SUP sunset Lake Thoreau Reston

Top 10 Things to Do in Reston Virginia: Advice from a Local

Reston Virginia combines beautiful public parkland, a thriving restaurant scene, shopping, and family fun in a unique suburban town in Northern Virginia. The town motto—Live, Work, Play—reflects the diverse population and interesting neighborhoods that make Reston a fun day trip or getaway destination. The town is close to Dulles International Airport, and it makes a good base for exploring the Washington DC region.

We have been Reston residents for over 20 years, and we love exploring our town. Here are some of our favorite things to do, and places to visit, in Reston Virginia.

Visit Historic Lake Anne Village Center

The Reston Museum at Lake Anne Plaza is a good place to get oriented and learn the backstory of this planned community. If you plan to spend the day exploring Reston Virginia, this is a great place to start.

Lake Anne Plaza and Robert E. Simon statue Reston VA

Lake Anne Plaza and Robert E. Simon statue Reston VA

The story of Reston is quite unique. Founder Robert E. Simon (who put the RES in Reston) had a vision for a community where people could live their whole lives without the need for long commutes. There is a mix of residential, commercial, and leisure property throughout town.

Lake Anne Village was the first neighborhood center of Reston, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The community was constructed from 1963 to 1967, and it was integrated from the start, unlike most of Virginia.

Today, Lake Anne Plaza is home to local gathering places and special events. Visit to explore the plaza’s history, architecture, and art; shop at Reston Used Book Store; then relax at one of several restaurants and a nano-brewery. From spring to fall the plaza hosts a popular Farmers Market and lots of special events like the annual Chalk on the Water.

Lake Anne Plaza market Reston VA

Lake Anne Plaza market Reston VA

Play and Camp at Lake Fairfax Park

Lake Fairfax Park is a popular spot for weekend gatherings, sports, fishing, biking, and hiking. Visitors enjoy a network of trails, a  large wooded picnic area, a small fishable lake (license required), sports fields, a skateboard park, and a campground. The Water Mine Swimming Hole, a popular Northern Virginia waterpark, opens in the warmer months along with a carousel, pontoon tour boat, and paddle boats.

Marina at Lake Fairfax Park

Marina at Lake Fairfax Park

The campground at Lake Fairfax Park is a popular camping destination for visitors to the Washington DC region. The park offers a nice mix of RV and tent sites in an open field and at the edge of the woods. But you don’t have to be a tourist to enjoy an overnight at Lake Fairfax. A local campsite is an excellent option for beginner campers, and families with young children. You can immerse your group in nature and still have quick access to home.

>>> Read about things to do at Lake Fairfax Park now!

Lake Fairfax Park trail Reston VA

Lake Fairfax Park trail Reston VA

Bike the Washington & Old Dominion Trail

Known as the skinniest park in Virginia, the Washington & Old Dominion Trail is a wonderful rails-to-trails conversion maintained by NOVA Parks. The paved bike trail stretches from Purcellville to Arlington, with about 5 miles traversing Reston.

The Reston stretch of the W&OD passes near several of the places on this list, so you could plan a bike-centric visit (more transportation info below). The trail is also a fun cross-country skiing destination after a snowstorm.

Washington and Old Dominion Trail Reston

Washington and Old Dominion Trail Reston

Snowy W & O D Reston VA

A snowy W&OD trail in Reston VA

The Reston segment of the W&OD includes a parallel bridle trail that is a nice option for hikers. The paved trail gets very busy on weekends, when fast-moving bikes compete for space with families out for a stroll. If you’re on foot and you don’t mind hills and an uneven dirt surface, stick to the bridle trail. It’s also generally shadier in summer.

Hike the Fairfax Cross County Trail

The Reston section of the W&OD overlaps with another major Northern Virginia trail. The Fairfax Cross County Trail is a 40 mile network of trails that crosses the entire county from north to south. Hike the Reston section of the CCT and you will walk a combination of paved and natural trails through some pretty wooded areas.

