A stay in the central area of Fairfax County not only puts you in the midst of Northern Virginia, but it also puts you at the core of fun and adventure in the region.
Here in the heart of the county, which includes the neighborhoods of Fairfax, Falls Church, Annandale, Vienna/Oakton, Merrifield, Tysons, Great Falls, and McLean, you can take a scenic drive through Great Falls that leads you on many beautiful twists and turns. Enjoy quaint shopping in historic Vienna where boutiques specialize in curiosities like clocks, beads, and crystals. Explore American history in the City of Fairfax where tales of Civil War espionage and graffiti abound. Discover the region’s best Korean food in Annandale and Vietnamese fare in Falls Church. Be inspired by the colorful murals at Mosaic District. And visit over 400 shops across three malls, all right next door to each other in downtown Tysons.
Image courtesy Instagram user @natejacksonphoto
In Vienna, you’ll find something utterly unique: Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Just to drive the point home, it’s a National Park – yes, like Yellowstone. But instead of Old Faithful, it has singers and dancers, and musicians, many of whom you already adore. With performances year-round, it’s worthwhile to check the calendar for a favorite before you come to visit. It’ll be a memorable evening you won’t soon forget. This part of the county is also home to large performance venues like George Mason University’s Center for the Arts and Capital One Hall for big shows. And if discovering smaller indie acts is your thing, you’ll love Jammin' Java, a music club deemed one of the world’s best by Pollstar.
The Angelika Film Center at Mosaic District screens art, indie, and specialty films in an acoustic, cutting-edge, and plush environment. If escape rooms are your thing, try Escapology at Fairfax Corner or Cyber Raccoon Escape Room in Falls Church. For traditional bar-style entertainment, Bowlero in both Annandale and Tysons raises the bowling game with a cool, hip vibe. And Revolution Darts and Billiards is like an old-time pool hall but updated with music, food, and drinks of every ilk.
Experience some of the region’s best parks and outdoor attractions.
Image courtesy Instagram user @photoswithaspin (check out their Accessibility series)
Great Falls Park isn’t just one of the most eye-popping parks in Fairfax County, it’s easily one of the most scenic in the entire DC area. Run by the National Park Service, it has serious National Park cred—a massive and powerful waterfall, steep gorges for climbers, challenging hikes, and vistas that leave you speechless. Nearby Riverbend Park has easier trails and calmer waters.
Also in the area and exciting for hikers, cyclists, and joggers is the Washington and Old Dominion Regional Park (W&OD) with a 45-mile long trail set along a defunct railroad line. And if you’d rather stroll through beautifully managed gardens, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is a jewel of the area. Don’t miss Meadowlark’s Korean Bell Garden while you’re there. You may never see one again, they are so rare in the Western Hemisphere.
Image courtesy The Perch at Capital One Center
Now for a different side of the outdoors. Eleven stories in the sky in Tysons, you’ll find a Biergarten, putt-putt golf, food trucks, and more at The Perch. Read that again—it’s a park … 11 stories high amidst surrounding skyscrapers!
Not too far away in the Great Falls zip code, you’ll find Turner Farm, an observatory set on farmland among surrounding high-end estates. On Friday nights, the park is open so you can view stars, use a telescope or look through theirs for free. Just down the road from there, you’ll find NoVA Wild, a privately owned zoo with a drive-through safari and unique opportunities to meet and greet animals.
Explore Civil War history.
In 1800, a notice was released announcing that the County Court would be held at the new courthouse in "the center of the County, where all suitors, and others having business, are hereby notified to attend." The Historic Fairfax Courthouse is one of the oldest buildings in Fairfax. It is the site of the first Confederate casualty in the Civil War and it is home to George Washington’s finalized Last Will and Testament.
Fairfax is also filled with Civil War stories, from Historic Blenheim where soldiers left over 100 graffiti scrawls on the walls to Ox Hill Battlefield Park where two Union generals lost their lives in the Battle of Ox Hill/Chantilly. In Vienna, you’ll find the Freeman Store and Museum which served as a general store and a hospital during the war. One of the best-preserved earthen fortifications protecting DC can be found at Fort Marcy (only reachable from the northbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.)
Enjoy legendary shopping.
It may seem odd to refer to shopping as world-class. It’s just a bunch of stores, right? But when people travel from all over the world to visit stores ranging from everyday wear at H&M to the extravagance of Tiffany, you can call the shopping at Tysons world-class. Three malls, each across the street from the next, come together for over 400 stores of shopping at Tysons Corner Center, Tysons Galleria, and The Shops at Fairfax Square. Other options nearby include the main-street style shopping and dining of Fairfax Corner and the lively urban village with curated retail at Mosaic District.
Eat at some of the best of the best restaurants.
Image courtesy L'Auberge Chez Francois
What makes a restaurant the best is not always about the food. Sometimes it’s about the atmosphere, the service, or the experience of eating there. One of the top destination restaurants in the U.S. has its home in Fairfax County: L’Auberge Chez Francois. It has everything, tucked inside an unexpected location in Great Falls–atmosphere, culinary excellence, and service. It also has the less formal Jacques' Brasserie on site. You will need reservations, so plan ahead.
Another great dining destination is actually many destinations. At Eden Center in Falls Church, you’ll find the largest Vietnamese shopping and dining area outside of the West Coast. (Recommendations and fangirling are here.) Falls Church is also home to 2941, an urban oasis that constantly rises to the top for both its food and atmosphere (koi ponds and waterfalls).
Image of Eden Center courtesy Instagram user @cityscapesgram
Nearby in Annandale, you’ll find The Block, a fun food court in the midst of the region’s “Koreatown”. The Block has become so popular, it’s already expanded to both Maryland and Washington, DC, but you’ll find the original here in Fairfax County.
Image courtesy Parc de Ville
All of these towns have great restaurants, too plentiful to list here. But you can’t go wrong with our recommendations.
Enjoy the flavors of freshly brewed beers.
Image courtesy Caboose Brewing Co.
Breweries really reflect the flavor—both literally and figuratively—of the environment they occupy. Take Bunnyman Brewing in Fairfax, for example. It’s themed around a local urban legend that is short on actual facts but is fun to theorize about over a locally produced brew.
Caboose Tavern and Caboose Commons both got their names from a historic red caboose in Vienna, VA along the old W&OD railroad line. And Settle Down Easy, with two locations in Falls Church and Oakton, was named in honor of the owner’s late brother’s love of music. It also serves as a respite amid the bustling urban parts of our region. These are all breweries and flavors it would be hard to find anywhere else, making breweries one of the best places to drink in the spirit of the region.
Each of the towns in the central area of Fairfax County has its own stories to tell. So if you are staying in Fairfax, Falls Church, Annandale, Vienna/Oakton, Merrifield, Tysons, Great Falls, or McLean, be sure to follow the links to learn more about each neighborhood. There is so much to do in the central part of the county that you’ll need as many pointers and recommendations as you can get!