Art and Culture Itinerary Details
This arts and culture itinerary explores all that Northern Virginia has to offer. Whether you are into paintings, architecture, sculptures, or the art of theater, this 1, 2, and 3, day tour has something for you. Visit the many galleries and museums in Fairfax county and soak up the culture from the past, present, and future. The Washington DC area arts and culture scene is not something to miss!
DC GALLERIES, ARCHITECTURE, THEATER AND MORE
- Workhouse Arts Center
- Woodlawn Historic Site
- Pope-Leighey House
- Wolf Trap
- The Barns at Wolf Trap
- Wolf Trap Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods
- George Mason University's Center for the Arts
- Reston Community Center
- Lake Anne Plaza
- Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art
- Reston Town Center
- NextStop Theatre Company
- Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
- McLean Community Center
- The Alden
- 1st Stage Theater
- Jammin' Java
There's an abundance of arts and culture in Northern Virginia that you won't want to miss. If you only have one day, here's a tour to get you started.
This itinerary starts in Lorton at the thriving Workhouse Arts Center. This gem is home to more than 100 working artists, features a packed events calendar with everything from children's theatre to cabarets to comedy, has classes in every arts medium for those who want to learn a new skill, and is even home to a popular farmers market. But the history of the Workhouse Arts Center is what truly sets it apart. The land that is now the Arts Center was a former correctional facility for non-violent criminals, including roughly 168 women who were arrested for picketing in front of the White House for women's voting rights. This is a must-do for anyone interested in arts and culture while visiting the area. Don't forget to pick up a unique handmade gift from the gift shop before you leave. (Note: the Center is open Wednesdays-Sundays.)
Next, make your way to another historic site that is steeped in culture. For architecture buffs, this is must-see. Nestled in a wooded area next to Woodlawn Estate (the home of George Washington's nephew and step granddaughter) is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces. The Pope-Leighey House is one of the very few Wright works found on the east coast, and now belongs to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Originally built in Falls Church (1941), it was moved to the Alexandria area to make way for Interstate 66. The design stands as a classic example of Usonian architecture, a style intended to be both distinctly American and affordable for middle-class people.
End your culture-filled day with an evening performance at one of the area's top live music venues. Wolf Trap, in Vienna, is the only National Park dedicated to the performing arts and features a year-round calendar of events at its three venues (Filene Center amphitheater in summer, The Barns in the fall, and the Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods for kids in the summer). Past performers have included The Steve Miller Band, Kelly Clarkson, Santana, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Garrison Keillor.
If you'd rather see a great theater production, visit George Mason University's Center for the Arts in Fairfax. Tucked onto the campus of this Virginia University, you'll find a number of great shows year-round here such as the Virginia Opera, Shakespeare productions, Peking Dreams acrobatic shows, Vienna Boys Choir and much more.
Visit some of the art galleries tucked away into Reston's Community Center on day two of your tour. Browse the works of local artists in the Jo Ann Rose Gallery, which is dedicated to a woman who worked tirelessly to create this space as a way to celebrate the arts and the artists of the local community. The Hunters Woods gallery is a space for visual artists to display their works. Also, you'll find the Three-Dimensional Gallery here as well featuring ceramic pieces, sculpture, and other 3D works of art. Many of these works are created by students and teachers of the Community Center's ceramics and sculpture program.
For a different type of arts and culture, make your way to Lake Anne Plaza. The story of Reston itself is quite unique, as it was built as the first post-war, modern planned community in America. An important part of Reston's development was its five village centers and one town center, designed to be a half-mile walk from most homes and to incorporate the retail and community service needs of residents. Lake Anne was the first village center built as part of this planned community, and today sits in a Historic Overlay District. Only independently owned businesses operate at Lake Anne, which creates a unique flavor and true community spirit. Take your time browsing through Reston's Used Book Store, rent a paddleboat to take on the lake, or dine at one of the great restaurants surrounding the water.
After a relaxing morning at the lake, swing over to the Greater Reston Arts Center (known by locals as GRACE). You'll find a number of art exhibitions here that illuminate new ideas in hopes of promoting dialogue between artists and their audience. GRACE also puts on one of Northern Virginia's most popular arts festivals each year - the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival. For the next couple of years, you can spot a unique living sculpture outside the doors of GRACE - Patrick Dougherty's "A Bird in the Hand," made entirely of sticks.
While you're marveling at "A Bird in the Hand," take time before your next stop to grab a coffee, a bite to eat, or a few gifts at the Reston Town Center. This urban village truly combines the many elements of an ideal cultural downtown - the vitality of an Italian piazza, the diversity of a French boulevard, and an iconic fountain centerpiece. Don't miss the ice skating rink in the winter and the free concerts in the summer.
End your evening with a performance by NextStop Theatre Company at the nearby Industrial Theater in Herndon. A major professional theatre company, NextStop continuously strive to push the limits of what is possible in the intimate "black box space" of its home theater. Some previous productions have included "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "A Man for All Seasons," "Into the Woods," and "The 39 Steps."
Your third day takes you into the Vienna/Tysons Corner areas of Fairfax County. Start your day by visiting the beautiful Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, where you can see the natural arts of the incredible Korean Bell Garden - the only one of its kind in the entire Western Hemisphere. The concept for this bell garden is unique because it places the bell pavilion in a garden that is overflowing with associated cultural icons. The bell itself was hand-crafted by Korean artisans and is globally unique in its design of combining images of nature from both Korea and Virginia. Surrounding the pavilion in the garden are a few other notable items, including ancestral totem poles used to greet visitors, carved volcanic stone statues, a sculpted turtle fountain and adjacent pond and various courtyard displays illustrating the nature-focused legacy of Korean history and culture. It's a not-to-miss spot on your trip through Northern Virginia's arts and culture.
After strolling Meadowlark for a bit, make your way to the McLean Community Center where you can browse The Emerson, Atrium and Ramp Galleries. Check out some of the rotating art exhibits in the 2,000 square foot Emerson Gallery, which provides one of the few spaces available in the metropolitan region for large sculptures and installations. These galleries have been associated with the local arts group McLean Project for the Arts (MPA), which was founded in 1962 to exhibit the work of emerging and established regional artists.
In this part of the county, we are lucky to have a number of great venues of which you can end your night. If you're looking for a variety of performances from music to comedy to dance and/or film, check the calendar at McLean's local theater, The Alden. For another professional theater company similar to Herndon's NextStop, try the Tysons Corner gem 1st Stage Theater. Here you will find productions such as previous shows "The Good Counselor," "Old Wicked Songs," "Bat Boy: The Musical," and "Noises Off." Lastly, if you're a night owl, you may catch a double-header at Jammin' Java, which, according to Pollstar, is ranked in the top 100 music clubs in the world. Jammin' Java features shows every night of the year, and sometimes even two shows a night. Check their calendar to see who's playing when you're in town.