Summer Larks in Alexandria Parks

Baseball. Fishing. Grilling. Blackberry picking. (Is your mouth watering yet?) You can find all of this and more this summer in Alexandria parks. From waterfront parks to nature parks, dog parks and more, there’s green space galore in Alexandria just calling your name. Ready to explore? Here’s a list of just a few of our favorite parks in Alexandria:

 

Waterfront Parks

Founders ParkImage credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Alexandria has eight waterfront parks, all offering gorgeous views of the Potomac River and ample green space in the heart of Old Town. Our favorites:

Founders Park: Just north of the Alexandria Marina and the Torpedo Factory Art Center, Founders Park is popular with families and dog-owners. Benches face the water, a volleyball court invites friendly competition, and lots of open space makes it easy to play and picnic. Plus there’s an unfenced dog run!

Jones Point Park: Bike along the Mount Vernon Trail from Old Town to this hidden gem, home to the last remaining riverine lighthouse in Virginia and one of the original boundary stones for Washington, DC. Fish off the piers, play a pickup game on the basketball court, and enjoy the views of National Harbor and Woodrow Wilson Bridge at this peaceful spot (with plenty of parking, if you drive).

Founders ParkImage credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Oronoco Bay Park: At over five acres of riverfront green space, Oronoco Bay Park is the go-to for festivals and special events in Alexandria (more on that later). It’s got great walking/biking/jogging paths that connect to the Mount Vernon Trail, rolling hills that look out over the Potomac and picnic areas for that summer snack spread.

Waterfront Park: Tucked away at the foot of King Street, Waterfront Park is the perfect place to relax after a day roaming Old Town. There’s riverfront seating, trails and open space that practically beg you to savor your coffee and the view.

 

Family-Friendly Parks

Alexandria, Virginia, spring day people enjoy outdoors.Image credit: R. Nowitz for Visit Alexandria

From Old Town to the West End, have a ball at playgrounds and recreational areas. Our favorites:

Ben Brenman Park: Community favorite Ben Brenman Park promises fun for all ages, with a playground, picnic pavilion and grill, fenced dog park, walking/bicycling trails, athletic fields, amphitheatre, and a pond teeming with geese and turtles. Come on a Sunday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to browse stalls overflowing with fresh produce, baked goods and artisanal cheeses at the West End Farmers Market (May-November).

Montgomery Park: Just one block from the Alexandria waterfront, Montgomery Park is convenient to Old Town and super family-friendly, equipped with a playground, picnic tables, fenced dog run, tennis courts and a large gazebo. Hungry? Restaurants and coffee shops like Perfect Pita, Extra Perks and A La Lucia are just steps away.

Jazz FestivalImage credit: R. Nowitz for Visit Alexandria

Cameron Run Regional Park: Cameron Run looks a lot like the definition of summer fun: water slides, a wave pool, putt-putt golf, batting cages and picnic shelters. Little kids can splash in the play pool while daredevils try out the speed slides, the best way to ride out a late-summer heat wave.

Jones Point Park: This one gets a second mention for its two playgrounds (one for children under five and another for children ages six-ten), two basketball courts, canoe launch, and twin fishing piers. Plus, Park Rangers offer kid-friendly programs like Learn to Ride and Lighthouse Life, and exhibits tell the history of the freshwater marsh habitat.

 

Mount Vernon Trail

Mount Vernon Bike TrailImage credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Friendly to bikes and pedestrians, the Mount Vernon Trail beckons with waterfront vistas and a bevy of trail-side picnic spots. The historic route winds 18 miles along the Potomac River from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate to Old Town Alexandria and beyond, a scenic escape whether you’re going on a long run or a quick bike ride between waterfront parks. From Old Town, access the trail via Union Street.

 

Nature Parks

alexandria-va-parks-nature-parks-daingerfield-island-wildlifeImage credit: Flickr user MrTinDC

Looking for more wooded or wild places to explore the great outdoors? Alexandria’s got no shortage of nature preserves, conservation areas and other great parks ideal for a hike. Our favorites:

Winkler Botanical Preserve: With more than 44 acres of plant species indigenous to the region, Winkler offers a green oasis tucked inside Alexandria’s West End. Take a stroll among shade trees or skip rocks on the large pond with a mini-waterfall. Admission is free.

