🍂 As the air becomes cooler and the leaves turn into beautiful colors, I eagerly welcome the arrival of Fall in Washington, DC! It's a magical time to explore the wonders of this season in the heart of our nation's Capital. Below are 10 of the best ways to create cherished memories with your family this autumn in Washington, D.C.
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1) Stroll the National Mall
Fall on the National Mall is so much more enjoyable than the swampy summer! We kick off our Fall in Washington, D.C. adventures with a leisurely stroll along the iconic National Mall. The magnificent fall foliage provides a breathtaking backdrop to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. Make sure to bring a picnic basket, cozy blankets, and a dollar store kite and enjoy a casual lunch on the Mall's picturesque grounds.
(And for the best views, check out my tips for getting advanced $1 tickets to go up the Washington Monument!)
2) Pumpkin Patch Fun: A Classic Fall in Washington, D.C. Tradition
No fall is complete without a trip to the pumpkin patch! We head to a nearby farm in Virginia or Maryland, where we find charming fields offering pumpkin picking, hayrides, corn mazes, and more. It's the perfect opportunity to choose the ideal pumpkin for carving our imaginative jack-o'-lanterns.
- Our family's favorite Fall Festival is Cox Farms in Centreville, Virginia.
- Our favorite true Pumpkin Patch on a working farm is Hollin Farms in Delaplane, Virginia.
- My Favorite Maryland Fall Festival is Butler's Orchard in Germantown.
And 33 other Northern Virginia Fall Festivals are all here for 2023!
3) Apple-Picking Adventures: Fall Bounty in Washington, D.C.
Our family ventures to nearby orchards for a delightful day of apple picking. It's not only fun to pluck apples fresh from the trees but also rewarding, as we return home with a delicious haul to turn into pies, crisps, and homemade applesauce.
- Fav Northern Virginia Farm: Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia
- Fav Maryland Farm: Homestead Farms in Poolesville, Maryland
4) Scenic DC Bike Rides
Photo credit: Katja Schultz. Creative Commons, link here.
DC is a wonderful city for cycling as a family. Rock Creek Park is our top pick, with its tree-lined paths and vibrant fall foliage. Bring along some hot chocolate stop for some hot cocoa breaks and soak in the natural beauty!
5) Spooky Historic Tours
If you have someone who loves spooky things in your family, uncover D.C.'s rich history with a spooky twist by taking a guided ghost tour of some of the city's historic neighborhoods. It's a thrilling way to learn about the eerie legends that still linger in the capital.
- DC Ghosts by US Ghost Adventures (1 hour)
- 90-Minute Walking Tour of the Ghosts of Washington DC (90 minutes)
- Ghosts of Georgetown Night-Time Walking Tour (1 hour 45 minutes)
- Haunted DC Walking Tour on Capitol Hill (90 minutes)
6) Nature Hikes: Exploring Scenic Trails During Fall in Washington, D.C.
Explore the region's scenic hiking trails together. Especially nice in the fall:
- Anacostia Park
- Kingman and Heritage Islands
- Dumbarton Oaks
- Tregaron Conservancy <-- #1 would recommend it! And free!
7) Savoring Fall Flavors
Our taste buds are in for a treat as we visit local bakeries and cafes, sipping on pumpkin spice lattes, savoring apple cider donuts, and sharing warm apple pies. Below are some suggestions for Fall-themed treats:
- Pumpkin Pie Whoopie at Baked & Wired in Georgetown (and check out the Canals!)
- Pumpkin Spice Lattes and their Autumn Blend at Compass Coffee shops throughout DC
- Pumpkin donuts at District Doughnut shops around DC (list is in the blog post below, our fav is at the Wharf)
And if you are looking for specifically kid-friendly DC restaurants, I've got a list of the 25 best spots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
8) Thanksgiving Celebrations in DC
Throughout the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, the nation's capital comes alive with a wide array of events and activities that cater to both locals and visitors alike. From the National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning ceremony at the White House to multiple Turkey Trots and volunteer opportunities, there are numerous ways to partake in the holiday spirit.
In addition to these nationally recognized events, the DC area hosts a multitude of Thanksgiving-themed runs, charity drives, and community feasts, where people come together to share their gratitude and give back to those in need. I had a separate blog post on here about all the activities for the weekend!
9) During the Finicky Fall Weather, Visit a Free Museum!
Visiting Washington, D.C.'s free museums in the fall is a fantastic way to make the most of the city's rich cultural offerings while avoiding the unpredictable weather. All of the Smithsonian museums are free and provide the perfect indoor escape. Our family has been to all of these museums multiple times and wrote about our favorite can't-miss spots below:
- National Air and Space Museum in DC and Virginia near Dulles
- National Museum of American History
- National Gallery of Art
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- National Postal Museum (surprisingly one of my kids' favorites!)
- Planet Word (definitely our family's favorite!)
And tons more here in this blog post on museums for children in DC.
10) Take a Fall-Themed Road Trip from DC
Destinations like Great Falls Park and Shenandoah National Park offer stunning vistas, especially during the vibrant fall foliage season. See our favorite easy kid-friendly hikes at Shenandoah here. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers for the adventure and continue to tick check even in the fall. (My favorite $5 tick remover here).
And many more Road Trips in this post here!