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YOUR GUIDE TO ROAD TRIPPING THROUGH NORTHERN VIRGINIA
 
(2023 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: REBECCA DOSER



If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the unexpected delight of uncovering hidden gems along a good old-fashioned road trip. Snowbirds, I’m talking to you. That multi-hour journey south is just a monotonous straight shot to the Sunshine State if you’re not exploring your ideal crossroads: Northern Virginia. Located adjacent to the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C., the Northern Virginia region is far from just a pit stop off Interstate 95; it’s a distinctive destination of wonders, worthy of a multi-day excursion through its five eclectic destinations: Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Prince William County.

Driving into Northern Virginia, you’re greeted by the breeze off the Potomac River, quaint neighbourhoods beckoning with local confectioneries and mouth-watering international cuisine, strollable streetscapes ready to supply retail therapy and charming boutique wineries and local breweries for when you’re ready to wind down. As the temperature warms, discover even more to love with the most symbolic sign of springtime in the region: cherry blossoms. Admire the fluffy pink and white marvels with guided bike and boat tours, along with festivities as part of The National Cherry Blossom Festival held in neighbouring Washington, D.C. (March 20-April 16, 2023). Don’t be surprised if your Northern Virginia detour leaves you wanting more!

Get Active in Arlington

Northern Virginia is the perfect homebase to a D.C. vacation, where you’ll find hotels to be, on average, 30 percent cheaper than hotels in the U.S. capital. With ample transportation options like Metro, bike and the water taxi to take you into other areas of the D.C. region, these destinations blend big-city excitement with small-town charm. My fondest memories of Arlington include visiting some of America’s historical treasures such as Arlington National Cemetery and riding along the 29-kilometre Mount Vernon Trail, gingham blanket and trail mix tucked aboard my bike ready for a picnic at Gravelly Point Park as I watched planes take off at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Today, I can’t help but notice the breadth of new outdoor activities and developments in the heart of this thriving urban centre. Arlington’s 121 kilometres of trails and 445 hectares of parkland complement its gleaming skyscrapers overlooking D.C. and its dynamic economic hub, home to companies including Amazon, Microsoft and Nestlé.

Shop Small and Relax Riverside

Time to head next door to Old Town Alexandria for a ramble along the historic King Street. It’s home to hundreds of local boutiques spanning charming home decor and handcrafted jewellery to local bookstores and sustainable staples. Strolling towards the waterfront, I often admire the nearby rowhouses’ charming 18th and 19th century architecture, especially along cobblestoned Captain’s Row. Feel transported to Europe as you enjoy happy hour along King Street’s pedestrian zone, known as streeteries. These patio-style eateries that line the sidewalks brim with local favourites like nostalgia-inducing Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, where you’ll salivate as you peer in the window and spy the glorious soft serve machine in its fitting vintage setting. Be sure to explore the city’s flourishing arts scene, from the temporary public art at Waterfront Park to the Torpedo Factory Art Center, home to the largest collection of publicly accessible working artist studios in the U.S. New alfresco dining options abound in Alexandria’s Robinson Landing development where you can luxuriate over dishes cooked to perfection on an open wood-fired stove at Ada’s on the River.

Putt Putt with a View

After relaxing riverside, journey 13 kilometres south into Fairfax County to America’s most visited historic estate: George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Tour the mansion, explore the lush gardens and grounds, take specialty tours, and get to know America’s first president. Mount Vernon just scratches the surface of Fairfax County’s thriving history and culture scene. Walk under the wing of an iconic NASA space shuttle at a Smithsonian museum, attend a concert under the stars at Wolf Trap, the only National Park dedicated to the performing arts, or explore local art in a former prison with ties to the suffragist movement at the Workhouse Arts Center. Top it off with a visit to The Perch at Capital One Center, an epic new “park-in-the-sky” that is home to (pause for dramatic effect) a Biergarten, public art, an amphitheatre and even 18 holes of mini golf, all situated 11 stories above Capital One Hall, a venue that draws in nationally renowned concerts and Broadway plays. Say no more.

Welcome to Horse Country!

Ready for some vino yet? With 50 vineyards, Loudoun County is known as D.C.’s Wine Country. But with Appalachian Trail access, pro sports, vintage shopping in historic towns and a thriving equestrian scene, Loudoun offers more than meets the … palate. Loudoun lures some of the world’s top riders to international horse trials at Morven Park. Come springtime, folks can attend sidesaddle races or catch the Middleburg Spring Races in the historic town of Middleburg—the nation’s horse and hunt hub—and visit the National Sporting Library and Museum for equestrian art and literature year-round. For summer fun, watch Polo in the Park while sipping a crisp Loudoun viognier.

Floral Festivals and Outdoor Adventures Aplenty

Before hopping back on the road, make your final stop in Prince William County, full of storied battlefields, ample places to hike and explore the great outdoors and some of the area’s top craft breweries. Prince William blossoms in the spring when you can enjoy outdoor concerts at Jiffy Lube Live, pick tulips and sunflowers during the Festival of Spring at Burnside Farms (a personal favourite) and reel in a catch at Lake Ridge Marina or Locust Shade Park.

Between embracing the great outdoors at the Potomac River waterfront, hiking trails or relishing scenic wineries, and immersing yourself in the region’s history and culture, you’re bound to feel the magic of Northern Virginia the second you step foot there … and start planning for your return.

Neighbourhood on the Rise

Boasting three vibrant Arlington neighbourhoods—Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard—National Landing is Virginia’s largest walkable downtown and is generating buzz as one of the fastest-growing neighbourhoods in the region thanks to Amazon’s HQ2, 450 shops and restaurants, 5,500 hotel rooms and more.

Did You Know?

Travelling to Northern Virginia by plane is easy with non-stop hour-long flights into two main airports serving the Washington, D.C., area, located right there in Northern Virginia: Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

 
 
 
 
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