One block off Wisconsin Avenue in upper Georgetown delivers you far from the madding crowds to the peaceful refuge of Dumbarton Oaks. The estate includes a museum devoted to Byzantine and pre-Columbian art, a research center and library, and 10 acres of formal and informal gardens. Many skip the museum altogether simply to wander along the garden’s hedge-lined walkways, into the orangery, past the weeping cherry trees, and all around the garden plots, admiring what’s in bloom as they go. If it’s April, you may see bluebells. August? Dahlias. The gardens offer several pretty places to perch, and are adorned here and there with garden ornaments and artwork. Note: The gardens can get crowded in spring and early summer, when they are at their loveliest.
Do try to make time for the museum, whose newly renovated galleries display 1,200 Byzantine artifacts, including jewelry, lamps, icons, and illuminated manuscripts from the 4th to the 15th centuries; and pre-Columbian objects such as Aztec stone carvings, Inca gold ornaments, and Olmec heads. Other highlights include the Flemish tapestries and an El Greco painting, The Visitation, on display in the Renaissance-style Music Room. Like the Phillips Collection, the museum’s mansion setting adds to its charm.
The house and gardens, situated at the highest point of Georgetown, belonged to Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, who initiated these collections and gardens in the first half of the 20th century. Both the garden and the museum require timed tickets for entry; you can book these online at www.doaks.org.