As the days get shorter and the air gets crisper, it’s not surprising that people want to savor the remaining good weather as much as possible. And one of the best ways to easily have some outdoor fun in Arlington VA is to have a picnic in one of Arlington’s many parks!
If you are looking for things to do during COVID-19 social distancing regulations, then having a picnic in Arlington is a great opportunity. Stay safe and comfortable in the great outdoors with these 3 incredible places to have a picnic in Northern Virginia!
For today’s Neighborhood Spotlight, we want to specifically highlight 3 of our favorite places for picnicking. All of these spots are great options for soaking up the final vestiges of the summer heat, or for bundling up with a nice thermos of cocoa and a warm flannel picnic blanket. So, even once winter is fully here, these Arlington picnic spaces are great ways to enjoy NoVA’s natural beauty!
Do you have a hidden (or not-so-hidden) gem of a park, restaurant, or entertainment spot that you want us to highlight? Just let us know down in the comments!
Let’s get started!
Gravelly Point Park
If you are looking for a truly unique picnic setting, look no further than Gravelly Point Park. Located just north of Reagan Airport along the George Washington Parkway, this bankside green space is perfect for picnickers.
Part of what makes Gravelly Point so enjoyable is its unparalleled view of airplanes taking off from (and landing at) Ronald Reagan National Airport. Although other parks in Arlington — such as Long Bridge Park — can certainly give you a good view of this process, it’s truly hard to compare with the proximity to the airport on offer at Gravelly Point.
The main runway at Reagan (known as Runway 1/19, in case you’re interested) points directly towards the park. This means that planes using these runways soar directly over the heads of onlookers, often as low as just a couple hundred feet in the air. Because Gravelly Point is less than 1,000 feet from the end of the runway, it is one of the most stunning spots for airplane spotters in the entire country.
Getting to Gravelly Point
Unlike many other green spaces in NoVA, it can be a bit tricky to take your car to Gravelly Point Park. Although the picnic space is located along the George Washington Parkway, parking is somewhat limited.
One alternative to parking and walking is to bike to Gravelly Point using the Mount Vernon Trail!
With its views of Washington DC and gorgeous, cultivated green areas, Gateway Park is another of our favorite places for a picnic in Arlington VA. This park is located in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington and features 3 acres of beauty, both natural and manmade.
Although distinctly different from the one available at Gravelly Point, the view on offer at Gateway Park is stunning in its own right. Gateway might not sit directly on the Potomac, but visitors can still enjoy a breathtaking vantage of the river and Georgetown, the popular DC neighborhood, from Gateway Park’s Skywalk.
In addition to being a great place to lay out a prepared meal, Gateway Park has a lot of other events to enjoy. In years past — and presumably, in years to come — the amphitheater at Gateway Park has been home to the Rosslyn Jazz Fest. Currently, the park is hosting its O2 (Office Outside) program. This allows locals to get a taste of the outdoors while still taking care of business; desk space, complimentary office supplies, and free wi-fi will enable you to complete all of your work from the beauty of Rosslyn’s own Gateway Park!
Getting to Gateway Park
Luckily, getting to Gateway Park in Rosslyn is a very convenient process. The Arlington picnic space is located at 1300 Lee Highway, right at the base of Key Bridge. Please note that parking in the area can be somewhat limited, so you might have to park farther away and walk.
As an alternative, you can easily access Gateway via the Rosslyn Metro Station. The park is just a short walk from the Metro stop, so those who choose to take public transit can enjoy a nice picnic outing with no hassle.
Dark Star Park
In terms of basking in planned, artistic beauty, there aren’t many things to do in Arlington VA that rival Dark Star Park. This green space/art installation was originally built in 1984, designed and overseen by the famous sculpturist Nancy Holt. It underwent a restoration several decades later, reopening to the public in the early aughts.
While the concrete spheres of Dark Star Park have an austere allure in and of themselves, the meaning behind their placement lends an extra charm. At the base of each orb is a darkened patch — a sort of faux-shadow that can trick the eye at first glance. Once per year, on August 1st, the natural shadows cast by the Dark Stars line up with these pre-set markings at exactly 9:32 AM, a manmade celebration of the timeless dance between the sun and earth. Holt chose August 1st to commemorate the anniversary of William Ross buying the land that would become Rosslyn in 1860.
But enough of the grandiose posturing — how is Dark Star Park as a picnic spot?
In a word: lovely. Unlike many public art installations (particularly those of the Land Art Movement to which Holt belonged), Dark Star Park offers a welcome respite from the urban environment of Rosslyn. The shrubbery and grass are a vibrant contrast to the sea of glass and concrete that marks much of the Arlington neighborhood. Large trees ring the park, providing a pleasant shade to enjoy your prepared food. Furthermore, the space is usually rather quiet, so there is plenty of space to spread out and relax!
Getting to Dark Star Park
Dark Star Park stands at 1655 North Fort Myer Drive in Arlington, sandwiched between Fort Myer Drive and N Lynn Street. There are 2 separate parking garages immediately adjacent to the park, so getting to Dark Star by car is easy if you are willing to shell out some dough for parking. Otherwise, the Rosslyn Metro stop is only a few blocks away, for those who prefer taking the train.
DC may be famous for its abundance of public parks and open-air entertainment, but Arlington is no slouch in that department, either! There are a ton of great places to enjoy a picnic when living in Arlington VA — in fact, far too many to cover in a single article. The ones listed above are just a few of our favorites…but we want to get your input, too! What is your favorite spot to have a picnic in Arlington? Let us know down in the comments below!
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