McLean Northern Virginia
McLean is located in Northern Virginia. It’s in Fairfax County, just 8 miles Northwest of Washington DC. It is next to Arlington, sharing its southeastern border with the edge of Arlington. McLean stretches beyond the beltway to Spring Hill Road on the western edge. The Dulles Toll Road is the southern border, the Potomac River is the Northern / Eastern border.
Outside of that, there’s also Tyson’s Corner, which is known for being the shopping mecca with its two separate malls and tons of retail. Some parts of Tyson’s have a McLean mailing address and some have Vienna. For this video I am including Tyson’s as well because McLean and Tysons are somewhat tied together. If you put Tysons into Google to see the boundaries, it fits in like a puzzle between McLean and Vienna. But if you click on anything to see an address it may have a McLean, it may be Tysons, it may be Vienna. Why?
About 10 years ago, they created the option for Tyson’s Corner businesses to use Tyson’s as an address. The reasoning behind this was to help the businesses create a brand around Tyson’s which is being revitalized with residential and office development. Buyers of these new condos may prefer a Tyson’s address as opposed to McLean which connotes large homes and estates.
There are multiple access points to get into McLean. Chain Bridge connects from the Palisades, you can take 495 or you can go from Georgetown over the Key Bridge up the GW Parkway to 123. There is also the newly built Silver Line metro which has stops in McLean, Tyson’s and Greensboro on Leesburg Pike / Route 7.
McLean is named after John Roll McLean, a one-time publisher and owner of the Washington Post. In the early 1900’s, he helped fund the railroad which connected McLean with DC. The line ran along what is now Old Dominion Road and crossed into DC at Chain Bridge.
Did You Know? The Mars company is headquartered in McLean. Unlike how say, Coke is headquartered in Atlanta and you see Coca Cola sponsorships and ads all over the place, we don’t feel that presence here in DC. I wish we did. I would love to have M&M’s on every corner. But Mars is a privately held company owned by the Mars Family.
Much of the housing in McLean is single family homes. Any single family home below $1M is going to be a teardown. The home prices in McLean start in the $1M’s but most are in the $2M to $4M range. Prices rise sharply here, with many homes over $10M, $20M, and one currently listed on the Potomac River for $50M.
House types vary tremendously. Many of the older colonial homes that used to be here have been torn down and McMansioned. Some of these homes are gorgeous. Some are…not. I was driving around McLean and passed a road which was filled with the ugliest houses I have seen in my life. And the house was the same, it was like someone came in with one house type and built a dozen of them. It was comical. I wanted to chronicle this for you, my favorite people.
After I grabbed some video, this Karen ran out of her house and started an inquisition. She asked why I was filming and I said it was for a client. She asked if I was with the developer because, and I’m quoting, she said “We don’t want anyone to copy what we have here.” Holy crap lady, no one, and I mean, no one wants to copy this. Then she said she and all her neighbors were watching. I’m afraid this is McLean for you. I asked if they were also assholes or just her. She said I was the asshole. Then she told me to go back to DC. I said, “Oh, now I’m going to have to come back here and film your house every day.” She said, “Maybe you’ll lose some weight.” Here she goes, stomping off to her house, yelling at me to go back to DC.
There are nice people in McLean for sure, but this experience wasn’t much of a surprise. There are a lot of high ranking government and tech people in McLean and many of them are just used to everyone doing what they demand.
There are several condo communities, Lilian Court, the Rotonda, Fountains at McLean, Gates of McLean, Regency at McLean, Colonies at McLean – you get it. The high rise buildings have very high monthly condo fees – think in the $1000’s, like New York City prices. This is due to the size of the building, amenities and staff on site.
There are a ton of choices when it comes to Grocery Stores. There’s Safeway, Balduccis, Giant, Lidl, Whole Foods. Closer to Tyson’s there’s Wegmans and Harris Teeter as well.
Most of the restaurants in McLean are in the downtown commercial area. Japanese, Italian, pizza, Thai, Persian, Afghan, Middle Eastern – there are a lot of options off Old Chain Bridge. The restaurants in McLean have a small town feel to them, more mom and pop than the options in Tyson’s. By the malls there’s Founding Farmers, Fogo de Chao, Capital Grille, Maggiano’s. These are more of the chain restaurants but they are upscale chains.
