Posts Tagged ‘Gravelly Point Park’

Crystal City Water Park

Crystal City Water Park

On this bike ride I left D.C. via the 14th Street Bridge, and went for a ride on the trails in Virginia. I starting out on the Mount Vernon Trail, and then rode south past Gravelly Point Park and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. But instead of continuing south, I decided to turn off and take one of the side trails. So I turned west and went through a tunnel, and discovered a park I did not know about before. It is called the Crystal City Water Park, and is located at 1750 Crystal Drive (MAP), between 15th and 18th Streets in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington County.

Depending on the time of day, Crystal City Water Park can be a quiet, serene setting, with the sound of the water from the multiple fountains and waterfalls adding to the calm. During these times it provides an ideal setting for those seeking a place to de-stress. At other times, such as mid-day during the week, the park often fills up with nearby office workers having lunch. There is a small restaurant located in the park named The Water Park Café, which serves Mediterranean, Egyptian and American food. And whether you get your lunch from the Café or brown-bag it from home, there is plenty of outdoor seating.

The park is the site of many scheduled, organized activities as well. For example, Mind Your Body Oasis offers free yoga in the park at 7:00 am on Monday mornings during the warmer weather between May and September. And a local wine shop named Vintage Crystal sponsors events called “Wine in the Water Park,” which features interesting wine varietals and great live music on Fridays evenings in June and September.

Similar in a way to the plane watching in nearby Gravelly Point Park, another favorite activity in Crystal City Water Park is train watching. By walking up the path to the “observation deck” area on top of the park’s wall of water, you can see the trains go by on the three tracks that pass by the back of the park.  But unlike the planes at Gravelly Point, if you wave to the passing trains you may just get a wave back from the conductor and maybe a toot from the train whistle too if you’re lucky.

CrystalCityWaterPark05     CrystalCityWaterPark03     CrystalCityWaterPark06

CrystalCityWaterPark07     CrystalCityWaterPark02     CrystalCityWaterPark09
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Gravelly Point Park offers an impressive view of the D.C. skyline, and by crossing the Potomac River via the 14th Street Bridge, it is just a short bike ride away in Virginia.  Once there (MAP), you can continue to ride in either direction on the 18-mile long Mount Vernon Trail which runs through the park.  If you ride north up the trail, you’ll find such attractions as the Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove, the Navy – Merchant Marine Memorial, or Theodore Roosevelt Island at the northern end of the trail.  Riding south, you can ride through Old Town Alexandria, all the way to George Washington’s estate located at Mount Vernon at the southern end of the trail.

But the main attraction of this small waterfront park just north of Ronald Reagan National Airport is that the airport’s runway is just a few hundred feet away, making it one of the best spots in the United States for experiencing airplanes without leaving the ground.  Depending on wind direction, planes either take off or come in for a landing there, sweeping by at high speeds and as low as a hundred feet directly overhead.

The takeoffs are louder, but the landings are much more dramatic when the planes fly close enough as they pass by to shake the ground.  Combined with feel of the wind vortices swirling off the wings, it can create the impression that the planes are coming in too low and may crash.  Adding to the fun is the fact that as these planes are coming in for a landing, they must make sharp turns in order to avoid flying over restricted airspace nearby, such as the space over The White House.  During flight rush hours, which roughly correspond with the automotive equivalent, as well as Sunday afternoons, as many as 30 planes an hour land or take off.  That’s one every two minutes.  At slower times, the action takes place every eight or nine minutes.

The park includes an open, grassy area, as well as shaded areas under willow trees.  It also has picnic tables and a boat launch.  So pack a lunch, take a break from all the history and heritage on the other side of the river, and enjoy a leisurely ride along the banks of the Potomac River, and a fun, lazy afternoon plane-spotting in Gravelly Point Park.