- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2007

At 11 a.m., the faithful park-goers are in line and eager to get going. The preschool set knows when the train leaves the station on its first run of the day

and what time the carousel starts spinning.

At Burke Lake Park, there is something for everyone, especially if you are younger than 6 and have Elmo on your sneakers.

The park’s miniature train — driven by an engineer wearing traditional stripes — is in high season about now. The one-third-scale model C.P. Huntington, which has been running here since 1967, has a Ford engine that can go up to 30 mph. Usually, though, it rolls on a 1.75-mile track through the park at a child-friendly 10 or 12 mph, says train engineer Daniel Bocknek.

“We’re doing as much as 26 runs a day,” says Mr. Bocknek, a recent graduate of Lake Braddock High School. “You get a lot of kids here, but also teens. I asked my date to go to the prom with me on the train.”

The carousel is also well-suited for younger children because of its smaller size. The carousel, train station and one of several playgrounds are all located within a few yards of one another, making that section of the park a natural meeting place for play groups.

Scattered around are several covered picnic areas. On a recent weekday morning, Jean Black of Centreville hosted a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday party in one of them for her son, Brendan, who was turning 3.

“We come here all the time,” says Mrs. Black. “I have a little train guy, so we are here a lot. Today we are going to ride the train and the carousel and have ice cream.”

The park’s ice cream parlor/snack bar is a great place to cool off on a hot day. A scoop of cookies-and-cream will sound particularly good after a round in the sun on the miniature golf course.

The 18-hole course is challenging but tastefully designed — no windmills here, just cool creeks and other water hazards and rolling AstroTurf greens.

The popularity of the course means there can be a backlog at the tees, particularly the first few holes. Preparing impatient tweens to wait might be a good strategy.

Farther afield, there are plenty of other recreational activities. The park houses a Frisbee golf course. The course is set in the woods, so players have the additional challenge of dodging tree roots and hills as they head for holes.

The park is also home to a 218-acre lake. Visitors can rent small boats to go fishing as largemouth bass, crappie, muskie and walleye are among the varieties in the water. There also is a boat launch in case you want to bring your own vessel. Two things to keep in mind: Fishing requires a license if you are older than 16, and gasoline-powered motors on boats are prohibited.

When you go:

Location: Burke Lake Park is at 7315 Oak Road in Fairfax Station.

Directions: From Interstates 395 and 495, take the Braddock Road West exit. Turn left onto Burke Lake Road; go five miles. Turn left onto Ox Road/Route 123 south. Take a left into the park.

Hours: The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The miniature golf course, carousel and train ride all open at 11 a.m.

Admission: Park admission is free for county residents every day and for non-county residents on weekdays. On weekends, admission is $8 per vehicle for nonresidents. Carousel tickets are $1.50; train rides are $2; 18 holes of mini golf are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and children younger than 12.

Parking: Free parking in lot.

Notes:

{bullet} Burke Lake Park is an 888-acre parcel run by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The many recreational opportunities include a picturesque lake area with boat rental and fishing. The lake is stocked with a variety of fish. A 4.75-mile wooded jogging trail surrounds the lake.

{bullet} Adjacent to the park is a regulation 18-hole, par-3 golf course.

More information: 703/323-6600 or www. fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/ burkelake