Updated on November 27, 2023 by Julie McCool
Here are fun indoor activities in Northern Virginia, for adults and families, to escape winter's chill, spring rain, or a humid summer day in the Washington DC region. Whether you're dealing with last-minute school cancellations or looking for an adults-only escape, we've got ideas. These indoor activities in Northern Virginia deliver warm winter fun or a break from hot and rainy days.
When the days turn so very, very cold we can all get a little stir crazy. Too cold for a winter hike, too cold for a nature park, too cold to be outdoors. Yet chilly days and school cancellations often lead to cabin fever. We have to get out of the house!
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Whether you have kids along or not, these are some of our favorite places to visit in Northern Virginia in winter. These indoor activities and outings offer a change of scene and fun close to home. Choose from free indoor destinations or spend a little bit and sample new indoor things to do this winter.
Free Indoor Activities in Northern Virginia
You don't even have to open your wallet to enjoy these free indoor activities in Northern Virginia. You can escape the cold or heat at a fascinating museum or just pop into your local library.
Visit the Library
We are lucky to have a robust network of libraries in Northern Virginia. Residents and visitors can visit:
- 23 libraries in Fairfax County
- 10 libraries in Loudoun County
- 9 libraries in Prince William County
- 8 libraries in Arlington
- 6 libraries in Alexandria
Most libraries have wonderful spots to research, read, or just hang out. Libraries make great winter outings on no school days when you don't have time to plan ahead. The last time we visited, the children's area in Great Falls Library looked adorable and cozy.
Grab a chair by the window to enjoy this peaceful view from Dolly Madison Library in McLean.
Or stretch your legs at the spacious Fairfax Regional Library. Virginia history buffs will enjoy winter outings to the City of Fairfax library's impressive local history section.
Libraries are a nice break from home and they offer free parking, free reading, and free peace. Many libraries also schedule free or low-cost classes and events. Double-check branch hours before you head out.
National Museum of the Marine Corps
The National Museum of the Marine Corps offers free entry and parking all year long. The museum shares the history of the Marine Corps through dramatic and interactive exhibits. The museum continues to expand its exhibit space, offering plenty of incentives for repeat visits.
National Museum of the United States Army
New in 2021, the National Museum of the United States Army is one of the best free things to do indoors in Northern Virginia. The museum shares the history of the army from the perspective of the soldiers who served. You can easily spend hours exploring the fascinating displays and artifacts. Parking and entry are free, and the museum is open every day except Christmas.
Take a Fitness Walk At a Local Mall
When it's too cold for a neighborhood walk or a favorite hike, an indoor mall is a solid alternative to stretch your legs and stay warm while you do it. Fair Oaks Mall, Tysons Corner, Tysons II, Dulles Town Center, and Springfield Mall offer plenty of space for an indoor walk.
Malls are also an ideal place to escape bad weather when you have young children. Malls are stroller-friendly and generally include free play spaces for kids. Treat the kids to lunch out, or pack your own treats for a free indoor outing.
Indoor Activities in Northern VA with a Fee
The indoor activities in Northern Virginia below deliver a lot of fun for your dollar.
Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center
The National Air and Space Museum Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center is one of the best places to visit in Northern Virginia. The museum houses a stunning collection of artifacts too large for the DC Air and Space Museum. Here you can get up close to a Space Shuttle, Concorde, Stealth Bomber, and other historic aircraft.
Admission to the Udvar-Hazy Center is free, but parking is $15. That's still a great deal if you have a family to entertain. The Udvar-Hazy Center is one of Northern Virginia's hidden gems and a fantastic place to wow out-of-town guests.
LEGO Discovery Center Washington DC
The new LEGO Discovery Center Washington DC is now one of the best things to do with kids indoors in the Northern Virginia area. This fun-filled space in the Springfield Town Center mall is packed with hands-on creative play.
LEGO loving kids can create and play in 12 unique zones, and they can explore in any order for as long as they like. Ride the Imagination Express, watch a movie in the 4D Theater, see stunning LEGO creations, and build your own. Another highlight is Mini World an impressive display of Washington DC landmarks expertly rendered in LEGO bricks.
The center is designed for kids 2 to 12 who must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets start at $28.99 per person but vary depending on the day and time of your visit.
Cat Cafes in Northern VA
Here's a unique indoor activity for adults and kids. NoVA cat cafes and lounges offer cozy places to interact with adorable adoptable cats. Guests pay a fee to relax and play with the kitties for an hour. This is a great way to meet a cat before you adopt or just get in some purr time.
Cat cafes work with animal rescues and the interaction also helps socialize the cats. Note that most cat lounges have a minimum age limit (4 or more).
- Patriot Pawsabilities in Fairfax was the first cat cafe in Northern Virginia. One-hour sessions are $17/$12 for adults/kids 4-13 with discounts available.
