Warmer, longer days means more opportunities to celebrate spring, enjoy nature, reenact history, entertain the family, indulge the senses, and give back at festivals and events throughout Northern Virginia. From National Park Week to nature, art, and food festivals, and special small town fun, there’s something for everyone. Here are 20 terrific April 2016 events to keep the fun going all month long.
Civil War Trust Park Day, Various Locations, April 2
Park Day is an annual hands-on preservation event to help Civil War — and now Revolutionary War — battlefields and historic sites with maintenance projects large and small. Assist with trail maintenance, invasive plant control, fence construction, and trash pick-up at Manassas National Battlefield; clear trash and clean signs at Balls Bluff; repair trails and rake leaves at Bristoe Station and more. Follow the link and scroll down for a list of Virginia park events.
Burke Lake Train and Carousel Open, Burke, April 2
Burke Lake Park once again welcomes riders on their one-third-scale replica C. P. Huntington steam train. The ride covers over 1.75 miles of track, takes 10 minutes, and reaches speeds of 10 to 12 miles per hour. Visitors can also take a spin on the carousel and walk or bike the 5-mile trail around Burke lake, rated one of the 10 best urban fitness trails in the nation by the American Hiking Society. The train and carousel are open weekends through May, then daily beginning May 30.
28th Annual Potomac Watershed Clean-up, Various Locations, Apr 2, 16
The Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is the largest regional event of its kind, dedicated to creating a trash free Potomac watershed. Last year, 805 sites removed 1,203,543 pounds of trash from the Potomac watershed in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC! On April 2nd, the Nature Conservancy and Fairfax County Park Authority will host clean-up events at Fairfax County lakes, parks, and nature centers. Find an event and volunteer here.
Many other clean-ups are held throughout the watershed region on April 16th from 9:00 to noon. Check this map to find a clean-up event near you. This spring cleaning will remove tires, plastic bottles, cans and other debris from local waterways, preventing trash from reaching the nation’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay.
Founder’s Day, Lake Anne Plaza, Reston, April 9
Reston is extending it’s annual Founder’s Day to a full week of events honoring Reston and the town’s founder, Robert E. Simon, who died in 2015 at the age of 101. On April 9th, the community will gather at Lake Anne Village Center for an expanded Founder’s Day event focusing on the past, present, and future of Reston. The day-long festival features a 50-foot ferris wheel, children’s activities, music, guided walks, and more. The free event runs from 10:00 to 4:00.
National Park Week, Multiple Locations, April 16 – 24
The National Park Services once again partners with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to present National Park Week, a celebration of our national heritage. National Park Week welcomes visitors with an entire week of fee-free entry at all parks, and offers special programs throughout the week. April 16 is National Junior Ranger Day, encouraging kids to take part in fun programs and earn a junior ranger badge or become a Centennial Junior Ranger. On Earth Day, April 22, pitch in with a project and help out at a park. On April 23, parks will host Instameets for visitors to gather and share photos and videos on Instagram. April 24 is Park RX Day, focusing on fun recreational activities that encourage healthy lifestyles and promote physical and mental well being. Check out 5 Ways to Celebrate National Park Week in Northern Virginia for tips on where to go and what to do in our area.
National Capital Area Cake Show, Fairfax High School, April 16 – 17
View spectacular decorated cake displays by world-class sugar artists as the National Capital Area Cake Show returns to Fairfax High School. There will be demonstrations, hands-on classes for all ages and levels, vendors, bake sale and a chance to meet celebrity TV sugar artists. $12/17 1-day/2-day adult passes with student and senior discounts available. 8:00 – 5:00 daily.
Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival, Leesburg, April 16 – 17
Historic Leesburg will be in full bloom as lush landscapes and gorgeous gardens fill the streets. Over 150 vendors will be on display featuring landscape designs, gardening supplies, outdoor living items, plants, flowers, herbs, and more. Food, music, children’s entertainment and crafts will add to the fun during this two-day event, which features a newly expanded Wine Garden located on the Town Green. This new tasting area will feature some of Loudoun County’s best wineries and breweries. $3 suggestion donation. Saturday 10:00 – 6:00; Sunday 10:00 – 5:00.
Arlington Art Festival, Arlington, April 16 – 17
100 top artists converge on North Highland Street in Clarendon for a two-day juried outdoor gallery style art exhibit. A wide variety of original artwork will be on display and for sale with prices set to suit all budgets. Live music will add to the fun at the 4th annual Arlington Art Festival. Free; 10:00 – 5:00 daily.
Bluebells at the Bend, Riverbend Park, Great Falls, April 16
A great way to welcome spring’s arrival in Virginia is to get outside and witness one of the most beautiful naturally occurring events in the area. The Bluebells at the Bend festival at Riverbend Park celebrates the blooming of the abundant native Virginia bluebells which blanket the forest floor with a gorgeous layer of light blue. The event features wagon rides, wildflower walks, musical entertainment, and more, and is a perfect outdoor excursion for families. While at the park, you can also hike one of their four different trails ranging from 1 mile to 2.5 miles – the Bootlegger Trail, the Follow the Hollows Trail, the Potomac Heritage Trail, and Madison’s Escape Trail. Stop by the visitor center and get a park map when you arrive at the festival and enjoy the day! Arrive early as parking spaces close to the visitor center fill up quickly, especially if it’s a beautiful day. The festival runs from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and is $5.
Pirate Fest, Lake Fairfax Park, April 16
Arr, you’ll be talkin’ like a pirate at Lake Fairfax’s Pirate Fest, celebrating Virginia’s seafaring past. Sing traditional sea chanteys, tavern tunes and pirate ditties, and experience the life of a sailor first hand at fun activity stations. Learn about global trade in the 18th century, and discover the luxury goods from international ports that compelled pirates to sail the seven seas. Arrive in pirate attire to participate in the costume contest. New this year, top off the day with a Pirate Feast under the Pavilion (5:00 – 7:00). Follow the link to purchase tickets; separate tickets for the Pirate Tour Boat Ride sell out quickly. 11:00 – 4:00.
