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Family Northern Virginia Travel Ideas

The Perfect Road Trip through Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia is home to a spirited mix of history, culture, dining, and shopping – all of which you can experience on your next epic road trip adventure. Learn about the events and places that helped shape the United States while discovering quaint downtown neighborhoods where locals treat visitors like family. Stroll tree-lined streets and tour charming boutique wineries. Hop on bikes to ride along the banks of the Potomac River for some of the most stunning views of Washington, DC. Browse the home of America’s first president, hoist a pint at a historic brewery, dine at a celebrity chef’s restaurant or treat yourself to a little retail therapy. It’s all waiting for you in Northern Virginia.

Leesburg

Loudoun’s county seat is a picturesque little burg with a historic downtown bustling with restaurants, breweries, boutiques and chic home décor stores. Dine on oysters, tacos and farm-to-table fare on King Street (our restaurant row) and soak up the storied ambience of a town that’s been home to icons such as President James Monroe.

Photo Credit: Jen Sigal

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Middleburg

America’s horse and hunt country capital, and Loudoun’s second largest town, Middleburg is a gorgeous settlement dating back to 1728. The historic downtown is lined with chic boutiques, raffish men’s stores and superb cafés and restaurants, while the surrounding countryside is straight out of an Edith Wharton novel: handsome mansions at the end of oak shaded driveways, thoroughbred horses frolicking in the fields.

Photo Credit: Visit Loudoun County

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Gainesville

Gainesville, which once serving as a path for Civil War soldiers, is now a vibrant suburban district home to major shopping, dining, and entertainment choices. Visitors can enjoy a fun night on the town at several bars and nightclubs, world-class PGA golf courses, and even find time for a hike at the Conway Robinson State Forest.

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Woodbridge

Woodbridge is probably the most renowned area in Prince William, Virginia due to its location adjacent Interstate 95, the giant Potomac Mills Sign, IKEA, and other roadside views. Visitors can find a wide assortment of destination shopping, dining, outdoor recreation and entertainment choices and of course it is also home to Virginia’s largest outlet mall, Potomac Mills Mall.

Photo Credit: Visit Prince William

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Mount Vernon/Lorton

This historic area of southern Fairfax County is home to an exceptional number of historic homes and attractions, including George Washington’s beloved estate. Explore a Frank Lloyd Wright home, an arts haven that exists in a former prison tied to the suffragist movement or find a peaceful oasis on the Mason Neck peninsula. You’ll never believe you’re just a few miles from the nation’s capital.

Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson, IG account: @cameron.davidson.usa

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Old Town Alexandria

On the Potomac River waterfront, Old Town is the heart of Alexandria and the city’s downtown, filled with architecture dating back to the 1700s alongside picturesque cobblestone streets and alleys, independent shops and restaurants and a vibrant waterfront.

Photo Credit: Kristian Summerer

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  • Vola’s Dockside Grill
  • Fontaine
  • On the Potomac River waterfront, and named the nation’s Ice Cream Cone Capital, Old Town is the heart of Alexandria and the city’s downtown, filled with architecture dating back to the 1700s alongside picturesque cobblestone streets, independent shops and restaurants and a vibrant waterfront.

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Del Ray

Centered around made-for-strolling Mount Vernon Avenue, Del Ray is lined with locally owned eateries, eclectic shops, wellness businesses, Art Deco architecture and murals. Come for the relaxed vibe, casual eats and signature festivals and events.

Photo Credit: Kristian Summerer

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Crystal City/Pentagon City

A walkable, urban district, Crystal City has great restaurants, cafes, specialty stores and the region’s premier physical theater, Synetic Theater. In addition to the dining options along Restaurant Row, 23rd Street between South Eads and South Fern streets has an eclectic, independent dining scene and active nightlife.

Photo Credit: Jake McGuire

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Rosslyn

Spectacular views of the D.C. skyline, myriad dining options and an urban vibe make this section of Arlington County an ideal home base for exploring the capital region. Right across Key Bridge from Georgetown, Rosslyn’s tall buildings are surrounded by natural beauty and historic landmarks.

Photo Credit: Jake McGuire

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Tysons/Merrifield

Tysons is the urban center of Fairfax County and has been called “America’s Next Great City” as the growth and development of this former unassuming rural crossroads takes the thriving city into a booming business and tech hub near Washington, DC. Around the corner, Merrifield has become a vibrant community that is home to the ever-expanding urban village called Mosaic, which has been attracting some of the region’s best chefs, retailers, and boutiques.

Photo Credit: April Greer

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For more ideas for your Northern Virginia vacation, visit www.NorthernVA.org.

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Family Northern Virginia Outdoors Travel Ideas

Outdoor Family Adventures in Northern Virginia

On the Water

Photo Credit: April Greer, Burke Lake Park

  • Harpers Ferry Adventure Center – From tubing and whitewater rafting to an aerial adventure course and ziplining, there is something everyone in the family can enjoy at this outdoor center in western Loudoun. Located on the banks of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, this is the perfect place to get on the water for a remote and relaxing afternoon.
  • Enjoy a family picnic (with takeout) at one of Alexandria’s vibrant waterfront parks on the Potomac River.

