Updated on November 27, 2023 by Julie McCool
Our favorite things to do in Vienna Virginia combine small town fun with nature, music, craft beer, local dining, and interesting history. The town is less than 20 miles from Washington DC, and it is home to the only U.S. National Park devoted to the performing arts. We've rounded up 8 great reasons to put a Vienna Virginia day trip on your travel list.
Here, in no particular order, are our favorite things to do in Vienna Virginia. Note that we are including locations with a Vienna postal address, some of which lie outside the Town of Vienna boundaries.
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1. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is truly a hidden gem of the Washington DC region, and a must visit for nature lovers. This beautiful park in Vienna Virginia is one of our favorite places for an adventure with young children or a multi-generational outing.
When the cherry blossoms are blooming, or fall foliage colors the trees, it's perfect for a romantic stroll too. During the holiday season, Meadowlark hosts the Winter Walk of Lights, my favorite walk-through holiday light show in Northern Virginia.
Enter Meadowlark at the Visitor Center, where you'll pay a small entry fee and can check out nature displays, a small shop, and maps of the gardens. Paved and and natural paths guide visitors past themed gardens and ponds on the 95-acre property. A central path to the pond is one of the best wheelchair-accessible trails in the area.
Benches, rockers, and Adirondack chairs offer quiet spots to relax and enjoy the views. Meadowlark Garden is fun for kids too. Youngsters can play in the Children's Garden and watch koi fish from the gazebo. Be sure to visit the Korean Bell Garden, the only one of its kind on the East Coast.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens opens at 10:00 daily; closing hours vary by season. Admission is $6.00 for adults and just $3 for youth and seniors.
2. Washington and Old Dominion Trail
The Washington and Old Dominion Trail is a 44-mile long, rails-to-trails bike path that follows a historic railroad line. The stretch of trail from Hunter Mill Road to downtown Vienna is a very scenic place to walk, bike, or rollerblade.
Once you reach the Vienna Virginia town boundary, the trail gets busier and frequent road crossings require extra caution. Stop at the historic train station to check out a vintage red caboose and admire the large Vienna mural.
Most of our things to do in Vienna are easy to access from the W&OD, so biking is a good way to explore the town. For example, to reach Meadowlark from downtown by bike, ride north on the W&OD and turn right on the Meadowlark Connector Trail. Some of the route is steep but you'll be on dedicated bike trails most of the way.
3. Church Street Shops
The main street through Vienna is called Maple Ave, and it's busy with restaurants, businesses, and a fair amount of traffic. Just a block away and parallel to Maple is quieter Church Street, a nice place to stroll and shop.
Businesses on Church Street come and go, but there are always several worth a stop. Bards Alley is a cute independent bookstore. Across the street, The Clock Shop of Vienna has over 500 clocks on display (they custom-ordered a cuckoo clock for us).
There are plenty of Vienna food shops too! Pick up a fresh loaf at Harvest Bread Company or Middle Eastern treats from Yas Bakery. Closer to the bike trail you can buy handmade chocolates at Cocoa Vienna. When you're ready for a break, head to our favorite coffee shop, Cafe Amouri.
4. Freeman Store and Museum
The Freeman House Store and Museum and country store occupy a central spot in Vienna Virginia, at the intersection of the W&OD bike trail and Church Street. The building has been central to the community since it was built in 1858 by Abram Lydecker. It operated as a general store serving Ayr Hill (now Vienna) for many years, and that history is preserved today.
The small museum houses permanent and rotating displays on two floors. A display downstairs captures the look and feel of a general store in the 19th century. Upstairs there is a changing display related to life in rural Vienna Virginia. During my visits, displays covered farming history, African-American history, and women's fight for the right to vote.
The Freeman Store is also an active General Store, and it's a fun place to shop for gifts and toys with a throwback feel. The museum is generally open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 4:00, but it closes in January and February. There is no admission charge.
5. Caboose Brewing Company
Virginia is home to a vibrant craft beer scene, filled with interesting breweries and Beer Trails. Vienna Virginia is lucky to have Caboose Brewing Company in the downtown area. Caboose is both a brewery and restaurant. They serve a wonderful line-up of brews and delicious, locally sourced food.