Shopping & Fun
Most retail for McLean is off Old Dominion Road. Downtown McLean is the hub of the neighborhood with tons of restaurants, shops.
Chesterbrook Shopping Center has Safeway Grocery Store as the anchor and also has a number of smaller businesses – restaurants, salon, Starbucks. It is currently getting a makeover so it’s looking a little rundown but it will be back!
In Tyson’s Corner, there’s everything else. Two malls – one which is high-end with anchors like Neiman Marcus and Saks, and the other side has a huge mall with everything else. Anchor stores there are Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, and you have a couple levels of mostly anything else you would want.
Spring Hill Recreation Center on Spring Hill Road in McLean is part of the Fairfax County Park System. That means there are no waitlists, and there are also no residency restrictions. They have classes, camps, a pool, pre-school for the little ones.
The McLean Community Center is for residents only as it’s funded through taxes. MCC hosts tons of family friendly events, performing arts, games, sports, fitness, fireworks on the Fourth of July. They have a 383 seat theatre, classrooms, a kitchen, little leagues, you name it. They even have events for teens – trips to Dave and Busters, and spring break trips.
If those don’t work or you want something else, there are a bunch of private clubs where membership is required and potentially a wait list exists.
Tuckahoe Recreation Club is open year round. They have both indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, mini golf, a playground and a fitness center. They have a 3-4 year wait currently but they offer ways to get into the club on a limited basis if you remain on their wait list. Because it’s a year round club the prices are higher with initiation being $2500 and annual membership for families around $2000 for 4 of us.
Highland Swim & Tennis Club is open in the summer only. They have a waitlist and you can sometimes get a spot according to their website if you pay the deposit and fill out the application.
Hamlet Swim & Tennis Club is open in the summer only. Their website currently says they expect all new members to be accepted this year. New members pay $1300 a year for family the first 3 years, then the price drops to $825.
Kent Gardens Recreation Club is in Kirby Park. The fee is $800 to join then $800/annually. https://kentgardens.org/
The most recent census information states that 40% of the households in McLean have children under 18. There’s Child’s Play which is a toy and book store for kids, as well as a MyGym for the little ones. We took various levels of tumble classes at the MyGym in Bethesda and I definitely recommend it.
Clemyjontri Park – one of my top 5 must-do parks in the DC Area, Clemyjontri Park has a carousel and several different play areas for various ages and abilities.
Meadow Lane Park is a neighborhood park with a playground, and you will find several of these neighborhood parks throughout McLean.
McLean is very appealing to families. Between the recreation centers, parks, trails, proximity to jobs in DC or Tysons for the parents and schools. Let’s take a closer look at the schools.
Elementary, middle or high school, the scores are high here. This is Fairfax County, which is often considered as one of the best school systems in the country. If you go by Great Schools, the scores are 8, 9 and 10. All schools feed to either one of two high schools – McLean or Langley.
McLean offers Honors, AP and Dual Enrollment Courses where you can get college credit. Languages offered are Spanish, French, Chinese, Latin and German. McLean High School is really close to the downtown area of McLean. Many students walk over to the town to grab Starbucks or hang out with friends.
Langley offers AP classes. The languages at Langley are Spanish, French, Latin, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. Langley was recently renovated as well.
Historically, these schools were pretty different. A Washington Post Article from 1978 comparing the two schools and discussing redistricting quoted a student who would be zoned away from Langley to McLean: “It’s a whole different class of kids that go to Langley,” insisted Marya Palacios, a Langley freshman who would go to McLean if the boundary change is approved. “The kids who go there come from all over the world; they’re more cultured and intellectually stimulating than the ones who end up going to McLean.” Marya is 60 now.
Take this with a grain of salt that it was 45 years ago, but it tells an important history on the development of these two high schools. People still feel this way to an extent, with comments on the hilarious school message boards citing more socioeconomic diversity at McLean. Each high school in Fairfax County offers demographic information on their website. Despite the comments you read about there being more socioeconomic and ethnic diversity at McLean, the differences are negligible when you look at the statistics. I’m telling you this not because it matters, and not because it’s a reflection of the education your child will receive, but to let you know that much like other places in the country you will hear a lot of “this school is better than this one.” When you get into the nitty gritty, and you realize the basis for how people make these determinations, you realize their reasoning is 100% nonsense.