10/5/11

42 Ideas for Places to Go as a Family This Fall

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(Fall colors at the National Arboretum)

I love fall. Absolutely love. Every weekend presents something new and exciting to do, making it impossible to fit all of it in. Obviously I can't post everything, so I tried to compile a "best of" list. I divided the list into 10 categories, each with several suggestions. Hopefully this list will inspire you to love the season as much as I do. And please pass it on to anyone else who may be interested.


I. ATTEND A FALL FESTIVAL

1. Cox Farms (Centreville, VA) (previously posted here) - Cox Farms is the biggest of the DC area Fall Festivals, we've never managed to see the whole thing in one visit. Throughout the property you'll find slides of all shapes and sizes, some of almost roller-coaster proportions. Along with the slides you'll find - live music, a petting zoo, the best hayride ever, a cornfield adventure, free apple cider (more food is available for purchase), and decorations as far as the eye can see. Truly a sight to behold. People often bring strollers, but they can be hard to navigate through the dirt paths. The festival runs daily September 24 through October 31 from 10 am to 6 pm (though it may close during inclement weather). Tickets are $15 per person on weekends and $9 per person on weekdays. Children under 2 are free. For more information click here.

2. Burke Nursery's Pumpkin Farm (Burke, VA) (previously posted here) - Burke Pumpkin Farm is best summarized as a smaller version of Cox Farm. I personally find it more toddler-friendly and easier to navigate with multiple children. Burke has tons of decorations, a haunted forest hayride, slides, a small petting zoo, and, for toddlers, they have lots of those riding machines they usually have in malls (you know the type, they sort of gyrate). The festival runs October 1 through October 31st from 9 am to 9 pm (so you can take the kids after school). Tickets are $9 on weekdays and $12 on weekends. Children under 2 are free. Click here for more information.

3. Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA) (previously posted here) - We are BIG fans of Great Country Farms and their fall festival sounds amazing (as of now, we still haven't been). Take a hayride to the fields and pick your own pumpkin straight off the vine (pumpkins cost $0.59/lb). On weekends a pumpkin princess arrives along with a Pumpkin munching dinosaur and pig races. The farm always has tons of great activities for children - a giant jumping pillow, tons of slides, a corn crib, rope swings, animals, and more. The festival runs daily from September 24 through October 31 from 9 am to 6 pm. Weekend admission is $10 for children and $12 for adults. Weekday admission is $8 for children and $10 for adults. Children 2 and under are free. Click here for more information.

4. Clark's Elioak Farm (Ellicott City, MD) (previously posted here) - As one of my friends phrased it, "it's sort of like an old mini-golf course but with no golf," which means that kids love it. Clark's has it all - slides, a really great petting zoo, an enchanted forest maze, and more. The pumpkin patch opened on September 24 and stays open until November 6 with pumpkin chunkin.' Each fall weekend the farm hosts a different series of special events. Clark's is open daily from 10 to 5 pm. Admission is $5 per person. Infants under 12 months are free. For more information click here.

5. Claude Moore Colonial Farm's Market Fair (McLean, VA) - (previously posted here) - The Claude Moore Colonial Farm only hosts three market fairs a year and I HIGHLY suggest checking one out. A market fair is like a small, toned-down renaissance festival with lots of activities for adults and children - cheap beer, wonderful food, puppet shows, fencing demonstrations, an "art" corner, a children's games area, three legged races, etc. Truly wonderful. This autumn's market fair takes place on October 15 and 16 from 11 am to 4:30. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 3-12 (and worth every dime). Click here for more information.

6. Maryland Renaissance Festival (Crownsville, MD) - If the Market Fair listed above seems too small for you and you really want to immerse yourself in old-school "history" (I use the term history lightly), then a trip to Maryland's Renaissance Festival may be in order. We haven't been in years, but the festival has lots to occupy children, including knight demonstrations and a pirate ship playground. Not-So-SAHM has a great review here. The Festival runs on weekends through October 23rd. Tickets are $19 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $9 for children 7-15. Admission is free for children 6 and under. Subscription packages are available. Click here for more information.

