Locals Guide: 10+ Best Things to Do in Reston Virginia

Updated on November 7, 2023 by Julie McCool

Reston Virginia combines beautiful public open space, 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 of Reston is located in Fairfax County, Virginia's most populated jurisdiction. Reston is close to Dulles Airport, and it makes a great base for exploring the Washington DC region. The Silver Line station of the Washington Metro currently ends at the Reston-Weihle stop, and the metro is a convenient way to visit downtown DC without a car.

Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. We will make a small commission from these links if you order something, at no additional cost to you.

We have been Reston residents for over 25 years, and we love exploring our town. We raised twins here and now we're empty nesters, so we've discovered the best adults-only and family-friendly things to do in Reston. Below is a local's take on favorite things to do, and places to visit, in Reston Virginia.

Visit Historic Lake Anne Village Center

The Reston Museum 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, the Lake Anne Village Center is a great place to start. From here, you can walk a scenic and easy trail around Lake Anne.

Boating Shopping Dining and People-watching at Lake Anne Reston Virginia
Lake Anne, 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. Simon used proceeds from the sale of Carnegie Hall to create Reston, the first modern planned community in America. Today, the town retains the mix of residential, commercial, and leisure properties that were part of Reston's master plan.

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, art, and local businesses. Relax at one of several restaurants, a nano-brewery, and a wine bar with nice outdoor dining.

Be sure to visit the Van Gogh Bridge, a beautiful photo spot and one of our favorite places to see cherry blossoms in Northern VA.

Cherry Blossoms surround the Van Gogh Bridge at Lake Anne in Reston Virginia
Van Gogh Bridge Cherry Blossoms Reston

On Saturdays, from spring to fall, the plaza hosts an excellent craft and Farmers Market. In addition, special events like the annual Founder's Day and Multicultural Festival attract residents and visitors.

In summer, you can enjoy boating on the lake when you rent a kayak, canoe, or pedal boat.

Plan your visit: 15 Fantastic Things to Do at Lake Anne Reston
Lake Anne Plaza Boat Rentals in Reston VA
Lake Anne Plaza Boat Rentals

Swim, Hike, Play, and Camp at Lake Fairfax Park

Lake Fairfax Park is a popular spot for weekend gatherings, sports, fishing, biking, hiking, and camping. Visitors enjoy a network of trails, a  large wooded picnic area, a small fishable lake (license required), sports fields, a skateboard park, and an excellent campground.

The Water Mine Swimming Hole is a popular Northern Virginia waterpark near the lake. It opens in the warmer months, along with a carousel and paddle boats.

Lake Fairfax Park Rental Boats
Lake Fairfax Park Rental Boats

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.

Lake Fairfax is also a popular spot for mountain biking in Northern Virginia, with an excellent network of single-track trails through the woods.

Read about fun things to do at Lake Fairfax Park.
Lake Fairfax Park trail in spring
Lake Fairfax Park trail

Bike the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (or Hike)

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 the quaint town of Purcellville to Arlington, and about 5 miles traverse Reston.

Fall is a beautiful time on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail in Northern VA
Washington and Old Dominion Bike Trail

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 place for cross-country skiing after a snowstorm.

Snowy W & O D Reston VA
Snowy W&OD Trail, 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 and colorful in fall foliage season.

Fall foliage on the W & OD Bridle Trail in Autumn
W & OD Bridle Trail in Reston

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 Fairfax County from north to south.

Fairfax Cross County Trail Reston VA
Fairfax Cross County Trail Reston VA

Hike the Reston section of the CCT and you will walk a combination of paved and natural trails through some very pretty wooded areas. The trail is pretty year-round, but especially when spring wildflowers are blooming or fall foliage colors the trees.

Fairfax CCT Reston in spring
Spring on the 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 the community to enjoy. The town boasts 1300 acres of public space maintained by the Reston Association.

Reston natural areas include 800 acres of woodlands, 4 lakes, 4 wetlands, 3 ponds, 50 meadows, and 30 streams. It's an impressive collection, accessed from 55 miles of paved and natural trails.

