Life Well Lived: How to explore Alexandria’s natural beauty this fall

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Founders Park (photo by Aleksandra Kochurova)
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By Mara Benner

The hot summer days are coming to an end as we welcome the fall season. Crisp mornings, cooler temperatures and the opportunity to venture outside to enjoy the pleasant weather are beckoning you to come discover.

The invitation to explore our wonderful community also has important health and wellness benefits as well. Consider this: how do you achieve a feeling of rejuvenation and wellbeing? For many, it’s being out in nature. The great outdoors provides us with a new perspective, both because it gets us away from electronics and to-do lists and connects us with the rhythmic flow of our environment and its wildlife.

Luckily, there are a number of beautiful parks and trails to explore in and around Alexandria.

Mount Vernon Bike Trail:

As Alexandrians, we are keenly aware of our proximity to historical landmarks, to our federal government and the shops and restaurants available to us in our city. We are also likely aware of our many local parks, but here are a few additional considerations as you begin to venture out.

The National Park Service offers the 18-mile Mount Vernon Bike Trail winding through Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax. The trail loosely begins around Arlington National Cemetery, winding down and around to its completion at the historic Mount Vernon Estate. Through its journey, there are numerous parks and recreation areas overseen by the City of Alexandria.

Founders Park:

Located at 400 N. Union St.

Founders Park is located near all of the action in Old Town including shops and restaurants. The park boasts beautiful views of the Potomac River with places to sit and enjoy the scenery.

Oronoco Bay Park:

Located at 100 Madison Plaza

Oronoco Bay Park is a perfect place to picnic with picnic tables and views of the Potomac River. The park also has a volleyball court.

 Tide Lock Park:

Located at 1 Canal Center Plaza

Tide Lock Park offers a glimpse into history since it was named for an old canal controlled by wooden locks. The last of the locks was destroyed by a flood in the early 1820s, but a replica is available for viewing in the park. This park is privately owned but still available for public enjoyment.

Jones Point Park:

Located under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge

 Jones Point Park continues the Mount Vernon Bike Trail with a view under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It also has outdoor playgrounds, basketball courts and nature trails.

Off the Mount Vernon Bike Trail:

The City of Alexandria oversees more than 300 acres of parks and recreational facilities within the city limits. While the Mount Vernon Bike Trail offers a glimpse into many of the wonderful recreational spots, there are numerous other parks in the city.

For north end residents, there is the Potomac Yard Park located at 2501 Potomac Ave. Alexandrians love the toddler playground and splash park. The proximity of the park allows you to shop or eat near Del Ray or in Potomac Yard and then have the kids enjoy the park offerings. Residents of Alexandria’s West End can enjoy Ben Brenman Park at 4800 Brenman Park Drive. 

This park offers a half-mile stroll around a small lake, as well as two dog parks, an outdoor playground, baseball and soccer fields.

New King Street Waterfront Park:

Be sure to mark your calendars for a festival to celebrate the opening of the New King Street Waterfront Park. Visit Alexandria will host a complete lineup, including waterfront festival Portside in Old Town that will feature history, art, music, fitness and so much more the weekend of Oct. 12 to 14. The Portside in Old Town initiative will continue to offer events and activities to encourage community engagement at the King Street Waterfront Park. For a complete listing of the events, go to Visit Alexandria: www.visitalexandriava.com/event/portside-inoldtown-festival/12289/

Parks with Historical Significance:

In our local area, we have two additional parks that offer historical insight. One is Fort Ward Park at 4401 West Braddock Road. The City of Alexandria recognizes the fort as providing “an excellent understanding of Civil War-era military engineering.” The fort also has saved 90 percent of its earthwork walls, which are still available for viewing.

Watch history come alive on Saturday, Oct. 6, as Fort Ward Park recognizes “Civil War Artillery Day.” Civil war re-enactors will offer firing demonstrations, equipment displays and camp life for artillerymen.

As you travel south on George Washington Memorial Parkway, there’s the National Park Service-operated Fort Hunt Park. It has rich history for your exploration. It was originally part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. The land, however, was needed to help defend the Potomac River. The fort has an interesting background in the SpanishAmerican War, the Great Depression and World War II.

It has plenty of outdoor batteries to explore. There are also picnic areas, softball diamonds, large fields and a concert series in the summer.

 And One Additional Consideration…

 Just a few miles south of Old Town Alexandria, there is the Huntley Meadows Park at 3701 Lockheed Blvd. Huntley Meadows Park has more than 1,500 acres, including boardwalks through wetlands, lots of wildlife, hiking trails and more. The park is provided by the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, a nonprofit organization.

For Alexandria’s bird lovers, the park offers a complimentary Monday Morning Birdwalk at 7 a.m., rain or shine.

For a complete listing of the City of Alexandria parks, please visit www.alexandriava.gov/Recreation.

Mara Benner is the founder of Four Directions Wellness, connecting body, mind, emotions and spirit. The organization is affiliated with the GW Center for Integrative Medicine. Mara is also a member of the Del Ray Business Association’s Well Ray community.

 

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