What to Do for Fun in Northern VA

Updated on February 24, 2011
C.M. asks from Harpers Ferry, WV
14 answers

HI. we just moved to northern VA a couple of months ago and my husband will be leaving next week for 3 months to police academy. I have an almost 6 year old daughter and a 3 1/2 year old son. Does anyone know of any fun activities in the northern VA area that we can do (free or cheap is best since we have to stick to our budget). We are in Fairfax county if that helps. I know the farmers markets don't start up until May, but is there any other fun activities that I can do with them before then? I don't like to drive into DC and I have no clue how to use a subway (we are from south OC California). Thanks!!

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thanks for all of the amazing suggestions! I will look into all of them.

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answers from Washington DC on

Metro has a webpage that tells you the ins and outs on how to use the Metro system. Then when you are familiar go to the National Zoo, the kids farm. Huge fun and free. Good luck.

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answers from Washington DC on

Metro (our subway) is easy to use -- go ahead and learn it because downtown DC is FULL of absolutely free stuff. (The one warning I'll give:If you plan to drive and park at a Metro station you may find all the spaces gone very early because of commuters; try a bus instead. It really does work). If you don't go downtown you're cheating yourself out of a lot of free fun for the kids and yourself!

All the Smithsonian museums are free. They will adore the Natural History museum -- dinosaurs! animals! gems! IMAX films (OK, the films do cost, but the rest is free). Find the somewhat hidden kids' hands-on room at Natural History, but check before going to be sure the room is open. The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian and therefore...free! The American History museum has SparkLab, a hands-on experiment room which is great for your daughter especially. There is a children's theatre in the underground level of the Smithsonian's Ripley Center. The Air and Space Museum has a cool plantarium and all the planes any kid could want to see. Look online at the Smithsonian's site and go to their "for kids" pages for tons more. It's si. edu but I won't put the whole address here in case that makes them cut my post.

The monuments are free too. We just did the Washington Monument. If you get tickets to it online there is a small fee but the tickets themselves are free.

In No.Va. -- Mount Vernon. Costs to get in but if the weather is good, it's a fantastic place to run around for the little kids and learn something for the older ones. Mount Vernon is also free admission this coming Monday -- President's Day! Check online about that.

All along the Potomac River on the George Washington Parkway (the route to Mount Vernon) are parks, picnic sites, a walking and biking trail, etc., all free. Someone mentioned Great Falls Park -- free, and a lovely place to walk, but hang onto any adventurous three-year-olds! Out closer to you is something called Eleanor Lawrence Park, I believe...

Go online to the Fairfax County Parks and Recreation Department for a list of all county parks and activites there. Search online at Fairfax County Public Library for lots of kids' activities, story times, craft times, etc. -- you may find more of these for your three-year-old than your six-year-old but check! The county recreation centers have some great pools (especially at Cub Run) which cost, but not much. Check "ParkTakes" online at the Fairfax County Parks and Rec site as it lists not only paid classes for kids but also free events at various sites....Fairfax County has a lot of fantastic amenities, so take full advantage of them and have fun. And don't let Metro daunt you, take advantage of DC as well!

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answers from Washington DC on

How far are you from Great Falls? And can you catch Metro to DC (wmata.com will help) to get to all the museums, zoo, etc.? I don't like to drive to DC, either.

Also, I don't know how far of a drive it would be, but the College Park Aviation Museum is inexpensive and is GREAT for kids.

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answers from Washington DC on

Take a look at the website called Our Kids. It has a TON of things to do in the area. Local libraries have things that you can sign up to do. Fairfax County is really big so it might be helpful if you add a more exact location--like Vienna, Chantily, Burke...


Take a look at the website called Our Kids. It has a TON of things to do in the area.

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answers from Washington DC on

The public libraries all have great FREE programs geared towards children. They pretty much have something going on every couple of days at one or more of the libraries. Check them out!

Frying Pan Park in Herndon....wonderful for little ones, especially in spring when there are always new babies.

Reston Town Center has an outdoor ice skating rink that's really fun!

And, visit Loudoun County....it's beautiful here with lots of hiking trails, cute towns to walk thru and great restaurants.

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answers from Kansas City on

I lived and worked in Shenandoah National Park, and it is GREAT! I am not sure if the price went up, but it was $10 for a car load in 2005. There are maps online and you could easily spend the whole day there, hiking and going to free programs put on by the rangers. I am hoping to move back there soon. If you are ok with a bit of a drive, Gettyburg is a couple of hours a way, and the drive is nice. You should really figure out how to use the subway, because you are SO close to all of the great museums in DC.

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answers from Norfolk on

Check out the parks! There is one near you with a carousel and an ice cream shop and a play ground in a nice shady spot and a train to ride. Gosh what was it called? It is off of Hwy 123 I think. I don't live there anymore so I can't remember. The train and Carousel cost something like $2.50 each for one ride.

