Purcellville- Franklin Park + Gruto’s Soft Serve

Today’s planned excursion to Purcellville very nearly didn’t happen due to road work on Rt. 7 west of Leesburg. I’m not totally sure what is being done to the road exactly but if I had to guess based on the duration of time we sat perfectly still and the amount of construction equipment, I would say that Rt. 7 as it exists now is being removed from the ground and entirely replaced. Full demolition. However, I’m no expert, so you might want to just Google it. There was a point, after sitting dead still for over 20 minutes, that I considered taking the exit available to me and detouring into Leesburg, but by then, I had begun to take this as a personal challenge. VDOT had basically Double Dog Dared me to get out to Purcellville, and I was GETTING OUT TO PURCELLVILLE.

Spoiler: we eventually got out to Purcellville.

Let’s talk about Purcellville for a second. Despite the shockingly high number of wineries out that way, I have never been to Purcellville until last Saturday night when my husband and I had a dinner reservation at Magnolias at the Mill. (Fabulous. Please go. I ordered barracuda for dinner!! Partly because it was the seafood special and sounded good and partly so I could tell people I ordered barracuda for dinner.) In my head, Purcellville was along the lines of a town like Lucketts- one stoplight, couple antique shops, and that’s about it. Well, I was wrong. There’s a whole little world out in Purcellville. I told my husband I was coming back with the kids sometime this week to do a little more exploring, so that’s where we headed this morning.

Lunch packed up, boots tied tight, we cruised into Franklin Park ready for a picnic and some play. The brutal heat wave we’ve had recently must have crested and broken overnight because it was a lovely mid-80 degree day without a cloud in the sky- perfect playground weather. A summer day camp cleared out just after we arrived and my kids had the playground all to themselves for awhile.

Two great things about the Franklin Park playground: it’s gated and fenced (perfect for flight risks like my toddler and most likely yours), and it’s shady. Just look at it tucked away under that little grove of trees! There’s two separate play structures- one for the 2-5 set and one for the 5-9 set. A couple of swings, a bouncing horse and a boulder made for climbing (or as my 5 year old called it “a quite steep mountain”) complete the playground.

Franklin Park is a gigantic park (203 acres if you want specifics) and there’s a TON to do there- across from the playground area is a catch and release pond where visitors are welcome to fish (you will need a fishing permit if you are over 16). Around the corner is the Franklin Park pool which is open to the public and which I will be bringing my kids back to at some point before summer comes to an end. (The pool is open daily from 11 am- 8 pm and tickets are $1.50 for two and under, $4.50 for kids, and $5 for adults.) There’s also several miles of hiking trails, fields to play team sports, and a sand court for volleyball.

On the way out of town we stopped for ice cream at Gruto’s Soft Serve, located at 141 W. Main Street (just 1.5 miles away from Franklin Park), directly across the street from the public parking lot where parking is free for up to 2 hours. Score!

This was our first visit to Gruto’s, which the man at the counter asked us, and when we told him it was our first visit, he turned on a red flashing light above the counter and said WHOOOO FIRST TIME AT GRUTO’S, YEAHHHHH! I tipped him $2 on two small cones because that’s just good customer service.

Things to note about Gruto’s:

-It is a CASH ONLY establishment. There is an ATM available right next door at Market Burger but if you’re like me, you’ll feel a bit sheepish walking in and being greeted warmly just to use the ATM machine and walk back out, so bring cash with you for Gruto’s.

-There is minimal seating. A few lawn chairs inside the small shop, and four Adirondack chairs outside on the sidewalk, which does sit right next to a very busy main road. Again, if your toddlers are, well, toddlers, you’re going to want to be very careful if you choose to sit in this area with them.

-If you’re brave, Gruto’s offers something called the TRIPLE DECKER BELLY WRECKER. Much like barracuda up the street at Magnolias, this is the kind of thing you order just to say you did. I did see a chalkboard on the wall listing people who had successfully consumed a TRIPLE DECKER BELLY WRECKER by name, but this was a very small list (under 10 people) and Gruto’s has been open, according to another sign on the wall, for 69 months. So you do the math and choose accordingly.

Make a day of it: 

If you don’t wreck your belly at Gruto’s, right across the street is the Catoctin Creek Distillery, which is the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since Prohibition. Catoctin Creek has been distilling whiskey, gin and brandy here in Loudoun County since 2009. Catoctin Creek offers tours hourly and a variety of tastings. You’ve got two hours of parking in the lot right next door, so have at it!

If whiskey isn’t your thang, consider stopping in at one of the many wineries out in Purcellville- 868 Estate Vineyards, Sunset Hills Vineyards, Crushed Cellars Winery, North Gate Vineyard, Two Twisted Posts Winery, Otium Cellars, Breaux Vineyards, Hillsborough Vineyards.