- Mount Purrnon in Old Town Alexandria has a wine bar and cafe downstairs and a cat lounge upstairs. One-hour reservations are $20/$15 for adults/ages 5-12
- Meow's Corner in Sterling charges $19 for an hour on weekends, and $18 on weekdays. You can also book the lounge for a birthday party.
- Catty Corner Cafe in downtown Leesburg has a cozy upstairs lounge and you get a cookie and beverage with your visit. Visits are $22 per person for a one-hour visit.
Northern Virginia Escape Rooms
Grab your posse and head to a Northern Virginia Escape Room to challenge your wits. While older kids are also welcome, escape rooms are a great option when you're looking for indoor activities for adults in Northern Virginia. Rooms, prices, and hours vary by location.
There are several places for challenging fun in the area:
- Escape Rooms in Fairfax County: Escape Room Herndon, Room Escape Fairfax (also in Arlington), Escape Room DC in Falls Church
- Escape Rooms in Loudoun County: Escape Room LoCo in Leesburg and Escape Room Ashburn
- Escape Rooms in Alexandria: Escape Room Live and Escape Quest
- Escape Rooms in Prince William County: The Great Xcape in Manassas, Escape Room Manassas, and Key Quest Potomac Mills
Sporty Indoor Attractions in Northern Virginia
Get some exercise and an adrenalin rush at these sports-minded indoor activities in Northern Virginia for all ages.
- Bowling: Today's bowling alleys offer classic fun with a modern twist. Bowlero, in Leesburg and Tysons, offers 18 sweet lanes featuring black lights and huge video walls. Even the youngest kids can handle the lighter balls at Mini Bowling at Monster Golf. For a more traditional vibe, head to one of Bowl America's many Northern VA locations.
- Dave and Busters location in Springfield offers a fun collection of indoor activities and arcade games for adults and children. Another good option for families with young kids, Fun Land in Fairfax has a ropes course, zip line, lasertag, go karts, and lots of arcade games. Fun Land also has a Fredericksburg location with indoor and outdoor activies.
- Go-karting: Get your thrill on with indoor go-karting at Autobahn Speedway in Dulles and Manassas. There is no speed limit, and go-karts can drive up to 50 miles per hour. Kids 8 and older can join the fun in specially designed junior karts.
- Golfing: TopGolf, with multiple locations in Ashburn and Alexandria, has 70 heated and covered bays that keep temperatures about 20 degrees warmer than the outside temp. Dulles Golf Center also offers covered, heated and lighted tee stations. Or enjoy 18 holes of glow-in-the-dark fun at Monster Mini Golf in Chantilly.
- iFly: Have you always wondered what it's like to skydive, but not sure you're ready to jump from a plane? Head to the vertical wind tunnel at iFly, in Ashburn, to experience a simulated flight.
- Rock Climbing: Scale the climbing wall and tackle the boulders at several indoor rock climbing facilities in Northern Virginia. Sportrock, in Alexandria and Sterling, Earth Treks, in Crystal City, and Vertical Rock Climbing, in Manassas all offer challenging courses and beginner instruction.
- Roller and Ice Skating: The Skate n Fun Zone in Manassas welcomes all ages to public roller skating sessions. There are dedicated sessions for tots, families, adults, and other groups every week. Check our guide to Northern Virginia ice skating rinks to find an indoor or outdoor covered ice skating rink near you.
- Trampoline and Ropes: Zavazone, in Sterling and Potomac Mills, includes a ropes course, trampolines, and more indoor fun. Summit Ropes, in Sterling, is another great indoor ropes course with over 120 obstacles to tackle. And Flight Trampoline Park in Springfield is another popular spot to get your bounce on.
Enjoy Dinner and a Movie
Movies make good winter outings when you only have a few free hours. There are plenty of theaters in the area, but it's always fun to try something new.
- New in 2023, enjoy dinner and a movie at LOOK Dine-In Cinemas Reston Town Center featuring luxe theaters and an elevated theater menu of food and cocktails delivered right to your seat.
- For minimal outdoor time, we favor a Tysons Corner matinee followed by lunch at Seasons 52 (tasty flatbread and fish tacos).
- Angelika Film Center in Fairfax's Mosaic District is another great option for movie-going. You can reserve seats in advance, and the concession stand offers gourmet popcorn, unusual snacks, wine, and beer.
- Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, in Ashburn and Woodbridge, combines a movie outing with a full restaurant and bar. Local craft beer, cocktails, and meals are delivered right to your seats.
- Showplace Icon Theater Tysons is a luxury theater option with a full bar and menu at The Boro in Tysons. Items are purchase and carry in, so there are no interruptions during the movie.