7. Gulf Branch Nature Center Fall Heritage Festival (Arlington, VA) - On October 15 from 1 pm to 5 pm "step back into history and try your hand at lots of old time games and crafts - from making candles to pressing cider." The festival cost $5 per person (children under 3 are free), $20 max per family. No registration required. For more information click here.

8. Mt Vernon's Fall Harvest Family Days (Alexandria, VA) - This event on October 22 and 23 from 9 am to 5 pm includes a straw bale maze, wagon rides, 18th century dancing demos, and early-American games. Potomac sightseeing cruises are half-priced during the festivities. Regular admission prices apply - adult admission is $16 (an annual pass is only $25) and children aged 6-11 cost $7. Children under 6 are free. Click here for more info.

9. More - KidFriendly DC has the scoop on even more fall festivals in the area. Click here to check it out.

10. Even More - Washington Post has a list of the ten best pumpkin patches in the DC area (with a map). Click here to check it out.

II. GO APPLE PICKING

11. Stribling Orchard (Markham, Va) (click here for past post) - A sixth generation orchard with twelve different varieties of apples, picnic areas, farm animals, and lovely mountain views. On weekends the bbque is great. Plus they sell pumpkins. The orchard is open through November from 9 am to 5 pm (closed Mondays). Click here for more information.

12. More KidFriendly DC has a huge list on great family places for apple picking. Click here to check it out.

III. TAKE A BOAT RIDE

13. The Water Taxi from Alexandria to National Harbor (Alexandria, VA) (previously posted here) - One of our favorite lazy day adventures. The boats are clean and beautiful and once we arrive at National Harbor we have Elevation Burger, Ben & Jerry's, and the Awakening Statue to entertain us all morning. When we get tired, we just jump back on the boat. Tickets for adults are $16 round trip, Tickets for children are $10 round trip. Children under 2 are free. Click here for the schedule and more information.

14. Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake (Annapolis, MD) (previously posted here) - Ahoy matie!! Who doesn't love a good pirate cruise? Find buried treasure, shoot down Pirate Pete with water cannons, drink pirate juice. The ships sails on weekends until Halloween. Tickets sell out fast so reserve your seat ahead of time. Click here for more information.

15. Pontoon Boat Rides on the Potomac (Washington DC) - Spend 45 minutes relaxing and checking out the monuments. Cruises depart from Washington Harbor in Georgetown every half hour from 11:30 to 6:30 pm. Goldstar usually has weekday tickets for 50% off.

16. Mount Vernon by Water Cruise (Alexandria, VA) - See the Potomac by water then tour Mt Vernon for the day. This cruise runs Tuesday through Sunday and departs from both the Alexandria dock and National Harbor. Tickets are $40 for adults and $20 for children 6-11 (younger children are free), which includes admission to the President's historic estate. On weekends, the boat departs from the Alexandria harbor at 10:30 and returns at 5:30 pm. Click here for more information.

IV. DRINK WHILE YOUR KIDS PLAY

17. Rustico Octoberfest (Alexandria, VA) - On October 15 from noon to 5 pm sample up to 50 beers (from $4 to $7 each) and eat some schnitzel while your kids partake in children's activities (past years have included bouncy castles). Click here for more info.

18. More Octoberfests - The Washington Post has a great list of all the best festivities going on in the DC area. Click here to check it out.

V. ROAST MARSHMALLOWS

19. Gulf Branch & Long Branch Campfires (Arlington, VA) - On various weekends throughout October and November, Gulf Branch and Long Branch Nature Centers host family friendly campfires, which include a nature talk on subjects ranging from reptiles to cottontails. The fee is $5 per person, $20 max per family. You must register ahead of time. Download the Fall 2001 Snag for more information, click here to access the download.

