Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA!

Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA!

Huntley Meadows Park makes my Top 10 list! My boys have never seen so many turtles, frogs and dragonflies in one place. Huntley Meadows Park is 1500-acres with a freshwater wetland. The park includes a Visitor Center, 3 different trails, 1/2 mile of Boardwalk trail through the wetlands, Observation Tower, and a whole lot of different wildlife throughout the park.

Address: 3701 Lockheed Blvd, Alexandria, VA 22306

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The visitor center in the park has several exhibits that are interactive. The different exhibits explain the history of the wetlands and the different birds, mammals, reptiles and insects that can be found in the wetlands. Educational programs and events are put on by the Fairfax County Park Authority at the Visitor Center classrooms and auditorium. The visitor center does have indoor restrooms and water fountains for public use.

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The boys loved the boardwalk trail through the wetlands. We saw a ton of wildlife including dragonflies, all different turtle species, frogs, fish, Great Blue Heron but we didn’t make it out to the observation tower to see the beavers. Sadly the youngest was having a melt down by the time we made it to the end of the boardwalk but we could still see the beaver lodges from the boardwalk trail. The park is doing some restorative work towards the backside of the beaver area until about December so you might not see the beavers out while they are working with the heavy machinery. In addition to the boardwalk trail that doesn’t allow jogging, biking or dogs there are additional trails that meet up with the boardwalk trail on both ends that allow all three of these activities. The Observation Tower looked really neat and we are going to go back to the park to get some great shots of the beaver lodges and the overlook of the park. **In one of the pictures below see if you can find the snapping turtle hiding amongst the water lilies.

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The parks trails beside the boardwalk trail is crushed gravel and pretty flat so bikes, strollers,  and wagons would do okay on the trails. We had a great time at the park and are definitely headed back when the temperatures cool a bit. Even if you don’t live in the area I would recommend checking out this great natural park!!

Broadlands Nature Center in Ashburn, VA!

The Broadlands in Ashburn, VA is a small community development between Dulles Airport and Leesburg, VA. The community is known as a “natural” community as it has designated wetland areas and plenty of natural space throughout the community including Stream Valley Park that runs through the entire  community. Last week we headed over to their small Nature Center and HOA Association complex.

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The small nature center available for the public and residents is free and includes animal exhibits, small reading room for the kids and historical information from the 1700’s and also current Broadlands development. Restrooms are located right outside the nature room.

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The kids had a great time at the Nature Center. They went through it really quickly but then we headed outside to check out the tot lot and swings next the Nature Center/HOA Complex. This tot lot is just one of many that residents can use. If you’re part of the community there is also tennis courts and a basketball court along with tons of paved trails near the facility. The tot lot is pretty much for the older crowd. The small piece of equipment is tall and only regular swings are available. A portable restroom sits just outside the tennis courts.

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The Broadland’s residents are pretty luck to have the nature center and all the other activities included as part of the Home Owners Association. If you’re ever in the area you should stop in and check out the Nature Center at Broadlands and Stream Valley Park.

Gulf Branch Park & Nature Center in Arlington, VA!

Gulf Branch Park & Nature Center in Arlington, VA!

Last month we checked out Gulf Branch Park and Nature Center. We hadn’t even planned on stopping by but the kids saw the sign and wanted to check it out. The Nature Center was having an event so we had to park along Military Road and walk up the driveway. The Gulf Branch Park is 37-acres of untouched land in the heart of an Arlington Neighborhood.

Address: 3608 N. Military Road Arlington, VA 22207

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The boys had a great time walking around the Nature Center. The observation bee hive was fascinating to them and then we headed into the live animal exhibit to check out the local VA wildlife and a few extra reptiles. Next we headed downstairs to the cultural exhibit where the boys could actually sit in a carved out canoe and touch different items. When we headed outside the first order of business was to check out the owl exhibit. Since it had rained the day before we didn’t make it over to the pond or the restored log cabin. Next time we’re out in Arlington we’re going to stop by and hike a little more and check out the sites we missed. Right off the parking lot is a small bridge that crosses over the Gulf Branch Stream and we headed out on the short trail towards Military Road. There are many different trails throughout the park and all are nature trails. Also an indoor restroom is located inside the Nature Center.

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We are definitely headed back here when it hasn’t rained in a few days. The boys enjoyed walking on some of the trails and we definitely want to check out the pond and the restored log cabin. If you live in the Arlington area check out the Gulf Branch Nature Center!

Dora Kelley Park & Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center in Alexandria, VA!

Dora Kelley Park & Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center in Alexandria, VA!

My family and I had a great time checking out Dora Kelley Park and Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center in Alexandria, VA last week. The natural 50-acre park has 1-mile of nature trail that works it way through the park. A paved bike trail starts at Van Dorn St. and reaches Sanger Avenue on the other side of the park. Dora Kelley Park is part of the City of Alexandria and is a stop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail System. Also if you’re into geocaching there are several caches hidden in the park.

Address: 5750 Sanger Avenue, Alexandria, VA

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Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center is attached to the William Ramsey Elementary School and William Ramsey Recreation Center. When you pull  into the parking lot just drive all the way to the back and you’ll find the Nature Center.  The Nature Center had a few animal exhibits and cultural exhibits based around the history of Dora Kelley Park and the City of Alexandria. Programs through the Nature Center are available as well as facility rental for events. The Nature Center is not open on Monday and Tuesday even during the winter months. Sunday during the winter months the Nature Center is also closed. For more information click here.