Indoor Waterparks in Northern Virginia
Sometimes the best way to fight winter is by pretending it's summer. Indoor waterparks and swimming pools give you a dose of summer all year round. Go beyond the standard lap lanes at these Northern Virginia pools with indoor waterpark features:
- Cub Run Rec Center features a leisure entertainment pool with a 30-foot-high slide that exits the building in an enclosed tube. There's also a 20-foot-high slide with an open tube, a current channel, an open shallow water area, and a water playground with interactive play features and a zero-depth entry.
- Visit Claude Moore Rec Center for fun at the Leisure Pool. The mini waterpark includes a giant water slide, children's play area, hot tub, vortex, lazy river, and free swim/play area.
- The Dulles South Recreation Center Leisure Pool has a 125-foot water slide, children's play area, hot tub, vortex, and lazy river and free swim and play area.
- The renovated Oakmont Park Rec Center has a heated, Olympic-sized, indoor pool with spa, beach, and wading area, plus a diving complex with one-meter and three-meter boards and a five-meter tower. Pool availability is sometimes limited to classes and lap swim.
- In 2020, Reston Community Center opened a completely renovated aquatics space. The new 25-yard lap pool includes beach entry and water play features. And a deeper, warm-water exercise pool hosts classes and open swim.
- The St. James in Springfield has an indoor waterpark with multiple slides, multi-directional sprayers, and three buckets that fill and drop
- The Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility (WARF) leisure pool is open to non-members who purchase a day pass. The 68,000-gallon indoor pool has a water slide, lazy river, vortex, and a zero-depth entry for easy entrance by toddlers, seniors, and wheelchair users.
Winter Outings by the Fireplace at Wineries and Breweries
There is nothing quite like sitting by a fireplace when it's cold outside. Combine that fireplace with food or a drink, and you have an ideal scenario for a tasty local winter outing.
Check our guide to Heated Outdoor Dining and Drinking in Northern Virginia if you prefer to eat and drink outside. Several Northern VA restaurants, breweries, and wineries offer cozy outdoor igloos during the winter.
If you prefer craft beer, 2 Silos Brewing in Prince William County has several seating areas around fire pits. They also have a gorgeous stone fireplace near the barn and you can rent your own igloo in the colder months. Read our full review of 2 Silos Brewing for more details and pictures.
Bear Chase Brewing, in Bluemont, has a nice fireplace warming their large space. There's a large covered patio in winter, and a gorgeous view to enjoy on warmer days. Mix indoors and out when you rent one of the igloos at Bear Chase.
You can also enjoy a great view, a fireplace, and both beer and wine at Hillsborough Vineyard in Hillsboro.
For lunch or dinner and a pint by the fire, head to Hunter's Head Tavern in Upperville. The vibe is relaxed, and the menu emphasizes organic, local, non-GMO meat and produce. Explore our full list of fun and cozy Northern Virginia pubs.
Shop and Stay at Northern VA Malls
For a slower indoor shopping experience, we love a long stroll through IKEA followed by lunch in their low-cost restaurant. I can easily spend half a day at the Potomac Mills IKEA and I usually come away with a few fun trinkets.
Extend your mall winter outings even more with a warm staycation. The luxurious Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner hotel and spa are attached to Tysons Galleria mall, so you won't even have to step outside for dinner and some shopping.
Read our full review of Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner and plan your stay.
Tysons Corner Center is another excellent option for a mall-connected staycation. Book a weekend at the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner and enjoy shopping, movies, meals, and fun without ever venturing outdoors.
Read our full review of Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner.
More Indoor Activities in Northern Virginia for Kids
True story: In the late 90s, I would take my twins to Dulles Airport for a cold day outing. We would ride the shuttle to terminal B or C, play at an empty gate, watch the planes take off and land, have lunch, and watch the baggage claim conveyor belt. My toddlers were amazed and amused and usually followed our outing with a great nap.
Sadly, but for good reason, open access to airport terminals is a thing of the past. Fortunately, there are plenty of other play spaces and indoor activities for kids in Northern Virginia, in addition to the family-friendly destinations listed above.
- The Children's Science Center Lab in Fairfax Mall is Northern Virginia's first STEM-focused, interactive space for children and families. The lab is designed for families and schools with children ages 2 to 12. Admission is $15 per person ($13 online).
- Colorful play spaces like Beehive Indoor Playground in Woodbridge, and Billy Beez in Manassas Mall offer scheduled classes and drop-in hours for the little ones.
Bookmark our expanding list of rainy-day and winter activities in Northern Virginia, and check back for new places to visit in Virginia in winter and all year long.
Plan a Weekend Getaway
Ready to really escape the winter blues? It's time to plan a weekend getaway or a winter vacation. Find inspiration and ideas for great getaways here:
- Favorite Winter Getaways from Northern Virginia by Plane, Train, and Auto
- 15 Fabulous Romantic Getaways from Washington DC
- 21 Fantastic Weekend Getaways In and Near Northern Virginia