The town of Reston, Virginia, was founded in 1964 as part of the Garden City movement and has since grown into one of the most popular areas of the Capital Region to live, work, play, and visit. If you're looking for a place near Washington, D.C., that won't break the bank but still offers a wide variety of recreational activities, a number of public parks, and easy access to the Dulles International Airport, Reston has it all.
From the Water Mine Family Swimmin' Hole water park to the picture-perfect Great Falls of the Potomac, Reston offers activities for all ages. Whether you're looking for a quick escape from bustling Washington, D.C., or you're planning to stay awhile, Reston is a fun-packed vacation destination in Fairfax County.
Visit the Van Gogh Bridge
It's no wonder why this landmark footbridge was named after the famous painter. In the springtime, a sea of cherry blossoms create a powder-pink canopy over it, making for a stunning scene. One of the most prominent (and photographed) spots in Reston, the Van Gogh Bridge—actually inspired by Van Gogh's Arles paintings—is located along the Green Trail and conveniently links Lake Ann’s Washington Plaza to neighboring areas.
Walk the Lake Thoreau Loop Trail
In fact, Reston is full of green spaces, including Lake Thoreau and the 2-mile trail that circles it. Perfect for fall leaf peeping, summer jogs, or birdwatching, the path is well-maintained and provides the perfect balance of shade and sun. Besides a few small hills, the path is fairly flat and fully paved. If you park at the South Lakes Village Center, you'll wind up in a prime location for a post-walk coffee.
Get Wet at the Water Mine Family Swimmin' Hole
One of the most popular attractions in Reston is the Water Mine Family Swimmin' Hole water park, located just east of town near the Roer's Safari in Lax Fairfax Park. The Water Mine features water slides, flumes, sprays, showers, and a lazy river, all open from Memorial Day weekend through the summer.
Adjacent to the water park, Lake Fairfax Park features a 20-acre lake with a carousel, picnic areas, campgrounds, athletic fields, and a marina that offers pedal boat and canoe rentals. Both are operated by the Park Authority of Fairfax County.
This 30-acre petting zoo is just across the way from the Water Mine. Roer's Zoofari provides an up-close and personal experience with animals such as alligators, camels, reptiles, zebras, antelope, bison, and ostrich. Guests can bottle-feed lambs and piglets, hand-feed goats and llamas, or walk through the Budgiery Adventure Aviary to feed the birds. The petting zoo also offers carousel rides and wagon excursions.
There are more than 20 restaurants and a slew of shops—some globally known, others local—packed into Reston's outdoor shopping mall. It even has an outdoor skating rink during the cold-weather season. But Reston Town Center is not only a shopping destination, it's also a hub for community events like the Pet Fiesta in May and summer concerts from June through August. Oktoberfest and a Macy's-style Thanksgiving Day parade (skyscraper-sized balloons and all) carry the annual calendar through the fall.
Nearby in McLean, Virginia, Great Falls Park is one of the most spectacular natural landmarks in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The national park has incredible views, hiking trails, a variety of outdoor activities (did someone say rafting?), plus a visitor center with nature exhibits. Located along the Potomac River, which separates Virginia and Maryland, this 800-acre park features three overlook views of the falls including two wheelchair accessible spots.
Located on the property of Dulles International Airport, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center—also known as the National Air and Space Museum—is the Smithsonian institution that houses the massive space shuttle Discovery, the Lockheed SR-71, numerous aircraft, spacecraft, and other space-related artifacts. In addition to its exhibits, the museum offers a wide range of programs for all ages.
Learn About Rural Life at Frying Pan Farm Park
Frying Pan Farm Park provides a glimpse of rural community life in the 1920s to the 1950s—the eras that saw the advent of the tractor, the milking machine, and mechanical bailers. The park has a visitor center, country store, wagon rides, and a Kidwell Farm with horses, chickens, peacocks, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows, and pigs. It offers camps and classes and is available for birthday parties and special events.
Explore the Reston Museum
Learn more about the town at the Reston Museum. Operated by the Reston Historic Trust, it not only features community exhibits and archives but also offers walking tours and hosts a myriad of public events like the Annual Home Tour and a Founder's Day festival. Long-term exhibits celebrate life in the Reston community while rotating exhibits tend to showcase the work of local students.
Visit Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
The 95-acre Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, includes unique native plant collections, walking trails, lakes, gazebos, a visitor center, and a restored 18th-century cabin. During the holiday season, the garden comes to life with a highly anticipated Christmas light display called the Winter Walk of Lights.
Immerse Yourself in Nature
Located on 72 acres of hardwood forest, the Walker Nature Center Sanctuary provides a variety of educational and recreational resources, programs, and facilities. The park contains more than a mile of trails as well as several picnic areas, demonstration gardens, and outdoor displays. You can also put in a special request for a program lead by a Nature Center expert or rent out a multi-purpose room, pavilion, or the fire ring for gatherings and retreats. The best time to visit the Walker Nature Center is perhaps during the beloved spring festival in May.
See a Performance at NextStop Theatre Company
The 114-seat black-box theater, located in nearby Herndon, Virginia, is a professional, not-for-profit company that produces theatrical performances and educational programs throughout the year. Founded in 1988, the group has been known to put on good renditions of acclaimed productions like "Fallen Angels" and "Singin' in the Rain."