Summer path Reston VA
Summer Path Reston VA

Our favorite trails circle or pass near Lake Anne, Lake Thoreau, and Lake Audubon and through the Glade Stream Valley. All of these paths mix stretches by the lake with paths through neighborhoods, sometimes following sidewalks. Use our guides to plan your walk:

Fall Foliage Reflected in Lake Thoreau in Reston VA.
Lake Thoreau in Reston Virginia

As you walk, watch for wildlife, including fox, deer, and many bird species. Visit the association site for a map of more Reston pathways and suggested hiking routes.

A fox crosses the Glade Stream Valley Trail in Reston Virginia
Fox crosses Glade SVT Reston

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.

Colorful fall foliage surrounds a bench at Lake Audubon in Reston Virginia
Fall Foliage in Reston VA
  • 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. You'll also find comfortable lakeside chairs and tables in a corner of the South Lakes Shopping Center.
  • 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 pedal boats and kayaks from the dock. Several restaurants offer outdoor seating with pretty 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 and natural 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.

Pretty views Glade Stream Valley hike
Glade Stream Valley Trail, Reston

See More Animals at NOVA Wild Reston Zoo

A popular stop for many years, the NOVA Wild Reston zoo reopened in 2023 as a non-profit with new management and big plans for updates. As part of the February grand opening, NOVA Wild is hosting The Great Migration light show, featuring 800,000 LED lights. Visitors encounter animal and habitat sculptures on a mile of trails, passing live animal enclosures along the way.

NOVA Wild Great Migration Light Show at the Reston Zoo in Northern Virginia
NOVA Wild Great Migration Reston

The Reston zoo's drive-through safari, one of the best things to with kids is back too. The safari brings you up close with buffalo, llamas, emus, and more as they walk right up to your car.

Additional walk-through and interactive animal experiences make NOVA Wild a fun stop for families and animal lovers of all ages.

Eat and Drink Local in Reston Virginia

Reston Virginia is a suburb, with its fair share of chain restaurants. Fortunately, there are also many non-chain, locally-owned restaurants, with new spots opening frequently. Several Reston restaurants have nice patios where you can enjoy outdoor dining in warmer months.

The Lakeside Patio at Red's Table in Reston VA, a Great Spot for Northern Virginia Outdoor Dining
Reds Table, 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. 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 in Reston VA

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

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 the 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 town center offers a mix of shopping, dining, the new LOOK Dine-In Cinemas 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 during Taste of Reston
Reston Town Center during Taste of Reston

Reston Town Center hosts several popular festivals every year including the Northern Virginia Art Festival. On Thanksgiving Weekend, a Macy's style holiday parade always draws a crowd. Reston Town Center is also home to the Hyatt Regency Reston, which makes a great base for exploring the town.

Ice Skating at Reston Town Center, one of the Fun Things to Do on Thanksgiving Weekend in Northern Virginia
Ice Skating Rink, Reston VA

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.

Spend the Night on a Reston Virginia Getaway

Plan a weekend getaway with a stay at one of Reston's four major hotels:

All four properties are close to the Reston-Weihle metro station, so you can ride the Silver Line into Washington DC.

Transportation Tips for Your Reston Virginia Visit

  • The Silver Line Metro has two stops in Reston—the Reston Town Center Metro Station and the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station. The Silver Line connects directly to Washington Dulles International Airport. You can easily visit Washington DC, Arlington, Alexandria, and other regional destinations from these metro stops.
  • 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 close to Lake Fairfax Park. If you're walking or hiking, enter the park 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.
  • 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 can be packed and slow during rush hour. Avoid rush hour travel whenever possible.
  • Find more information on the Reston Association website.

We hope our list of fun things to do in Reston Virginia inspires you to explore our hometown. Reston Virginia is a fantastic place to live and it's also a fun place to visit. Stop by for a few hours or make Reston your base on a vacation near Washington DC. We guarantee you'll find lots of relaxing and beautiful places to visit.

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

Follow Fun in Fairfax VA on FacebookPinterestInstagram | Threads | Twitter 

Save it on Pinterest:

Explore Reston Virginia public parkland, thriving restaurant scene, shopping, and family fun in a unique suburban town in Northern Virginia.
Best Things to Do in Reston Virginia