Celebrate fall in Northern Virginia with the best fall festivals plus scenic drives, outdoor activities, foliage finds, and Autumn getaways full of seasonal fun. It’s fun to celebrate fall in Northern VA because the season brings cooler days, beautiful fall foliage, and lots of Autumn activities to the region.
Our list of favorite ways to celebrate fall in Northern Virginia will keep you busy throughout the season. Whether you’re planning some fun with the kids, an outing for adults, or solo time to recharge, we’ve got options for you.
Looking for things to do this weekend in Northern Virginia? We’ve got you covered. Our list of Northern Virginia fall activities includes the best weekend events plus outings for any day of the week. We even have recommendations from the experts in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties. Click the links for detailed itineraries and more things to do during fall in Northern Virginia.
Celebrate Fall on Northern Virginia Scenic Drives
One of our favorite ways to celebrate fall foliage is with a long, lazy, weekend drive. We’ve rounded up 6 fantastic Northern Virginia scenic drives that are especially inviting when fall foliage and crisp days return to the area. Our favorite routes are perfect for a leisurely outing, and we suggest several stops and activities along the way for hiking, history, dining, drinks, and more local fun. History buffs will find interesting stops to explore on the Snickersville Turnpike.
Go Apple Picking for Family Fun and Fall Views
When you’re craving a scenic drive with a purpose, head out to one of the beautiful apple orchards in the Northern Virginia area. There are orchards with extra play areas for kids, and simpler destinations that focus on the fruit. Happily, most orchards are surrounded by beautiful countryside so you can soak up fall colors while you pick. Attend a local Apple Festival to add extra fun to your outing.
Visit a Northern Virginia Pumpkin Patch
Fall means the return of pumpkin patch fun to Northern Virginia, from large kid-oriented festivals like Cox Farms to smaller-scale pumpkin displays at local garden centers. Corn mazes also return, along with quirky games like pumpkin slingshots, pig races, tunnel rolls, and more. Follow the link to find a perfect pumpkin patch near you.
Explore Favorite Fall Foliage Spots in Northern VA
Use our guide, Northern Virginia Fall Foliage: Best Places to See Fall Colors In the Region, to plan a beautiful outing in the DC region. We’ve rounded up the best places to see fall foliage at local destinations, parks, trails, and viewpoints. We also include links to foliage trackers and tips on when the fall colors emerge in Virginia.
While Northern Virginia may not match the foliage of New England, we definitely enjoy our share of fall colors. Our favorite way to soak in the reds and golds of autumn is on a fall hike. We rounded up 16 Favorite Fall Hikes in Northern Virginia where you can enjoy fall colors. For example, If you prefer an easy, level path you’ll love the Bay View Trail in Mason Neck State Park. For a more challenging climb, head to the Piedmont Overlook at Sky Meadows State Park. If you’re up for a longer drive, you can celebrate fall colors and spectacular views from Mary’s Rock or Big Schloss.
Cycling fans can choose a trail from our guide to Northern Virginia Bike Trails for Paved and Mountain Biking Fun Near DC. Check our full list of Hiking and Biking articles for more outdoor Autumn hikes throughout the region.
Northern Virginians are extremely lucky to have one of the most beautiful US National Parks just a couple of hours away. Celebrate fall with a Shenandoah visit to enjoy gorgeous foliage views from overlooks and trails. We’ve rounded up suggestions on favorite activities and places to enjoy Shenandoah Park on a day trip or overnight visit.
Visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Alexandria
Another of my favorite places to explore in the fall is a beloved attraction that many locals forget to visit: Mount Vernon. It’s so much more than George Washington’s mansion. The estate has 500 acres of gardens, farms, and forests with dramatic views of the Potomac. When you visit, wear comfortable walking shoes and spend a day hiking the trails. You’ll get the best of everything Virginia has to offer in the fall — vibrant foliage, grand scenic views, and America’s rich colonial history.
Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival & Sunset Tour, Alexandria
For those looking for a sophisticated way to kick off the fall season, George Washington’s Mount Vernon holds an annual Fall Wine Festival & Sunset Tour in early October. Sip wine from more than 20 Virginia wineries, meander through Washington’s home on the exclusive evening tour (including the rarely-opened basement, where he stored his wine), and relax on the expansive East Lawn to watch the sunset over the Potomac River.
The 2021 Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival is held Oct 8 – 10, 6:00 – 9:00 pm.
Explore the LoCo Ale Trail, Loudoun County
Beer lovers can celebrate fall and sample delicious craft beer on the LoCo Ale Trail, a collection of great local breweries throughout Loudoun County. Spend the weekend in historic Leesburg and you’ll have a convenient base for exploring breweries in the city and the surrounding countryside. Dirt Farm Brewing has a spectacular fall view, and it’s close to more breweries in Purcellville. Earn your brew with a short or long hike to nearby Bear’s Den Overlook and explore more of the great natural areas and local business in Bluemont VA.