Fairfax Cross County Trail Reston VA

Fairfax Cross County Trail Reston VA

Stroll Reston Pathways

One of the guiding principles of Reston’s design is to preserve extensive natural space for community enjoyment. The town boasts 1300 acres of public space maintained by the Reston Association. Natural areas include 800 acres of woodlands, 4 lakes, 4 wetlands, 3 ponds, 50 meadows, and 30 streams. It’s an impressive collection, accessed via 55 miles of paved and natural trails.

Summer path Reston VA

Summer path in Reston VA

Our favorite trails circle or pass near Lake Anne, Lake Thoreau, and Lake Audubon. All of these paths mix stretches by the lake with paths through neighborhoods, sometimes following sidewalks. Visit the association site for a map of the Reston pathways and several suggested hiking routes.

>>>  Learn about the Lake Thoreau Loop Trail now!

Lake Audubon from the lakeside path in Reston Virginia

Lake Audubon from the lakeside path in Reston Virginia

Play on or Near Reston Lakes

As we mentioned, Reston has four lakes, and they are popular spots for a stroll or some time on the water. On any summer night you will see stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and pontoon boats out for a float. Local businesses like Surf Reston offer SUP and kayak lessons on all four lakes in summer. Motorized boats are not allowed on any Reston lake.

SUP sunset Lake Thoreau Reston

SUP sunset Lake Thoreau Reston

  • Lake Thoreau is next to the South Lakes Village Center. There is a nice lakefront stretch along South Lakes Drive with benches and a picnic table. This is a popular spot for fishing and it’s a great place to catch a summer sunset.
  • Lake Audubon has a boat ramp, a paved trail around a portion of the lake, and public parking.  from the boat ramp area.
  • Lake Anne is best enjoyed from the Lake Anne Village Center (details above). In summer you can rent paddleboats and kayaks from the dock. Several restaurants offer outdoor seating with lovely lake views.
  • Lake Newport is the smallest of the lakes. Park at Brown’s Chapel to access a walkway along part of the lake. There is also a playground and baseball field near the parking area.

Spot Wildlife at Walker Nature Center

Tucked in the woods along Glade Drive is the lovely Walker Nature Center. The center offers a nature-inspired library with a reading area for kids. Sit near the large windows to watch birds and other critters at several feeders. Outside there are trails through the woods and down the hill to Lake Audubon.

Walker Nature Center Reston Virginia

Walker Nature Center Reston Virginia

If you are up for a longer walk, combine a nature center visit with a hike through the Glade Stream Valley. Paved paths border the restored stream with bridges and benches along the way for wildlife watching. We’ve seen hawks, foxes, beavers, and many bird species in the stream valley.

>>> Read Glade Stream Valley Hike and Walker Nature Center for details, pictures, and maps of this hidden Reston Virginia gem.

Glade Stream Valley Reston

Glade Stream Valley, Reston VA

Eat and Drink Local in Reston Virginia

Reston Virginia is a suburb, with it’s fair share of chain restaurants, like the “McTacoHut” near the Weihle Metro station. Fortunately, there are also many non-chain, locally owned restaurants, with new spots opening frequently.

Reds Table patio Reston VA

Red’s Table patio on Lake Thoreau Reston VA

We rounded up 10 favorite Reston restaurants including a local nano-brewery, and a coffee shop and wine bar. Our favorites cover a range of cuisines including Japanese, Mediterranean, American, Vietnamese, and Thai. Quality chains in the area include a new Nando’s Peri-peri and Coopers Hawk Winery near the coming Reston West metro stop. For casual dining, we like Glory Days Grill and Silver Diner, both mid-Atlantic chains that got their start in the area.

>>>  Read our full Reston Restaurant Guide now!

