By Darren Griffiths

Exploring Northern Virginia: The Top 10 Must-Visit Attractions Near DC

11th October 2023

Northern Virginia, a gem nestled next to the nation’s capital, is brimming with attractions that showcase the rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. The variety of things to do in Northern Virginia caters to individuals and families of diverse interests. It’s an enticing escape offering a blend of learning, adventure, and relaxation.

The proximity to Washington DC makes Northern Virginia a favorable spot for those looking to explore beyond the capital’s bounds. Here, the charming quaint towns, historic landmarks, and natural retreats provide a wholesome experience. Each destination has its unique allure, contributing to the palette of Northern Virginia attractions.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, the illustrious home of George Washington, unfolds the pages of history through its meticulously preserved estate. A visit here is among the quintessential things to do in Northern Virginia. The mansion, the outbuildings, and the lush gardens narrate tales of America’s founding era.

The museum and education center further enrich the visitor’s experience, offering a deep dive into George Washington’s life and the Revolutionary War era. Mount Vernon isn’t merely a historical site; it’s an immersive journey through time, making it a significant highlight among the attractions in Northern Virginia.

Arlington National Cemetery

The hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery evoke a sense of reverence and gratitude. The meticulously aligned tombstones remind visitors of the sacrifices that paved the way for the nation. It’s a sobering yet profoundly moving destination among the Northern Virginia attractions.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a powerful demonstration of honor and discipline. This solemn ceremony and the peaceful ambiance of the cemetery offer a contemplative experience, making it one of the most respectful things to do in Northern Virginia.

National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is an ode to human achievements in aviation and space exploration. Housing an impressive collection of aircraft and spacecraft, it’s a hub of knowledge and wonder. It’s among the fun places in Northern VA where the sky isn’t the limit.

The observation tower provides a bird’s-eye view of the busy runways of Washington Dulles International Airport, adding a unique touch to the museum experience. For those fascinated by the realms beyond Earth, the Udvar-Hazy Center offers engaging activities in Northern Virginia, melding education with amusement.

Great Falls Park

Situated along the banks of the Potomac River, Great Falls Park is a breathtaking nature reserve that presents an array of activities in Northern Virginia for outdoor enthusiasts. The roaring cascades and serene trails provide a refreshing escape from urban life, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

The scenic overlooks offer awe-inspiring views of the falls, providing photographers and nature lovers with picturesque vistas to admire. With miles of hiking and biking trails, it’s a haven for those seeking active fun things to do in Northern Virginia amidst a lush, tranquil setting.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Historical narratives come to life at Manassas National Battlefield Park, where the echoes of the Civil War still resonate through the meadows. A walk through the grounds, with informative plaques and well-marked trails, transports visitors back in time, making it a must-visit among Northern Virginia attractions for history buffs.

Guided tours and interpretive programs further enhance the experience, offering a deeper understanding of the significant battles that unfolded here. It’s a remarkable merger of nature and history, providing a rich, educational experience among the attractions in Northern Virginia.

Old Town Alexandria

Old Town Alexandria is a charming tapestry of historical elegance and modern sophistication. The cobblestone streets and colonial architecture provide a quaint backdrop for exploring the numerous boutiques, galleries, and eateries. It’s one of the places to go in Northern Virginia for a leisurely day out infused with a touch of history.

The waterfront, with its calming views and fresh breeze, adds a refreshing touch to the exploration. Whether it’s shopping for unique artifacts, savoring local cuisine, or simply soaking in the town’s historic ambiance, Old Town Alexandria offers a myriad of fun things to do in Northern Virginia.

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

A unique blend of nature and culture awaits at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, the only national park dedicated to the performing arts. The lineup of concerts and performances here is as diverse as the natural scenery that surrounds it, making it a distinctive site among Northern Virginia attractions.

Gunston Hall

Gunston Hall, the home of George Mason, is a brilliant display of Georgian architecture surrounded by over 550 acres of picturesque landscape. This notable estate not only unveils the elegant architectural tastes of the era but also gives a glimpse into the life and times of one of the Founding Fathers, thereby making the exploration of Gunston Hall one of the most historical things to do in Northern Virginia.

On the premises, the lush gardens and the boxwood allee offer a tranquil escape, providing a scenic juxtaposition to the historical edifice. Each room inside the mansion tells a story, making a visit to Gunston Hall a journey through time, enriching the tapestry of Northern Virginia attractions for every history enthusiast.

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Home to thousands of aviation and space artifacts, The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is an extension of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This hub of aerospace wonder is where history and innovation soar together, marking it as one of the fascinating attractions in Northern Virginia.

The massive hangar-like structure houses an impressive collection including the Space Shuttle Discovery, providing a comprehensive insight into the realms of flight and space. The observation tower, offering a fantastic view of the Washington Dulles International Airport, adds a unique experience to the multitude of activities in Northern Virginia available in this aerospace haven.

The Workhouse Arts Center

The Workhouse Arts Center is a beacon of creativity and artistic expression nestled in the heart of Northern Virginia. Once a former prison, this lively hub now celebrates the arts, showcasing a range of artworks and performances, thus making it one of the enriching places to go in Northern Virginia for art aficionados.

Every studio and gallery within the Workhouse Arts Center unveils a different shade of creativity, offering a rich palette of visual and performing arts. The courses and workshops available allow for an immersive experience, marking it as a unique destination among fun places in Northern VA for budding and seasoned artists alike.

What About Moving To Northern Virginia?

best neighborhoods Northern Virginia

Moving to Northern Virginia is an enticing prospect for many individuals and families. This region is synonymous with a harmonious blend of historical charm, modern amenities, and nature’s splendor. The richness of cultural experiences, excellent educational institutions, and the proximity to the vibrant hub of Washington, D.C., make it a compelling choice for those seeking a balanced, fulfilling lifestyle. The myriad job opportunities, especially in the government, defense, and tech sectors, provide a strong foundation for career growth, affirming the decision to move to Northern Virginia.

Furthermore, the neighborhoods in Northern Virginia are known for their safety, community-oriented vibes, and high living standards. The towns and cities boast well-maintained parks, an array of recreational facilities, and lively downtown areas with a plethora of dining and shopping options. 

Public transportation is efficient and provides easy access to surrounding areas, easing the daily commute for residents. All these factors collectively create a welcoming environment, making the process of moving to Northern Virginia an exciting new chapter in one’s life.