20. Or buy a fire pit and make your own campfire. How fun does this look?

VI. TRICK OR TREAT SOMEWHERE SPECIAL


21. Boo at the Zoo (Washington DC) - On October 21 - 23 the National Zoo stays open late (from 5:30 to 8:30) so kids can trick or treat at more than 40 treat stations. Tickets are $20 per person for zoo members and $30 for non-members. All adults and children over 2 need tickets. Make sure to buy tickets ahead of time as they frequently sell out. Click here for more information.

22. Air & Scare at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Chantilly, Va) - On Saturday, October 29 from 2 - 8 pm kids can trick or treat indoors in the Air and Space Museum. The event also includes "creepy crafts, spooky science experiments" and other activities, including a tot zone for little kids. Admission is free, but parking is $15 until 7 pm. Click here for more info.

23. The Greenbelt Maryland Pumpkin Walk and Carving Festival (Greenbelt, MD) - This looks awesome. On Friday October 28 you can carve a pumpkin at Greenbelt's Roosevelt Center, which provides live music as part of the experience. Then on Saturday October 29, you can walk through the Northway Fields and view all of the lit pumpkins. A pre-dark walk occurs for young children from 5:30 to 6 and the nighttime walk begins at dark. The nighttime walk is not "haunted" or frightening. Bring good shoes and a flashlight. Free apple cider and hot chocolate are provided. Click here for more information (please note that this isn't technically a trick or treat event, but I didn't want to create a new category).

24. More - KidFriendly DC has the scoop on 16 other special Halloween festivities. Click here to check it out.

VII. GO FISHING

25. Riverbend Park (Great Falls, VA) (previously posted here) - A great place to fish, check out some trails, and nature explore. Riverbend Park is rarely crowded and the fishing area is close to the parking lot. You can rent rowboats and fishing rods at the park, a fishing license is required if you're 16 or over. For more information, click here.

26. Burke Lake Park (Springfield, VA) - Burke lake has a marina (located through the park) and an alternative entrance (which is free) with small handicap accessible docks. My husband loves it here and sometimes we take the whole family and spend an afternoon fishing on the lake. Click here for additional information about the marina.

27. Hains Point (Washington DC) - I always see people fishing here but I can't find any info on the details. Anyways, the park has bathrooms and a playground and lots of room to run. It's a great place for a picnic as well. Click here for some generic info.

VIII. SEE A PERFORMANCE AND/OR VISIT A MUSEUM


28. The American Indian Museum (Washington D.C) - imagINATIONS activity center just opened at the American Indian Museum. So you can teach your children about native americans (just in time for Thanskgiving) and then go eat at the museum's wonderful Mitsitam cafe. Click here for more information.

29. Degas' Dancers a the Phillips Collection (Washington D.C.) - Most (though certainly not all) little girls love ballerinas, so why not take them to see Degas' dancers? The exhibit runs from October 1, 2001 to January 8, 2012 and features 30 artworks. Click here for the info.

30. Big Apple Circus (Sterling, VA) - Dan and I took the kids to the Big Apple Circus last time it came to town. We bought last row tickets two hours before the show and yet we could see everything to the detail. Even 1 year old T was amazed. One of our best family adventures ever. If you want to read more and see pictures, the Meanest Mama has a great review, click here to check it out. The show is in DC from September 22 to October 10. Tickets range from $15 to $49 each and are worth every penny. Children under 3 are free if they sit on the lap of a paid adult. Click here for more info.

31. The National Geographic Museum (Washington DC) - The museum has two new exhibits for the fall - one on "animal grossology" and one on "gross but true" science. Sounds great for kids. Click here for more information or click here to read a Not-So-SAHM's review of the exhibit (info courtesy of KidFriendly DC).

32. More - KidFriendly DC has the scoop on ALL of DC's fall family friendly entertainment options. Click here to check it out.


