The few drives Kathleen Mahan took through Franklin Farm in Fairfax County, Va., were strange affairs, she said.

During the mid-2000s, Mahan was searching for a new house and decided to scope out the picturesque streets winding through Franklin Farm, a onetime dairy operation that is now home to a collection of 1,777 split-levels, Colonials, townhouses and Victorians of varying shapes and sizes.

But once in the neighborhood, Mahan said, she quickly took note of what she perceived as oddities.

“It was kind of like a scene out of a Stephen King novel,” Mahan said. “The lawns were perfect, the sun was shining just right, and everyone outside looked so happy. I was like, ‘Okay, what’s going on here?’ ”

But after digging a little deeper and taking the time to talk to residents, Mahan said she realized that Franklin Farm was just the type of place she had been searching for.

“The neighborhood is just so family friendly and inviting that it immediately won me over,” said Mahan, who moved in 2006 to a 4,700-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial.

Joe Sanchirico, who moved five years ago to a 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom Colonial, said the neighborhood stood out because, unlike some newer communities in Northern Virginia, Franklin Farm “felt like an established community that didn’t have a bulldozed feel.”

Frogs and turtles: Located near Dulles International Airport, present-day Franklin Farm began to take shape in 1980 and has steadily grown, said Deb Frank, principal broker of Deb Frank Homes. The community consists of three sections — Franklin Farm, Still Oaks and Ashburton Oaks, Frank said. The community includes nearly 200 acres of open space and plenty of amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, community centers and tot lots. Franklin Farm is also centrally located to the retail-rich areas in Herndon and Reston.

“Franklin Farm is the type of community where people stay to raise their families and only leave if they’re being transferred for work or are retiring,” Frank said.

Growing up in nearby Oakton, Amy Dillon said that she dreamed of one day living in Franklin Farm. Riding the school bus to Franklin Middle School, Dillon said that many of her classmates lived in the neighborhood and that she was jealous that they were able to walk to school and could more easily arrange play dates.

“A lot of my classmates could talk to each other as they walked to school or the pool, and I really wanted to be a part of that,” she said.

So seven years ago, when a house became available in the neighborhood that she liked, Dillon jumped at the chance.

Since settling into her 2,300-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom Colonial, Dillon said that she spends most of her free time walking the neighborhood and has built relationships with neighbors who are eager to get to know her.

And best of all, she said, her two sons, ages 12 and 9, get to enjoy the childhood that she longed for.

“Franklin Farm is really a small town wrapped inside a big suburban community,” said Dillon, whose sons regularly catch frogs and turtles in the community’s overflow pond on Franklin Farm Road.

Living there: The neighborhood is bordered to the south by Route 50, to the north by the Dulles Toll Road, to the east by Ox Road and to the west by Dulles International Airport.

Franklin Farm includes nearly 200 acres of open space and plenty of amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, community centers and tot lots. (Justin T. Gellerson/For The Washington Post)

In the past 12 months, 61 properties have sold in Franklin Farm, ranging from a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse for $352,500 to a 4,400-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom Arts and Craft-style house for $1,161,697, said Frank, of Deb Frank Homes.

There are three houses for sale in Franklin Farm, ranging from a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-bathroom Colonial-style townhouse for $394,500 to a 3,500-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial for $1,699,000, Frank said.

Schools: Franklin Farm is zoned for three school pyramids. Students attend Crossfield, Navy and Oak Hill Elementary; Rachel Carson and Franklin Middle; and Oakton and Chantilly High.

Transit: Franklin Farm is served by the Fairfax Connector bus system and is about five miles from the Wiehle-Reston East Station and 11 miles from the Spring Hill Station on Metro’s Silver Line.

Crime: In the past six months, there were six assaults, one burglary and two stolen vehicles reported in the area that includes Franklin Farm, according to Fairfax County police.