From extensive bike trails to a medley of concerts and theater performances, from unique shopping experiences to an outstanding view of the nation's capitol, the city of Arlington packs quite a punch in its 26 square miles.
With the countless opportunities for thrilling events, how does one know where to start?
Not to worry. Arlington's layout lends itself easily to taking it all in — piece by piece. Arlington is divided into three transit corridors- — the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, the Columbia Pike Corridor, the Jefferson Davis Highway Corridor — and the bohemian nook that is Shirlington. "There is so much that each area offers," says Diana Sun, Arlington's director of communications. Indeed, the defining characteristics of the neighborhoods guarantee that wherever you choose as your destination, having fun in Arlington will never be a challenge.
<bt>The western end of this corridor is marked by an area that represents a little bit of everything — Ballston. Whether you're the mood for some upscale cuisine or just grabbing a quick bite, there are many options at any price range.
"One of our gems is Willow Restaurant," says Julie Mangis, executive director of the Ballston-Virginia Square Partnership. A classy modern atmosphere characterizes this eatery that opened last September. Another favorite spot for special occasions is The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant.
If you've arrived with a full stomach and are in the mood for a mid-afternoon shopping trip, visit Ballston Common Mall, the "center piece for retail and recreation" as Mangis puts it; the mall also features a 12-screen movie theater and is home to The Comedy Spot, a stand-up comedy venue with improv for kids and adults.
While good food and great retail have long been a trademark of Ballston, a fact not known to many is that the Ballston neighborhood is a flourishing backdrop for innovative artwork.
To satisfy your inner artist, visit the Arlington Arts Center, which Mangis describes as "a fabulous gallery with interesting work from new artists throughout the region." Upcoming shows will feature silk drawings and light installations, and if you want to exercise your own artistic talent, the center offers classes for children and adults, ranging from painting for beginners to "2-D Mixed Media Acrylic Painting."
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month, across from the Ballston metro stop, one can also find the Art Market, featuring "a wide variety of handmade arts and crafts that people can buy as unique gifts," according to Mangis.
As for its coming attractions, Ballston will soon be meeting the needs of Arlington's avid skaters. "Ballston will have the only NHL-sized ice rink inside the Beltway," says Sun. The ice rink is scheduled to open in August of this year on top of the mall’s public parking garage.
<bt>Looking to have fun in Clarendon? Well then get ready to splurge. With its trendy boutiques and even trendier restaurants, Clarendon is without a doubt a premier hot spot. "It's an extremely walkable area," says the Clarendon Alliance's Executive Director Roni Freeman.
The hub of activity is centered around Market Common at 2800 Clarendon Boulevard. Since its inception in 2001, Clarendon's Market Common has steadily evolved into one of the most popular spots for Arlington’s young adults to shop, meet for coffee, or sit down for dinner.
As Sun puts it, "On a summer night it’s so lively ... like walking on the beach or down the streets of Rome."
Clarendon is home to a lively mix of local bars, such as Hard Times Café and Whitlow’s on Wilson, that anchor the neighborhood, and hot music spots like Iota Club and Galaxy Hut. "Iota features state-of-the-art roots rock bands ... it's very well-respected," says Freeman. "Galaxy Hut is more indie rock." You can catch more live music at Clarendon Ballroom and Clarendon Grill. "It's hard to ever leave Clarendon," Freeman says. "Everything is here ... and the people are so friendly."
<bt>Sitting at the other end of the corridor, Rosslyn provides a stunning view of the District, yet it is fast becoming more than just about the views.
As the Rosslyn Business Improvement District's Communications Director Kristin Adderson says, "It is truly becoming Manhattan on the Potomac ... an exciting location with exciting events going on."
So what can you hope to discover just outside D.C.? For one, there is the variety of artwork dotting Rosslyn's urban streets. "Rosslyn has the most public art in Arlington per square foot," says Adderson, "which makes it a neat community to walk through."
