By Matthew Fusillo
For The Diamondback

After being cooped up in my dorm all semester and the weather finally beginning to warm up, I ventured out to Washington, D.C., for some fresh air and a change of scenery.

I found plenty of scenic outdoor destinations close enough for students in College Park to check out during a well-deserved break from schoolwork. Here are some of the stops you must visit before the semester comes to an end.

U.S. National Arboretum

The National Arboretum. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

The 446-acre National Arboretum is the perfect place to walk off any school stress. It contains 14 gardens, collections and exhibits — not including the administration building — that visitors can check out any day of the week, with only two facilities currently closed.

The area houses more than 7,000 kinds of plants from all over the world, and they have international cooperation in countries such as Canada, Israel and Portugal.

It also has free admission, and reservations are not needed, so it is the perfect place for students to visit if they are interested in nature. And as an additional bonus, you get to enjoy the beautiful weather.

[For your walking pleasure: Here are the best trails in College Park]

Washington Navy Yard

Aerial view of the Washington Navy Yard. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Before the pandemic, you would have found me at Nationals Park every weekend — I’m a die-hard New York Mets fan and was excited to watch my team kick off their season against the Nationals. When I finally made it out there, I got a glimpse of the Mets. I saw them practicing on the field while peeking through the first base gate, which put a smile on my face.

Beyond baseball, I decided to visit Navy Yard and was amazed at how stunning the entire area is beyond the stadium. Docks and overlooks jut out onto the Anacostia River.

There are fabulous eateries that run along the water. Overall, the area’s tranquil spirit gives visitors a break from the crowds near the National Mall and is much more relaxed and nature-oriented.

A burger at Walters Sports Bar. (Matthew Fusillo/For The Diamondback)

Not to mention, I ate one of the best burgers I’ve ever had at one of the many unbelievable restaurants at Navy Yard, Walters Sports Bar. For all you food connoisseurs out there, it was piled with pepper jack cheese, bacon, onions and lettuce — and it was delicious.

Plus, you can walk the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail along the waterway for some scenic exercise.

[5 College Park essentials that UMD should send to at-home students]

Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery. (Matthew Fusillo/For The Diamondback)

Beyond D.C., I drifted across the Arlington Memorial Bridge into Virginia to see one of the most famous cemeteries in the country.

The gravesite of President John F. Kennedy stood tall in the cemetery with the Eternal Flame burning at the forefront.

The tour concluded at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, overlooking the cemetery. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of graves surrounding the area was incredibly powerful.


Seeing people enjoying themselves with the great food and weather served as a reminder as to what life was like before the pandemic — and pre-finals. With exams soon coming to an end and projections for an almost normal fall semester, hopefully that feeling will permanently return soon.