Farm Visits

Photo Credit: Hailey Zurschmeide, Great Country Farms

  • Great Country Farms – Take a scenic drive through the country for a stop at Great Country Farms. Featuring 400 acres, there is plenty of room to do everything from pick-your-own fruits and vegetables and visit animals to play a game of mini golf or fish in the pond.
  • The Little Goat Farm at the Lake – Located on beautiful Lake Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia, the Farm provides guests healthy, sustainable food as well as goat, alpaca, llama, bee products, and free-range eggs. Enjoy special events such as Goat Yoga, Open House Farm Tours, Private Tours, Newborn Snuggling, & Private Parties. Reservations are required to visit.
  • Plan ahead for a volunteer day at Arcadia Farm to help build garden beds, tend to the chickens, seeding and/or weeding, and learn about farm life.
  • Enjoy quality time with the farm animals (and babies!) at local favorite, Frying Pan Farm Park. The farm preserves and interprets farm life of the 1920s to 1950s, but is also home to a country store, old-time carousel, an equestrian center, and beautiful nature trails.             

Hiking & Biking

Photo Credit: Jake McGuire, Theodore Roosevelt Island

  • Theodore Roosevelt Island – Escape to the great outdoors in the middle of an urban environment with a trip to Theodore Roosevelt Island, a 91-acre wooded island sanctuary featuring miles of trails designed for hiking or running.
  • Neabsco Creek Boardwalk – This ¾ mile long boardwalk allows hikers access to wetlands where the tall grasses and marsh filter pollution from the river and provide a rich habitat for local animals and birds. The walkway is also part of the Potomac Heritage National Trail, which was established by Congress in 1983 designating an 800-mile trail network stretching from the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania to the Potomac River, winding through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. 
  • Gravelly Point – Take a walk or a bike ride along the Mount Vernon Trail to Gravelly Point and watch planes fly to and from nearby Reagan National Airport. Its unique location just a few hundred feet from the north end of Reagan’s runway 1/19 makes it one of the best spots in the United States for airplane-spotting. Bring a picnic lunch, frisbee and/or your bike and explore beautiful scenic views of Washington, DC and the Potomac River.
  • Support local bicycle businesses while picking up a coffee or juice before hitting the bike trails in Fairfax County. A couple of great ones to start with that are located directly off the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (a 45-mile paved stretch through three counties) include Green Lizard Cycling in Herndon and The Bike Lane in Reston.
  • Bike into D.C. or along the riverside Mount Vernon Trail with rentals from Unlimited Biking or Pedego Electric Bikes in Alexandria. While cycling, scan the tidal marsh for creatures across the food chain, from darting fish to sun-tanning turtles to stately bald eagles. 

Camping

Photo Credit: Nicole Warner, Leesylvania State Park

  • Leesylvania State Park – This picturesque park has five tent-only campsites. One large group campground and four individual campsites for visitors arriving by canoe or kayak. The group campsite contains several picnic tables, benches, running water, and a large fire pit with a grill top. There is also plenty of room for recreational activities in the large field adjacent to the campsite. The individual sites are located near a small boat launch and contain a picnic table, a fire pit with grill top, and a lantern hook. Leesylvania State Park is known for great fishing, beaches with swimming areas and historical hiking trails.

A universally accessible fishing pier, playground, boat launch, boat storage area, snack bar and store, visitor center and gift shop are available. A 20-station fitness trail and canoe and kayak rentals also are available.

  • Algonkian Regional Park – Rent one of 12 vacation cottages along the Potomac River at this regional park in Loudoun. With decks, grills, full kitchens and multiple bedrooms, these cottages are perfect for a secluded vacation destination spot. While at the park, tee up at the 18-hole golf course, hike the trails or utilize the boat launch to get out on the water.
  • Prince William Forest Park – With 3 front-country campgrounds, 1 back-country campground and 5 cabin camps, Prince William Forest Park offers prime tent and RV camping in the Northern Virginia/DC area. 

The park gives visitors a unique opportunity to camp in, hike through, and explore 15,000 wooded acres filled with wildlife and more than 300 years of human history. Campers can enjoy an array of outdoor activities at the park including the 37 miles of hiking trails, on and off-road biking, bird watching, an orienteering coarse, as well as streams and ponds for fishing (permit required and can be obtained at the parks Visitor Center).

History, Parks, and More

Photo Credit: Kristian Summerer, Old Town Alexandria

  • Explore self-guided Great Walks in Alexandria with themes ranging from centuries-spanning architecture to photo-friendly artwork to expansive Black history and more. For each walk, check out our accompanying Google Map to plan your route—though you’ll be tempted (and welcome) to detour.
  • Air Force Memorial – Located on a beautiful hillside vista, the Air Force Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of U.S. airmen with three stainless steel spires evoking an image of jet and space vehicle flight. The Air Force Memorial is open to the public, and admission and parking are free. The memorial is located adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery and is about a mile walk from both Pentagon City Station and Pentagon Station.
  • Roer’s Zoofari – This local zoo is home to Waffles the Giraffe, lemurs, zebra, kangaroo, cheetah and more. Rather not get out of your vehicle? Book a spot on the Self-Drive Safari Tour, which gets you up close and personal with nine different species, including bison, llamas, fallow deer, and more.
  • Colvin Run Mill is an often overlooked 19th century historic site that is home to a working waterwheel, miller’s house and blacksmith forge, scenic walking areas, and a general store where you can purchase cornmeal and flour that was produced on site!
  • George Mason’s Gunston Hall – Learn about the life of Founding Father George Mason, the father of the Bill of Rights, at his iconic home, Gunston Hall. Archaeology and hiking opportunities are exciting add-ons to the mansion tour.

For more ideas for your Northern Virginia vacation, visit www.NorthernVA.org.