Dora Kelley Nature Park: This 50-acre wildlife sanctuary contains nature trails winding along streams, wooded hills and freshwater marshland. It also features paved bike and walking paths and the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center, where you can see live animals up close and learn about Alexandria’s natural history in year-round exhibits.

Daingerfield Island: Spy herons, turtles and frogs (oh my!) at Daingerfield Island, the site of the first permanent settlement of the city of Alexandria. Located right off the George Washington Parkway and the Mount Vernon Trail north of Old Town, this park is actually on a peninsula, not an island, but still feels like you’re miles away from the city.

 

Historic Parks

alexandria-va-parks-fort-ward-parkImage credit: Visit Alexandria

Alexandria’s historic parks combine outdoor recreation with the city’s rich past. Our favorites:

Carlyle House Historic Park: Did you know there is a historic park right in the heart of Old Town Alexandria? Dating to 1753, the Carlyle House garden has been maintained in its original 18th century style, complete with crape myrtles, classic boxwood parterres and a cutting garden, all open to the public.

Fort Ward Park: Immerse yourself in the everyday lives of former soldiers and civilians at Fort Ward, the best-preserved Union fort built to protect Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. Come summer, visitors go blackberry-picking, hit the running trails and rent picnic pavilions while kids enjoy the playground and history buffs watch Civil War reenactments on site.

African American Heritage Park: One of Alexandria’s most beautiful parks, this nine-acre green space and wetland in Carlyle is anchored by the sculpture “Truths that Rise from the Roots Remembered” by Jerome Meadows. The park is also home to a 19th century African American cemetery. (To experience another powerful testimony to black history, visit Freedmen Cemetery Memorial Park at Jones Point.)

 

Dog Parks

Founders ParkImage credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Nearly all public parks in Alexandria are dog-friendly (that’s 18 total off-leash dog parks), but here are some of our favorite parks with features designed specifically for pups:

Dog Run Park: This fully fenced dog park in the Carlyle neighborhood draws dogs of all shapes and sizes with its large open spaces and water bowls. There are benches for bipeds and leafy trees ringing the park for shade on hot days.

Duke Street Dog Park: Near Beatley Library, Duke Street Dog Park is fully fenced, with a large, grassy park and dog toys galore. Park at the library or the nearby Harris Teeter for easy access.

alexandria-va-parks-dog-parks-dog-friendlyImage credit: L. Barnes for Visit Alexandria

Ben Brenman Dog Park: The fenced dog run at Ben Brenman welcomes dogs with a spacious mulched area and humans with seating and picnic tables.

Montgomery Park: I’ll say it again: Montgomery Park is a great spot in North Old Town for the whole family, including Fido, to play, with a grassy fenced dog run for lots of off-leash fun. Nearby Founders Park is home to an unfenced dog run with lovely riverside views.

 

Park Events

Jazz FestivalImage credit: R. Nowitz for Visit Alexandria

38th Annual Memorial Day Jazz Festival, Waterfront Park: This annual event features entertainment from several jazz bands and kicks off with a performance by The Army Blues Jazz Ensemble. May 25, 2015, 1-6 p.m.

Alexandria Food & Wine Festival, Oronoco Bay Park: Get a taste of Alexandria’s diverse culinary scene at this annual food festival, featuring food and wine tastings alongside live entertainment and arts and crafts vendors. June 27, 2015, noon-6 p.m.

USA/Alexandria Birthday Celebration, Oronoco Bay Park: Celebrate Alexandria’s 266th birthday with live music by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, patriotic birthday cake, food vendors and a dazzling fireworks display over the Potomac. July 11, 2015, 7-10 p.m.

Music at Twilight Concert Series, John Carlyle Square Park: Bring a blanket and picnic dinner to this concert series, featuring jazz, folk rock, blues, country, pop and more. June 4, June 18, July 16, July 30, August 6, 2015, 7-8 p.m.

Cinema Del Ray, Mount Vernon Rec Center: This family-friendly movie series takes place on the fields of the Mount Vernon Rec Center in Del Ray, with popcorn and other snacks available for purchase. May 16, June 20, July 18, August 15; movies start at sunset.

 

For more information about Alexandria parks, click here.

Header image by C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria