Three lakes surrounded by weeping cherry trees -- as well as daylilies, irises, hostas, lilacs, crabapples and an herb garden -- are centerpieces of this beautiful park. The park is designed as a living museum of plant life. The Hosta Garden and Daylily Collection are the largest in the area. The garden park presents a variety of gardening workshops, a volunteer program and an extensive program through which donations may be given in the name of loved ones.
Gazebos for rent
Horticulture tours and programs
Meeting rooms and reception hall
Walking, two miles of trails that are handicapped accessible
Visitors center: snack room, gift shop, rest rooms
Less than five miles outside the concrete cauldron of Tysons Corner, this 97-acre horticultural park has been handsomely installed on former farmland donated by the improbably named economist Gardiner Means. It is one of the region's best spots to take kids in strollers or toddlers just getting their legs (although you'll need to clarify the strict no-picking policy along the way). It's also one of those true "win-win" family destinations. Kids enjoy being outside, following the many paths and checking out the wildlife along the three lakes; parents can get ideas for home plantings, as this is one of the best-labeled public gardens you'll find.
Kids are sure to love the "spiral" garden (which winds around a small hill like a tiny interstate surrounding a mountain), the ruins of the spring house where water was fetched, the skipping-stone path across the lake and the several mulched pathways leading through the woods.
Be sure to get a brochure when you enter the visitors center: The map is easy to read, and kids may enjoy "navigating" around the park. A highlight, certain to be an eye-opener for every family member: the so-called Cancer Garden, displaying live plants from which cancer treatment medicines are derived. The park also has a modest picnic area and a visitors center gift shop, restrooms and soda and juice machines.
-- John Kelly and Craig Stoltz (Kid-O-Rama, 1998)
Words to the wise: Rules barring such recreational uses of the park as skating, ball-playing or fishing keep it pleasantly uncrowded, but the Atrium building and adjacent gazebos often are reserved on weekends for weddings and special events. You may want to call ahead to avoid crowds at those times.
Notes: While some trails here are steep, a good portion of this property is easily accessible for those with wheelchairs and strollers; a marked path indicates the most accessible routes. Neither food nor picnicking is permitted in the park proper.