Reston, Virginia, earned its place in U.S. history as America's first large-scale master-planned community built after World War II. Founded in 1964, it has grown continually, reaching a population of 60,000 by 2010. It is located approximately 30 miles from Washington, D.C., and has become Fairfax County’s most populous community. The town itself—which deliberately mixes housing, employment and places of recreation—is the biggest attraction of Reston.
The name "Reston" is derived from the initials of developer/entrepreneur Robert E. Simon. Simon purchased the land on which Reston was built with proceeds from his family's sale of Carnegie Halland then hired a team of architects and city planners to help create his vision of the ideal American town.
Visitors to Reston might expect to find cookie-cutter structures set in neatly segregated districts, but Simon and his planners had broader ideas. Housing styles and sizes are diverse, and—unlike many U.S. suburbs—multi-family residences abut single-family home developments. In addition to creating a more diverse social environment, Reston's developers sought to incorporate higher-density housing to help preserve open space.
The first section of Reston to be built was Lake Anne Plaza, zoned to restrict retail establishments to local ownership. It is known as one of Northern Virginia’s rare spots for shopping and dining in independently owned businesses. Lake Anne Village, a shopping and entertainment complex run by local proprietors, has become a popular Reston attraction. The pleasant setting on Lake Anne reflects careful planning—area architecture was designed to replicate that found in the Italian seaside city of Portofino.
Development of different "villages" followed in Reston, each with a theme and organized around a neighborhood shopping center. Under the master plan, each village center is designed to be within a half-mile of most residences. Moreover, all parts of Reston incorporate extensive walking paths that are separate from automobile roadways. Visitors to Reston can sightsee from protected walkways such as Lake Anne Plaza’s Green Trail.
The Reston Museum, located at the northern tip of Lake Anne, presents an overview of the area's history, offering tours, community exhibits, children’s workshops and historical collections. To the southwest, Reston Town Center aims to be a perfect downtown. It is laid out on a broad, brick-lined avenue with a mix of local shops and national chains, restaurants and a Grand Hyatt Hotel. Reston Town Center also has a movie theater, an open-air pavilion with seasonal ice skating, a summer concert series and special events throughout the year.
Summers in Virginia can be hot and muggy, and Reston's Lake Fairfax Park, east of Lake Anne, provides welcome relief. It includes a carousel, an 18-acre lake with seasonal fishing and a marina and "The Water Mine"—a giant outdoor swimming pool encircled by a fun "lazy river" attraction.
Families looking for more fun in the city might visit another type of planned community. Near Lake Fairfax Park, the 30-acre Reston Zoo houses zebras, antelope, bison, camels, birds and reptiles in their own carefully zoned habitats.