Burke Lake Park -- you want to stay to the left after you go through the gate. Ox Road which also is Hwy 123

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answers from Washington DC on

Ice skating - there are indoor and outdoor rinks.
There are tons of activities at the libraries.
Check out the battlefield in Manassas.
Check out the wineries in NoVa. Barrel Oak and Miracle Valley usually have fun things going on.
Check out the Happenings column in your local newspaper.
Ask your kid's friends' moms. They might know of some fun things to do.
Get on the Metro and go to the Smithsonian. It will be a learning adventure for all of you. The subway system is very easy... you can do it!
The Kennedy Center has free activities and concerts almost every day. Check them out!

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answers from Norfolk on

My friend took his kids to one of the free shows that Kennedy Center has for kids every week. Also, I grew up in MD and there are a lot of great National Parks there. In DC the Smithsonian museums are all free. The one closest to you is the Udvar-Hazy Aviation museum in Chantilly but they do charge $10 for parking.



answers from Norfolk on

Hi C.,
I would suggest checking out your local public library. It is usually a great source for fun, FREE family activities. Ours has storytimes for the children and then hosts psecial evening activities as well.



answers from Washington DC on

I am from Southern Cali to so this area is crazy but the military brought me here and has kept me here since 2002. I didn't read all the post but agree that you should get used to the Metro as it is easy transportation. My plug is for Home Depot. Funny as it sounds the first saturday of the month they do crafts the kids build. The jump yards ae inexpensive and will engage both your children. Good Luck



answers from Washington DC on

Join the local MOMS Club. You probably are in the Fairfax West district and we go on at least one outing each week-- most of them are free and any with a fee are VERY inexpensive. I've been in the club 8 years after moving from out of state, and the members have helped me with everything from finding a dentist to hiring a window cleaner. Go to www.momsclub.org to find the right club for you. Welcome to Virginia!


answers from Washington DC on

Dear C.,
Hi and welcome! I would highly recommend start using the metro! That way you can get to DC easily(we also dont like to drive into DC) and get to a few free places in VA using the metro :)
Get a msrtcard card, its the plastic reloadable card b/c Metro has now made it more expensive to use the paper passes(trying to go green).
Well Mount Vernon Estate is free on Monday Feb 21st to cepebrate what would have been George washington's 279th birthday, normally kids under 5 get in free and adults pay admission. www.MountVernon.org for info on that.
There's a smaller indoor farmers market in Fairfax and you can explore one shopping area www.fairfaxcorner.com
There is the Fairfax Museum and Visitor's Center(free) on Main St on FFX.
http://www.fairfaxva.gov/MuseumVC/MVC.asp Tour it with the kids and find out more in person about Fairfax County etc. There is a great playground behind the building and parking garage to let kids get energy out.

I also recommend the www.our-kids.com website, it lists the various parks and ourdoor/indoor activities, kiddie consignment sales, day trips, kid freindly restaurants in the DC Metro are. A GREAT resource!

It's almost children's consignment sale season, since costs of living is so expensive in FFX Co there is one way of keeping costs down, going to consignment sales and geeting cute namebrand kiddie clothes for cheap, and gently used toys etc.

I also would say pack a picnic lunch and visit Frying Pan Park in hernon. In their recent newsletter a few new piglets and calves were born. It's a free working farm with country general store and playgound. The only thing that costs is the "hayrides".


Not sure where you live in FFX Co but there are also fun Nature Centers like Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield(may be more fun for the kids than adults but they're educational) 8511 Greeley Boulevard, Springfield, VA, ###-###-####
There's a playground and the Nature Center is to the left. There are some snakes and frogs/tadpoles/, kid activities to do, ask the ppl behing counter for any info on the animals inside. You can also walk around outside, definately pack a picnic lunch.
We like Hidden oaks nature center, they have an outdoor free scavenger hunt and kids nature play area inside. Also FREE
There is the outdoor ice skating again in DC, the sculpture garden or Pentagon Row or Reston Town Center.
It may be over budget depending, but ya'll have got to make a day trip to baltimore Inner harbor. They have the Baltimore Aquarium(excellent), Port Disvovery(kid's discovery museum/giant play), Maryland Science Center, good seafood...
I could name a million things hopefully these are a start if you have anyquestions e-mail me [email protected]____.com
Are you a SAHM? If so i know of a few good moms groups and a great playgroup.
Good Luck
P. Lowman
PS Feb 21st is no longer a holiday for FCPS students, my daughter is gonna be in all day kindegarten, so the hubby and I have decided to do the Free Mount Venon estate. It might not be too bad bringing just the 3.5 yr old :)



answers from Washington DC on

There's a petting zoo in Reston, and Cox Farms is nearby that has fun activities for kids. I'm not sure on the costs though.

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