Editors' pick

Gravelly Point Park

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Editorial Review

While it affords a lovely view of the Washington skyline, the main attraction of this little park, built on a landfill just north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, is the airport's runway, just 400 feet away. Depending on wind direction, planes either take off or land there, sweeping by at 150 mph and as low as 100 feet overhead.

Takeoffs are louder, while landings create a false sense of drama -- the plane is coming in too low! -- that won't be lost on kids. It's a fun diversion, but parents may not want to stay too long. During airplane rush hours (corresponding roughly with the automotive equivalent, plus Sunday afternoons), as many as 30 planes an hour land or take off - one every two minutes. At slower times, the action is every eight or nine minutes.

There's a big lawn where you can play catch or just run around. When the Potomac is quiet, the planes' vibrations create an almost surreal crackling across the river's surface.

Weather permitting, you can walk down the Mt. Vernon hiking/biking trail toward the gorgeous new National Airport terminal, which lacks a good observation facility but otherwise is a wonderful, art- and light-filled place to visit and grab something to eat. Or you can head north up the trail, where you'll find LBJ Memorial Grove, Lady Bird Johnson Park and a memorial to those who have died at sea.

You also can bring bikes, park your car in the Gravelly Point lot and bike in either direction.

-- by John Kelly and Craig Stoltz

Words to the wise:
Don't let kids play on the rocky shore of Roaches Run, as rats like it there, too. Also, you need to be heading north on the GW Parkway (i.e., into D.C. from Virginia) to reach it -- no southbound access.