Bluebell Festival, Stone House Visitor Center at Merrimac Farm, Nokesville, April 17
Welcome spring and come out to view the spectacular display of Virginia Bluebells at the Stone House Visitor Center at Merrimac Farm in Nokesville, Virginia. The Bluebell Festival will include a series of naturalist led tours, followed by an easy one-mile walk through the floodplain. Each tour has a special focus, although leaders cover all interesting sights. Local environmental organizations will be there with displays and activities for children of all ages. A bake sale and a hand-painted rain barrel raffle to benefit stewardship projects at Merrimac Farm round out the event. Concessions and food will be available for purchase. Bring binoculars, cameras, and the kids, and come out to join us for a day of fun, on April 17th from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Recommended by Nicole Warner, Marketing and Communications Specialist at Visit Prince William Virginia. For everything from Civil War battlefields, to museums and historic sites, performing arts venues, and exquisite shopping follow Discover PWM on Facebook and Twitter.
Loudoun Hunt Point to Point Races, Oatlands, Leesburg, April 17
Take a trip to Loudoun’s famed horse country to experience the thrill of racing during the Loudoun Hunt Point to Point Races at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. Enjoy brunch and a series of races including the unique side saddle event. Featured in the hit PBS series Downton Abbey, side saddle racing debuted in Loudoun last year for the first time since the 1930s. The Loudoun Hunt Point to Point Races feature some of the most challenging timber and hurdle courses in Virginia and are thrilling to watch as participants race to the finish. The event begins at 10:00 am with brunch, and races begin at noon.
Alexandria Historic Homes & Garden Tour, Alexandria, April 23
The 83nd Annual Alexandria Historic Homes & Garden Tour features five privately owned Old Town homes and gardens plus admission to historic properties like the Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden, Carlyle House Historic Park, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. I love attending this annual event for the chance to see inside these magnificent homes that are envied by all. On past tours, I have been lucky enough to see original hardwood floors and windows, spectacular landscaping, incredible antique furniture, hidden swimming pools, lovely backyards and beautiful covered porches. The large, colorful front doors that line the historic cobblestone streets are another highlight.Tours run from 10:00 to 4:00, and tickets are $40 in advance, $45 day of, and $25 for single sites, and are available at the Alexandria Visitors Center on King Street.
Mason Neck Eagle Festival, Lorton, Apr 23
Celebrate eagles at a day of fun along the Potomac River at Mason Neck State Park. Enjoy wildlife exhibits, guided hikes, games, programs, archery, food vendors and, of course, eagles. The Eagle Festival is a family-friendly event, with many vendors and live shows, that recognizes the work of citizens who helped save Mason Neck for the American Bald Eagle during the 1960’s. Parking and admission are free; 10:00 – 4:00.
Dog Days Spring Bloom Festival, Great Country Farms, April 23 – 24
Great Country Farms welcomes families and their canine companions for a day of outdoor fun. Kids can enjoy the play area and a wagon ride to see the orchards and farm in bloom. Dogs can try an impressive dog agility course, Doggie Olympic Games, demonstrations, and a dip in the pond. The first hundred pups to visit the farm each day will receive a doggie bag of goodies. $8/$10 child/adult admission, doggies free, 10:00 – 5:00.
Britain on the Green, Gunston Hall, Apr 24
The 19th Annual Car Show, sponsored by the Capital Triumph Register, returns to Gunston Hall with classic cars, hearth cooks, vendors, historic house tours, and re-enactors. British cars in 25 categories include Triumphs and MGs joined by Austin Healeys, Jaguars, Rolls and Bentleys, Minis, Lotuses, Land Rovers, and cars you’ve probably never seen before, such as Jensen, Riley, and Wolseley. Regular admission, 9:30 – 3:00.
Revolutionary War Weekend, Mount Vernon, April 30 – May 1
George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate will host “A Call to Arms,” one of the largest Revolutionary War encampments of the year. See Continentals, Redcoats, and cannons in action on the estate, plus other Revolutionary War themed activities throughout the weekend. This family-friendly event features a youth muster on the bowling green, military medicine and artillery demos, and even greeting “Lady Washington.” Activities included with regular admission; 9:00 – 5:00 daily.
Fairfax Civil War Day, Historic Blenheim, Fairfax, Apr 30
Historic Blenheim Estate hosts an action-packed day of period music, living history encampments and demonstrations, military firings and drills, tours of the Historic Blenheim House and more. Meet Lee, Mosby, and Clara Barton, enjoy a hayride, watch the cannon firing, and explore historic displays. The event is $5/$3 adult/youth; 10:00 – 5:00.
Springfest Fairfax, Workhouse Arts Center, Lorton, Apr 30
SpringFest Fairfax is a county-wide party to celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day, offering family-friendly activities at the Workhouse Arts Center. Attendees enjoy live animals, pony rides, a climbing wall, bounce-house obstacle course, and hands-on activities and games that highlight our local environment. Admission and parking are free; some activities require a $5 wristband (cash only). 10:00 – 4:00.
Taste of Vienna, Vienna, Apr 30
The 5th annual Taste of Vienna returns to the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department, with samples of delicious dishes from Vienna area restaurants plus free entertainment. The free event (tastings and drinks available for purchase) benefits the VVFD, and includes kid-friendly activities like a moon bounce and face painting. 11:00 – 8:00.
Which April 2016 events do you plan to attend? We hope you find many chances to get out and have fun this month.