Discover fun indoor activities in Northern Virginia, for adults and families, to escape the cold days of winter or a rainy 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 for warm winter fun and a break from 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 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!
Whether you have kids along or not, these are some of our favorite places to visit in Northern Virginia in winter. These 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
Visit the Library
We are lucky to have a robust network of libraries in Northen Virginia. There are 23 libraries in Fairfax County, 10 Loudoun County locations, 9 libraries in Prince William County, 8 in Arlington, and 6 in Alexandria.
Many of these libraries have wonderful spots to research, read, or just hang out. Libraries make great winter outings on cold or rainy no school days, when you don’t have time to plan ahead. 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.
Libraries are a great break from home because 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 since budget cutbacks have led to reduced opening times.
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.
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. You don’t have to join the official mall walker crowd, though Fair Oaks Mall opens at 7:00 AM to accommodate walkers. Tysons Corner, Dulles Town Center, and Springfield Mall also 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
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 Virginia in winter. The museum houses a stunning collection of artifacts too large for the DC Air and Space Museum, including a Space Shuttle, Concorde, Stealth Bomber, and other historic aircraft. Admission to the museum is free, but parking is $15. The Udvar-Hazy Center is one of Northern Virginia’s hidden gems and a fantastic destination to wow out-of-town guests.
Northern Virginia Escape Rooms
Grab your posse and head to a Northern Virginia Escape Room to challenge your wits. There are several places for challenging fun in the area including Escape Room Herndon, Escape Room LoCo, Escape Room Ashburn, Room Escape Fairfax (also in Arlington), Escape Room DC, Escape Room Live and Escape Quest in Alexandria, The Great Xcape and Escape Room Manassas, and Key Quest Potomac Mills. 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.
Sporty Indoor Attractions in Northern Virginia
Get some exercise and an adrenalin rush at these sports-minded indoor activities for all ages.
- Bowling: Today’s bowling alleys offer classic fun with a modern twist. Bowlero, in Leesburg, 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.
- 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: Leesburg’s Atomic Trampoline is open to all ages, and there are special sessions for the 6-and-under crowd. Zavazone, in Sterling, includes a ropes course, trampolines, and more indoor fun. 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.
- 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.
- New in 2020, 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 Oak Marr 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 tasty local winter outings.
Here’s a lovely fireplace spot to enjoy wine and music at Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn.
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. 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.
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 cozy and fun 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 is 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 are 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 $13 per person.
- 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
How do you fight cabin fever on a cold winter day or when the rain won’t go away? Please share your suggestions for indoor activities in Northern Virginia in the comments below.
This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2019 and 2020.