Ali Alavi moved nine years ago to a house in Vienna's Dunn Loring neighborhood with an eye toward improving his quality of life.
The neighborhood's tranquil, tree-lined streets were nice. And Dunn Loring's large plots of land, sporting an array of architectural styles, certainly were a draw.
But the thing that ultimately sold him on the neighborhood was the W&OD Trail, with its maze of paths for hiking, biking, running and walking.
For the sexagenarian, who has diabetes, having access to 45 miles of paved trails that run along the former roadbed of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad has been a "lifesaver," Alavi said.
"The trails are vital to my lifestyle because, living with diabetes, I have to be active," said Alavi, who said he exercises outdoors daily. "I can exercise anytime I want, and that's helped improve my health, Alavi said. He lives steps away from the park's trails in a 3,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom, three-bathroom Cape Cod on Idylwood Road.
'Hidden gem': Consisting mostly of single-family houses, with a smattering of townhouses, Dunn Loring is a "great place to live that's under the radar for most buyers," said Traci Oliver, an agent with TTR Sotheby's International Realty.
The community is only about two square miles, and that compactness, Oliver said, results in a true sense of camaraderie that makes people want to stay put.
"Dunn Loring is sort of a hidden gem. It's really rare to find a neighborhood that's so close to major highways, and offers plenty of shopping options, still have a sense of community," she said.
Sue Weis, who moved to Dunn Loring 35 years ago, said she remembers when a large part of the surrounding county consisted of woodlands. Over the years, she's enjoyed watching the growth of shopping options around her.
"The access we enjoy to seemingly everything is just such an asset," said Weis, who lives in a four-bedroom, four-bathroom split-level on Sandburg Street.
Steve Payne and Holly Bastian had just finished jogging along the W&OD Trail and were making the two-minute walk from the park to the front door of their 4,200-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial on Iliff Drive when they stopped to talk about their affinity for the neighborhood.
The couple used to live three miles south of Dunn Loring until they grew tired of having to "put our bikes on our car and drive over here," Bastian said. "We thought it would be great to live in Dunn Loring and get to use the trails whenever we wanted."
"There's no excuse not to exercise," Payne chimed in. "The pressure is seeing someone out jogging or biking, and then we're like, 'Okay, let me get out there, too,' " he said with a chuckle.
About five minutes from Tysons Corner and close to the Mosaic District's blend of retail and dining options, Dunn Loring is centrally located to the activity outside its borders, Bastian said.
"We're within walking distance of so many takeout and sit-down restaurants that it's often too difficult to choose," she said. "And we're far enough from Tysons Corner that the traffic isn't a problem."
Living there: Dunn Loring is roughly bordered by Leesburg Pike to the north; Interstate 495 to the east; Interstate 66 to the south; and Gallows Road, Electric Avenue and Cedar Lane to the west.
In the past 12 months, 19 properties have sold in Dunn Loring, ranging from a three-bedroom, two-bathroom rambler for $545,000 to a five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial for $1,150,000, said Oliver, the real estate agent with TTR Sotheby's International Realty.
There are three homes under contract in Dunn Loring, Oliver said. They range from a 2,294-square-foot, five-bedroom, three-bathroom split-level for $675,000 to a 3,514-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom Victorian for $1,049,900.
Schools: Stenwood and Westbriar elementaries, Joyce Kilmer Middle and George C. Marshall High.
Transit: The Dunn Loring-Merrifield station on Metro's Orange Line serves the neighborhood. The community is also served by Metrobus's 2A route.
Crime: In the past six months, there have been four assaults and one robbery reported in the area that includes Dunn Loring, according to Fairfax County police.