Penrose Square2503 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA 22204
Website ~ Map Link
Bottom Line: Nice urban spray fountains, on daily 10a-8p ~Memorial Weekend thru October.
Limited street parking (metered) as well as a parking garage (first hour free). No playground, but fun spray fountains and yummy food options near-by. Only available bathrooms in local businesses. 3/5 stars.
Penrose Square was redeveloped into an urban park in 2012. The public plaza, surrounded by new restaurants and businesses has a really fun spray fountain and a public art installation. The kids and I checked it out one warm summer day (hat tip to Darcy of NMIMB for the idea).
Columbia Pike is undergoing quite a revitalization — back when I was single, I remember this area housing the “ghetto Giant” and a few other run down looking buildings/businesses. Now there are high rise apartments, a shiny new Giant, and cool restaurants like Red Rocks Pizzeria, Taqueria Poblano, William Jeffrey’s Tavern, etc. And of course, fro yo.
We first hit up Menchie’s and filled our bowls with yummy frozen yogurt and toppings. Then we walked over to the plaza, found empty seating and enjoyed our ice cream.
Some newly planted trees provided limited shade — as they grow, shade should become more plentiful.
Eventually, the water beckoned and the kids had a blast running through the spray — even the one who refused to bring his swimsuit because he “didn’t want to get wet”.
The fountains are on daily from 10am – 8pm. I’m not sure what the yearlong schedule is, but according to an email from Parks & Rec, they should remain on through October.
In addition to the fountains, there is a large public art installation: the “Echo” sculpture.
It was designed by Richard Deutsch to play homage to the Three Sisters Radio Towers, formerly located near Columbia Pike and Courthouse Road.
I don’t think my kids appreciated its artistic aesthetic, but they did have a blast climbing inside “the egg”. A word of caution: the surface is smooth and slippery when wet. It’s probably not the safest place for kids to play.
There are two parking garages underneath the Penrose Square apartment buildings. You can park for free for one hour, but beyond that, it costs (I can’t find the pricing anywhere online).
There is also metered parking along Columbia Pike. The curb lane of S. Barton St, adjacent to the plaza appears to be free parking but it’s unclear (to me) if parking is permitted there.
We found (metered) parking easily on a weekday, but I can imagine it being more challenging in the evening or weekend. Arlington is trying to promote a “car free diet”, especially along Columbia Pike, and as such is not very auto-friendly.
There are no public bathrooms on site, but bathrooms can be found in the adjacent businesses, if desperate.
All in all, this is a lovely public space and would be popular and frequent destination for us, if we lived closer.
Looking for more places to play? Check out my reviews of other Playgrounds, Parks, and Play Areas in Arlington and the greater Metro DC area.
Find more parks by visiting my main Arlington Parks & Playgrounds page.