Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan National Airport’

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.