Northern Virginia parks, including aquatics facilities, to be busy this summer, Mason expert says

Paul Gilbert
Paul Gilbert. Photo provided

Northern Virginia residents can expect robust attendance and a plethora of outside opportunities at local and regional parks this summer, said Paul Gilbert, George Mason University’s executive-in-residence for the College of Education and Human Development’s Recreation Management Program.

“Just about all the park agencies in the area are planning to have their pools and waterparks open in the summer, and expect high attendance,” said Gilbert, who is also executive director of NOVA Parks. “Last summer, the park pools were mostly closed. This summer, people are going to be interested in returning to normalcy.”

NOVA Parks is busy hiring summer employees, including lifeguards, to get ready. As restrictions ease over the coming months, Gilbert expects even more people will want to take advantage of the variety of activities local and regional parks have to offer.

“Over the pandemic, people were already exploring the outdoors in new ways, because so many other things weren’t available,” said Gilbert. “We saw unprecedented use of hiking and biking trails.  Now that people have discovered or rediscovered how fun the outdoors can be, I anticipate they will continue to gravitate to parks.”

Besides hiking, said Gilbert, local parks offer boating, golf, campgrounds, fishing and batting cages, among other activities. Gilbert recommends Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station as an excellent place to rent an aluminum boat and fish in a well-stocked reservoir.

“Right now, there’s still some hesitancy to hop on airplanes, so people are looking for vacations that are closer to home,” said Gilbert. “NOVA Parks has great campgrounds at Bull Run and Pohick Bay.”

Gilbert also points out that several parks, including Algonkian Park in Sterling, have housing people can rent on the Potomac River if they want to be outside, but not necessarily camping.

“If you want to enjoy nature, but don’t have all the gear, we have cabins and cottages you can rent,” said Gilbert. “The housing ranges from rustic cabins to full-blown houses.”

In addition, Gilbert says that Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington will be opening a ropes facility in June called Climb UPton.

“There really isn’t anything like it nearby,” said Gilbert. “It will have 90 different features. You can choose your path based on level of difficulty.” Gilbert said the facility will include zip lines and an approximately 50-foot drop for anyone “who wants an adrenaline rush.”

“It’s going to be a great summer,” added Gilbert.

To reach Gilbert, contact him at

For more information, contact Anna Stolley Persky at

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. Learn more at