In addition to the arts, Rosslyn is a veritable musical box, with the annual jazz festival at Gateway Park (to be held Sept. 9 this year) and the upcoming world music concert, Planet Arlington on Sept. 2.
Taking place at the Netherlands Carillon beside the Iwo Jima Memorial, the free event features a diverse lineup of musicians including Oliver Mutkudzi & Black Spirits from Zimbabwe, Frank London's Klezmer Brass AllStars, and Eileen Ivers of "Riverdance" fame, just to name a few.
Finally, the Finish Festival, in conjunction with the Marine Corps Marathon, will take place Oct. 29th; the event promises to be an exciting street party.
If one happens to be a cyclist, Rosslyn provides easy access to the bike trails. Hop on the W&OD trail, and before you know it, you will be riding by the Potomac River.
<mh>Columbia Pike Corridor
<bt>For those whose itinerary for fun includes an appreciation for originals, look no further than Columbia Pike.
In addition to being Arlington's original main street, the pike is home to a plethora of unique family-owned businesses and restaurants.
Stave off the summer heat with an ice cream sundae from Party Line Ice Cream or take in a movie at the Cinema 'N Draft House. After walking Columbia Pike's friendly streets, enjoy a meal at any of the one-of-a-kind restaurants, from Latin American cuisine at Cecelia's, where you'll find salsa dancing, to the Ethiopian delights served at Meaza Restaurant.
As Sun promises, "Columbia Pike has many restaurants and shops you won't see anywhere else." To magnify the already lively, pedestrian-accessible main street of Columbia Pike, in the works is the development of a five-mile streetcar line connecting Pentagon City and the Skyline area in Fairfax County.
<mh>Jefferson Davis Highway Corridor
<bt>Perhaps out of all of Arlington's neighborhood, no area has evolved to the same extent as Crystal City.
"It was developed as a series of businesses with the retail being underground, because that was what was state-of-the-art at the time ... The current vision of Arlington involves street level retail — it feels more friendly, you walk up and down the streets and you see the cafes, the delis, you see all that," Sun said.
Along with fixing streets (most used to be one-way), Crystal City has come into its own with the addition of many new ethnic restaurants.
"If you want Legal Sea Foods, it's there, if you want to eat at a small little Ethiopian restaurant, it's there," says Sun. Recently added to the area's dynamic menu are the hip new Mexican restaurants, Jaleo and Oyamel.
The rising of the underground represented by Crystal City's recent changes is further exemplified by the free block party known as Crystal City Rocks. Past performers have included Vertical Horizon and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, as well as DaVinci's Notebook, Arlington's own vocal group.
<bt>"Shirlington is really coming into its own as a cultural arts center," says Diana Sun. With the new developments set to take place in the Village at Shirlington, the traditional dinner-and-movie experience will reach new heights.
By September of this year, the renovations, known collectively as "Phase II," are to be completed. The highlight of this development project between Arlington County and the Federal Realty Investment Trust is centered around the opening of a theatre/library four-story complex. Shirlington's famed Signature Theatre will share a space with the Shirlington Library, with an adjacent plaza for future concerts, festivals, and events.
"The old Shirlington library was undersized, antiquated," says Arlington Economic Development's spokesman Tom Newman. "When Federal Realty Investments came in with ideas on development, the county thought it would be a good way to add something to Shirlington and have the library located in the Village ... as part of all this, the county also thought there could be a home for the theater in the Village."
Also in the works is the establishment of several new cafes and businesses, including Caribou Coffee and Harris Teeter.
Shirlington also provides an exceptional dining experience, with restaurants to wet your appetite — try Carlyle or Thai in Shirlington, or, if you want to start a celebratory night off right, visit the Capitol City Brewing Co.
A highlight of Shirlington is the Signature Theatre, which boasts a new spin on classic musicals.
During the summer, the Bozzuto Group sponsors "Movies Under the Stars" on 28th Street South. After catching a bite to eat, enjoy a free outdoor movie on a balmy summer night. This year's featured films included "Walk the Line" and "Fever Pitch."