The quiet residential neighborhood of Columbia Forest
VA offers residents a peaceful place to retreat to at the end of day while still maintaining great access to shopping and dining opportunities as well as art, culture and history in nearby Washington, D.C., just seven miles northeast. The neighborhood stretches only a mile long, allowing residents to easily walk from the northern border of the Four Mile Run river to the malls and restaurants along Leesburg Pike, the southern border, in just 20 minutes.
Restaurants & Nightlife
No restaurants or bars reside in the center of Columbia Forest, so locals head to the peripheries to find dining and nightlife options. Along Columbia Pike, just northeast of the neighborhood, the friendly El Salvadorian eatery, Atlacatl Restaurant & Pupuseria, serves up some of the best, and certainly most authentic, pupusas in the D.C. metro area. Margaritas and cheese dip also always manage to find their way to your table as well. The reasonable prices here combined with the excellent menu keep locals coming back.
For equally authentic Afghani food, head to Bamian Restaurant on Leesburg Pike. Whether you a take-out meal or to eat in, start your meal with some naan and kadu, sauteed pumpkin with yogurt and mint sauce. For your main course, go for the fish kabob or veggie platter. The food here tastes fresh and healthy, leaving you full but never feeling guilty of overindulgence.
Limited nightlife options in the immediate vicinity of the neighborhood send locals in the direction of the District. However, within the neighborhood, Babylon Futbol Cafe does a nice job of creating an international sports bar scene, especially for soccer fans. Once the games end, this places turns into a lively dance club with great DJs and the occasional live band.
History & Culture
Columbia Forest was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Originally built in 1942, this national historic district housed the families of young officers and ranking officials in the area during WWII and beyond. The 233 single-family homes
were built in the Colonial Revival-style under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers by the Defense Housing Corporation.
Residents today, government employees and civilians alike, enjoy great access to many of Arlington's art and cultural activities. None exist within the small neighborhood itself, but many can be reached with just a short drive. Signature Theatre, for example, sits just two miles to the east and puts on a number of Broadway-quality plays every year. Catch a performance of Miss Saigon here, or enjoy an ensemble by the Threepenny Opera.
Walking the streets of Columbia Forest proves safe and easy at all times of the day. All corners of the neighborhood can be reached in less than 30 minutes by foot. Bikers also find the streets safe and easily navigable despite having only one bike lane running alongside Four Mile Run.
Multiple bus lines from two different localities provide public transportation options for commuters as well. WMATA Metrobuses transport passengers north towards the District while Arlington-based ART buses provide access to all corners of the city. Both charge $1.75 per ride. Pick up a reloadable SmarTrip card as it can be used on both of these bus systems and provides the most convenience.
Neighborhood residents with cars benefit from easy access to a number of major roadways. Lined with malls, Leesburg Pike provides access to I-395 to the south, and Interstates 95, 495 and 66 all lie close by.
For those who prefer a cab, Uber makes the most sense in Columbia Forest. With just a few taps on your smartphone, you can have a car pick you up at your door and take you anywhere in the greater D.C. area for comparable prices to regular cabs.
Being out in the suburbs and away from some of Arlington's more populous neighborhoods results in residents benefiting from a slightly lower cost of living. For example, a one-bedroom
apartment in Columbia Forrest goes for $1,443, or about 14 percent less than the Arlington average. Gas prices also come in slightly less than national averages. The roughly 5 percent savings locals see at the pump adds to manageable cost of living. However, dining out still remains expensive, with decent meals going for $15 and beers around $5.
At the south end of the Columbia Forest, residents enjoy many retail shopping opportunities such as Burlington Coat Factory, T.J. Maxx, DSW, World Market, Payless and GNC tucked into the strip mall just north of Leesburg Pike. A Target also sits just on the other side of the Pike, and even more shops reside less than a mile to the north at Bailey's Crossroads.
The neighborhood does have a lack of small boutique stores outside auto and appliance repair shops. Just south of Columbia Forest, Falika's Fashions has established a reputation as a great place for authentic African clothing and other items. Khan El-Khalili has likewise made itself known as a place for Middle Eastern items, especially hookahs.
In the same strip mall as the many area retail stores, locals do their grocery shopping at the Giant Food. Farmers markets also rest short distances to the north and south. Southern Towers Farmers Market on Seminary Road to the south remains open most of the day all weekend long, while Columbia Pike Farmers Market to the north only opens on Sunday morning. The former has a reputation for some of the cheapest produce in the area.
Bailey's Branch Park serves as the neighborhood's lone park. Small in size, this park features a playground and two acres of open, green space, allowing families to get outside and let the youngsters and dogs run around for a bit.
Four Mile Run Trail on the opposite side of the river from the Columbia Forest also provides a great place to get outside and bike, jog or just walk. Many locals come here to stretch their legs, often with dogs and strollers in tow.
As a whole, Arlington residents take pride in their city. Just a short 10-minute drive away, Central Park in the Clarendon neighborhood plays host to Clarendon Day, a celebration held every October that features four live music stages, food, clothing stalls, jewelry displays and antique booths as wells as children's games, rides and an ice-cream eating contest that always brings the community together.