Search for Hidden Art

Reston is blessed with a group dedicated to staging temporary and permanent public art displays throughout town. Exploring local art is a fun family activity to encourage kid’s creativity. Take a scratch pad along and let children create their own renditions of the art you find.

Outdoor mural Hunters Woods Elementary School Reston VA

Outdoor mural Hunters Woods Elementary School Reston VA

Some of our favorite collections are at Lake Anne Plaza, Hunter Woods Elementary, and Reston Town Center. Lake Anne is especially fun for kids as they can climb on many of the sculptures.

>>> Read our guide to beautiful, quirky, and surprising hidden art of Reston Virginia.

The Sun Boat sculpture Lake Anne Reston VA

The Sun Boat sculpture Lake Anne Reston VA

Shop, Dine, and Catch a Movie at Reston Town Center

Reston Town Center is a combination outdoor mall, residential area, and community gathering place. The center’s popularity took a major hit in 2017 when the owners shifted from free to paid parking. Fortunately, they backed off a bit and garage parking (not street) is now free after 5:00 pm, on weekends and major holidays, and for an hour during the day.

Reston Town Center during Taste of Reston

Reston Town Center during Taste of Reston

The town center offers a mix of shopping, dining, a nice movie theater, and public spaces for hanging out and enjoying special events. A pavilion and fountain area are popular spots for concerts and events, and the pavilion becomes an ice skating rink in winter. In the summer, kids can play in a small splash park. Reston Town Center is also home to the Hyatt Regency Reston, which makes a good base for exploring the town.

Ice skating at Reston Town Center

Ice skating at Reston Town Center

Spend the Night on a Reston Virginia Getaway

Make your visit a getaway with a stay at one of Reston’s three major hotels. The Hyatt Regency Reston is located in Reston Town Center. Nearby, the Westin at Reston Heights and the Sheraton Reston offer easy access to the Dulles Toll Road, the major highway into DC. And all three properties offer a free shuttle to the metro station, so you can ride the Silver Line into DC.

Check reviews, availability, and pricing to plan your Reston stay.

Transportation Tips for Your Reston Virginia Visit

  • The Silver Line Metro currently starts at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station (new Reston stations are under construction). You can easily visit to Washington DC, Arlington, and other regional destinations from this subway stop.
  • There is a direct bus to Dulles International Airport from the metro station. Local bus lines travel to or near most of the stops on our things to do in Reston list.
  • Capital Bikeshare operates several bike share stations in Reston. If you arrive by metro, you can pick up a bike and access the W&OD bike trail, which is just a block away.
  • The W&OD bike trail is a great way to reach Reston Town Center from the metro, either by bike or on foot. The trail also passes the back side of Lake Fairfax Park. If you’re walking or hiking, enter behind SkateQuest on Michael Faraday Court.
  • The subway and bus lines, plus taxis, uber, and hotel shuttles make it possible to explore much of Reston’s core without a car. This is especially true if you like to walk or bike. But you will need a car to visit all of the sites on our list.
  • The Dulles Toll Road, which connects the airport to major routes into DC, bisects the town. If you don’t want to pay a toll, there are two main streets that parallel the toll road: Sunrise Valley to the south, and Sunset Hills to the north. Reston streets are easy to navigate but they are packed and slow during rush hour. Avoid rush hour travel whenever possible.

We hope our list of fun things to do in Reston Virginia inspires you to explore our home town. Recent growth has put a strain on rush hour roads, but if you avoid primetime traffic you’ll find lots of relaxing and beautiful places to visit. What are your favorite things to do in Reston? Please share your tips and feedback in the comments below.

Find more information from Reston Association: web | Twitter | Facebook

Read these related articles for more Northern Virginia towns to explore, and browse our full collection of mid-Atlantic getaways:

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Reston Virginia US Travel | 10 top things to do in Reston Virginia combines beautiful public parkland, a thriving restaurant scene, shopping, and family fun in a unique suburban town in Northern Virginia.

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