Long Delay or Layover at DCA? 3 Fun Outdoor Options Nearby

a plane on the runway

If you’re stuck at the Reagan National Airport or just like watching planes and the Potomac, here are three fun outdoor options close to the airport. Note: You’ll probably want at least 2 hours before boarding to really enjoy them, an hour and a half at least.

1. Plane Watching Picnic at Gravelly Point

A little over a mile away, is Gravelly Point Park — a great place to plane watch since the only thing separating it from from the runway is a small stretch of water. There’s a great paved walking trail directly from the airport to park, and if you grab some food on your way out you can picnic watching the planes thunder overhead. There’s no shelters and picnic tables are limited, but you will find payphones. No alcohol allowed.

an airplane flying over a field

2. Burgers, BBQ, Beer, and Boats at Columbia Island Marina Cafe

If you’re up for a 2.5 mi walk or a 10 min drive, the Columbia Island Marina is a littler further on. They offer reasonably priced burgers, sandwiches, BBQ made on site, and beer and wine ($3.25 a glass) with a view of the water and adjacent Pentagon. Definitely try the hushpuppies! Not a fancy place but a great place to get some fresh air and relax.

a basket of food with a sandwich and fries

a view of a park with a tree and boats in the water
Note: Slightly complicated if taking a cab or Uber. Because the cafe is located off the GW Parkway Southbound, to get there from the airport your driver will need to overshoot and turn around by the Memorial Bridge. You’ll have no issues on the return trip.

3. Drinks on the Deck and Plane Watching at Indigo Landing

If you’re looking for something a little more upscale and with a view of the planes taking off or landing, Indigo Landing is a good choice. A 2.5 mile walk along the Mt Vernon Trail to get there or a 4 minute Uber or cab ride. Indigo Landing has decent enough food but its main appeal is the outdoor deck offering views of the Potomac and the airport’s flight path. Food is over $10 and drinks are also pricey. Note: this is the easiest destination to get to from the airport by car.

people sitting at a table with umbrellas


If the weather is bad and none of of the new DCA restaurants catch your fancy, hop on the metro for one stop and do a little shopping or eating at the Crystal City Underground.

Short on time?

Pop out and follow the path through the parking garages to see the grass rebuilt ruins of the former Abingdon Plantation House located between Garage A and Garage B/C.

a park with a bench and a train in the background
“Abingdon Plantation (10700319324)” by Payton Chung from DCA, USA – Abingdon Plantation. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Have way too much time and not much carry-on?

Old Town Alexandria is only 3 1/2 miles away and features historic homes, a few cobbled streets, good restaurants and interesting shops. Be aware the metro is a 15 minute/1 mile walk so plan accordingly. Uber is a good option unless you’re going during rush hour.

The National Mall and Smithsonian Museums are only a 22 minute metro ride away. Check out my previous post for tips on which DC museums are worth your time.


Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *