As soon as fall officially begins in September, families have plenty of options for seasonal activities in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Thinking of making a day of it with hayrides, giant slides, and other outdoor adventures? We’ve got you covered with our top fall festivals for families in the area! Whether you want to visit a pumpkin patch to grab some new decor or take a scenic drive to see the fall foliage, you’ll find plenty to do. In fact, there are plenty of family-friendly hikes and drives within and just minutes from Washington, D.C! Or, perhaps you’re seeking some unique fall family fun that you may not experience anywhere else. From fall festivals to farmyard fun, this list of the Best Fall Activities near Washington DCfor Families has it all. Check it out to help plan a fall season for kids of all ages!
Fall Festivals Near DC for Families
Nothing says fall quite like a fun festival! Between hayrides, live entertainment, and apple cider for parents, it’s an activity every age can enjoy. To learn more about the best fall festivals near DC for families, keep reading!
Cox Farms Fall Festival
Cox Farms Fall Festival offers families a wonderful day of fall-filled activities. Located in Centreville, Virginia, it’s forty-five minutes away from DC by car. Here, families can enjoy unique fun with more than a dozen slides, a hayride featuring everything from aliens, wizards, dinosaurs, and more. Plus, there’s also music and other live entertainment, concessions like apple cider doughnuts, chicken strips, and kettle corn, and plenty of photo opportunities (Foamhenge, anyone?). For animal lovers, families can get up close to a myriad of animals, including cows, bunnies, and pigs. Other kid-friendly activities include duck racing, a tractor museum, and a kiddie swing. Plus, every ticket goer can take home a small pumpkin to remember the visit, and there is a market on-site to purchase fall treats and larger pumpkins and gourds. Buy tickets in advance or on-site.
Great Country Farms Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival
Gather up your whole family and head to the Great Country Farms Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival. Located in Bluemont, it’s accessible via an hour’s drive from DC. Ride the wagon to pick pumpkins, learn how to make cider, and roast marshmallows during your time at this family-friendly farm. There are also special activities for kids, like many slides, obstacle courses, and playscapes across a 12-acre play area. An apple-themed corn maze and barn animal areas round out a wonderful opportunity for fall fun in the Washington, D.C. area. The Roosteraunt Snack Bar also has plenty of snack and lunch fare, or you can visit adjacent Henway Hard Cider Company for food and beverage options. Advanced tickets are recommended and required to reserve a spot on the weekends. Keep in mind certain activities, like the cider-making demonstrations, aren’t available on weekdays. Finally, apples and pumpkins are sold separately.
Pumpkin Village At Leesburg Animal Park
As one of the best fall activities for families near Washington DC, you can’t miss the Pumpkin Village at Leesburg Animal Park. You’ll find this family-friendly attraction in Leesburg, Virginia, around an hour outside of DC. Leesburg Animal Park transforms into a family-friendly fall venue with giant slides, zip line, obstacle course, hay maze, and other activities across its grounds during the fall season. So, it’s perfect for an autumn adventure with your family! Being a year-round animal park, animal encounters expand the traditional petting zoo experience with camels, zebras, lemurs, sloths, and other cool creatures. On the weekends, there’s also live musical entertainment or animal demonstrations. Kids will especially enjoy the additional activities here, like camel rides. Cookie and cider are available for each guest, as well, while supplies last. Tickets must be purchased online in advance.
Wayside Farm Fun
You’re guaranteed a good time at Wayside Farm Fun. About an hour and fifteen minutes from DC, this farm in Berryville, Virginia, is perfect for the entire family. Of course, the 8-acre pick-your-own-pumpkin patch is just one of the many unique kid-friendly features. Kids will love picking out their very own pumpkin to take home and carve! Besides pumpkin picking, there’s lots more to do as a family. Enjoy the pig races, tackle the corn maze, or try your hand at games like rubber duck racing! Families who want a classic fall experience can also conquer the hay mountain or jump on a hayride. If you get hungry during all the action, the farm’s general store and the Feed Trough quick-serve restaurant have you covered. As the pumpkin field is separate from other activities, the pumpkin patch and farmyard activities require separate tickets and should be reserved in advance.
