The fall season is one of the best times of the year to enjoy the vast outdoors of Northern Virginia. As the temperatures drop and the leaves begin to change colors, families enjoy a variety of festive events with activities ranging from pig races to pie eating contests and scarecrow-making contests to colonial reenactments. There's plenty of fall fun to be had for all ages not just in Northern Virginia, but throughout the Washington, D.C., capital region.
Many events in 2020 have been scaled back or canceled, so be sure to confirm the most up-to-date details with individual event organizers before finalizing your plans.
Great Country Farms Harvest Festival
Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia, celebrates every season with festive events, but the month-long Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival is a big favorite with locals and visitors alike and runs from the end of September through Halloween night. Pick the winner in the Oinkintucky Derby Pig Race, take a photo with the Pumpkin Princess, or shoot pumpkins from a cannon at this family-friendly event. The festival also features pick-your-own pumpkins, a corn maze, and the character P-Rex, the "pumpkin-munchin’ dinosaur."
You can visit on weekdays for this season beginning on Monday, September 28, 2020, without advance tickets. However, weekend visits do require reserving tickets beforehand in order to accommodate smaller maximum capacities.
Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour
Held in early October on George Washington's Estate and Gardens at Mount Vernon, the Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour event features wine cellar tours and live music on the grounds of the home of the nation's first president. The estate offers gorgeous views of the Potomac River, and the fall season is the prime time to sample local wines, listen to live blues music, take in the fall foliage on the estate, or embark on a sunset tour of the Washingtons' home.
This three-day event takes place on October 9–11, 2020, and advanced tickets are required to attend.
The Waterford Fair is a traditional American craft fair featuring juried artisans from all over the United States and takes place over the first weekend of October each year in Waterford, Virginia. Along with hands-on demonstrations by more than 150 artists, you'll find plenty of fun for the whole family at this annual event, including live music and dance performances, Colonial and Civil War re-enactments, a tour of historic homes, parades, and a variety of kid-friendly activities.
The 2020 fair is a virtual event and instead of attending in person, you can view and shop for all of the handcrafted goods from home. It's a great way to get ready for the holiday season while also supporting local artisans.
Conservation Discovery Day at the Smithsonian's National Zoo
Once a year, usually on the first Saturday of October, the Smithsonian Biology Conservation Institute offers a behind-the-scenes look at the National Zoo's world-renowned science, research, and animal care processes as part of its Conservation Discovery Day.
Normally, the event is held rain or shine at the Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, and visitors can interact one-on-one with scientists and learn about their fascinating research that happens at the zoo and institute. However, the 2020 event is completely virtual—and free—so students everywhere can log on beginning September 28 and watch pre-recorded videos about wildlife conservation, animal care, and biology. On October 2, you can log on to a live webinar and Q&A session with research scientists and animal keepers to learn even more.
Fairfax County Brewfest
Hosted by Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Mustang Sally Brewing Company, the Fairfax County Brewfest features dozens of breweries showing off their best American-style beers at the Mustang Sally brewery in Chantilly, Virginia.
Typically this energetic event includes live music by local bands and children’s activities like face painting, airbrush tattooing, moon bounces, and rock climbing. In 2020, the focus is all on the beer. Instead of a centralized event, Brewfest spread out to seven different local breweries to reduce crowds and facilitate social distancing on September 26, 2020. Participating breweries will be offering musical performances, special menus, and lots of beer on tap.
Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Festival
Enjoy a variety of 18th-century fall activities during the Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Festival event, which takes place at George Washington's Virginia estate on October 24 and 25, 2020. This annual celebration features horse-drawn carriage rides, wheat treading in the 16-sided barn, a straw bale maze, and blacksmithing demonstrations as well as early American games and musical performances.
Attending the festival is included in the price of admission to Mount Vernon, although purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.
Cox Farms Fall Festival
The Fall Festival and Fields of Fear events at Cox Farms are canceled in 2020.
Located on more than 90 acres of land in Centreville, Virginia, Cox Farms hosts a variety of seasonal events throughout the year—including the Cox Farms Fall Festival. Kicking off the fall season, this two-day event takes place on September 14 and 15, 2019, and features a pumpkin patch, giant slides, hayrides, rope swings, farm animals, corn mazes, straw tunnels, a goat village, apples, and cider.
Cox Farms will then be open for the remainder of the season from September 21 to November 5, 2019. If you're more in the mood for a haunted adventure during your trip to the farm, stop by the Cox Farms Fields of Fear from September 20 through November 4, 2019, to explore a haunted trail that features scary Halloween activities over 20 terrifying acres.
Fall for Fairfax is canceled in 2020 but returns October 2–3, 2021.
Head to the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Virginia, over the first weekend of October for the annual Fall For Fairfax event, which features more than 100 interactive activities and exhibits highlighting the city and the season.
Highlights of the Fall for Fairfax event include train rides, a kids' climbing wall, a pumpkin patch, hayrides, a petting zoo, and dozens of children’s performances as well as make-your-own scarecrow workshops. All entertainment and most programs are free, though some activities require a minimal fee.
Manassas Fall Jubilee
The Manassas Fall Jubilee is canceled in 2020.
The historic town of Manassas, Virginia, hosts a family-friendly festival to celebrate fall on the first Saturday in October each year. Known as the Manassas Fall Jubilee, this festive event features live music and entertainment, handmade crafts, and a variety of local and traditional foods.
The Manassas Fall Jubillee is free to attend and most events take place on Center Street in Historic Downtown Manassas. Other highlights of the event include a pumpkin pie-baking contest, a pie-eating contest, and the adults-only Beer and Wine Garden featuring locally-crafted beverages.
The Marine Corps Marathon is canceled in 2020.
Located directly across the Potomac River from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., the town of Rossyln, Virginia, is a great destination if you're visiting the capital this fall. At the end of October each year, the city hosts the United States Marine Corps Marathon Finish Festival to celebrate the end of the annual race, which runs from the National Mall in D.C. to the finish line at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Rosslyn.
This family-friendly festival, which takes place on October 27, 2019, offers a wide range of activities for all ages. Highlights of the festival include giveaway booths and interactive stations along Fairfax Drive and Lynn Street, a beer garden on Ft. Myer Drive, information booths in Dark Star Park, and the Arlington Stage on Wilson Boulevard, which features live performances by local and national artists including the Quantico Marine Corps Rock Band.