With its gleaming skyscrapers and lively city vibe, Arlington may not be the first place you think of for outdoor activities. But when you visit here in springtime, you’ll find that Arlington’s beautiful, natural landscapes come alive with a colorful array of flora and fauna.
Mixed in with your exploration of famous capital-area sights, be sure to take time to enjoy some of Arlington’s outside fun.
From biking and walking to exploring nature centers and historic sites, Arlington’s outdoor activities are a breath of fresh air in the heart of an urban center. With more than 75 miles of trails and 1,100 acres of park and open space, you’ll be just steps from nature throughout your stay. Here’s how to make the most of it!
Paths to Fun
Ride a bike or take a jog down the Mount Vernon Trail along the shores of the Potomac River. Starting in Arlington’s Rosslyn neighborhood, the trail goes all the way to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, nearly 20 miles south. The path's shady, winding paths are mostly flat, and the trail gives you unobstructed views of Washington, D.C. as you cruise past green spaces, old bridges and marinas. Stop for a picnic at Gravelly Point and get a close-up view of takeoffs and landings at nearby Reagan National Airport.
Feeling ambitious? Walk or ride the “Arlington Loop,” a paved route on parts of four dedicated multi-purpose trails -- 16.2 miles if you cover it all. You’ll enjoy scenic views of the capital skyline, Reagan National Airport, the Four Mile Run stream and more. You can even stop at the Village at Shirlington for an al fresco bite at one of many restaurants. Need wheels? Stop by any of the more than 90 Capital Bikeshare stations found throughout Arlington and purchase a day pass.
To get up close with nature, spend some time deep in the woods of Potomac Overlook Regional Park, where you can explore 70 acres of forest, trails and educational gardens, all of which are spectacular in the spring. Keep an eye out for deer and other wildlife.
Explore Theodore Roosevelt Island, a memorial to America’s 26th president. The island, accessible off the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Arlington, has miles of trails through wooded uplands and swampy bottomlands, all designed to honor Roosevelt’s legacy as a great outdoorsman and conservationist. Volunteer-led weekly park runs and occasional moonlit walks are offered around the island.
Ways to the Water
Also along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the Columbia Island Marina docks more than 300 vessels and serves as a put-in for kayaks and paddleboards. The marina is located in the beautiful Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove on the Pentagon Lagoon. Setting out from here will give you instant views of Washington. D.C. monuments.
See Arlington and Washington, D.C. from the river! Just a short walk across Key Bridge from Rosslyn, the Key Bridge Boathouse provides rentals for canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding, as well as a selection of classes and tours. Time it right, and you can even participate in a Full Moon Monuments Paddle or a Twilight Monuments Tour.
To extend your embrace of nature, visit one of Arlington’s farmers markets for locally grown fruits, vegetables and other treats!
[Photo of Washington, D.C. skyline at Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, Virginia via @savanahsperry]