Order a flight or a pint and enjoy a spot indoors or out. The Box Car Brown porter is my top pick. The food is tasty too. We're fond of the pork belly and the crispy fries, and a friend loves the mac-and-cheese.
Caboose Brewing Company is right next to the bike trail, a few blocks north of Church Street at the end of an industrial road. They are open Monday to Thursday, 4:00 to 11:00 pm, with longer hours on the weekends (Friday 12-12, Saturday 11-12, Sunday 11-10.
6. Downtown Vienna Dining
When all this exploring makes you hungry, you have a LOT of choices! There is a wonderful collection of great restaurants in Vienna VA, and most of them are downtown. Our favorite casual places to eat in downtown Vienna Virginia include Taco Bamba, Sweetleaf Cafe, and Pure Pasty. For sit-down dining we suggest Pazzo Pomodoro, Natta Thai, Maple Ave, and Bazin's on Church. We hear great things about upscale Clarity, but we haven't tried it yet.
7. Jammin Java
One of the coolest and most intimate music venues in the Washington DC region is located right in downtown Vienna Virginia. Jammin Java regularly sells out concerts in their intimate space. In fact, they're often recognized by Pollster Magazine as one of the Top 100 Venues in the world according to ticket sales.
The business is owned and run by three brothers, and their music-loving/musician spirit shows. If you're exploring Vienna Virginia with kids, check out their line-up of daytime Tot Rocks events.
8. Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Enjoy music on a much larger scale at the only national park dedicated to live entertainment. Wolf Trap National Park is an indoor/outdoor venue hosting major musical acts and theater throughout the year.
During the winter acts are housed indoors at the Barns at Wolf Trap. From May to December, the entertainment takes over the 7,000-seat Filene Center and the children's-oriented Theater in the Woods. The Filene Center offers a combination of covered and lawn seating that is especially fun on a beautiful evening.
Wolf Trap hosts a few very popular free events every year. The Wolf Trap Summer Blast-off kicks off the summer season during Memorial Day Weekend. The event includes spectacular fireworks and music by the President's Own Marine Band. The season closes with the annual Holiday Sing-along in early December.
See our full line-up of favorite annual festivals in Northern Virginia now!
Wolf Trap is located just north of the Dulles Access Road (267). It is reachable by bike from downtown Vienna on a combination of trails and surface roads, but expect to tackle some hills on the way.
Bonus: Special Events in Vienna VA
The town of Vienna has a fun line-up of special events throughout the year. Here are some of the most popular annual events in Vienna. Click the link for more info and nearby things to do in Northern VA.
- Viva Vienna! is a carnival and live music celebration that takes over the downtown every Memorial Day Weekend.
- Throughout the summer, the Vienna Town Green hosts free outdoor concerts.
- Vienna celebrates July 4th Weekend with a fireworks show plus live music, kids activities, and fun.
- A Halloween parade and costume contest bring family fun to the spooky season.
- Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights is a walk-through holiday light show that opens from mid-November to early January.
- The annual Church Street Holiday Stroll in late November adds live entertainment and festive fun to your holiday shopping.
Tips for Visiting Vienna Virginia
Vienna Virginia is easy to reach via the Washington Metro Orange Line. It's just over 2 miles from the Vienna/Fairfax GMU Station to downtown so grab a bus, taxi, or Uber if you don't want to bike or walk that far.
If you plan to visit Vienna Virginia by car you'll find free parking available in several downtown lots and along the bike trail. Parking is difficult during major events like the annual Viva Vienna! festival. Check the town website for a list of free and legal parking lots in town.
All of the destinations on our list are in the downtown area except Meadowlark Botanical Garden and Wolf Trap. Both of these are about 3 miles outside the downtown. To reach Meadowlark by bike or on foot, follow the W&OD bike trail to the Meadowlark Connector trail. The connector trail has some steep hills, but it's a pretty route.
Small towns like Vienna are one of the things we love most about living in Northern Virginia. There is always something new to explore, or a favorite restaurant or brewery calling us back. We hope our favorite things to do in Vienna Virginia inspire a visit. Vienna makes a fun day trip destination in the Washington DC area.
If you're a Vienna Virginia local we would love to hear your ideas about fun things to do in town. Please share your tips in the comments below. Thanks!