With an abundance of history, restaurants, specialty shops, and more, the City of Fairfax offers a charming downtown experience for an afternoon of fun. With Fairfax County as your home base, a day trip is a great way to experience even more of what the region has to offer. Here’s your guide to experiencing the charm, stories, and local businesses of Old Town Fairfax.
Tour the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse
Constructed in 1799, the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse is one of the oldest buildings in Fairfax. During the American Civil War, it became the site of the first Confederate officer casualty - marking a significant moment in the war's early stages. Throughout the course of the conflict, the building served as a military outpost that exchanged hands between both Confederate and Union forces.
Today, the original building still stands to serve the Circuit Court, General District Court, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations of Fairfax County. One of the most treasured documents still found today within the Clerk of Circuit Court is The Last Will and Testament of George Washington, as well as Martha Washington's. And, well, the whole of the Fairfax County Courthouse has gained significant worldwide recognition in recent years as the site of a certain high-profile case involving Hollywood elite.
Guided tours of the Historic Fairfax Courthouse and Historic Records Center are free and open to the public every Friday at 3pm (excluding holidays).
Other Historic Attractions Nearby
- Civil War Interpretive Center at Historic Blenheim - a circa 1859 home famous for Civil War-era graffiti preserved on the attic and house walls with a well thought out Interpretive Center to see the drawings up close and learn about Fairfax's integral role in the War.
- Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House - the City's oldest residence, owned by the City's founder Richard Ratcliffe. It was expanded by the Allison family and eventually deeded to the City by the Pozer family.
- Fairfax Museum - make a stop here to learn the arc of Fairfax's history, see the latest traveling exhibit, and to pick up some unique gifts.
Grab a Bite to Eat
Just steps away from the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse, you'll find several restaurants and bakeries to enjoy. Here are just a few local recommendations.
High Side: Enjoy craft beer and Asian Street food at High Side, a contemporary local restaurant directly across the street from the courthouse. With a thoughtfully curated tap list, you'll find a diverse selection of craft beer, cider, and mead on draft. Pair your favorite brew with the delectable flavors of "Xiaochi," an array of street food from Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken to "Tornado Fries."
Sisters Thai - The Living Room Cafe: Sisters Thai takes "comfy atmosphere" to a whole new level at their living room-style cafe, decked out in wallpaper and bookshelves. From fragrant curries to saucy noodles, embark on a culinary journey through Thai cuisine.
De Clieu Coffee & Sandwiches: De Clieu is a buzzy local cafe, making a name for itself as a favorite spot for George Mason University students to head to with their laptops. Coffee lovers will feel right at home with the cafe's commitment to supporting local roasters by sourcing their coffee beans from small-batch farms. Aside from the delicious coffee, its menu also has a variety of sandwiches, pastries, and light bites.
Eerkins Uyghur Cuisine: With a commitment to serving Halal quality food, Eerkins has become a staple for those seeking the traditional tastes of Uyghur cuisine. The expertise of their chefs, whose ancestors hail from the region, allows them to offer centuries-old authentic recipes using fresh veggies, meat, and fish that make their food delicious.
Hamrock's Restaurant: Looking to continue encountering history? Hamrock's Restaurant is located in the historic Moore-McCandlish House, which was built in 1842. The house has seen its share of history - including the Civil War and visits from both Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
Woody's Ice Cream: Since its opening in 1998, Woody's Ice Cream has been a family-owned mainstay in downtown Fairfax. Treat yourself to a cone with hand-dipped ice cream, or dive into a sundae overflowing with your favorite toppings. Woody's also offers a tempting selection of milkshakes and classic favorites like the iconic banana split, nostalgic root beer float, and decadent hot fudge brownie.
Quench Your Thirst
After a delicious lunch or dinner, top it off with handcrafted beer from some of the City of Fairfax's own local breweries.
Chubby Squirrel Brewing Company - Chubby Squirrel was Fairfax City's first nanobrewery, which opened in 2018 in Courthouse Plaza. The 3-barrel brewery routinely updates its taps so there's always a reason to come back and always has a number of weekly specials available for food and beer.
Ornery Beer Company - While Ornery's main taproom is located within its 20-barrel production facility in Manassas, the brewery operates a full-service restaurant and brewery location in the City of Fairfax, right in the heart of Old Town Fairfax. Indoor and outdoor seating are available and you'll find a number of delicious brews rotating on tap. Keep an eye out for a third location to open in Herndon in the coming year!
Audacious Aleworks Brewery - Audacious Aleworks originally opened in Falls Church and only recently opened a second taproom in Fairfax City. This family-friendly space offers a rainbow of 20 different beers on taps, plus other sours, seltzers, and frozen slushies. Stop by for food, weekly events, and more.
Commonwealth Brewing Company - Coming soon! This Virginia Beach-based brewery recently announced that it would be bringing its beachy vibes and a second location to the City of Fairfax in the summer of 2023. The space will also be a permanent home of Earp's Ordinary, a music venue and pub that is currently in a temporary pop-up location.
From charming boutiques and vintage stores to artisanal crafts and specialty shops, explore the shops and find unique treasures. Here are some recommendations on where to start!
Commonwealth Dry Goods: From locally made artisanal products to vintage finds, you'll discover a variety of items at this shop that celebrate the spirit of craftsmanship and creativity.
Mode on Main by Mara: With an eye for the latest trends and a commitment to quality, this boutique offers a carefully curated collection of apparel and accessories.
Games & Comics Pair O'Dice: This beloved shop caters to gamers, comic book enthusiasts, and collectors alike. Browse through shelves lined with a vast array of board games, role-playing games, comic books, and collectibles.
Mobius Records: Step inside this cozy record store and peruse the extensive collection of vinyl records spanning various genres and eras - from classic rock to indie, jazz to hip-hop.
Make Your Own
Photo courtesy Board & Brush
Some gifts are big, some gifts are small - but a handmade gift is the best of them all! These DIY studios and experiences offer hands-on classes for creating your own masterpiece to gift or keep.
DIY Scent Studio Perfumery: With a vast selection of high-quality scents, essential oils, and botanical extracts, the DIY Scent Studio Perfumery allows you to craft your own personalized perfume or cologne.
Board & Brush: Discover your inner DIY designer at Board & Brush Creative Studio, where you can create on-trend, farmhouse-classic home decor pieces. With hands-on workshops, you'll learn the techniques to craft your own wooden sign that looks like a work of art.
The Great Escape
Survive the Joker's Trap, save the White House, find the cure to a disease, and so much more. Put your problem-solving skills to work at one of the many adventures inside Bond's Escape Room in Fairfax, one of the largest escape room venues on the East Coast. See if you can work together to solve the mystery within the time frame you're given. Bonus points for escaping with time to spare!
With Fairfax County as your home base, there are plenty of adventures to enjoy during an afternoon in Downtown Fairfax. Be sure to tag us in your adventures - @VisitFairfax and #FXVA.