15 Top Things to Do in Northern Virginia

Great Falls in Northern Virginia

drnadig / Getty Images

Northern Virginia is home to a variety of attractions ranging from memorials, museums, and historic sites to state and national parks, guided walking tours, and scenic hiking trails. “NoVa,” as the region is referred to by residents, includes the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park as well as Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Stafford, and Prince William counties, providing plenty of places to check out on your next trip to this exciting part of Virginia, whether you’re day tripping from nearby Washington, D.C. or plan to spend more time in the area.

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Learn About Alexandria's Black History on a Walking Tour

Guests hearing about Black history from Manumission Tour Company

Manumission Tour Company

211 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314-3209, USA
Phone +1 703-719-2150

Started by former Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman in 2016, Manumission Tour Company takes visitors on a guided walking tour of Old Town Alexandria, focusing on the experiences of the city’s African and African American residents during the 18th and 19th centuries. Each walking tour is about 90 minutes long and there are several themes to choose from depending on your interests. 

The "Freedom’s Fight in Alexandria" tour focuses on the city’s early history of urban slavery prior to the Civil War and inspiring stories of the runaway slaves, freemen, and abolitionists who helped others escape via the Underground Railroad, as well as others who stood up against slavery in a time when most wouldn’t. The "Duke Street Black History Tour" highlights Alexandria’s role as a major center of the domestic slave trade—Duke Street was formerly known as the Slave Trail of Tears since so many people were forced to march through here on their journey south to work on plantations as far as Louisiana. "Still’s Underground Railroad Walking Tour" takes a closer look at abolitionist William Still’s 1872 book, The Underground Railroad, and what the experience was like for the fugitive slaves who used it to escape to freedom.

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Raise a Glass in Loudoun County

Raise a glass to wineries in Loudoun County, VA

Visit Loudoun

Loudoun County, VA, USA

Perfect for a day trip from D.C. or a grand romantic getaway at a bed and breakfast, Loudoun County boasts over 40 wineries, more than 30 breweries, and a smattering of cideries and distilleries to choose from. Spend some time tasting your way through craft breweries along the LoCo Ale Trail, or sampling farm-to-table fare as you explore area wineries home to grape varietals like Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Viognier, and Norton, among others. There are plenty of places for lovers of cider, mead, and other distilled spirits to check out as well.

03 of 15

Go On a Ghost Tour in Old Town Alexandria

People listening to creepy stories on a ghost tour in Old Town Alexandria

Alexandria Colonial Tours

201 King St # 3, Alexandria, VA 22314-6603, USA
Phone +1 703-519-1749

For an entertaining hourlong nighttime stroll complete with intriguing tales about some of Old Town’s most famous former residents, don’t miss the Ghost & Graveyard Tour by Alexandria Colonial Tours. Your guided walk begins outside the Visitor Center on King Street—you’ll know where when you see the costumed tour guides waiting with their lanterns—and takes you on a six-block walk through the cobblestone streets of Old Town Alexandria. Note that due to the nature of the tour and stories told, this experience is recommended for children ages 9 and up.

04 of 15

Pay Your Respects at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain

Arlington, VA, USA
Phone +1 877-907-8585

Arlington National Cemetery is one of the region's most-visited sites, with more than four million coming to pay their respects each year. Over 400,000 American service members, veterans, and their family members are buried at the 612-acre cemetery, located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Stroll the grounds and visit the graves of notable Americans like William Howard Taft, John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Robert Kennedy, among others who made this their final resting place. Witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visit Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee.

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05 of 15

Tour George Washington's Former Home

Mount Vernon dining room
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121, USA
Phone +1 703-780-2000

Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, George Washington's home along the Potomac River, is one of the most historic attractions in the region. Visit the original mansion, outbuildings, gardens, slave quarters, slave burial ground, and museum to learn more about the life of our first president, his family, and the people who lived there, enslaved or otherwise. Special programs take place all year long offering a glimpse into how events and holidays like Christmas and Halloween were celebrated in the 18th century, so check the website to find out what’s going on when you plan to visit.

06 of 15

See Nature in All its Glory at Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park

Merdanata / Pixabay

9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA 22102, USA
Phone +1 703-757-3101

Great Falls Park, an 800-acre piece of outdoor paradise along the Potomac River, is one of the most spectacular natural landmarks in Northern Virginia and an excellent spot for outdoor recreation. Spend a few hours hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, cycling, or picnicking as you admire the view and enjoy some time in the fresh air.

