Where We Live: Clarendon

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘blakespot’

In this week’s Where We Live, we’re venturing back out to Arlington into the heart of the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. Clarendon is one of those places that always has something going on, and with a wide selection of bars, restaurants, and shopping, you’re never at a loss for something to do. But it’s also a great place to live– our very own Patrick says moving to Clarendon was the best choice he ever made! Read on to find out what’s so great about Clarendon.

History: Clarendon got its start as a streetcar suburb in 1896. It was a transfer point between the Rosslyn-Clarendon line (which is similar to today’s orange line) and the DC-Falls Church line. With a growing population, Clarendon attracted major retailers like JC Penney, and became the heart of retail in Arlington. In the 1970s, a number of Vietnamese restaurants opened in Clarendon, leading to the nickname “Little Saigon”, but several of them have been forced out by high rents in the last decade. The Metro station opened in 1979 and encouraged a new wave of development in the area. Offices, restaurants, and stores opened in the revitalizing area, and in 2001 the Market Common at Clarendon ushered in a new era with the area’s first Apple store.

Neighborhood Character: Clarendon has a commercial district that rivals many major shopping areas in DC, but it also has offices, apartment buildings, townhouses, and single family homes in the same area. It’s very compact and easy to walk around, with quiet tree-lined residential streets just a few blocks from the restaurants and bars along Wilson Boulevard. Clarendon is home to both major retailers and smaller independently-owned businesses, so it has become a destination for people from across the region. The balance between the unique independent stores and national chains has gone on for decades, as seen in this interesting account from the Washington Business Journal.

So what kind of person lives in Clarendon? Well according to We Love DC’s Patrick, a Clarendon resident of four years, the Arlington rap video is pretty accurate. He says, “There are a lot of young yuppie/fratty, brown sandal wearing people here.” There are also young families, interns, some retirees, and more.

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Arlington Karl’

Transportation: Clarendon feels much more like a city than a suburb, so there are plenty of transportation options here. The Clarendon Metro is conveniently located, and there are plenty of bus lines serving the area as well. Biking is relatively easy, and Capital Bikeshare will bring a major bike-sharing program to the area and the District. The Custis trail offers access to the District and the W&OD trail. Clarendon is very walkable, and the best way to explore the neighborhood is by foot. Patrick says, “From where I live I love that I can walk to almost any place I need to go.”

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Greg McElhatton’

What to See: There’s a lot to see in Clarendon. Here are a couple can’t-miss places:

What’s Nearby: Clarendon is in between Courthouse and Ballston/Virginia Square.

Photo courtesy of
‘Clarendon Ballroom’
courtesy of ‘wfyurasko’

Why We Love Clarendon: What isn’t to love? Clarendon has a wide variety of great restaurants and bars to enjoy, more high-quality shopping options than you’d expect to see in such a compact area, and everything from urban high-rise apartments to quieter single family houses.

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at) WeLoveDC.com!

17 thoughts on “Where We Live: Clarendon

  1. Nice post. I am brand new to the area and live down the street in Ballston. It feels like there is so much to see and do!

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  3. The very first Apple Store to open is at Tyson’s Corner. Wouldn’t that make it the first in the area? (Clarendon’s opened a few months later.) [reference]

  4. I’m a two-time former Courthouse-Clarendon resident, and during the late-1990s I watched the old Sears warehouse and many of the used car dealerships disappear in favor of what’s there now. It was nice to watch the area grow into a nice, walkable community with lots of character.

  5. Love Clarendon, we bought our first iMac there and have always enjoyed the restaurants.

    What movie theater do residents there go to? Ballston Mall or some other one?

  6. Oh, but how I miss Cafe Dalat & Little Viet Garden–and who could believe that The Queen Bee is gone? I grew up in Clarendon, and while much of the new is welcome, it is a little sad to see it so developed…

  7. @Jay Ballston mall & AMC Courthouse are the nearby theaters. Unfortunately for us Arlingtonians – they both suck. Arlington Cinema N Drafthouse is not walkable from Clarendon, but worth a try!

  8. @Mads:

    You nailed it… almost all the great Vietnamese places have left and Clarendon has become a homogenized, sterilized, Crate&Barrel’d version of things you can find in a thousand other places … while it still has positives, it is hardly unique and is not as interesting or “real” as it was before the prices ran most small businesses out of the area.

    But that’s par for Arlington, where the vaunted “Arlington Way” is really just another way to say that it has “the illusion of inclusion” (of community members).

  9. Don’t forget Lyon Village that is adjacent to the corridor. There is an excellent spray-ground for youngsters nestled amongst the multimillion dollar homes.

    There’s a nice dogpark tucked away behind Clarendon Ballroom used by some DC residents I know.

  10. Rosedale, Stadium, Anacostia or anything across the river, the Lincoln Park area. I think there are still areas in DC to explore…