Butler’s Orchard Pumpkin Festival
Butler’s Orchard Pumpkin Festival takes family fun up a notch. Whether you want to swoop down giant slides, climb the spiderweb, meander the straw maze or try your hand at corn hole, there’s something for kids of all ages. Located in Germantown, Maryland, it’s around forty-five minutes away from DC, ideal for a quick day trip. Animal lovers will enjoy pony rides and the petting area here, as little ones can get up close and personal with their favorite furry friends. There’s also a playground for kids, pedal tractors, and more. The hayride will take you to the pumpkin patch, where you can pick the best one to take home with you. Or, you can always pick up your gourds – and other farm provisions – at the farm market. Food stands offer everything from doughnuts to pit beef sandwiches. Check their website for ticket details.
Montpelier Farms Fall Festival
Families can have fun all day and night at the Montpelier Farms Fall Festival. With weekend hours going as late as 11:00 p.m, this family-friendly farm in Malboro, Maryland, is around forty-five minutes from DC. Though some activities, like the playground, close in the evening for safety reasons, others are available all day long. Maze lovers can pick between a 7-acre corn maze, kiddie corn maze, or hay bale maze before hopping on the hayride to the farm’s pick-your-own pumpkin patch. With slides, bowling, basketball, and more, families will love the options for all interests and abilities. Kids can try the new rope maze, or even make straw art. Paint a pumpkin, meet the farm’s animals, or pack a picnic. There are more than a dozen snack options on-site, and in October, there is meal fare like burgers and chicken. You have the option to purchase tickets online.
Summers Farm Fall Festival
Summers Farm Fall Festival boasts 45 fun fall activities for families in the Washington, D.C. area. Located in Frederick, Maryland, about an hour and fifteen minutes away, this family-friendly farm has hosted this tradition for over 25 years. No wonder it’s one of the best fall activities for families near Washington DC! Get out energy on the giant slides, tug-o-war, color, and corn mazes. Kids will especially love the jumping pillow! You can also practice farm-themed skills with bull riding, a roping demonstration, or the straw bale challenge. Other attractions include a sound garden, tetherball, and even a mini-zipline. If you come hungry, don’t worry – there are seven food stands and a farm market to handle lunch or snack time. Unlike most festivals, Summers has evening hours with fireworks in October and campfire rentals. Advanced tickets are purchased by the day.
Pumpkins are emblematic of fall, so of course, there are plenty of options to go picking near DC. If you’re looking for the best pumpkin patches to visit near DC with kids, keep reading!
Burke Nursery Pumpkin Playground
Burke Nursery Pumpkin Playgroundis surely one of the best pumpkin patches near DC. Only ` in Burke, Virginia, families can take a quick fall trip here to enjoy the scenery. While Burke Nursery had a more abbreviated fall venue in 2020, the pumpkin playground is expected to return with a hayride around the grounds this fall. Luckily, it’ll still have plenty of activities for kids, like Halloween-themed displays, playscapes, and face painting. Though a bit smaller than some of the other area fall festivals, Burke Nursery still has plenty of fall fun for families – with tons of beautiful pumpkins and produce in the market to take on your way home. Not to mention some great photo opportunities! There has traditionally been an entrance fee for the activities – check back on the website for the latest details.
Clark’s Elioak Farm
Want to feel like you’ve entered a different world entirely? Visit Clark’s Elioak Farm! Around an hour and a half away from DC in Ellicot City, Maryland, there’s no shortage of fun things to do here. Firstly, the farm offers a hayride to pick your own pumpkin, but there’s also more. Feel like you’re in a fairytale with a walk through the enchanted forest and pine tree maze. Explore the fairy forest to see where these spirits live and tell little ones to keep an eye out for them! To explore the farm, families can also ride the cow train or a pony. Or, get up closer with the nearly dozen types of animals on the property in the petting farm. A wide variety of farm produce, in addition to pumpkins, is available on-site as well. Purchase tickets before coming to the farm.
A list of the best fall activities for families near Washington DC would be incomplete without Homestead Farm! It’s just outside of Poolesville, Maryland, only an hour’s drive from DC. The pumpkin patch features prominently at this farm during the fall, with a short hayride to the field. Aside from pumpkin picking, Homestead has plenty of animals for families to say hello to, including goats, chickens, and pigs. A refreshment stand is open on the weekends for your fall-themed treats. There is a small admission fee to enter the farm, and pick-your-own and market items are additional. Bring your own container, or buy one there, and you can come home with fresh peaches, blackberries, and more local harvests. Vegetables such as tomatoes, beets, and eggplants are also available at the market.