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I would totally recommend doing both of these together on a nice day. Dora Kelley worked very hard to make sure open space was maintained in the City of  Alexandria and her work was acknowledged by naming the park after her. Dora Kelley Park has several trail entrances around the park so you don’t have to just enter at the Nature Center parking lot. When Spring finally arrives check out Dora Kelley Park and Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center.

 

 

Hidden Pond Park in Springfield, VA!

Hidden Pond Park in Springfield, VA!

*****The playground is getting an update! Stay tuned for more details!

 

Today we checked out Hidden Pond Park in Springfield, VA. This Fairfax County park has a Nature Center, pond, playground and tons of hiking trails and paved walking/biking trails. The trails run throughout the park and a bridge connects Hidden Pond Park to the much larger Pohick Stream Valley Park.

Address: 8511 Greeley Blvd., Springfield, VA 22152

The Nature Center can be found by following a paved trail from the parking lot with a sign pointing the way. They had some great animal exhibits and the volunteers were quick to pull out the baby turtles for the kids to pet. Restrooms are located in the Nature Center.

After we hit up the Nature Center we set out to check out the trails and the pond. The pond can be fished and has several dock areas to stand at the waters edge. Also they are many benches in the shade to sit and watch all the turtles in the pond. The trails were great but my husband did point out the dreaded poison ivy along some of the hiking trail edges.  If poison ivy is a worry just stick to the larger paved trails and the kids won’t have a chance to accidentaly wander into the poison ivy.

Since the kids still had a ton of energy we headed to the playground located near the parking lot. The playground is partially fenced in and keeps the kids seperated from the staff entrance driveway. The equipment is not in the shade but there is plenty of shade around the picnic table near the playground. The playground equipment was in good shape and had some unique climbing items. No swings at this park though. Restrooms are located in the Nature Center which is a good walk from the playground.

What a great natural park to take the family too. The park is tucked back in the middle of a neighborhood of single family homes so you wouldn’t be able to see it from Old Keene Mill Road. If you live nearby you should check it out!

Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, VA!

Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, VA!

Today we checked out Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, VA! Located in Arlington County this 70-acre park has a lot too offer everyone. The park is located in the suburbs of North Arlington amongst marvelous single family homes.

Address: 2845 N Marcey Rd, Arlington, VA 22207

Once you pull into the park you’ll see a small playground and picnic shelter with clean restrooms. The kids had a great time playing on the equipment that look liked a wooden fort. The equipment was completely in the shade and had a small fence to guard them from the parking lot. Picnic tables were located under the picnic shelter and right next to the playground also completely in the shade.

Once the kids got tired of the playground we headed towards the Nature Center which is located down a small access road through the trees. The Nature Center is closed on Mondays but open Tuesday through Sunday except for holidays.

The Nature Center has many different animals including a hive of bees, snakes, turtles and more snakes! In the upper level you’ll find their new program “Energerium” educational information on energy basics and conservation efforts. On the lower level you’ll find the “Kids Cave” with educational information on bats and other animals you can find in the park.

Once the kids saw all they could in the Nature Center we headed out towards the parks vegetable garden. Here you cross over a Koi pond to enter the garden. They had many plants growing including herbs, pumpkins, squash and strawberries. Several park employees were tending the garden and showed the kids several herbs to smell and taste. My son got a kick out of the pumpkin patch and spotting the newly grown pumpkins getting ready for harvest in a few weeks.

After the garden we headed out towards the trails to walk around some. The kids got sidetracked by a shaded bench in front a bush that had many butterflies coming to the flowers. Here we ended up eating lunch and just hanging out watching the bees and butterflies go after the nectar.

By this time the kids got tired so we headed back to the parking lot. Next time we come to the park we are gonna have to check out all the trails that are located through out the park. We saw many people jogging and walking dogs through the trails.

This is a great park with lots of shade and fun things for the kids to get into in Arlington, VA!

Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA!

Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA!

Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA located in Fairfax County lies just above Great Falls National Park. In fact you can walk from Riverbend Park all the way to Great Falls National Park via the Potomac National Heritage Trail along the Potomac River. Unlike Great Falls where you pay a park fee Riverbend is a free regional park and open from dawn till dusk with gates closing promptly at 8:30 p.m. Riverbend Park is located off of Georgetown Pike in Great Falls, Virginia. You follow Riverbend Road through magnificent neighborhoods filled with custom Estate homes and single family homes on large wooded lots. Regional Park signs will navigate you towards the park.

Address: 8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls, VA 22066

The Nature Center is a neat place for the kids to see local wildlife like snakes, skinks and frogs. For the adults and older kids there is historical information about the people that once inhabited the area before the settlers took over. The Nature Center has a small snack bar, ice cream and gift shop. Outside the nature center they have an observation deck with Adirondack chairs and tables to sit and watch the river. Public restrooms and water fountains are available just outside the nature center. A small frog pond is located below the nature center and at this time of year it allows visitors to check out the newly hatched tadpoles that will eventually turned into frogs.

Once you have finished exploring the nature center you can head out on the trails. Riverbend park has 2.5 miles of Potomac Heritage Trail along the Potomac River which if you head south will take you directly into Great Falls Park. The trails are great for walkers/joggers but strollers and bikes would have a hard time getting through. More trails are available through the upland forests and a few are challenging. If you enjoy geo-caching this park has plenty hidden for you to find. A picnic area is also available right next to the river and offers grills to cook out. This upper portion of the Potomac River is a good place to drop in a kayak or canoe and a launching area is available.

The kids and I love this park! The trails offer plenty of shade and we always see lots of wildlife on our walks. Walking along the river is a great way to get away and is a very convienent location to Northern Virginian residents.

Next Stop….Lyndora Park in Ashburn, VA!