IX. CHECK OUT THE FALL LEAVES

33. Gray Line's Hop on Hop Off Double Decker Bus Tour (Washington D.C.) (click here for previous post) - What better way to see the fall leaves then to drive under them? This is a great way to tour the city, especially on a nice fall day. Full price 24 hour tickets cost $35 for adults and $18 for kids 4-12 (under 4 are free). Two day passes cost $40 for adults and $20 for kids. During the week, Goldstar frequently sells adult tickets at 50% off.

34. Mt Vernon (Alexandria, VA) (previously posted here) - All the old trees surrounding the estate look beautiful in the fall. Plus the back lawn is a great place to run under the leaves. The property also has a sit down restaurant and a cafeteria. It's open from 9 am to 5 pm through October (in November it only stays open until 4 pm). Children under 6 are free. Adult admission is $16 (an annual pass is only $25) and children aged 6-11 cost $7. Click here for more info.

35. The National Arboretum (Washington DC) (previously posts here) - If you want to see leaves of all types, this is the place to go. The Arb is bigger than Central Park and beautiful to look at. We especially love to take in the views from the Capitol Columns (pictured at the top of this post). The arb is free and open every day from 8 to 4:30. Bring a picnic and prepare to spend the day, there's so much to see. Click here for more info.

36. Great Falls (either the VA or MD side) (the MD side was previously posted here) - In both MD and VA the foliage and views are breathtaking. The perfect place to spend an afternoon. Click here for more info on the VA side. Click here for more info on the MD side.

37. The National Zoo (Washington DC) (previously posted here) - Fall is a wonderful time to visit the zoo, crowds are (usually) lacking and the animals are very active due to the lower temperatures (we went last week and spent most of the morning watching the lion cubs frolic and the gibbons sing). Plus, the surrounding landscaping is breathtaking. Admission is free (but parking is paid) and open everyday through October from 10am to 6 pm (in November the zoo is only open until 4:30 pm). Click here for more info.

X. VISIT A NATURE CENTER

38. Long Branch (Arlington, VA) (previously posted here) - We spend a lot of time here. The nature center has a great kids' room with a playhouse, dinosaurs, books, puzzles, and blocks; plus the usual fare of snakes, rodents, etc. Next to the nature center a lovely trail passes a creek and leads to a playground. A perfect place to look for signs of fall. Longbranch is open Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday noon to 5 pm. They also offer great nature classes for children. Click here for more information.

39. Hidden Pond (Springfield, VA) (previously posted here) - We love the beautiful trail around the pond and the small, but well-stocked nature center, full of puzzles, animals, binoculars, and great views. An on-site playground makes it a great all-day destination. Both the girls love Hidden Pond so much that they chose to have their birthday parties there last year (click here to see pics). The nature center is open 9 am to 5 pm during the fall. It is closed on Tuesdays. Click here for more information.

40. Huntley Meadows (Alexandria, VA) (previously posted here) - Wetlands in the middle of the suburbs with a beautiful boardwalk trail. What's not to love? Each visit we discover something new. The nature center is open 9 am to 5 pm through November. It is closed on Tuesday. Click here for more information.

41. Patuxent Research Center (Laurel, MD) (previously posted here) - This nature center is HUGE. Plus, the area has beautiful trails, with ponds and boardwalks. Tram rides are offered on weekends. Click here for more information.

42. More - The Natural Capital has a map of 18 nature centers in the DC area. Click here to check it out.

5 comments:

  1. This is awesome! I have it bookmarked. :) Thank you!

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  2. Fantastic list!!

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  3. Thank you everyone! Linda - I couldn't figure out another way to keep all your great lists straight (apples, performances, festivals), so i figured I'd put it all in one post.

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  4. Ha, I'm trying to figure out how I might do that myself! One of these days, if I can ever get organized... In the meantime, I'll just refer to this list. :)

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