The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to 54 National Park Service sites. These include parks, monuments, memorials, paths, parkways and historic sites. While some, like Shenandoah National Park in Virginia or the National Mall in Washington, D.C., are quite popular, there are many lesser-known sites throughout the region that are worth a visit. Learn more about seven of these hidden gems.
1. Greenbelt Park (Greenbelt, Maryland)
Greenbelt Park, nicknamed “The Urban Oasis,” is located just outside Washington, D.C. As it’s so close to the city, Greenbelt Park is metro accessible. Visitors can drive or walk the three miles from the College Park metro station to the park.
The park features a campground with 174 sites, a large picnic area, playgrounds and four hiking trails. The trails range from under a mile to just over five miles. Kids can visit the Ranger Station to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet. Once the booklet is completed, they earn the Greenbelt Park Junior Ranger badge.
2. Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm (Oxon Hill, Maryland)
The history of Oxon Hill Farm goes back to the early 1800s, when the property was the Mount Welby Plantation. The land was later purchased by the U.S. government and converted into a therapeutic farm for a nearby hospital. Today, the National Park Service manages the land as a way to preserve the agricultural history of the region. Visitors can explore this history by viewing the antique farming equipment in the Visitor Barn and touring the historic Mount Welby house.
This site offers hands-on opportunities to experience life on a farm. Visitors can feed the animals, learn how to milk a cow or enjoy a wagon ride around the fields. The park has two short trails and is also a great spot for picnics. Kids can visit the Kid’s Activity Corner in the Visitor Barn or complete the Oxon Cove Park Junior Ranger booklet.
3. Thomas Stone National Historic Site (Port Tobacco, Maryland)
Thomas Stone National Historic Site preserves the home and land of Thomas Stone, one of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. The site includes Stone’s historic home, called Haberdeventure, as well as farm buildings and a small family cemetery. Visitors can explore the land themselves or go on guided tours of the home.
Special programs occur at the site throughout the year. For those interested in a historical Independence Day celebration, the National Park Service hosts events on July 4th to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In December, visitors can visit the site to experience a colonial Christmas.
4. Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument (Washington, D.C.)
This historic house, located in northeast D.C., is more than 200 years old and was the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party for 90 years. The home was one of the buildings burned during the British invasion in the War of 1812, but was rebuilt in 1820. The National Woman’s Party purchased the house more than a century later in 1929.
The Belmont-Paul house is named for Alva Belmont, who was the National Woman’s Party President and donated the money to allow the party to purchase the home, and Alice Paul, a suffragist who founded the National Woman’s Party. Visitors can tour the home, which was designated a national monument in 2016, Wednesdays through Sundays.
5. Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, Pennsylvania)
Steamtown preserves the history of steam locomotives. Located in a former railroad yard, Steamtown National Historic Site contains a collection of locomotives and freight cars.
Visitors to the site can learn more in the museums dedicated to the history of locomotion and its technology. Get an up-close look at these machines on a tour of the locomotive repair shops or embark on short train rides during certain seasons.
6. Turkey Run Park (McLean, Virginia)
Turkey Run Park is located along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The park is in the Potomac Gorge and includes a variety of habitats from old growth forests to flood terraces. Visitors can see various types of wildlife depending on the season, including warblers, woodpeckers and 20 rare or endangered species.
Park visitors can take advantage of the picnic tables or hike along the Potomac Heritage Trail, which runs through the park. Turkey Run is also a site for the Learn to Ride program, where park rangers teach participants to ride a bike in a safe, low-stress environment. The program is very popular and is often booked several months in advance.
7. Jones Point Park (Alexandria, Virginia)
Jones Point Park is located on the banks of the Potomac River, at the intersection of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The point was once a major shipping center and is home to a historic lighthouse—the last riverine lighthouse in Virginia. An interpretive trail takes visitors through the history of the area, including its commercial, Native American and natural histories.
The park offers a variety of recreation opportunities for visitors in addition to the interpretive trail, including fishing piers, a canoe launch, community garden plots, playgrounds and basketball courts. Visitors can also explore the park’s marsh habitat and look for wildlife. Bikers or walkers can access the park via the Mount Vernon Trail, which runs through Jones Point.