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4 Parks Arlington Visitors Will Love

Arlington’s Park system wasn’t named the 4th best in the U.S. for nothing.

Not only are 99% of our residents just a 10-minute walk to a park – it’s the same easy access for our visitors! There’s something for everyone in Arlington (well okay, not skiing or mountain biking). For a quick overview, use this park sorter.

How about we make it easy? Here are four great options to start.

1. Bon Air Rose Garden

This old-school park is an English-style rose garden hidden away in Arlington. It has a spectacular range of roses (more than 130 varieties), each one carefully identified. They’re all neatly arranged, interspersed with walking paths, benches, and trellises. The roses are at their peak bloom around the end of May through June and start fading in early July. Here’s a history of how the garden developed. It’s not uncommon to see numerous selfies and photos in this park. It’s gorgeous. If looks aren’t all that matter to you and you want to learn more, there are also demonstration sunny and shade gardens with an expansive variety of plants.

If you wander up the path to the shady garden in October near Halloween, you may even see Zombies! There’s a super fun run through the park for people who are brave enough to run faster than Zombies (no worries, staff will direct those faint of heart to a less scary course in the park.)

Bon Air Rose Garden
Bon Air Rose Garden

2. Long Bridge Park

With more than 30 acres of recreation and open space, Long Bridge Park is a new-school, distinctive showplace of environmentally sound redevelopment. The park has a central expanse of attractive public green spaces and high-quality outdoor facilities. It used to be an EPA SuperFund site, and now it’s entirely transformed — it just shows what can happen with the will and great planning. If you look past the fields, which are home to Marymount University soccer and lacrosse along with numerous regional and national tournaments, there is a network of walkways and an overlook at the north end of the park with views of capital monuments. It also has the Wave Arbor — a public art feature by nationally recognized artist Doug Hollis – and a three-quarter acre rain garden and planted garden of native shrubs and perennials. The park’s raised walkway, or Esplanade, is a great place for train and plane watching and overlooks the Potomac River and Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary. And if you have little ones – or it’s a hot day – the play/spray ground is so refreshing. Stop by after a day of sightseeing and cool off.

 Long Bridge Wave
Wave Arbor at Long Bridge Park/Credit: Jesse Snyder Photography

3. Glencarlyn Park

This perfect city park is a beautiful and secluded 95.5-acre park just minutes from the heart of the nation’s capital that offers a host of family activities. Currently, you can enjoy nature trails, connections to the Four Mile Run, and Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) trails (you can run, bike, or walk all or part of the 60 miles to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia from here), and a nearby dog park.

Trails throughout this park offer a beautiful setting for bird watching and other outdoor activities. There are sightings of everything from woodpeckers to wood ducks and warblers. Also located at Glencarlyn Park at 4955 Columbia Pike, you’ll find a learning loop for young cyclists, a water bottle filler, a bike repair station, and a rain garden. Oh yeah, there are also playgrounds and picnic shelters – park business as usual.

Glencarlyn Park Playground
Glencarlyn Park Playground

4. Fort C.F. Smith

Fort C.F. Smith is a beautiful 19-acre site that includes a lush tree canopy, an open meadow, the lovely Victorian Hendry House (so pretty people get married here), preserved earthworks of the Union Army’s Civil War fort built in 1863, and many other outstanding features. The earthwork ruins at this park are the best-preserved ruins of the 22 forts that were located in Arlington during the Civil War. The ruins include the bomb-proof, the fort well, the north magazine, and 11 of the 22 gun emplacements. If that means something to you, then you’ll love our visitor center (check here to be sure the center has reopened due to COVID-19). Read more about the history of Fort C.F. Smith.

There is a half-mile of trail on the site. The trails are of a variety of surfaces including asphalt, mulch, concrete, and gravel. Enjoy a stroll on the grounds while observing wildlife, open space, and historic features as outlined on interpretive signage throughout the grounds. Take a walking tour of Fort C.F. Smith Park.

Deer, fox, rabbit, and squirrel are among the wildlife that may be observed in the park. Barred and Screech Owls are known to frequent the area along with other interesting wildlife who visit the Bird Creek as well. Bird Creek is a man-made feature, created to attract and retain migrating birds and to provide a water source for other wildlife in the park. Visitors can expect to see both resident and migrating birds including Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Yellowthroat, Magnolia, and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Among the wide variety of tree species in the Ornamental Peace Garden are several unique varieties originally planted by the original owner, Dr. Hendry, including Japanese Raisin Tree, Ginko, Bottle-Brush Buckeye, English Walnut and Royal Paulownia. There are native hardwood forest trees and an abundant assortment of plants and flowers.

Wow! This is just a start – only minutes from the Washington monuments, museums, and history. And of course Arlington National Cemetery and Arlington House.

Author: Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation