Draper Drive Park in Fairfax, VA!

A BIG Thank you to our Guest Reviewer, Allie Higgins, for reviewing Draper Drive Park in the City of Fairfax!

Allie Higgins is a mom of two young energetic boys who love to run and play.  Together, they enjoy hiking, biking, swimming and going to the many parks in the area.  Allie has been in the DC/NOVA area for over 10 years; she is writer/researcher and a graduate of Saint Mary’s College at Notre Dame and Vanderbilt University.

Draper Drive Park in the City of Fairfax was, until recently, only soccer fields and walking trails; however, the city has now added a playground that is a fun addition to the park.
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The playground area is set up on part mulch and part rubber surfaces and includes swings and the main play structures even have shade canopies for the equipment. If your children like to get dizzy, there are several spinning pieces and if they prefer to climb, there are climbing walls as well. Slides and monkey bars make this playground complete. There are numerous park benches and two porta-potties adjacent to the playground.
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 The soccer field is synthetic turf with goals and bleachers along the fields. Additionally, there is a paved run/walk/bike trail that encircles the park. I especially liked that you can see the entire trail from the playground. While my younger son was swinging, I could still watch my older son ride his bike around the loop. Similarly, if you are at the park to watch a soccer match, you can see the all of the fields from the playground, so that makes it fun for all! This is a great park to check out if you are in the Fairfax area.
Categories: City of Fairfax, Fairfax, Fairfax County, Handicap Accessible, Parks With Restrooms, Parks With Restrooms, Parks With Swings, Parks With Swings, Tot Lot, Tot Lot, Walking/Hiking Trails, Walking/Hiking Trails | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bluemont Community Center Park in Bluemont, VA!

If you have ever headed to Great Country Farms in Bluemont, VA you most likely passed right by the Bluemont Community Center. Many times we have driven by and never stopped because the kids were pooped out from running all over the farm. This time my oldest insisted we stop in and see what  it was all about. They both were hooked when they saw the caboose located right next to the basketball court.

Address: 33846 Snickersville Turnpike, Bluemont, VA 20135

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The community center was a schoolhouse that opened in 1923 and ran until the 60’s. In 1988 community interest helped it become the community center it is today. The community center offers licensed preschool, childcare and after school programs. For more information you can find their phone number and info here.

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 The playground area has several newer looking pieces of equipment including swings, lots of slides and climbing apparatuses. It does have a small fence to keep the little ones inside. There is plenty of shade up against building and you can go inside to use the public restrooms during business hours. There is a preschool and daycare that works out of this facility so at times there may be extra kids playing out on the playground. A fun aspect of the park area is the old caboose that sits adjacent to the full basketball court. The kids can walk up and check it out. There are plenty of picnic tables if you want to pack a lunch or snack in the large grassy area.

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Bluemont Community Center Park is a  fun park located in beautiful Bluemont, VA!

Categories: Bluemont, Parks With Restrooms, Parks With Swings, Tot Lots | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Walnut Park in Arlington, VA!

Big Walnut Park in Arlington, Virginia is located in between homes and has plenty of parking on the street if you drive over. Bring your dump trucks! There is a great sand box for the kids to play in and normally folks have left their old trucks and sand toys for everyone to play.

Address: 1915 N Harrison StArlington, VA 22207

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Arlington County has some really fantastic parks and the equipment is so different from the traditional swing and slides. In addition to the sand box there  is great climbing equipment. There are no swings at this park but plenty for the kids to do. There is a small merry-go-round with a compressed rubber mat flooring. Most of the ground cover is either compressed rubber or mulch. There is a fair amount of shade around the park including a small gazebo and older trees. In addition to the gazebo there are picnic benches or concrete steps to sit on. If you need a large grassy area there is a nice area for the kids to play soccer or even just tag. No restrooms at this park which is kind of a bummer.

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I can’t say enough about Arlington County’s Parks. They are usually in great condition and the play equipment is unique and fun for all!

Categories: Arlington, Arlington County, Tot Lot | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Shiloh Street Park in Fairfax, VA

We spent some time in Fairfax and came across this petite, neighborhood park located at the intersection of Ranger Road and Shiloh Street in Fairfax.

Address: 10400 Shiloh Street, Fairfax, VA 22030

(At the intersection of Ranger Road and Shiloh Street)
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Shiloh Street Park is a smaller neighborhood park that is fenced in, has a bench with trash, a metal jungle gym and a riding Bald Eagle.  This park was nicely shaded as we went on quite a hot day.  There is also a neighborhood trail that is accessible at the park.

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If you are in the neighborhood, stop by this park and check out Cambridge Station park in the neighborhood as well.

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Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park in Leesburg, VA!

Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park is a great spot to hike with the family. There is plenty of history throughout the park and tons of signs that can be read for information. Strollers would not make it in this area but a backpack for the little ones would work well. Every Saturday and Sunday from April 4 through November 29 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. a guided tour around the battlefield. The program is free and no advance registration is required. The tour focuses on the tragic Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861.

Here is a trail map of the park……CLICK HERE The Potomac Heritage Trail passes right through the park and continues in both directions along the Potomac River.

