I’m not super familiar with Fairfax, so last week when I was looking for an outdoor meet-up spot that was fairly convenient from there (as well as here), I turned to Google. After typing in something like “nice outdoor places near Fairfax” and selecting the first link that came up, I quickly determined our destination: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.
How in the world had I not heard about the place before? From the the photos I saw and descriptions I read online, it looked and sounded wonderful. And once we arrived, there was not a shred of disappointment. Meadowlark is absolutely glorious.
After paying the entrance fee in the Visitor Center, we headed out to the gardens. Paved paths wind through the grounds, but my city kids were having none of it; when there’s a large expanse of open green space, that’s where they want to be. They took off, running and frolicking on the sweeping lawn (I decided to follow suit — it was way too enticing not to). The grassy stretch leads down to a couple of small ponds, where we stopped to look at a few turtles.
Little did we know that the wildlife sightings would get way better a little later when we walked over to another pond. A wooden walkway leads to a gazebo in the middle, and from both we could see tons of turtles, fish, and geese in the water below.
After spending a good chunk of time watching the action there, we meandered over to the new Korean Bell Garden, a pretty and peaceful area with Korean inspired structures and art. There are two pavilions, one with a large bell inside (though it doesn’t dong; we tried), a lovely fountain with a small waterfall flowing over the stones, a row of whimsical totems, and several seating areas, including the Hall of Harmony where we relaxed and had a snack.
We slowly made our way back toward the Visitor Center, taking a different route from the way we came. We stopped to inspect a turtle shell the kids found in the grass, and spent some time crossing and recrossing a couple of foot bridges spanning a small creek in little woodsy area. Once firmly on the other side, we passed through the Butterfly Garden, though didn’t stay long because of the many bees, and stopped at the delightful pine cone sculpture that sits below a pine tree.
We ended our outing at the Visitor Center, where there are a few creatures and some nice art to see. And I know from our map there is even more to Meadowlark that we didn’t get a chance to see on our two-hour visit, but what we did experience was superb.
Meadowlark Gardens is located in Vienna, not far from Wolf Trap. Hours are 10am – 8pm in August, but it closes an hour earlier every month until November (then stays open later again beginning in March). Admission is $5/adults, $2.50 for ages 7-17 and 55 and up, free for kids 6 and under.