It's almost the time of year when the leaves turn spectacular shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple - and visitors to Northern Virginia yearn to find the perfect fall foliage spot to take it all in. While most seek out remote vistas to be totally surrounded by autumn beauty, I'm here to suggest to you that you can couple your leaf-peeping adventure with some of our most notable attractions so that when your leaf color quota is met, you can enjoy another memorable moment mere steps away. Without further ado, let's get to the list.
George Washington's Mount Vernon
POTUS1 had his hands full when he first got to Mount Vernon. The estate was in disrepair, the grounds lacked any kind of cohesive vision, and the place was in no condition for him and Martha to host epic parties. So over the years, he managed the transformation of Mount Vernon's landscape into his carefully composed “pleasure grounds.” A highly cultivated, ornamental showcase created for the enjoyment of his guests, and one with sweeping lawns, groves of trees, walled gardens, serpentine paths, and beautiful autumn vistas that you can enjoy today. Mount Vernon's calendar is always full of awesome events, so plan your fall visit to coincide with one that suits you.
Great Falls Park
Ok. So Great Falls Park can stand alone as a solo leaf-peeping spot. As well as most of our other parks. But Great Falls Park is also so much more. What a lot of people don't take advantage of when they are there is exploring the visitor center, taking a ranger-led tour, or learning about the site's history. This history includes George Washington trying (and then epically failing) to build a canal system around the falls to facilitate trade up and down the Potomac River to as far away as the Ohio River Valley. The ruins of the Patowmack Canal are easily visible today and are just a short walk from the visitor center. Also visible in the park are the ruins of Matildaville, a city founded in 1790 that served as headquarters for the Potowmack Company and home to its workers. This town, too, fell as abruptly as the canal project did.
Colvin Run Mill
The beautifully maintained wooded and landscaped grounds surrounding Colvin Run Mill make for some sweet autumn hues, and the tours and interesting history of the mill are the perfect complements to the site itself. With a General Store on-site that sells freshly made flour and cornmeal and plenty of special programs throughout the fall, there is so much more to do at this mostly undiscovered site than frolic in the foliage.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens and the Korean Bell Garden
These gardens draw visitors year-round for the sheer beauty and the little slice of serenity found here in Northern Virginia. Even in winter, people flock here for the awesome Winter Walk of Lights. But a hidden gem located within the park is one of the most unique spots found anywhere in the DC area: The Korean Bell Garden - especially draped in autumnal glory - is a sight to behold. Everything from the 3-ton Bell of Peace and Harmony to the traditional "jangseung" Korean totem poles take on an extra bit of awesome when their backdrop is filled with blazing oranges and reds.
George Mason's Gunston Hall
Gunston Hall is the home of George Mason, one of the most underappreciated Founding Fathers in American history. His writings basically were the framework for the Bill of Rights and his views on the early American political system still hold weight today. A brilliant museum and guided tours introduce you to this 18th Century maverick, but the grounds and Potomac River views offer stunning fall views.
Paradise Springs Winery
Fairfax County's first winery, which is tucked a short distance away from the main street of Clifton, is a fun place to spend an autumn day. Not only do they have fantastic award-winning wine but the fall foliage in the surrounding woods makes any wine lover take pause as they sip their Chardonnay. The grounds feature a log cabin designed by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, and special events and musical guests keep the party going all year long.
Most people think of Wolf Trap for their summer concert series. And who could blame them? It's one of the area's most iconic venues to catch a show. But in the fall, Wolf Trap offers visitors a glimpse of its more natural side - it is a National Park after all. The trails found woven throughout the grounds offer spectacular opportunities to take in autumn's beauty. Sometimes you can even join the National Park Service rangers for a guided hike on the Wolf Trap Trail, and see the woods of Wolf Trap as you've never seen them before! When available, these 90-minute, 2-mile roundtrip hikes offer a unique perspective into Virginia's forest ecology, the science behind changing leaf colors, and the general history of the park. Keep tabs on the NPS website to see when the Fall Foliage Hike tours will return.
Do you have a favorite attraction that you like to visit to take in Fairfax County's amazing fall foliage? Tell us about it in the comments below and share your favorite fall photos with us on social using #FXVA and @VisitFairfax.