Scenic Drives and Hikes
One of the best ways to see the fall foliage in DC as a family is through a scenic hike or drive. Luckily, there are plenty in and around the DC area! Whether you want to get active or mix a little history into your adventure, you’ll love these suggestions.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests offer some of the best fall activities for families in Washington DC! Spanning the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia into West Virginia and even Kentucky, they comprise nearly 1.8 million acres of gorgeous nature. Closest to Washington, D.C. is theLee Ranger District, which is great for seeing the fall foliage near DC with kids. For a great view, walk the toddler-friendly Lion’s Tale Trail. (Who knows, you may even spot a wild horse!) You can also take in the views from Woodstock Tower, a historical structure dating back to 1935. Have an adventurous kid in your family? Try hang gliding from Edith’s Gap to take in fall foliage. There’s nothing like soaring over the brilliant colors from above! Admission and basic activities, such as hiking, are generally free to the public.
Want views of waterfalls with your fall foliage? Look no further than Great Falls National Park! Located just outside of the city in Great Falls, Virginia, this picturesque park features over fifteen miles of hiking trails. If families don’t want to venture far to see the fall foliage, there are also three overlooks within a five-to ten-minute walk of the main visitor center. One of the most scenic points, the Great Falls, is only around ten minutes from the main parking lot. Plus, two out of the three overlooks are stroller-friendly! On weekends, if the parking lot fills up quickly, however, the entrance will close. Plan to arrive early on nice days and make the most of your time here! After all, it’s one of the best fall activities for families in Washington DC. There is an admission feewhether arriving by vehicle, bike, or foot.
Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park
Families have lots to explore at Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park. Located in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, it’s an hour and twenty minutes from DC. Experience real history in this Civil War area, which has dramatic fall landscapes straight from a postcard. It’s no surprise it’s so scenic, since it’s nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains, at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Two viewpoints are particularly family-photo-worthy, and both will be even better during the fall foliage’s peak. Head to the Point, which is right at the edge of town, for a great view of the landscape. There’s also the Jefferson Rock overlook, about a 10-to-15-minute walk away. If you want an even longer hike, you can find that in the park. The Bolivar Heights Trailsoffers some of the best views of the mountain without all the extra walking, plus chances to see replica artillery.
U.S. National Arboretum
Enjoy fall’s nature within Washington, D.C. through a visit to the U.S. National Arboretum. Located in Northeast DC, it spans nearly 450 acres of diverse flora and fauna. It’s also perfect for a quick break away from all the chaos of the city center, and ideal for parents traveling with kids. Make your experience here interactive by downloading the Agents of Discovery game before your visit. Kids will love learning about trees and nature while completing missions as special agents! There’s also an interactive map, the Arboretum Botanical Explorer, to help answer any other questions you may have. Or you could simply explore spontaneously and let kids wander the pathways to take in 446 acres of trees, plants, and flowers. Admission is free, which is great considering this is one of the best fall activities for families in Washington DC. Once you’re done, explore nearby Ivy City!
Drive, bike, or walk through the center of the city to take in fall foliage within Rock Creek Park. Bisecting Northwest DC, it’s truly an oasis in the middle of a busy city, perfect for all ages. There are two major hiking trails running north to south in the park, with walks ranging from one to 10 miles. Intermediate hikers may like the Rapids Bridge Hike, a two-mile loop through the forest and along Rock Creek. Around 3 miles, the slightly longer Rolling Meadows Bridge Hike is also an option. To see one of the most iconic places in Rock Creek Park (not to mention the best view), take the 3.5-mile Bounder Bridge Loop. Playgrounds, the Nature Center and Planetarium, and historic sites like Pierce Mill offer other activities among the fall leaves, local animals, and crisp air.
One of the most popular scenic drives for families in the Washington, D.C. area is Skyline Drive. Fall is the busiest season, so make sure to do your research in advance! It’s a great way to experience the fall foliage from the comfort of your own car, no matter the weather. There are hiking trails for all ages and abilities to explore the area more for those who want to stretch their legs. If coming from Washington, D.C., most cars enter from the North Entrance Station near Winchester and travel south to the Thornton Gap entrance outside of Luray. During the peak fall season, consider these tips from the National Park Service to get the most of your visit. Trails and campgrounds will likely be crowded on weekends. Families can buy their passes online in advance, and look into other fees, such as annual passes and campsite passes.
