many spots of shade, but not a lot of benches until you get to the end of the boardwalks. I was happy to see both Trash and Recycling bins clearly marked at a few key points on the path (recycling is something I rarely see in DC’s parks, unfortunately).
Don’t forget your camera!