8 Alexandria Parks That Locals Love Living Near
Alexandria has long made parks a priority. As a matter of fact, the Alexandria area is home to over 900 acres of protected open space and 566 acres of city-owned parkland. That's not including private and organization-managed parks. People will find plenty of outdoor activities in Alexandria, including playgrounds, hiking, and fishing. The community has 41 playgrounds, 20 miles of foot trails, a nature center, and 18 dog parks to keep everyone happy. Keep reading to learn about the best parks in Alexandria.
Huntley Meadows Park: A Stunning Natural Sanctuary
Huntley Meadows Park Amenities
- Picnic shelters
- Historic Huntley Tours
- Birthday parties
- Hiking and biking trail
Less of a traditional park, Huntley Meadows Park is a beautiful, wetland wildlife sanctuary. It is home to an accessible boardwalk that spans much of the park as well as woodland trails. With a marsh-like habitat, much of the park is home to diverse ecosystems and various animals. That's the key benefit to coming here: seeing nature at its best.
Huntley Meadows Park spans 1,400 acres, making it the largest park in the area. What's interesting about this protected wildlife area is that it was once used as a place to conduct secret radio research and to test asphalt. Today, it's well preserved by the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park. The Cedar Trail and Deer Trail are two popular woodland trails, allowing visitors to walk through dense forests. The boardwalk allows users to cross over the marsh areas and reach a two-story observation tower with excellent views.
From frogs to snapping turtles to numerous species of birds, Huntley Meadows Park is the place to observe wildlife. Leashed dogs are only allowed on the woodland trails, not the boardwalk. The park itself is located off I-495 in Hybla Valley. It's open dawn to dusk throughout the year but closed on Tuesdays. There's a visitors center here, too.
Founders Park: A Green Haven in the Heart of Old Town
Founders Park Amenities
- Volleyball nets
- Dog exercise area
- Walking paths
Founders Park is the urban green space many people seek out when they want a large open area to eat lunch, go for a walk, or get in some nature. The park sits on the Potomac River and is located in the Old Town Alexandria neighborhood. It's close enough to the shops and restaurants along Kings Street that visitors can walk to and from the area. It's also close to the Torpedo Factory Art Center and the marina itself. On any given day, locals can be spotted enjoying a picnic while soaking up the pristine views of the river.
There's something special about the waterfront area, the larger gardens of flowers, and the open spaces ideal for a game of frisbee. The park has an unfenced dog park, and dogs can be walked on a leash throughout the area.
The city maintains this park as a passive park for the community and visitors, so it typically cannot be reserved by any private entities.
It is easy to find Founder's Park at 351 North Union Street. There is a parking lot nearby. This riverside park has volleyball courts, picnic tables, and numerous walking trails, including some that take visitors to the shoreline. This 4.67-acre park is open from dawn to dusk daily.
Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve: 485 Acres of Scenic Wetlands
Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve Amenities
- Walking trails
- Boat launch
- Benches positioned for scenic views
Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is another treasure located in the Belle Haven community. This park is the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetlands in the entire Washington Metro area. The area spans 485 acres, with a floodplain, swamp forests, and a tidal marsh. Many areas are accessible by foot. Where that is not possible, small boats can help visitors and residents explore the area fully.
Those visiting Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve can do so between 6 am and 10 pm daily. The park is open throughout the year and can be an excellent place to visit to see the seasonal changes. One of the main reasons to visit is to take the Haul Road Trail. This trail follows an old mining road through the various habitats present. Various birds and both wet and dry land animals are present in each area. The trail is about three-quarters of a mile long. It is not too difficult since most of it is paved and flat. There are some areas of boardwalk and other areas of gravel.
