It’s fun to celebrate fall in Northern Virginia because the season brings cooler days, beautiful autumn foliage, and lots of Autumn festivals to the region. Our list of favorite fall activities in Northern Virginia will keep you busy throughout the fall 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.
Our round-up of Northern Virginia fall activities includes outings for any day of the week plus annual events We even have recommendations from the experts in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties. Follow the links for detailed itineraries and related things to do in the fall in Northern Virginia. You’ll also find ideas to inspire a fall weekend getaway.
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 $10 per vehicle; $7 per individual or free with your National Park Pass.
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 way to enjoy autumnal colors, a quiet afternoon stroll, and perhaps a picnic by the river. Entrance to the park is free.
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!
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.
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.
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 you brew with a short or long hike to nearby Bear’s Den Overlook.
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 dirt roads through horse country leading to world class winery/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.
There is no better time to visit Alexandria, Virginia than in the fall when colorful foliage emerges and 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 more than 35 seasonal events, including the highly anticipated Annual Art on the Avenue in the city’s Del Ray neighborhood, and Gadsby’s Tavern Ghost Tour.
Celebrate Fall Foliage 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 5 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, but we’ve also suggested several stops and activities along the way for hiking, history, dining, drinks, and more local fun.
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 and 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.
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 with a hike on local trails. If you prefer an easy, level path you’ll love the Bay View Trail in Mason Neck State Park. The boardwalk along the bay and over the marsh is especially pretty in the fall. For a more challenging hilly climb, head to the Piedmont Overlook at Sky Meadows State Park. If you’re up for a longer drive, you can celebrate fall colors with a hike to the spectacular views from Mary’s Rock or Big Schloss. Read our fall hiking round-ups to find a beautiful fall hike:
or check out our full list of Hiking and Biking articles.
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 the park, whether you visit on a day trip or plan for an overnight at the lodges or campgrounds.
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. The view from Bluemont Winery stretches out across the Piedmont, with spots of bright color at peak season. Alternatively, the back yard at Doukenie Winery looks up into the Shenandoah foothills, offering a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the foliage.
Escape on a Fall Getaway from Northern Virginia
Northern Virginia is surrounded by fun destinations perfect for a fall weekend getaway. Here are just a few of our favorite fall destinations close to Washington DC. Follow the links for tips on what to do, where to stay, and where to dine and drink during your visit:
- Charlottesville, Virginia
- Harrisonburg, Virignia
- Leesburg, Virginia
- Richmond, Virginia
- Roanoke, Virginia
- Shenandoah County, Virginia
- Winchester, Virginia
- Wilmington, Delaware
- Annapolis, Maryland
- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
If your goal is a romantic overnight or weekend, you’ll love these 15 Romantic Getaways from Washington DC.
There you have it, a list of destinations and activities to celebrate fall, and inspire a season of fun. What are your favorite Northern Virginia fall activities and destinations? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.