In and Around DC in the Fall – Fun Things to Do on a Budget

fall in dc fun things to do on a budget

DC in the fall is just perfect. Ever since I first moved to the East Coast I’ve LOVED fall! The leaves and gorgeous weather make it the perfect time of year to explore. DC in the fall is just one of those places that has such beautiful fall that you won’t want to miss it! Since fall is one of my favorite seasons, I’ve gone all over the area to experience it.

Oh and since I am all about being on a budget, everything on this list is $10 or less! That’s right, free or almost things to do this fall in DC right here. There are so many places in and around DC to experience fall and here is my list of favorite places!

1. Harper’s Ferry 1 1/2 hours away, $10 for parking in National Park, free in town

This had to be my number one because I visit every fall and love it every single time! Seriously, it never gets old! The leaves change to many different amazing colors, it’s a national park with awesome hiking, and it’s got a killer view from the top. You can park for $4 in the national park lot and take a shuttle over or park in the town. If you park in town, you’ll need to go really early as parking is very limited. It’s worth the $4 to park and ride over. Be careful about when you get there because it can get really crowded on weekends. Plan ahead and go early if you can!

2. Logan Circle, Georgetown, or DuPont Circle free

With the adorable historic houses and old trees, these two neighborhoods are perfect for a fall walk. Make a day out of it and go to brunch in the neighborhood at a gorgeous outside table then take a walk to admire the city! I chose these two neighborhoods because I feel like they have the most iconic city buildings to really see DC in the fall. Other neighborhoods with great brunch and gorgeous trees are Georgetown, Capitol Hill, and Woodley Park.

3. Shenandoah Valley 2 hours away, $10 per car

This always makes everyone’s list of best places near DC to experience fall and see leaves. I have been twice and it’s definitely beautiful. It’s typically listed on tops places in the US to see fall leaves and is listed often as a best place for hiking. Because of this, it is a bit of a hassle on weekends. There are very long lines of cars to get into the national park then a big lack of parking. You can plan on waiting in at least 30 minutes of traffic if you get there after 10 am on weekends. Leave really early (I’m talking before 8 am) if you don’t want to sit in traffic.

Shenandoah also offers camping, here is the link to campsites. Book far in advance if you want to do this as spots fill up.

4. Hollin Farms 1 hour 15 minutes, free entry, pay per pound for produce

There are lots of places around DC to pick apples and pumpkins but Hollin Farms is my favorite! Here’s why – they not only have apple and pumpkin picking, they are also a working farm. You can pick your own potatoes, kale, peanuts, and more. They sell cider, donuts, and ice cream too. They don’t have a corn maze or hay ride which means way fewer little ones running around too. This is another spot I visit every fall because it is just perfect.

5. Old Rag 2 hours away

This is one I just experienced this past year. Old Rag is a full day hike in Virginia and is absolutely gorgeous at the top. This is another one you need to get up early for! We started hiking at 9:30 am and finished our hike around 4 pm. We were prepared with plenty of water and no plans, but it was an all day event.

Old Rag also gets really busy in the fall so you need to plan ahead with added time for this. There are a few sections of the trail where you have to climb rocks which means only one person can go through at a time. We were stuck waiting in one area for about 30 minutes while people went through one by one. The views at the top were worth it, but planning is needed to complete this awesome hike!

Warning: This is a difficult hike! See a list of all the tips from the National Parks Service on how to prepare for this hike before going!

6. Great Falls, MD free

This is one of the best places to go year round! However, fall leaves are gorgeous along the river here. Take Billy Goat Trail if you want a serious hike (and to get away from the crowds) or walk the foot path to the waterfall. Either way, you’ll experience some gorgeous trees right along the Potomac River. There is a great grill across the street from the main parking area that serves local beers and food which is the perfect spot to stop after a hike.

7. Wineries and Breweries in the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains average wine tasting $12

Virginia has a ton of wineries and breweries throughout the Appalachian Mountain Range. There are so many awesome spots with fire pits, great views of trees and mountains, and wonderful decks. A drive along Highway 15 will lead you to many different signs for wineries to stop into. For a full list of spots you can check here!

8. National Arboretum free

Found right in North East DC, the National Arboretum has tons of fall colors and plants to see. The park is huge and offers so many different kinds of plants that you can spend several hours enjoying it. They have a huge bonsai tree collection and many of the bonsai trees have leaves that change colors for fall which is really neat. I also love bringing my dog here for walks, it’s actually very quiet here and feels like you are outside the city which is perfect for those days where you just want to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle.

There are my favorite things to do on a budget in DC in the fall! Have you been to DC in the fall? What was your favorite experience? What would you recommend others try? Love hearing what others think about awesome places around the world. Let me know in the comments below!

  • Megan Brake

    I think the Shenandoah Valley is one of the most beautiful places on the east coast of the states. Just such a peaceful and verdant place with an interesting history. Love that everything on this list is less than $10!

  • Great tips, thank you for this! I am planning to visit a friend of mine that will live in DC for a year, so these will come in handy! 🙂

  • Jack

    Great article Meghan! looks inspiring 🙂

  • Sounds like some great things to do on vacation and during the weekend! Dc also looks so beautiful during fall, I only went during spring but it was still so beautiful. Just there for 3 days tho, wish I stayed longer!

  • Kate AndKris

    Love the autumn colours! Looks like there are many things to do outside the city, which is cool. Those views are stunning too! Thanks for sharing

  • Em

    Had no idea there were so many hikes near D.C. Saving this for my next trip!

  • Stephanie Rose

    I always think of DC as an expensive vacation. There are so many affordable things to do in the area though. I really love hiking, so I would love to check out the state park.