Ginny spends a lot of time in Arlington, VA with her family. Finding fun spots to visit is a blast!
Arlington is renowned for many things, including its urban centric living, its proximity to the Nation's Capitol, and the wonderful shopping districts. But oftentimes, we don't focus on the fun activities to do and places to visit for the kids.
This article will cover some of the most popular and exciting places to take children for an enjoyable afternoon. Some of these ideas are great for a warm spring day and others will help you plan on how to escape the humid summers with the kiddos. Spend an hour at the skate rink or make a day of it by visiting one of the parks, hike the trails or explore the booths at the farmer's market. The options are endless and new adventures can be had throughout the year!
I hope you find this informative and drop me a note at the bottom of the page with your experiences with kids in Arlington!
The Arlington House is a perfect place to take the kids. I am very, very sneaky when it comes to activities for children. I am always on the lookout for a new and exciting thing to do while teaching them something important. Of course, I never mention the "teaching" part to them!
So that's what led me to the Arlington House. Located in Arlington National Cemetery, this was the home of Robert E. Lee's family for more than 30 years.
Besides teaching kids about the Civil War and General Lee's contributions (again, keep that hush hush!) this facility does a fantastic job at directly interacting with children. There is a special Junior Ranger program that sends the kids off to perform specific activities and find pieces of information.
When they complete their missions, they will receive an official Junior Ranger badge and a certificate signed by the Park Ranger. You can't beat that!
If you want to preview the exhibits online, look at their virtual tour. It is well worth an afternoon in one of the most famous and awe-inspiring locations in Arlington.
Bluemont Park is part of Arlington's Depart of Parks and Recreation.
Bluemont Park is a wonderful 70 acre park located right off Wilson Blvd adjacent to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. It has playgrounds, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, volleyball area, picnic pavilion, restrooms, and a lot of open space to enjoy nature. Bring a picnic lunch and bring the children outdoors for a fun and free day in the sun!
Look for a very special play area that is shaped like a train. Of course, if you want to see the real train, stop by the Bluemont Train Junction and take a look at the historical exhibit.
For moms: Bring your camera! Not only is this a picturesque place to take shots of your children playing, but there are tons of plants and animals. Whether you love nature photography, macro shots of flowering plants, or action-packed pictures of your kids running and playing, this is the place to go!
Shh—see how long you can keep this a secret! There is a small stream loaded with frogs and salamanders that kids are drawn towards. Once they find it, you will be hard pressed to get them to leave.
Bon Air Park and Rose Garden
This beautiful park is a great place to take the kids. There is a playground for school age kids, bathrooms, tennis courts, and picnic areas. The rose garden itself is small but nice. My son enjoyed the numerous dragonflies and butterflies around the flowers.
The Washington and Old Dominion Trail runs through the park and many folks take advantage of running, walking and biking along the paved trail.
There is a very nice open field that I used to fly small model airplanes too. It also serves as a great spot to let the kids run and burn off that Saturday morning energy!
Washington and Old Dominion Trail
Ok, so a 45 mile trail might be a bit much for the munchkin, but this wonderful trail starts in Shirlington on the southern end of Arlington.
Affectionately known as WAD to the locals, this trail is paved at nine feet wide and is divided by a yellow line. There is also an adjacent horse trail over much of it.
Grab you kids and their bikes and set off on a nice day to enjoy the great outdoors.
Here is a map of the trail and the connecting Curtis Trail.
Who doesn't love a farmer's market? I sure do! This is a quaint market filled with local produce, organic meats, cheeses, eggs, and breads. There are always free samples for the kids to try.
Hours: Saturdays 8am until noon
Right around the block is an outdoor flea market as well with lots of interesting things for sale. Located less than a block away from the Courthouse metro stop, you won't be able to beat the convenience.
Walk west on Clarendon Blvd or Wilson (towards the Clarendon metro) and enjoy shopping or grabbing an ice cream or gelato treat with your children.
Most of the time, I like to have kids enjoy the outdoors. It is healthy and we all enjoy being out with the sunshine and fresh air, but there are times when we need an indoor alternative. Last summer was unbearably hot and none of us wanted to trek outside in the sweltering heat. Instead, we went to the Ballston Commons Mall and went ice skating.
The Kettler Capital's Iceplex is located at Ballston and its an easy drive or quick metro ride from virtually anywhere in the city.
If you are looking for hockey lessons, summer camps or even just a few hours to enjoy skating with friends, this is a great option in the center of the city. Afterwards, take some "mom time" and take a stroll through the mall.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
This cute island is a stone's-throw to the east of Rosslyn. A short walk across the bridge and you are on Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial.
This island has wooded trails that follow the circumference of the island and a beautiful memorial on the interior. I highly recommended taking toddlers to run around and wear themselves down in a nice forest. Older kids love to explore the water's edge, looking for salamanders, frogs and other creatures.
Tip: If you go early in the morning or towards dusk, you may get lucky enough to spot the deer. There are several of them on the island.
You can't beat escaping to nature in the middle of urban Arlington!
Visit the DEA Museum
Sure, you could go into the District and visit the Smithsonians, but Arlington has its share of museums as well. Have you ever heard of the DEA Museum? Its mission is to educate the American public on the history of drugs, drug addiction, and drug law enforcement in the United States.
This museum wasn't founded until 1999, but is a fun place to teach kids about our law enforcement officers and the wonderful service they provide the country.
The cost? Well, like most great public museums, its FREE! Located next to the Pentagon City Mall makes this convenient for riding the metro and taking a quick whirl through the mall after your visit.
My son loved to watch airplanes take off and land. When we moved to Arlington, we immediately went to Gravelly Point to enjoy the beautiful park and watch the planes in action.
This park is very popular with runners, bicyclists and (you guessed it!) plane-spotters. It is located right outside of Washington Reagan Airport and is one of the best locations in the world to watch planes. They take off and land virtually overhead and can make for a truly dramatic experience, especially for kids.
If you are really lucky and get there early in the morning, you may even see model airplane enthusiasts flying their RC planes and helicopters. Kids absolutely LOVE to watch these guys fly—just be ready for the begging and pleading afterwards..."Mom, I want one!"
Regardless, this is a great outdoor area that is enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
If there is a drawback to this park it is that it can get crowded, so keep your children close by and enjoy a wonderful morning out in the fresh air.
Iwo Jima Memorial
Technically, this is called the Marine Corps War Memorial, but locals know it as the Iwo Jima Memorial.
This is dedicated to the Marines who have died for the country since 1775 and is well worth the visit.
For a special treat, visit during the weekly Marine Parade with the Drum and Bugle Corps and Silent Drill Platoon. I guarantee that this will be one of the most memorable performances you have ever seen and you will get goosebumps when watching our heroes perform. Make sure you thank them for their service!
Claudia Mitchell on February 25, 2013:
I had to check this out because I grew up in Arlington. Lived there for about 25 years. Luckily my brother is still in the area so I get down there, but everything has changed so much. One gem that my family always went to was Potomac Overlook Park in No. Arlington. Absolutely beautiful. This hub brought back lots of great memories. I babysat for a child during the summer and everyday we would go to the rose garden. An older gentleman tended it, and he would always give me the blooms he was trimming. Nice hub! Thanks.
Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on January 22, 2012:
Well written and well presented hub, thanks! I'll remember this the next time I'm down in Virginia.