Do you love plane spotting? Then you need to visit Gravelly Point just outside of Washington, DC in Arlington, Virginia. It is one of the best spots in the world to watch planes take off and land.
From Gravelly Point, you can see all the flight activity in and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Gravelly Point isn’t just a great place to watch planes. It’s an amazing place to picnic, watch the boats in the nearby Potomac River, and play lawn games.
Use the tips below to have a fantastic visit to Gravelly Point!
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How to Get There
The easiest way to get to Gravelly Point is by driving or taking an Uber/Lyft.
The entrance to Gravelly Point is just north of Reagan National Airport on the George Washington Parkway in Arlington, Virginia. That unfortunately means if you’re driving southbound, you’ll have to turn around in the airport and come back north.
Luckily, that portion of the airport usually isn’t congested.
Where to Park
If you’re driving to Gravelly Point, there is plenty of parking.
There’s a paved lot that accommodates most cars. On busy days, low curbs allow for overflow parking in the grassy areas next to the parking lot.
And as a bonus, parking is absolutely free.
When to Go
The park is open from 6AM to 10PM, so there’s a pretty big period of the day when you can visit.
I recommend going around lunch or dinner so that you can enjoy a picnic while you watch the planes take off and land.
The park is pretty big, so you don’t need to worry about beating the crowds.
What to Do
There are some awesome things you can do at Gravelly Point:
- Watch the planes: No preparation required for this one! Simple set-up shop anywhere in the park for a great view of the planes! Wind and general weather conditions determine whether the planes are taking off north or southbound. Either way, planes will be flying directly over Gravelly Point.
- Have a picnic: Gravelly Point is a fantastic place for a picnic. Bring your picnic blanket or chairs for a nice afternoon outdoors.
- Play lawn games: If you’re going to have a picnic, then bring along your lawn games, too! Toss or kick around a ball or play a game like croquet or bocce.
- See the boats on the Potomac River: Do you like boats? Well, you’re in luck! The Potomac River forms the eastern border of the park. You can set-up right along the river to get a view of the boats as well as the planes.
- Watch the boat launch: There’s a boat launch at the southern end of the park. It’s a cool place to watch boats being loaded in and out of the Potomac River.
- Walk on the Mount Vernon Trail: The Mount Vernon Trail is a multi-purpose biking, running, and walking trail that goes right through the park. You can use Gravelly Point as your launch point to park your car and then walk along the trail.
- Rent a bike: There’s a Capital Bikeshare location in the park. You can rent a bike there to ride along the Mount Vernon Trail.
Where to Set-Up
Most areas of Gravelly Point offer a great view of the planes, so you don’t need to worry about getting the best spot.
I would just avoid setting-up too close to the portable toilets, since people tend to congregate there.
You might also want to avoid setting-up too close to the bike/running trail since bikes come through there really fast.
What to Bring
Here are the items I recommend you bring with you to Gravelly Point:
- Food: On occasion, there are food trucks at Gravelly Point. But they are not there all day and there aren’t a lot of options. I recommend bringing along your own food. Bring a full picnic lunch or some snacks.
- Lawn chairs: I’m a big fan of collapsible lawn chairs. This park is the perfect place to set them up and take in the sights.
- Picnic blanket: Even if you’re bringing lawn chairs, a picnic blanket is great for spreading out the food and other items you bring with you.
- Wagon: I saw someone with this wagon the last time I was at Gravelly Point and thought it was genius. Why carry a bunch of heavy things when you can toss them in a wagon?
- Lawn Games: I highly recommend bringing along some games to play. Croquet and bocce are both good choices.
- Hand sanitizer and toilet paper: There are portable toilets at Gravelly Point, but I never count on portable toilets being fully stocked. I recommend bringing your own hand sanitizer and toilet paper just in case.
- Sunscreen: For the most part, the park is a wide-open space with no trees or other shading. Make sure to lather up with your sunscreen.
- Bug spray: Gravelly Point is a big grassy area next to a river, so count on there being some bugs trying to crash your party. Keep those party crashers away with some bug spray.
I hope these tips help you to have a fantastic trip to Gravelly Point. Happy plane spotting!