Each neighborhood in Fairfax County has a unique appeal that makes it an attraction all its own. Alexandria/Mount Vernon area has its historic significance. Reston has its artsy vibe. And Falls Church has its Vietnamese food. And McLean? McLean has its location. 

McLean may not be as glitzy or as big city-ish as its next door neighbor, Tysons. It may not have as many horse farms and rolling hills as Great Falls. And, while McLean is home to the CIA, it doesn’t boast the type of national monuments that Washington, DC has, just across McLean’s Chain Bridge. 

While McLean is wealthy and waterfront, it is still entirely unpretentious. It’s established and comfortable with time-honored shops and restaurants. And it’s the perfect medium between the earthiness, glitz and monuments that surround it. If you get the chance to stay in McLean, here are the most McLean things you can do while you’re here. 


Immerse yourself in nature and activity

Clemyjontri Park - Kids' activities - McLean - Playground

McLean has a lot of trees. And it has some very interesting parks to go along with them. Scott’s Run Nature Preserve runs along the Potomac River and offers rugged terrain that rewards sightseers with wildflowers, stream crossings, a waterfall, and beautiful Potomac River views. Accessible only from the northbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Fort Marcy is one of the few remaining forts built to protect the Federal capital during the Civil War. Perched 275 feet above the Potomac River, it offers a peaceful hike on beautiful trails with few other people around. Both of these parks are located along the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. A trip to Lewinsville Park teaches you about the Battle of Lewinsville that happened there early in the Civil War - plus plays host to a slew of exciting seasonal events and concerts. And, perhaps the most welcoming park of all is Clemyjontri Park, an accessible and inclusive park where children with physical, developmental and sensory disabilities can enjoy a fun playground experience along with their able-bodied peers. 


Do something typically McLean 

The Alden Theatre at the McLean Community Center

In addition to visiting McLean’s riverside parks, there are a few things every McLeaner has done to earn their cred. One of those things is visiting the McLean Farmer's Market on Fridays for regional produce and goods. And on Friday nights, you can meet the locals at Wine Junction Shop and Bar. Stop by McLean Hardware, a legendary, old-school, family-owned hardware store that has been selling nails since 1948. Also in the “very McLean” category is visiting the McLean Community Center where you can see a live performance at The Alden Theatre and enjoy the visual arts at The Emerson, Atrium and Ramp Galleries at the McLean Community Center. My personal favorite thing to do at the Community Center is attend the McLean Holiday Arts and Crafts Festival the first week in December to shop for handmade gifts from juried artisans from around the region. 


Dine both ethnic and old-school

Rocco's Italian Restaurant - McLean - PizzaPhoto Courtesy of Rocco's Italian Restaurant's Facebook

There are two prominent restaurants in McLean that are also “very McLean.” That’s because they’ve been around since the 1970s and are locally beloved. Rocco’s Italian Restaurant has been family-owned and operated in downtown McLean since 1977 and boasts the “Best Pizza in McLean.” And just a short walk away, the McLean Family Restaurant offers a big menu of family favorites from hamburgers to crab cakes. Another beloved McLean mainstay is J. Gilbert’s Wood Fired Steaks and Seafood

McLean also has some notable and acclaimed ethnic restaurants. Aracosia McLean draws diners far and wide as one of the best Afghan restaurants in the region. Amoo’s Restaurant serves kabobs and Persian fare. Esaan offers a large menu of Northeastern Thai fare while Fahrenheit Asian specializes in a broad range of Asian fare. Rounding out the fine dining category, Pulchinella Italian Kitchen is a favorite for Italian entrees and pizza. For more casual fare, Santini’s NY Style Deli makes a good sandwich and Big Buns Damn Good Burgers serves up delicious burgers, chicken sammies and bowls. Both are favorite local chains. Finally, just for fun, check out the least McDonald's-looking McDonald's in the region. It’s very McLean. 


Sample Glam and Goods in Tysons

Perch Putt - Food and Drink - Tysons - Food Trucks

A different world awaits just five minutes or so from downtown McLean. Where McLean is understated and natural, Tysons is overt and marked by glass and steel. It’s also a shopping destination prized by visitors from around the world. Between Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria you’ll find roughly 400 of your favorite stores, from Target to Chanel. If you want a special meal at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood or a glass of fine wine at The Ritz-Carlton's ENTYSE Wine Bar and Lounge, Tysons is the place to go. If you want to see the latest Cirque du Soleil production—or a live show at Capital One Hall—you’ll find it in Tysons. And if you want to do something you’ve probably never done before that is extremely Instaworthy, The Perch at Capital One Center is a park 11 stories in the air with putt-putt golf, a biergarten, food trucks and more!


Fall for the nearby falls 

Great Falls Park - The Falls - Angela Pan

Head north and west on Old Dominion Drive in McLean and the road will end at one of the most spectacular vistas in the DC region—Great Falls Park. This National Park Service gem features rocky cliffs, Class V+ rapids and a spectacular series of falls where the water tumbles 76 feet down. Riverbend Park is next door, offering safer waters, less challenging terrain and beautiful river views. Outside of the parks, Great Falls continues to delight. A scenic drive leads you to Great Falls Village Center where you can enjoy pub food at the local favorite Old Brogue Irish Pub and, seasonally, enjoy homemade ice cream at the Great Falls Creamery. A short drive to Colvin Run Mill reveals a 19th-century wooden water wheel and operating gristmill that produces corn meal for the mill’s general store. Head back into the depths of the DC region’s wealthiest zip code—beyond the expansive lawns and rollercoaster-worthy hills—and you’ll find one of the nation’s top destination restaurants, L'Auberge Chez Francois. If you want to try their legendary French cuisine, you’ll need to make advance reservations. Jacques Brasserie and Bar Rouge is also on the property for a more casual, though nonetheless elevated, evening. Nearby is Turner Farm where, on Friday nights, you can get a closer look at the universe through their private observatory. 


It's fitting that McLean is a powerful commentary on the value of location, while also keeping things closer to the vest. It was named for John Roll McLean, a former publisher and owner of The Washington Post. It’s also home to multiple Fortune 500 companies and Virginia’s largest privately held company, Mars (as in M&Ms, Pedigree and Kind). From the CIA to the prominent government and political figures who live there, McLean is happy to be the quiet neighbor who moves about undetected. So much of success is being in the right place at the right time, and that’s what McLean does best. Make sure to share your time in McLean on social using #FXVA and @VisitFairfax.