Updated: Oct 29
Fall in Washington, DC, is really spectacular. Here are some of the best places to fully experience fall in Washington, DC. Fall is just perfect. I’m all about warm colors and cooler weather, so ever since I first moved to the East Coast, I’ve LOVED fall! The colorful leaves and gorgeous weather make it the perfect time of year to explore.
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 a person! That’s right, free—or almost free—things to do this fall in DC, right here.
updated for fall 2023
1. Walk the Tidal Basin — free
All around the Tidal Basin, you’ll find DC’s famous cherry blossom trees. While the cherry blossoms are known for blooming in spring, fall in Washington, DC, brings an entirely different and beautiful color! Taking a walk around the Tidal Basin will bring beautiful views of the trees changing colors.
2. Picnic near the Capitol
If you want to see some beautiful bright red leaves, the US Capitol is the place to go! In the fall, the trees turn a gorgeous red, and walking around them is such a calming activity. It’s located right on the National Mall, so it’s easy to visit while you’re checking out a Smithsonian or two. Have a picnic on the lawn, or bring a good book to enjoy the beautiful fall weather.
3. Hike Harper’s Ferry — 1 1/2 hours away, $10 for parking in National Park, free in town
This is my personal 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. Harper’s Ferry is a national park with awesome hiking, and it’s got a killer view from the top. You can park for $10 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 $10 to park and ride over. Be careful about when you get there because it can get crowded on weekends. There are a shorter trail and a longer trail that will take you all the way around the mountain. Plan ahead and go early if you ca
4. Stroll Logan Circle, Georgetown, or DuPont Circle — free
With 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 area at a gorgeous outside table, then take a walk to admire the city! I chose these three neighborhoods because I feel like they have the most iconic buildings you’ve really got to see this time of year.
Other neighborhoods with great brunch spots and gorgeous trees are Capitol Hill and Woodley Park.
5. Get Away to Shenandoah National Park — 2 hours away, $30 per car
This always makes everyone’s list of best places near DC to experience fall and see changing leaves. I have been many times, and it’s definitely beautiful. It’s typically listed on tops places in the US to see fall leaves and is listed often as the best place for hiking! Because of this, it can be a bit of a hassle on weekends.
There are very long lines of cars to get into the national park, then a significant lack of parking when you get there. You should 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’re going to do this as spots fill up.
6. 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 hayride, which means way fewer little ones running around, also. This is another spot I visit every fall because it is just perfect.
7. Hike Old Rag — 2 hours away
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 afterward since 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 challenging hike! See a list of all the tips from the National Parks Service on how to prepare for this hike before going!
8. Hike 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 footpath to the waterfall. Either way, you’ll experience the gorgeous changing trees right along the Potomac River. There is an excellent 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.
9. Enjoy 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 landscape and mountains, and beautiful decks. A drive along Highway 15 will lead you past many different signs for wineries to stop at.
10. Eat Some Apple Cider Donuts — $6 half a dozen
Nothing says fall like eating an apple cider donut. This is one thing I never had until I moved here, and I am absolutely in love with them! You can’t celebrate fall in Washington, DC, without them. You can find apple cider donuts at lots of farm stands when you’re on your way to Shenandoah, Harper’s Ferry, or at farms like Hollins or Cox Farms. I bought the ones above on the way to the next item on this list, Sugarloaf Mountain.
11. Sugarloaf Mountain — 45 min, free
One of the most popular hikes and overlooks near DC is Sugarloaf Mountain. You can hike from the base of the mountain for a challenge or drive up a few miles and park closer to the magnificent views. This spot gets very crowded, so get there early if you want a good parking spot!
12. Visit Cox Farms — 1 1/2 hours away, $6 – $20
Cox Farms is a completely different farm experience than Hollins Farm because there are so many various activities to do. It’s not the same kind of organic, pick-your-own farm as Hollins Farm is either. It’s the perfect spot for kids, especially. They’ve got giant slides, hayrides, farm animals, a corn maze, games, food, a tractor museum, live entertainment, apples, a pumpkin patch, and at night it turns into a haunted forest and maze. The day you visit determines the price. They’ve got discount days and peak days, so check their website if you want a good deal!
They also do an event called Field of Screams on Fridays and Saturdays through October. Three haunted houses in one. I went with some friends, and we thought the $20 price tag was more than worth it considering you get so many activities just like during the day, plus three haunted houses. It was worth it, and we definitely were scared!
13. Enjoy the National Arboretum — free
Found right in Northeast 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 vast bonsai tree collection, and many of the bonsai trees have leaves that change colors in fall, which is 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 when you just want to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle. Perfect dog-friendly activity if you’re on a road trip with your dog or just want to bring them along for the day.
14. Hang out at Nall’s Produce — free
Nall’s Produce is a cute little farm spot located in southern Alexandria, about 20-30 minutes outside DC near the Springfield Metro. It’s free to visit, and there’s everything from pumpkins to produce to farm animals running around. Plus, that wall of pumpkins is the perfect photo spot!
There are my favorite things to do during the fall in Washington, DC. Have you been to DC in the fall? Let me know in the comments below! If you’re thinking about spending a few days in Washington, DC, my itinerary can help you plan out your trip!