For an aerial view of the fall foliage, head to Sugarloaf Mountain. This small mountain peak is located south of Frederick, Maryland, around an hour and fifteen minutesfrom DC. There are multiple hikes on offer at Sugarloaf Mountain, ranging from ¼ mile to 7 miles to and around the mountain’s summit. Though some are steeper than others, a few are kid-friendly. The A.M. Thomas Trail is only 0.6 miles, featuring a few rocks to climb on. More intermediate hikers may prefer the 2.5-mile Mountain Loop Trail, which travels through the forest. There are more than 500 species of plants to take in during fall on Sugarloaf Mountain (and the other seasons!). Plus, kids will love seeing the local wildlife, since white-tailed deer are abundant. The entrance is open daily until one hour before sunset. Caretakers request a voluntary $5 donation to support upkeep.
Non-Traditional Fall Events Near DC
Want a more non-traditional fall event to enjoy with your family? If you’re tired of festivals or pumpkin patches, don’t worry! Keep reading for some more unique DC adventures.
Boo At The Zoo – Roer’s Zoofari
Come in costume and enjoy some Halloween-themed fun at Boo at the Zoo – Roer’s Zoofari. Located in Vienna, Virginia, around a half-hour from DC, this fun event is perfect for the entire family. As part of the self-drive safari and walking tour, there are dozens of mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians for kids to meet here, like kangaroos, monkeys, owls, and tortoises. To make it special for Halloween, families can also participate in trick-or-treating, a costume contest, grab a pumpkin from the patch, and other fall fun activities. Kids will love getting a special Halloween glitter tattoo, taking snapshots of themselves in the photo booth, or even riding on a camel. Be sure to dress to impress and come ready to eat lots of sweets! Tickets should be booked in advance.
Boo at the Zoo – National Zoo
Trick or treat among the animals at Boo at the Zoo-Smithsonian National Zoo.Since it’s conveniently located within DC, this is an ideal excursion for parents who don’t want to travel too far on their fall adventure. (Plus, you can tell kids you’ll be visiting the oldest zoo in America!) This not-so-spooky Halloween event offers 40 treat stations, decorated trails, animal demonstrations, and animal encounters for a magical time with the whole family. Kids will be able to participate in a special dance party, explore the thrilling Halloween decorations, and collect candy throughout the day. Boo at the Zoo is also a fantastic time to visit after-hours with your kid’s favorite animals in an intimate setting – a truly rare opportunity! This fundraising event sells out each year, so keep an eye out on the website for the latest timing and ticket information.
Kids Euro Festival
Since 2007, kids around Washington, D.C. have been able to learn about and participate in a wide variety of European cultural activities each fall with the Kids Euro Festival. Consisting of various free events held at public spaces, this is one of the largest performing arts festivals in the United States. Dozens of countries offer unique performances, crafts, and cultural demonstrations that transport little world travelers to Europe, right from D.C. Kids will gain a greater awareness of different cultures, and they’ll also learn some useful skills. For example, past events have included Spanish cooking classes, Slovenian puppet theater, Hungarian folklore storytime, and more. There’s definitely something for all ages, plus it’s easy to mix and match what interests you most. Check the website for the latest programming details and how to participate. Though the dates haven’t been confirmed, the festival usually runs sometime in October or November.
Mount Vernon Fall Harvest
Families can transport back to the 18th century to celebrate fall at the Mount Vernon Fall Harvest. Located in Mount Vernon, Virginia, around forty minutes from DC, this unique autumn festival showcases the home of America’s very first president, George Washington. So, when you visit here, you won’t just be getting a fun fall adventure, but also a history lesson at the same time! Families can explore the farm, learn about how crops were harvested and food was prepared for winter, or watch spinning demonstrations and textile creations. (Parents will enjoy the beer-making demonstrations!) Thanks to talented actors who bring the experience to life, kids even have the chance to meet George Washington himself! Advance ticket purchase is necessary, considering this is a very popular event. However, your ticket also includes access to the Mount Vernon Mansion and other parts of the estate, so it’s well worth it!
We hope you liked this list of Best Fall Activities near Washington DC for Families by our top contributor Megan Tucker! Whether you want to take a scenic hike, visit a pumpkin patch, or see the fall foliage elsewhere, DC is a great place to do so together. Enjoy Washington DC with your kids!
Unless otherwise noted, all images in this article are courtesy of FLT Top Contributor and article author, Megan Tucker.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
Megan Tucker is a public relations professional, wife, mom and lover of all things travel and travel planning, based in Arlington, Virginia. While she grew up in New England, she's lived in the Washington, DC area, London and Abu Dhabi, and has traveled across the United States, the Caribbean, Western Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania with and without her husband and two sons.