Those looking for aquatic fun in Alexandria should explore the wetlands by boat. The Belle Haven Marina is nearby and offers boats for rent. There is also a boat ramp here for those bringing their own. A few things to note:
- No bikes are allowed on the trail
- Internal combustion engines may not be used on water vessels
- No more than three vessels can be used at any one time by a group
- Some areas are prohibited due to the nesting of wrens
- Permits are necessary for any commercial activities
Green Springs Gardens: Immaculate Landscaping and Historic Tours
Green Springs Gardens Amenities
- Horticulture Center
- Native plants
- Public lectures and talks
Green Springs Gardens is a year-round park offering a wide range of beautifully designed gardens. This area is beloved by gardeners because of the numerous formal gardens. There is also an outdoor classroom, a national historic site, and a museum to visit in the area. The garden has a gate that's locked at 5 p.m. each day, limiting access. The park itself is located at 4603 Green Spring Road in Alexandria.
Many things make this park unique, including the wooded stream valley with several ponds and over 20 themed demonstration gardens. There is a native plant garden present as well. Those visiting can learn virtually anything they need to from the educational programs, horticulture reference library, and the staff. There is a plant shop and gift shop located here for those who wish to take something home with them.
Green Springs Garden offers much to love, including garden plot rentals for those who wish to garden but lack space to do so at home. Visitors can also explore the 1784 historic house located on the site, built by the Moss family. Tours are available at various times of the week.
Jones Point Park: A Riverfront Paradise
Jones Point Park Amenities
- Fishing piers
- Garden plots
- Two playgrounds
- Basketball courts
- Multi-use sports fields
Another must-see park in Alexandria is Jones Point Park. It's located on the Potomac River and just south of Old Town Alexandria. While the park is a beautiful place to visit, it also carries a significant amount of historic charm, having been one of the most important centers for shipping, transportation, and manufacturing in the country's early years. The lighthouse present was built in 1855 and is the last riverine lighthouse in the state.
Those visiting Jones Point Park will find several recreation spaces, including two playgrounds and basketball courses. There are multi-use fields for sports as well. The park also offers the Learn to Ride and Lighthouse Life children's programs as a part of its ranger program.
Jones Point Park features an interpretive trail to explore the area's history and natural marsh habitat. There are two fishing piers for those after American eels, rock bass, or catfish. A canoe launch is also present, making it ideal for those who want to go for a boat trip on the Potomac.
Dora Kelley Nature Park: Dedicated to Virginia's Natural Beauty
Dora Kelley Nature Park Amenities
- Bike trails
- Environmental study area
- Interpretive nature program
- Picnic area
This nature park is a wildlife sanctuary, where the species that have long called Virginia home are both protected and preserved. Visitors to this park can meander down the mile-long trail that winds throughout the park. Large groups with at least eight people can book guided tours of the trail, and smaller parties can pick up a self-guided trail map that will introduce them to their natural surroundings. It is one of the best places for bird watching in the region, so visitors are advised to bring binoculars and cameras along for their adventures.
Carlyle House Historic Park: An Iconic Park with Historical Value
Carlyle House Historic Park Amenities
- Girl Scout programs
- Guided tours
- Public events
The Carlyle House Historic Park features the Georgian estate of the founder of Alexandria, John Carlyle. Carlyle built the home in the middle of the 18th century, and today visitors can explore the museum and relax in its gardens. Located in the heart of Old Town Alexandria, this park affords people the opportunity to take a step back in time and appreciate the little things in life.
Cameron Run Regional Park: Alexandria's Go-To For Fun in the Sun
Cameron Run Regional Park Amenities
- Great Waves Waterpark
- Batting cages
- Mini golf
- Picnic areas
This park is popular among schoolchildren who are enjoying their summer vacation to the fullest. Visitors will find a giant wave pool as well as several different water slides that allow them to stay cool during those warm Virginia afternoons. There's even a splash pool for toddlers and young children who aren't ready for the thrills of the larger water attractions. In addition to these wet activities, there's plenty of fun to be had on dry land. The park also boasts a putt-putt golf course and batting cages, as well as specific areas for those who have packed a picnic lunch. It's a great place to have a day-long getaway.
Great Parks Are a Big Perk in Alexandria
For those visiting or living in Alexandria, the outdoors plays a big part in the quality of life here. That's evident by the numerous unique parks located throughout the area. Whether private or city-run, each offers something special.