07 of 15

Visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Dane Penland / Smithsonian
14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly, VA 20151, USA
Phone +1 703-572-4118

This Northern Virginia outpost of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum near Dulles International Airport displays the massive space shuttle Discovery, a Lockheed SR-71, and several other impressive aircraft and spacecraft as well as other aviation-related artifacts. You’ll also find an IMAX theater, several simulator activities, and exhibits for children.

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Honor the Marines at the Iwo Jima Memorial

Marine Corps War Memorial

gs8 / Twenty20

Arlington, VA 22209, USA
Phone +1 703-289-2500

The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, honors the many Marines who have died defending the country since 1775. The 32-foot-high sculpture was inspired by a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph depicting the memorable scene of a flag being raised at Mount Suribachi by U.S. Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

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09 of 15

Visit the U.S. Air Force Memorial

U.S. Air Force Memorial
U.S. Air Force Memorial
1 Air Force Memorial Dr, Arlington, VA 22204, USA
Phone +1 703-979-0674

The U.S. Air Force Memorial, which is visible from both Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., honors the millions of men and women who have served in the United States Air Force. The sculpture symbolizes flight and the flying spirit with three stainless steel spires soaring 270 feet high, representing the contrails of Air Force Thunderbirds as they disperse during a "bomb burst" maneuver.

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See a Concert at Wolf Trap National Park

Wolf Trap National Park

Wolf Trap Foundation

1551 Trap Rd, Vienna, VA 22182, USA
Phone +1 703-255-1800

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts hosts a variety of performances ranging from pop, country, folk, and blues music to classical, dance, theater, and opera. The Northern Virginia concert venue, located in Vienna, showcases talent and offers educational programs all year long, while its 7,000-seat Filene Center makes an ideal venue for an outdoor summer concert.

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Visit Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Rachel Cooper

6511 Sudley Rd, Manassas, VA 20109, USA
Phone +1 703-361-1339

The 5,000-acre Manassas National Battlefield Park preserves the site of the First and Second Battles of Manassas during the Civil War. The Henry Hill Visitor Center features a 45-minute orientation film, while a museum displays Civil War-era uniforms, weapons, and artifacts. The Northern Virginia attraction offers a variety of activities, scenic vistas, and walking trails to help give you a better feel for the size of the battles that took place here so many years ago and the lives that were lost here.

12 of 15

Tour the National Museum of the Marine Corps

National Museum of the Marine Corps
Marcus Qwertyus / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
1775 Semper Fidelis Wy, Triangle, VA 22172, USA
Phone +1 703-432-1775

The 135-acre National Museum of the Marine Corps, located in Triangle near the U.S. Marine Corps Base at Quantico, uses state-of-the-art interactive technology, multi-media exhibits, and thousands of artifacts to bring to life the values, mission, and culture of this celebrated U.S. military branch. It’s part of the Marine Corps Heritage Center, a complex of facilities that also includes a memorial park, parade grounds, artifact restoration facilities, an on-site conference center, and a hotel.

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13 of 15

See Great Art at a Former Torpedo Factory

People walking around the Torpedo Factory

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain

105 N Union St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Phone +1 703-746-4570

The aptly-named Torpedo Factory Art Center is one of Old Town Alexandria’s top attractions, located along the docks of the Potomac River. Built during World War I as a munitions factory, the building houses a visual arts center consisting of three floors featuring 84 working studios, five galleries, two workshops, the Art League School, and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. It’s a great place to see artists at work and find unique gifts to bring back home.

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Run or Cycle the Mount Vernon Trail

Mount Vernon Trail

Rachel Cooper

Mt Vernon Trail, Alexandria, VA, USA

The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile paved multi-use recreation trail that follows the west bank of the Northern Virginia side of the Potomac River from Theodore Roosevelt Island, through Old Town Alexandria, and out to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. The path is a favorite of area cyclists and runners and offers terrific views of D.C.’s famous landmarks along the way.

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Wander Through Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Tom Stovall / DC Gardens

9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct, Vienna, VA 22182, USA
Phone +1 703-255-3631

The 95-acre garden is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend an afternoon checking out its walking trails, lakes, cherry trees, irises, peonies, extensive shade garden, native wildflowers, gazebos, birds, and butterflies. You’ll also find an indoor atrium, picnic areas, and educational facilities offering gardening and horticulture workshops, guided tours, concerts, and volunteer programs. During the holiday season, Meadowlark hosts the Winter Walk of Lights, a fantastic display of holiday lights that is definitely worth planning a visit around.

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15 Top Things to Do in Northern Virginia