Eat and drink local on the W&OD Trail as you enjoy summer freedom

The W&OD Trail in Herndon (photo courtesy of Visit Fairfax)

This article was written by Kieran Collinson, who served as research fellow at the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority from October 2020 to July 2021. As a visitor from the U.K., Kieran highlights some of his favorite stops on the W&OD Trail.

With restrictions loosened and summer weather in full swing, what better way to enjoy the great outdoors than on the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad Regional Park Trail — and eat, drink and support local businesses in Northern Virginia at the same time.

The paved trail follows the path of the old W&OD Railroad, which ran 45 miles through Northern Virginia from Shirlington in Arlington County to Purcellville in Loudoun County, with the City of Falls Church, Fairfax County, and the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Leesburg along the way. The railroad shut down in 1968, and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (now NOVA Parks) eventually bought the right-of-way to create what is one of the region’s most popular biking and walking trails.

The trail can be joined at multiple points, taking runners, walkers, and cyclists from bustling urban centers to picturesque rural vistas. Whether you want to walk, hike, run, skate, bike or even ride a horse, there are plenty of food and drink stops and historical points along the way. And as part of the Capital Trails Network, the W&OD connects to nearly 500 miles of trails around the Washington region. Here are just a few of the highlights along the trail and nearby.

Instagram photo courtesy of the New District Brewing Company

Arlington and Falls Church – mile markers 0-11

Beginning in the Shirlington area, the trail passes historic sites from old rails near mile 2, the landmark Carlin Springs, an old District of Columbia boundary stone, and multiple parks.

In Shirlington is the New District Brewing Company, locally owned and the first production brewery in Arlington in 100 years. It is located at 2709 South Oakland Street, Arlington. North of the trail, in Clarendon, is South Block, Northern Virginia’s first cold-pressed micro juicer. Locally owned, the chain has 10 stores in the region. The Clarendon location is at 2121 North Westmoreland Street.

The trail transitions from Arlington through the City of Falls Church, crossing over busy Broad Street. Not far off the trail is Spacebar, which is known for its grilled cheese sandwiches. It is located at 709 West Broad Street, Falls Church. Go a bit farther to find Solace Outpost, a branch of the Loudoun County brewery. It is at 444 West Broad Street.

Caboose along the W&OD Trail in Vienna (photo courtesy of Visit Fairfax)

Vienna – mile markers 11-17

The trail enters Fairfax County, winding through Dunn Loring before approaching the town of Vienna. Close to the trail are historic stops including the original 1897 library, the Freeman Store and Museum, the Vienna train station (and nearby W&OD Railroad caboose), and the Vienna Town Green.

In town, stop at Pie Gourmet, a local Black-owned store serving homemade sweet and savory pies since 1988. It is at 507 Maple Avenue West.

Right off the trail at the industrial edge of town is the Caboose Tavern, a family-owned brewpub and coffeehouse that also features farm-to-table food. It is at 520 Mill Street NE. The owners of Caboose also have a second location, called Caboose Commons, in the Mosaic District in Merrifield. Fairfax.

Instagram photo courtesy of Crafthouse Reston

Reston – mile markers 17-19

Passing through rolling countryside outside Vienna, the W&OD passed under the Dulles Toll Road and enters Reston. At the quickly developing Wiehle Avenue area, stop at Big Buns Damn Good Burgers, a locally owned and operated restaurant featuring  burgers (of course), shakes and beer, and outdoor seating. It is at 1908 Reston Metro Plaza.

Just west of there is Bike Lane Brewing and Cafe, which is co-located with a bike shop. In addition to brewing its own beer, it works with a variety of local partners for seasonal menu options. It is at 11150 Sunset Hills Road.

Check out the Old Reston Avenue Pond before approaching Reston Town Center. There are so many food and drink choices in Town Center, including locally owned Crafthouse. It has 50 craft beers on tap, more than 250 bottled and local spirits and wines, and pretzels, tacos and burgers. It is at 1888 Explorer Street.

Instagram photo courtesy of Visit Fairfax 

Herndon – mile markers 19-23

Shortly after leaving Reston, you arrive in Herndon. Stop in historic downtown Herndon, which is anchored by the W&OD depot, Town Hall, Caboose Park and the Fortnightly Library.

A quick jaunt from the depot is the Aslin Brewing Company Taproom and Beer Garden. Aslin is known for its imaginative brews. It started in Herndon and now has a location in the City of Alexandria as well. The Herndon tap room is at 767 Elden Street.

A block away is Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern. Housed in a building dating from 1897, it won Northern Virginia Magazine’s “King of the Wing” title five times. It is at 697 Spring Street. Speaking of well-established eateries, Virginia Kitchen is a family-owned and -operated diner open since 1973. It is at 450 Elden Street.

Black Walnut Brewery (Photo courtesy of NOVA Parks)

Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg and Purcellville — mile markers 23-44.5

Leaving Fairfax County, the trail continues another 22 miles in Loudoun County, passing through Sterling, Ashburn and Leesburg before ending in Purcellville.

Just off the trail in Sterling, stop at Sweet Signatures, a family-owned and -operated store where you’ll find everything from handmade chocolates, sweets and pastries, to coffee, juices and shakes. It is at 22446 Davis Drive, #174.

In the heart of Ashburn is Carolina Brothers Pit Barbecue. This no-frills joint is right on the trail, but you likely will catch the meaty aroma before you pull up alongside it. It is at 20702 Ashburn Road.

The W&OD runs close to downtown Leesburg, which has many popular eating and drinking establishments promoted as part of the LoCo Ale Trail. One of the closest to the trail is Black Walnut Brewery, a dog- and family-friendly brewery that has has a large outdoor area as well as indoor seating to sample a wide variety of beer options. It is at 210 South King Street.

Leaving Leesburg, the trail traverses the countryside of Loudoun before ending in Purcellville. After you have admired the Purcellville Train Station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, head over to Monk’s BBQ, a family-owned business that serves up smoked barbecue, local beer and bourbon, and features live music every Friday and Saturday. It is at 251 North 21st Street.

Photo courtesy of Visit Fairfax

The trail is a fantastic way to get out and enjoy the great outdoors of Fairfax County and support local businesses recovering after the pandemic. Whether you are a solo cyclist, a family of hikers, or a group of roller-skaters there is something for everyone along with the W&OD. For more information on things to do and places to stop along the entire route, check out this Visit Fairfax post. And check out the interactive NOVA Parks W&OD map to see the trail and sights to see along the way.

July 22, 2021