Address: Ball’s Bluff Road, Leesburg, VA 20176

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The 170-acre park has no restrooms inside the park but during the tour season of April to November there are Porta Potties in the parking lot. The park is a trash in and trash out park with no trash receptacles. Also be careful as you are driving in and out as the road is narrow heading to and from the parking lot.

My family and I really enjoy hiking in this park. The boys like to head down the trail to the river and I like that there are several different trails to take that aren’t too difficult for the younger ones. The boys really enjoy reading all the informational and trail head signs.

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Ball’s Bluff is a hidden gem in Leesburg. If you’re looking for small trails to start the little ones on, this is a good place start. If you’re also looking for some local history this is a great place to hike.

Categories: Leesburg, Loudoun County, Northern Virginia Regional Parks, Parks With Restrooms, Walking/Hiking Trails | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rocky Run Park in Arlington, VA!

Thinking of Spring yet?  We are! Rocky Run Park in Arlington, VA is such a fun park to visit! This park recently had a new makeover in 2014 (phase 1) and has something for everyone to enjoy!  Part of Phase 2 is renovation of the restrooms, so there currently are not any restrooms at this park.  This park is located in the Clarendon area of Arlington.  Included at this park are basketball courts, covered pavilion, climbing wall, modern style playground equipment, rope pyramid, sand area, swings, a large tube slide and so much more!

 Address: 1109 N Barton St, Arlington, VA 22201

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There is one area of the park geared towards 5-12 year old with lots of climbing equipment and another area for 0-5 year olds.  The middle of the climbing equipment looks like a spider web.  It connects to a larger play structure, which includes ropes to climb, a climbing wall, and a curving tube slide.  This area also includes two rope-like tire swings and an orange piece of circular equipment.  The orange equipment is round shaped and is made for kids to grab a hold of it and spin around in circles.

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The playground geared towards 0-5 year olds is where we spent most of our time! This section was awesome and unlike any other park I have been to before.  There are benches all around for the adults to sit at.  I would say this is more of a modern style play ground.  There was a rubbery hop scotch, sand pit, lots of little cars on springs on the “rubbery road”, as well as a little cute market set up to be on the side of the “rubber road”.

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Also included at the 0-5 year old playground is a smaller playground structure as well as 4 infant swings.  My little ones couldn’t get over all the choices of equipment to play on.  Of course it was one of the nicer days, so it was pretty crowded.

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In addition to all the exciting playgrounds, Rocky Run Park also has a pavilion, a cemented area leading to the lower part of this park, which includes two basketball courts and a lighted turf field.  Although we didn’t bring any, I saw a bunch of kids riding their bikes down the sidewalk to the fields.

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This, in my opinion, is a must visit park.  If you don’t live in Arlington, pack a picnic lunch and check this park out! You won’t be disappointed!
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The Plaza at Tysons Corner in McLean, VA!

Have you tried out the metro Silver Line yet?  You can get directly on the metro from The Plaza! We visited The Plaza over the summer, but I wanted to take the boys again and take some more photos because the day we went it was over crowded and hard to get good quality photographs.

Address: 1961 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, VA 

( located on the 2nd Floor near the escalators leading up to AMC Theatre and Food Court)

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The Plaza connects directly to the NEW Silver Line Metro Station and is elevated 32 feet in the air.  There is a fun playground area, game programming center, Kids Club and lots of events.  Some of the events held are concerts, movies on the green and other seasonal activities!

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The playground area is called COX Discovery Cove. This is a gated in playground.  The playground is built like a ship and the ground is a rubber surface.  The playground itself is made up of a few different running inclines and declines with steering wheels and telescopes.  There is also a separate toddler play zone. There are several benches and tables near the play area where the parents can keep an eye on their little ones. There is a game programming center as well.  These are great outdoor fun games, such as tabletop tennis, corn hole and chess.  When we were there, there were a few friendly competitions going on and the boys loved seeing all the cheering and excitement going on.  The Plaza also offers a Tysons Corner Center National Geographic Kids Club that is an excellent way to get your children to have fun, all while learning.  These activities alternate the first Tuesday and Saturday of each month.  The current BIG event going on at The Plaza is their ice skating rink (list what event is). There are several FREE events held weekly and seasonally.  Also, just something to look forward to, every Friday over the spring-summer they hold a FREE summer concert and Saturdays there are also Movie Night on the Green, free of charge; so be sure to check their website.

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Relaxation? Why not! With Spring (hopefully rapidly approaching), enjoy the ambiance at The Plaza’s comfortable seating and fire pits.  There is lots of seating all around The Plaza.  During the warm months, there is a little water stream through the stone bench seating area with a few fountains as well.

Categories: Fairfax County, McLean, Parks With Restrooms, Tot Lot | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, MD!

This is the start of our new series of Hiking parks near and around the DC Metro Area. The level of hiking will be aimed towards the older kids and adults. I would like to welcome Celeste Otsuka as our guest reviewer. Celeste does a lot of hiking, running and overall exploration of the best hiking spots that can be driven to over a weekend.

