Arlington Walkabouts: Pike Hike

Did you know that Arlington County has a “Walkabouts” program? You can view a brochure right here on the Walk Arlington site that gives you directions for a self-guided tour of multiple Arlington communities. Each tour has various stops with random fun facts about the neighborhood.  

The first Walkabout we completed was the Pike Hike, since that’s right in our neighborhood. Columbia Pike has been around since the early 1800s when Arlington was still part of Washington, D.C. – the Pike, known by a few different street names since then, was built to run from Virginia into DC. It currently ends at the Pentagon. The Pike Hike Walkabout covers what many Pike residents consider the “downtown” area of our neighborhood.

Pike Hike Walkabout Landmarks

1) Columbia Pike Library. Adjacent to the Career Center and Patrick Henry Elementary School, this branch’s draw on the map is the “Triumph of Literature” mural, done by high school students a decade or so ago.

"Triumph of Literature"

This funky mural is close by. I don’t know what it is or how it got there, but I really like it!

I think orange is my new second favorite color.

2) Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. This awesome art deco-style building helps make the main stretch of the Pike look just like a downtown “Main Street” area. The Drafthouse has been around since 1939, when it was known as the Arlington Theatre. It used to house a bowling alley on the upper floors; that space is now a martial arts school. The Drafthouse serves beer and food along with cheap movies and performances by well-known comedians. The adjacent Old Arlington Grill offers a smaller, more intimate atmosphere with amateur comedy night, karaoke, and open acoustic mic night.

Home of the annual Office Space Festival!

3) Pike Park. There’s really not much to this little space in front of the Rite Aid parking lot. I have heard that when Eckerd’s (now Rite Aid) bought the property – formerly the site of a Hot Shoppes and later, Bob’s Big Boy – they had to agree to convert part of the land to a park that could be used for a Farmer’s Market. On non-Farmer’s Market days the park is exposed as just a small stretch of green grass with a couple of benches.

The Farmer's Market takes place here every Sunday morning.

4) Walter Reed Community and Senior Center. Check out the roof of this building – it’s literally green!

You can take various classes inside the center or you can use the outside for basketball, gardening, or watching your kids play on the playground … or you know, play on it yourself when no one else is around *cough*

The roof is covered in plants ... which would probably be more abundant if we weren't having another boiling hot summer!

An adorable turtle at the playground!

5) Arlington Village Condominiums. According to our brochure, these buildings have been around since before World War II.

This area is a bit hilly but with lots of trees for shade.

6) Rappahannock Coffee and Roasting Company. The service is kinda slow here, but Eric and I have dropped in a number of times. The hours are really limited for a coffee shop (7-7 daily) so we unfortunately got here too late to grab an iced coffee and a sandwich on the day I took this picture.

The little neighborhood Giant pharmacy is next door.

7) Bob & Edith’s Diner. Eric and I love eating here more for the atmosphere than the food, which is typical hearty diner fare. It’s right across the street from us and our most frequented eatery. Fears abound among Pike residents that the diner will eventually fall victim to the rash of condos and new restaurants opening up on the Pike. I prefer to remain optimistic and think that the new development will bring more residents to enjoy the 24-7 diner, especially after closing time at the bars down the street.

Bob & Edith's has been around since 1969!

Optional Extension:

8) Penrose Park. Another one of Arlington’s many great little parks, this one is used very frequently by residents of Penrose (my section of the Pike) and Arlington Heights. It has a large playground as well as a basketball court, green space, benches and plenty of barbecue grills. Eric and I come here often on warm evenings as it’s just a brief stroll away.

This park spans 1.84 acres.

9) Patrick Henry Elementary School. The Walkabouts brochure mentioned an eco-habitat on the PHES property and advised people to come there after hours. We think we figured out where that was, but the fence was locked and we couldn’t get in. We did find other little gardens around the property however …

Part of the Middle Eastern Garden at PHES.

Another tiny garden closer to the main school entrance; I think the sign said it was a Scout project.

Other Things:

Cleveland Park is in the Arlington Village area. It’s a nice shady place on a hill with picnic tables (and plenty of fat squirrels). We also saw tons of brown bunnies and a big field mouse on our walk.

Cleveland Park

Below is a view of the new Penrose Square development up the street from me as seen from the steps leading to the new Giant. The large grassy area shown here will host some outdoor musical events this summer (or so I hear). This development replaces the old Adams Square strip mall with its much tinier Giant. The new Giant is having groceries stocked as we speak – Grand Opening is June 24th! I can’t tell you how EXTREMELY EXCITED I am to have a large grocery store within walking distance again!

Along with the Giant, Penrose Square is home to a number of other businesses as well as several brand new condominiums.

As you can tell, I love where I live! I highly encourage you to check out an Arlington Walkabout. The brochure is free and it’s kind of fun to follow the path and see what you find. Look for Walk Arlington to debut Pike Hike II later this summer with the help of Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman, who also helped create the first Pike Hike.

Fun Fact: Columbia Pike has no Metrorail station and is serviced mainly by Metrobus and the ART bus line. However, if you (carefully, please) look towards the inner walls of Yellow Line tunnels at the Pentagon station, you may be able to see one of a couple “stub” tunnels. These dead-end routes have been in place since the 60s when a Columbia Pike Metro line was proposed, but never materialized. Instead the Pike was serviced by a streetcar line for some time; plans have been approved to restore it.


3 responses to “Arlington Walkabouts: Pike Hike

  1. This is fun; I guess the Walter Reed center is the old elementary school. So Columbia Pike went into DC; where was the bridge? It’ll be great to have a streetcar or light rail along the Pike. Interesting about the stub tunnel at the Pentagon; I didn’t know that, but a Metro line along the Pike would have made a lot of sense. There’s an awful lot about the Metro that’s too little too late. The line to Dulles is the prime point!

    • I read somewhere (and I can’t remember where, but most likely in some historical documents posted on the Arlington County or library web pages) that at the time it was built, Arlington was actually part of DC (and called Alexandria). So it was built to connect Virginia to what was then part of DC. The name is left over even though this area has long since been returned to Virginia.

  2. Ah. ok, so it never was intended to cross the river! Got it.

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