Celebrate Fall at a Winery with a View
Wineries are fun all year long, but some of our local favorites offer especially beautiful foliage views in the fall. In 2021, some wineries require reservations and have restricted policies about children’s areas so be sure to check ahead with your destination.
The view from Bluemont Winery stretches out across the Virginia Piedmont, with spots of bright color at peak season. Alternatively, the backyard at Doukenie Winery looks up into the Shenandoah foothills. All of the wineries on our list offer lovely spots to relax and enjoy the foliage.
Join the Fun at Cox Farms Fall Festival, Centreville
The Cox Farms Fall Festival in Centreville is my family’s favorite part of fall! It’s an annual tradition for us, and we usually go at least twice each year. The festival is 90 acres of sheer silliness. There are giant slides that are fun for adults as well as kids. The hayride and corn maze are filled with unexpected wackiness that always makes us laugh. The festival also has farm animals, apples, pumpkins, and tons of things for kids to climb. My kids talk about this place all year long, so I’m excited when it’s finally time to go back!
In 2021, the Cox Farms Fall Festival is Sep 25 – Nov 7.
Cox Farms Fields of Fear, Sep 24 – Nov 6
Ali Morris, of Visit Fairfax, notes that older kids can visit Cox Farms in the evenings for the spooky Fields of Fear, featuring a haunted corn maze and the chance to hang out by the bonfire. You’ll find more spooky and not-so-spooky fun in our guide to Halloween in Northern Virginia.
There is no better time to visit historic Alexandria, Virginia than in the fall when colorful foliage emerges. The city’s historic streets come alive with outdoor art festivals, creative events, Halloween haunts, and riverside races. In Alexandria, authentic history blends with contemporary shopping and dining options making it a perfect place for the entire family.
Alexandria has many seasonal events, including favorites like Art on the Avenue and Halloween Ghost Tours. In 2021, Art on the Avenue will be held on October 2.
Take a Hike at Prince William Forest Park, Triangle
Prince William Forest is a hidden gem in the National Park System, just a short drive from Washington DC in Prince William County. Enjoy a scenic drive or bike the paved road that meanders through the park. Better yet, get out on the hiking trails to be surrounded by fall foliage. You’ll discover scenic streams and bridges, unique geology, and the park’s fascinating history.
Prince William Forest was once a camp for low-income children from Washington DC, built by the CCC. Later, it was a training ground for spies during World War II. Entrance to the park is $20 per vehicle; $15 per individual or free with your National Park Pass.
Visit Theodore Roosevelt Island, Arlington
A great place to hike during Northern Virginia’s fall season is Theodore Roosevelt Island, located in the middle of the Potomac. The island is actually in Washington DC, but you can only reach it via a pedestrian bridge from Arlington Virginia. A tribute to President and outdoorsman Teddy Roosevelt, this 91-acre wooded island sanctuary is a wonderful place to enjoy autumnal colors, a quiet afternoon stroll, and perhaps a picnic by the river. Entrance to the park is free.
Take a Scenic Drive on the Unpaved Roads of Loudoun County
Fall in Northern Virginia is the perfect time to explore gorgeous, scenic, unpaved roads. Follow my route or turn off the GPS, put away maps, and get lost for an hour. Discover unpaved roads along creeks you did not know existed. Or travel dirt roads through horse country leading to world-class winery and brewery views or fresh baked goods. Every year more farmland turns into housing developments so there is no better time to explore than now. Cooling temperatures and brilliant colors (blue sky and tree foliage) make for epic photographs and vivid memories.
Contributed by Charles McCool, how-to travel expert, author, trainer, and writer who shows travelers how to increase travel happiness and reduce stress on every trip at McCool Travel. Follow Charles McCool on Facebook and Twitter.
Escape on a Fall Getaway from Northern Virginia
Northern Virginia is surrounded by fun destinations perfect for a fall weekend getaway. Here are some of our favorite fall destinations close to Washington DC. Click the links for tips on what to do, where to stay, and where to dine and drink during your visit:
- Winchester, Virginia
- Charlottesville, Virginia
- Harrisonburg, Virignia
- Leesburg, Virginia
- Roanoke, Virginia
- Shenandoah County, Virginia
- Southwest Virginia
- Virginia’s Eastern Shore
- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
If your goal is a romantic overnight or weekend, you’ll love these 15 Romantic Getaways from Washington DC. And you’ll find romantic and family-friendly lodging options in 21 Great Overnight Getaways In and Near Northern Virginia
There you have it, a list of destinations and activities to celebrate fall, and inspire a season of fun.