Located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Fairfax County, Virginia, offers an unexpected blend of picture-perfect natural surroundings and big-city amenities, positioning visitors in the heart of the Northern Virginia and the National Capital Region. Where else in the world can you watch kayakers take on Class V rapids in the morning, stand in a former president’s Colonial home or a Smithsonian museum in the afternoon, and dine under the stars at a concert on the grounds of a national park in the evening?
“Fairfax County has an incredible array of offerings that give groups a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Lori Scott, national and international sales manager at Visit Fairfax. “In addition to the immersive, educational, and hands-on activities and attractions located here, there are also 100-plus hotels to choose from, plenty of group-friendly dining options, and immediate access from two major airports that put you right in the middle of a memorable trip to Northern Virginia and the Capital Region.”
See for yourself why George Washington’s Mount Vernon is the most visited historic estate in the United States and why it was recently named one of the Top 10 Best Home Estate Tours in the U.S. by Fodor’s Travel. Tour the mansion and more than a dozen historic buildings, including blacksmith shops, stables, and more. The estate also features four separate gardens, the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, and Washington’s tomb.
Explore the fully functioning reconstructions of George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill, and learn how Washington crafted his famous rye whiskey and how his distilling operations became one of the most profitable enterprises at Mount Vernon.
The free and group-friendly National Museum of the United States Army is the first comprehensive and national museum to capture, display, and interpret the Army’s history by telling stories through the eyes of soldiers. Displays and interactive-learning exhibits illustrate the Army’s role in building and defending the nation, as well as Army humanitarian missions and technological and medical breakthroughs built on Army ingenuity. The museum, which opened on Veterans Day in 2020, also features a multisensory, 300-degree theater, a tranquil rooftop garden, and cafe.
Located near Washington Dulles International Airport, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is a must-see destination in Fairfax County. The museum’s massive exhibit space spans over three hangars. The first, the Boeing Aviation Hangar, showcases nearly 200 aircraft on display, including an Air France Concorde, the last remaining World War I-era Sopwith Camel built by the Sopwith Company, and the largest collections of Japanese and German World War II aircraft in the world. Next, any “space geek” that steps into the McDonnell Space Hangar will feel like a kid in a candy store when they get 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. The third is a restoration hangar with an overlook for watching the conservation work underway on several artifacts.
The center’s Donald D. Engen Tower gives visitors the opportunity to watch planes take off and land at Dulles Airport and get a 360-degree view of the area while listening to a live feed of an air traffic control channel. The Airbus IMAX Theater shows short documentary films that relate to aviation and space exploration during the day and some of the latest Hollywood films in the evenings.
Great Falls Park should be on your “must-see” list if you love the outdoors or enjoy an incredible scenic view. Many park-goers also enjoy seeing the historic remains of the Patowmack Canal. The park’s most memorable treasures are the overlooks where visitors can take in different views of the Class V falls crashing over a series of jagged rocks. This national park site, set in Fairfax County, is one of the most visited natural attractions by locals and visitors.
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, the only national park dedicated to presenting the performing arts, presents over 90 performances annually from late May to early September. The 7,000-seat Filene Center has seating under cover with open sides that look out onto the tall trees and rolling hills of the park or on its lawn where you can sit under the stars and enjoy a performance. During the winter months, The Barns at Wolf Trap play host to performances in an intimate atmosphere. The Barns, made up of two 18th-century barns from New York relocated to Virginia, were rebuilt in a manner that kept their rustic charm but offer superb acoustics and amenities.
For more information about Fairfax County, go to fxva.com.
Filene Center, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Credit: Visit Fairfax