We wait for this all year. When autumn is officially here. Temperatures and humidity are creeping lower. The sights around the nation's capital have fewer crowds. And the leaves are changing, turning DC and the rest of the U.S. Capital Region into a spectacular landscape of reds, oranges and golds. This is the perfect time to stay with us in Northern Virginia, and explore the Washington, DC area by doing some of our favorite things which we've listed below.
1. Smithsonian Museums
Typically there are less crowds visiting the iconic Smithsonian Museums (17 in all) in autumn as supposed to the peak summer months. For you, this means easier access to some of the most amazing museum experiences found anywhere in the world. Explore the natural world at the Natural History Museum, gaze upon the Space Shuttle Discovery at the Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and if you're lucky enough to reserve your free ticket in advance - you must see the newest Smithsonian Museum, the The National Museum of African American History and Culture.
2. Monuments and Memorials
When visitors think about the U.S. Capital Region, one of the first things that come to mind are images of the larger than life monuments and memorials that dot the landscape of the nation's capital and surrounding area. Autumn is a beautiful time to view these majestic tributes to America's past with a backdrop of colorful trees- whether you're strolling the National Mall taking in the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument or along the Tidal Basin reflecting at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial or the Jefferson Memorial.
3. George Washington's Mount Vernon
Any time you pay a visit to Washington, DC you must make plans to visit the estate of the man from whom the city was named. George Washington's Mount Vernon is an American landmark and the most visited historic estate in the country. Seasonal events are happening all autumn long - and even if you aren't visiting when a special event is scheduled, you'll find more than enough to do in visiting the gardens, tomb, mansion, and state of the art museum and education center.
4. United States Capitol
The United States Capitol Visitor Center is a large underground addition to the United States Capitol complex which serves as a gathering point for tourists who want to participate in a guided tour. Tour schedules can fill up quickly, so please make your reservation well in advance of your visit. The United States Capitol is a monument, a working office building, and one of the most recognizable symbols of representative democracy in the world. Once inside the historic Capitol on the guided tour, visitors will see the Crypt, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall.
5. Arlington Cemetery
Considered some of the most hallowed ground on American soil, Arlington Cemetery welcomes visitors to explore the rich history found within the cemetery grounds. Interpretative guided tours are available to introduce visitors to the rich history found on the grounds such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington House, and a variety of other points of interest. You're also free to walk the grounds at your own pace and create your own itinerary from maps and guides available at the visitor center.
6. The Newseum
The Newseum, headquartered in Washington, D.C., promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Considered one of the most interactive museums in the world, the Newseum experience also traces the evolution of electronic communication from the birth of radio, to the technologies of the present and the future. Since opening, the Newseum has garnered outstanding reviews from media professionals, travel leaders, educators and hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.
7. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Our nation's living memorial to President John F. Kennedy is also one of the largest performing arts centers in the nation. Free tours are available of the Kennedy Center which highlights the historic events that led up to the establishment of the national cultural center and includes an interactive exhibit on Kennedy's life and presidency. The tour concludes with a breathtaking 360-degree view of the nation's capital from the building's roof terrace. Check the Center's calendar and try to catch a show if you are able to.
8. The National Archives
Located along DC's famous Constitution Avenue, the National Archives is the home of the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights which are housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom; the Public Vaults permanent exhibit gallery; the David M. Rubenstein Gallery, the Lawrence F. O'Brien temporary exhibit gallery; the Boeing Learning Center; and the William G. McGowan Theater. Wait times can be daunting, so plan to line up well before the archives open at 10 a.m.
9. Get a Deal
Fall is the perfect time for a getaway, bringing brilliant colors, brisk but pleasant temperatures, and a world of events and festivals. Many area hotels also feature special deals from wine lovers’ packages to weekend discounts. And for dining, look for dozens of delicious specials throughout the year. Fairfax County is the perfect affordable choice when planning a getaway to the Nation's Capital Region. We have over 100 hotels to choose from - which range from high-end luxury hotels complete with spas and golf, to extended stay properties, and camping sites.