What do you picture in your head when you imagine a “Navy Yard?” Many might see a colossal shipyard with rows of docks and Navy ships.
The Navy Yard is actually a 330-acre neighborhood in Washington, D.C. with many shops and different types of restaurants. A popular option is a rooftop bar.
In the 1810s, it was a shipbuilding location for the government. Then, after being used as an ammunition plant, it became the headquarters for the U.S. Navy. Both the Navy’s administrative and ceremonial centers now dominate the site’s governmental area.
Due to the historical importance of the largest onshore Naval facility and its expansion and development, Washington D.C.’s Navy yard hosts well over 100,000 visitors annually. At the peak of the Navy Yard’s governmental activities, there were 188 buildings and over 25,000 civilian employees.
Exploring the D.C. Navy Yard
Exploring Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard today can take days or even weeks. Fabulous sights, flavors, knowledge, history, tastes, and experiences range from impressively grandiose to simple items such as an antique teapot in a second-hand shop.
While there are innumerable things to do while enjoying your visit, here are five things to do in Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard that will get you started on this fun adventure.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The dedication and compulsive cataloging of everything air and space make the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum the most esteemed worldwide.
The expertise of the exhibit creators, the range and variety of artifacts, and the unheard stories to be discovered draws the attention of interested armchair explorers and seekers of the truth alike.
There is a highly documented interest in the history of flight. Following the timeline of men’s air and space, flight endeavors help us understand the challenges and rewards obtained over the past century in America.
From India’s Vedic texts, through Da Vinci’s notebook sketches of flying machines, and continuing with Mars exploration, mankind’s fascination with flight has always existed.
If you are a baseball fan, you already know about Nationals Park. The Major League Baseball stadium is a relatively new addition to the Navy Yard Community. The architects completed it in 2008 at a total cost of a staggering $783.9 million.
The Nationals Park is home to the Washington Nationals baseball franchise and seats 41,339 spectators. This sports complex was the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified “green” major professional sports stadium in America.
Since the construction of Nationals Park, the Washington Nations baseball team has hosted and played in the 2019 World Series. It was the first time Washington, D.C. had been in a World Series game since 1933, and it was also the first time that the away teams won every single game, meaning that no team won a single game they hosted at their home stadium.
United States Botanic Garden
Part of the Navy Yard now includes the Capital Building. The same architect who designed the Capital also created the National Botanic Garden. It remains the oldest botanic garden in the United States.
Congress directs the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) through the Architect of the Capital. This office is responsible for the Capital grounds and, under that wing, the USBG. It is open every day of the year, including federal holidays.
National Gallery of Art
One of the most remarkable art collections is available for viewing at the Navy Yard at the United States Gallery of Art and its attached sculpture garden. The exhibition follows Western Art from the Middle Ages through the present.
Exhibits include the only Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece on public display in North America: “Ginevra de Benci.” In addition, the Gallery displays the largest mobile created by Alexander Calder.
A joint resolution of Congress in 1932 established the art museum. The Mellon family largely funded the endeavor, donating significant artwork to the cause.
The Sculpture Garden spans 6.1 acres and deserves a day alone to absorb.
National Museum of the U.S. Navy
What would a trip to Washington D.C.’s Navy Yard be without a visit to the National Museum of the U.S. Navy?
Located in buildings 70 and 76 at the Navy Yard, this national museum “collects, preserves, displays, and interprets historic naval artifacts and artwork to inform, educate, and inspire naval personnel and the general public.”
The National Museum of the United States Navy comprises several museums that include the following:
- U.S. Naval Academy Museum
- Puget Sound Military
- Submarine Force Museum
- National Naval Aviation Museum
- National Museum of the American Sailor
- Hampton Roads Naval Museum
- U.S. Navy Seabee Museum
- Naval Undersea Museum
- Naval War College Museum
All those museums equate to a great deal of time exploring anything and everything nautical with the U.S. Navy.
The Bottom Line
Washington, D.C., is steeped in American history. It wasn’t the first Nation’s Capital – that was in New York. However, Washington D.C. has been the U.S. Capital since 1790.
The United States Navy was founded in 1775 in Philadelphia when that city was the U.S.Capital for a short time. The center of naval operations was transferred to Washington when the powers that be relocated the Capital permanently.
If you are visiting Washington D.C. and have limited time, the above five things to do at Washington D.C.’s Navy Yard are great points with which to begin.
This starting point will introduce you to other historic buildings, monuments, culture, and local cuisine as you travel, providing you with an ever-growing amount of intriguing options to explore. People have lived in the Navy Yard district for years and still have not seen everything.
The most impressive aspect of visiting the Nation’s Capital is the variety of options for all interests and age groups; it is a favorite destination for high school seniors and family trips.
History, culture, athletics, gardens, and space exploration are all represented in Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard.
Which interest will you explore first?