Let’s say you want to have the ultimate Arlington experience. But let’s also say you don’t have very much time. Let’s say you have only one day to engage in this Ultimate Arlington Experience.
If this is your predicament, then you are very much in luck. The Arlington Connection has crafted an itinerary for a day full of Arlington activities for newcomers and old-timers alike. But first, a warning: the Ultimate Arlington Experience should not be attempted by the faint of heart or the faint of stomach. Make sure to get plenty of rest before embarking on this jam-packed day of activities.
9:45 a.m. – Bob & Edith’s Diner – 2310 Columbia Pike
To start off your long day, you first must fuel up at Arlington’s favorite place for extreme caloric intake.
Bob & Edith’s Diner is an Arlington institution on Columbia Pike. Barely the size of a living room, the 24-hour restaurant has been family owned since its inception in 1969.
Lines to get into Bob & Edith’s on weekend mornings are out the door and around the corner. But the establishment truly comes alive in the wee hours of the morning when assorted characters in varying states of consciousness amble in to shake off the evening’s revelry.
"You know that if you come here at 2 o’clock at night it’s going to be a party," said Adam White, a former Bob & Edith’s waiter. "It turns into a club, almost. It’s like an after hours club."
At 9:45, though, things should be fairly calm. This will enable you to focus on the task at hand: carbo-loading for the day ahead. The menu is full of no-nonsense American classics like grits, scrapple and nearly every conceivable pork product.
Those looking to shed a few pounds, as well as those with heart conditions or high cholesterol levels, should probably avoid Bob & Edith’s Diner. But those fortunate souls who feel no need to watch what they eat will be in hog heaven — no pun intended.
10:30 a.m. – Papillon Cycles – 2809 Columbia Pike
Rather than letting the wholesome goodness of Bob & Edith’s gestate in your stomach, it’s time to work off those calories in a traditional Arlington way: biking.
At Papillon Cycles, you will be able to rent a bicycle which can take you throughout Arlington, which considers itself to be one of the most bike-friendly areas in the country.
According to Charlie Denney, the county’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager, Arlington has 37 miles of separated bike trails, 23 miles of designated bike lanes and 50 miles of signed bike routes.
"We have a real commitment from our political leadership and the county staff to make Arlington a good place to ride bikes," Denney said.
One of the most popular biking tours of Arlington is known as the Arlington Loop. Consisting solely of paved, off-road paths, the loop goes along the Potomac River on the Mt. Vernon Trail, into South Arlington on the Four Mile Run Trail, and through the heart of the county on the Custis Trail.
However, at a total distance of 18 miles, it is only for experienced cyclists.
2 p.m. – Whitlow’s On Wilson – 2854 Wilson Boulevard
After your two-wheeled trek, more food will undoubtedly be required to keep you going on your journey across, around and through Arlington.
Whitlow’s, located in Arlington’s bustling Clarendon neighborhood, is as good a place as any to grab a casual bite.
Originally located in D.C., Whitlow’s moved to Arlington in 1995 and has been thriving ever since. Known for its old-fashioned neon sign as well as its do-it-yourself Bloody Mary buffet, Whitlow’s is the centerpiece of Wilson Boulevard’s cavalcade of bars and restaurants.
Among the relaxingly aged décor in the bar and grill are chairs from the original Arlington County Courthouse building. Whitlow’s also frequently hosts live music events, with bands playing everything from reggae to rock to blues to 80’s cover bands.
It’s a good place to grab a burger, knock back a cold beer and contemplate your next move.
3 p.m. – Benjamin Banneker Park – 1701 North Van Buren Street
Your next move should be to the outskirts of the county, directly on Arlington’s border with Falls Church, to Benjamin Banneker Park.
This park, named after the Maryland-born African-American surveyor and astronomer, is located at the end of Four Mile Run, a stream that forms most of Arlington’s southern border and flows into the Potomac River.
It also features a dog park that, according to Arlington residents Anneliese O’Brien and Jason Jones, is a popular hangout for singles who have recently acquired a furry friend.
But with the sound of rustling leaves and trickling water permeating the area, Benjamin Banneker Park is also ideal for some outdoor napping, an activity that may appeal to you after your 18-mile bicycle odyssey.
6:30 p.m. – The Carlyle Grand Café – 4000 Campbell Ave.
This distinctive, decades-old Arlington restaurant is the anchor of the newly-revitalized Shirlington neighborhood.
Located among over a dozen shops and eateries, The Carlyle was one the first businesses to set its roots down in Shirlington, which was formerly an industrial, economically-depressed area.
"We really enjoy the Arlington area," Carlyle managing partner Dwight Fuller said. "We are really excited about the possibilities for us and being a part of this community."
The restaurant’s cuisine could be defined as contemporary American but features many dishes with international flavors. Its atmosphere is refined yet casual, with a style all its own.
But one of the Carlyle’s main draws is its bakery next door.
Opened 12 years ago as a way of providing the Carlyle with the freshest bread possible, Best Buns Bakery has evolved into an entity of its own. It routinely draws workers from around the area every morning and afternoon for coffee, pastries and sandwiches.
"[It] has become a community hang out," Fuller said. "There are always lines and there’s always a great feeling in the bakery."
8 p.m. – Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Ave.
The recently-remodeled Signature Theatre, located only steps away from the Carlyle, is a great place to see live theatre after a long day out around Arlington. For more information on Signature, see the feature story in the Newcomers section of our Web site.
10:40 p.m. – Clarendon
There’s only one way to put a post-mortem on a day as stimulating and jam-packed as this: drinking.
And the Clarendon area is the ideal place to go in Arlington if hydration is your goal. With no fewer than a dozen bars and clubs lining the area around Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards, there’s something for everyone in this nightlife hotspot.
Into country music? Iota (2832 Wilson Boulevard) is right up your alley. Feel more comfortable amongst so-hip-it-hurts indie rockers? The Galaxy Hut (2711 Wilson Boulevard) is the place for you.
The Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Boulevard) is the place to go for those looking to find a potential mate for the evening. The Eleventh Street Lounge (1041 North Highland) has got you covered in the fancy, expensive drinks department.
Maybe you enjoy gourmet food with your cocktails. Tallula (2761 Washington Boulevard) has a thought-provoking menu that compliments its impressive wine list. Or maybe your sole concern is reckless, college-style beverage consuming, in which case you’ll be among like-minded patrons at Mister Days (3100 Clarendon Boulevard).
Regardless of your personality type, the Clarendon area will have some place that you’ll be able to call your own. And, what’s more, it’s a great place to go after experiencing a little of everything that Arlington has to offer — in one day.
Additional reporting for this article was contributed by Alexis Bozzo and Ashton Ward.