Fairfax County Must-See Attractions
Nestled in Northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from DC, Fairfax County offers an enticing mix of big-city amenities, small-town charm and picture-perfect natural surroundings. Sure, it’s a bustling shopping, dining and entertainment center with a vibrant arts and cultural scene. But it’s also an outdoor oasis blessed with parks, trails, rivers and gardens to explore at a more relaxing pace. And the area’s historical significance? Incredibly deep.
Not only is this the home of our nation’s first president, one of the most impressive collections of air and spacecraft around, and the country’s only National Park dedicated to the performing arts, but these attractions also give you the opportunity to experience history in authentic, intimate ways.
There's so much to see here that it can be tough to know where to start. That's why we've rounded up this list of must-see attractions on your next visit to Fairfax County.
George Washington's Mount Vernon
Discover the inner-workings of our founding father and first president at George Washington's Mount Vernon. An often mythic and romanticized figure of American history, Washington's life is displayed through artifacts and exhibits, guided tours, historical interpretation, recounts of slavery and more. Mount Vernon utilizes demonstrations of traditional trades such as farming, distilling and smithing, as well as modern technology, such as the 4D theatre with cutting-edge animations and falling snow to immerse you in Washington's home. Peek into his bedroom, hold the handrails leading to his library and stroll the same beautiful grounds he once did.
History isn't just words in a book in Fairfax County. Here, it is a living, ever-evolving experience waiting to be explored. In a region full of historical sites, homes, battlefields and significant ties to colonial America, the Revolutionary War, Underground Railroad and Civil War, every history buff will be amazed to stand on the ground where history was made.
Check out these other historic sites for more of America's stories: Historic Blenheim and the Civil War Interpretive Center | George Mason's Gunston Hall | Woodlawn and Pope-Leighey House | Arlington National Cemetery
The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Explore modern history with a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, where you can see Space Shuttle Discovery and hundreds of other historic aircraft. Any "space geek" that steps into the McDonnell Space Hangar will feel like a kid in a candy store when they get up close to the Center's collection of space artifacts, including Space Shuttle Discovery, the Apollo 11 Mobile Quarantine Facility, space suits, rockets, satellites, and space toys (just to mention a few things). The Boeing Aviation Hangar has nearly 200 aircraft on display, including an Air France Concorde, the last remaining World War I-era Sopwith Camel that was built by the Sopwith Company, the largest collections of Japanese and German World War II aircraft in the world, helicopters, commercial and private airplanes, and more.
Great Falls National Park
Great Falls Park is one of Virginia's most stunning natural wonders, and always makes the list as a favorite for both visitors and locals alike. With ethereal mountain gorge views, Great Falls spans 800 acres along the banks of the Potomac River. Walk the trails, take in amazing scenery at the overlook points, or have a picnic in their open grassy recreation areas. For a more extreme adventure, you may be surprised to know that this beloved Northern Virginia Park is one of the few east coast climbing destinations that allows for rock climbing directly above water. Are you up to the challenge?
For more scenic outdoor hikes, be sure check out our FXVA hiking guide.
As the only National Park dedicated to the performing arts, Wolf Trap in Vienna offers more than 100 performances across all genres each year. The architecturally stunning Filene Center is a beautiful outdoor amphitheater that hosts world-renowned musicians. Imagination runs wild at Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods, an intimate space for storytelling, puppetry, music and dance that is literally tucked in the woods. During the fall, The Barns at Wolf Trap is an intimate performance venue built from two restored 18th-century barns.
Whether you want to watch the National Symphony Orchestra or rock out to your favorite pop artist, Fairfax County's performing arts scene is ready for you.
National Museum of the United States Army
The National Museum of the United States Army is the first comprehensive and truly national museum to capture, display and interpret more than 245 years of Army history, and it brings that history to life in times of both war and peace, telling the Army’s story through the lives of the more than 30 million men and women who have worn the Army uniform since 1775. The Army’s proud history is vividly chronicled in six galleries, beginning with Founding The Nation and continuing through A Changing World. A seventh gallery, The Army and Society, tells of the Army’s contributions to American society, technology, government, and daily life. In the Army Theater, an immersive film, Of Noble Deeds, highlights the seven core values that have guided the Army since its founding, and includes recreations of some of the Army’s most significant battles.
The Workhouse Arts Center
The Workhouse Arts Center is set on 55 acres of land on the campus of what used to be the historic D.C. Workhouse and Reformatory. Today, the Workhouse supports more than 100 of the region's finest professional and emerging artists and is fast becoming a regionally and nationally recognized visual and performing arts mecca for all of those interested in the arts. You can viisit more than 65 local artists in their studios, make your own creations, tour the grounds and even learn about the suffragists who were once imprisoned here at the newly-opened Lucy Burns Museum.
Tysons Corner Shopping
Three words: World. Class. Shopping. Tysons Corner is a retail epicenter of luxury brands, big-name department stores, unique boutiques and hundreds more shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Enjoy over 300 specialty and department stores and eat your heart out at Tysons Corner Center. Next door, enjoy a day of luxury and upscale shopping at Tysons Galleria. Tysons' "who's who" of retail includes Burberry, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Apple, Uniqlo, L.L. Bean, Louis Vuitton, GUCCI, Michael Kors, Lacoste, Kiehl's 1861, H&M, and more. Once you’ve shopped 'till you dropped, the area is also home to several hotels, so you can rest up for another fun day.
For more amazing shopping, check out our full directory of shopping hubs in Fairfax County.
We're sure these Fairfax County must-sees will give you the well-rounded experience you're looking for on your next visit. We'd love to see your adventures - be sure to share your photos with us all around #FXVA!