Washington, DC is spectacular in the fall, when oppressive heat gives way to cooler, crisper days, abundant sunshine, and changing leaves. This autumn, head out into the city and beyond for some serious outdoor adventuring before winter’s icy-cold grip sends you inside until spring. Here are 10 activities to get you out and about in and around DC this season.
Fun fall activities around DC
The National Arboretum is more than a garden. It’s also a park and a USDA research institution that sits on 446 acres and features world-class botanical collections. Here, you’ll find azaleas, Bonsai, and dwarf conifers, among scores of other unique flora. During the autumn, when the leaves change, the Arboretum is saturated with fall color, making for a gorgeous stroll along the trails. Take a guided tram or foot tour to see the collections and learn about their history, or take a self-guided tour and move along at your own pace.
When: 8am – 5pm daily
Where: 3501 New York Ave NE
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo sits on 163 acres in the heart of the city and is home to more than 1,500 animals across 300 species. Animal demonstrations and other events occur daily, and you can’t visit the zoo without taking a ride on the National Zoo Choo Choo. Boo at the Zoo on October 20 and Night of the Living Zoo on October 27 are popular fall events that draw people from all over the region for an unforgettable night of festive (and spooky!) activities.
When: 8am – 7pm daily
Where: 3001 Connecticut Ave NW
Harpers Ferry, WV is a historical town popular with tourists, thanks to numerous one-of-a-kind attractions. One of these is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, a quaint community that sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and offers river activities, hiking trails, and workshops. Visit archaeological sites in the park, and explore Civil War battlefields. Whether you spend a day here or a weekend, you won’t run out of interesting things to do or beautiful fall scenery to admire.
When: 9am – 5pm daily
Where: 171 Shoreline Drive, Harpers Ferry, WV
Leave the city behind for a few hours, and bask in the fresh air and sunshine at Cox Farms. Their fall festival is a celebration of autumn’s bounty, which you can see first-hand at the festival market, where you can pick up fresh local apples and cider, among other farm-to-table treats. Ride the hayride, slide the slides, do some farm chores, and pet the farm animals. If you like getting spooked, get a ticket for Fields of Fear, a terrifying nighttime hayride and cornfield walk rife with monsters and other things out to get you.
When: September 16 – 17, September 22 – October 31, November 3 – 7
Where: 15621 Braddock Rd, Centreville, VA
Explore the lush vineyards of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Monticello Wine Trail, which consists of 33 wineries easily accessible from Charlottesville, VA. Create an itinerary of the vineyards you want to visit and print out a map of your route on the website. Then, get your favorite playlists ready for a beautiful fall drive through Wine Country, set against the backdrop of bucolic hills carpeted in vivid autumn color.
Where: Around Charlottesville, VA
A fall hike is just what the doctor ordered, and Shenandoah National Park is a hiker’s paradise, offering over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of Appalachian trails. Traverse cascading waterfalls, deep forests, wooded hollows, and mountain streams on a beautiful autumn day hike, and keep your eyes peeled for all manner of wildlife, big and small.
Where: 3655 U.S. Hwy 211 E, Luray, VA
Pick your own sweet, crisp apples, plump pumpkins, and luscious grapes at Great Country Farms this fall, and enjoy a day away from the hustle and bustle of DC. Spend some time exploring the farm: take a wagon ride, feed the farm animals, and get airborne on the giant Pumpkin Jumping Pillow. Bring along your fishing gear, and catch some dinner at the Fishing Pond. Get lost in–and find your way out of–one of the challenging corn mazes. There’s a whole lot to do here on the farm, so plan to make a day of it.
When: 9am – 6pm daily
Where: 18780 Foggy Bottom Rd, Bluemont, VA
Autumn glows in all its glory at Deep Creek Lake State Park in Maryland, where you can hike, bike, boat, and camp. Pack a picnic, and choose a spot lakeside to dine al fresco. The Deep Creek Lake area is home to the Art & Wine Festival September 9 — 11, and the 49th Autumn Glory Festival is from October 12 through October 16 and features fiddle competitions, a grand parade, and a Battle of the Bands competition.
When: 8am to sunset
Where: 898 State Park Rd, Swanton, MD
For the most haunted Halloween ever, go on a spooky adventure in Markoff’s Haunted Forest, featuring 3 terrifying activities. Trail 1 is a dark, secluded walk that takes you to the Haunted Abbey and delivers hair-raising surprises along the way. Trail 2 has you jumping out of your skin as you encounter horrifying scene after horrifying scene in the deep, dark woods. The third option, The Town, is an entire village filled with ghosts, goblins, monsters, and maniacs coming at you from the church, the butcher shop, the saloon, and more. You’ll probably want to invite someone along so you don’t have to brave the trails alone.
When: September 29 – 30, and October 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 22, and 27 – 31
Where: 19120 Martinsburg Rd, Dickerson, MD
Take a stunning fall hike at the C&O Canal, a 184-mile canal constructed between 1828 and 1850. Take a ride in a replica canal boat, and get an eye-popping view of the changing foliage on the banks. Trails crisscross the park for your hiking and biking pleasure–you can rent bikes on the spot–and if you look for Mobile Tour signs, you can dial up on your cell phone and get an earful about the history and natural features of the location.
When: Sunrise – sunset, daily
Where: 1850 Dual Hwy, Ste 100, Hagerstown, MD
Fall is here, and it wants you to come outside and get into the spirit. So grab your favorite person on earth—or a bunch of them—and hit the road for autumn adventuring.