I live and work in Reston, VA, where I enjoy running on the many trails near my  neighborhood early in the morning with my obnoxious headlamp.  As a child, I fell in love with the idea of hiking after seeing the play “Into the Woods”, then quickly realized the two were not related.  Now, I largely solo hike on every type of trail – from those strenuous enough to include some difficult rock scrambling to what I term “nature walks”.  Seven backpacks later, I’m convinced I’m ready to start another big adventure. -Celeste Otsuka

First up in Celeste’s Hiking Series is Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, MD. Not very far from the VA line and a beautiful drive through Lucketts, VA and Point of Rocks, MD.

Address: 6602 Foxville Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

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On New Year’s Day, I set off for a First Day Hike.  The park I selected was Catoctin Mountain Park, which is located in Thurmont, MD (about an hour and 15 minute drive from the Reston, VA area).  The drive itself is quite scenic and really lended itself to the experience.  One should note that Camp David (yes THAT Camp David) is located on the Catoctin Montain Park grounds, however, it is not marked, and I’m not sure how happy they are when visitors actively look for it.

As it was New Year’s Day, the park’s Visitor Center was closed (as were all the restroom facilities on site).  Visitors to the park should always check the website, facebook, or twitter prior to going for any updates (including closures due to presidential visits).  Prior to actually coming to the park, I had selected the 8 Mile Loop from the park’s website.  I kept trail map up on my phone while I was hiking.  I have Verizon cellular coverage, and I never experienced any issues with dead zones and had LTE for most of my visit.  While the Visitor Center is likely usually well stocked with maps, it was not that day – so I was glad to have the map on my phone.

8 Mile Loop Map  http://www.nps.gov/cato/planyourvisit/upload/8mileloop.pdf

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Catoctin Mountain Park borders Cunningham Falls State Park (where Cunningham Falls is located).  The trail loop that I followed made a stop at the falls within the first two miles.  Note that Catoctin is a National Park and Cunningham Falls is a State Park – there are slight differences in park rules that visitors should be aware of.

As I went during winter and fairly early in the morning (I arrived to the park around 8:00am), there were very few other visitors, and I did not encounter other people on the trails until about 3 miles into my hike.  There are certain parts of the trail that offer a decent ascent/descent, but overall, if you hike the trail in a clockwise manner as I did, I found it to be a more moderate than strenuous hike.  However, the trail itself is very rocky, so I’d still suggest wearing hiking boots with good ankle support.

As far as scenery goes, the trail is heavily wooded with interesting rock formations that jut out over most of the trail.  There are several vistas and large rock formations of interest that are pointed out by the trail map.  Each location is well marked on the trail with distance markers.  The trail itself is fairly well worn, so even beginning hikers should have no problems navigating the trails.  The section of the trail that winds from the Park Headquarters back to the Visitor Center is both very rocky and somewhat underused.  However, that section is blazed with blue ties on the trees, so hikers can find their way through.

Prior to coming to the park, I did read reviews that the park is pretty riddled with ticks in the summer months, but in the winter, there were very few bugs in sight!  This is a great hike for a chilly fall/winter day.  I’d suggest going early to avoid crowds.

Categories: Hiking, Maryland, National Parks, Outside NoVA Parks | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Villa Lee park in Fairfax, VA!

Villa Lee Park is located in Fairfax, VA.  You can access this park off of Hunter Road and take a path, over the bridge to the park or by turning into the Villa Lee townhouse development off of Espana Court and it is right in the cul-da-sac.

Address: 2901 Hunter Road, Fairfax, VA 

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As mentioned before, Villa Lee park is located off of Hunter Road.  There is only street parking, the road is a little narrow, but you can access the park by taking the walking path through the woods, over the bridge to Villa Street Park.  We ended up parking in the cul-da-sac off of Empana Court in the Villa Lee townhouse development.  The park is located right there.  The park has a small playground with climbing equipment,  slide a see-saw, as well as a swing and an infant swing.  There is also a little picnic area where you can enjoy the nicely shaded park.

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If you live in the Villa Lee development or are near by, this is a small, yet nicely shaded park to visit in the forest.

Categories: Fairfax, Fairfax County, Parks With Swings, Tot Lot, Walking/Hiking Trails | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cambridge Station Park in Fairfax, VA!

We spent some time at a few Fairfax parks and we came across this cute, neighborhood park in Cambridge Station.

Address: 9728 Ranger Road, Fairfax, VA 

(At the intersection of Ranger Road and Cambridge Road).

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There are a few parks off of Ranger Road and we came across this neighborhood park at the intersection of Ranger Road and Cambridge Road.  This park is semi-gated in and has a car wash section and hook up for the residents in Cambridge Station.  The park also has a small playground area, swings, basketball court and a picnic area.  The tot lot has three small slides, there are three infant swings nearby as well.

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This park is for Cambridge Station residents, so if you live in Cambridge Station check out this quiet little park in your neighborhood, and enjoy washing your car (when it’s warm out).

Categories: Fairfax, Fairfax County, Parks With Swings, Tot Lot | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment