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City Escapes

15 Fantastic Fall Activities for Your "Things To Do in D.C." List

From ghosts and ghouls to food halls and wine tastings, D.C. has the makings of an unforgettable fall getaway

The Vacationeer
Washington, D.C. national monument surrounded by fall foliage.

The District is buzzing year-round between government activities, cherry blossom season, and the long list of free things to see and do. However, when you visit makes all the difference. So, consider

Infographic map of fall activities in Washington, D.C. 
Click to expand and read.

planning a fall trip to this capital city between September and November for a treat. 

As summer crowds recede, they take the infamously high temperatures with them and make way for cooler days, crisp nights and a spectacular backdrop of fall foliage. 

Here are 15 fall activities worth adding to your Washington, D.C. itinerary. 

Fall Foliage Photo Shoot at the National Arboretum         

The 446-acre National Arboretum sets the stage for autumn-inspired social media-worthy vacation photos. Strike a pose in front of the iconic National Capitol Columns or among the grove of red, orange and yellow fall-painted state trees.

And while you're at it, visit the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum to learn about these miniature masterpieces. 

The Wharf

You'll find The Wharf, a mile-long stretch, where D.C. meets the Potomac River. Spend a little time here and watch it come to life with events, concerts, water sports and more. So, whether you come here ready for an adventure or to simply soak in The Wharf's stunning views and vibrant culture, it's time well spent. 

The Kennedy Center

     

Attend a show at the Kennedy Center, a nationally renowned performing arts center, to enjoy a touring play or musical. D.C.'s crisp autumn evening makes it an ideal time to catch a free performance on the Millennium Stage.

Old Town Alexandria

Hop aboard a water taxi or the Metro and make your way to historic Old Town Alexandria. This district, dating back to 1749, is home to cobblestone streets, red-brick lined sidewalks and is brimming with restaurants, pubs, boutiques, museums and a free trolley. 

Grab a bite and shop for the perfect souvenir at one of the 200 independent eateries and shops, then brush up on the area's history at one of the intimate museums. 

Farmers' Markets

   

Check out one of the many farmers' markets in D.C. for a local taste of the area. Some popular favorites include the Dupont Circle market, the White House Farmers' Market, and the kid-friendly Falls Church market

Be sure to bring your reusable shopping bags to stock up on local artisan goods. Choose from scratch-made dog treats, cheeses, fresh foods, baked goods and fresh-cut flowers, for example. 

Food Halls

Unlike food halls of the past, these modern spots for up-and-coming chefs and established eateries offer patrons mouth-watering culinary experiences at various bars, taquerias and pizza shops. 

Satisfy your inner foodie at  Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, the family-friendly Union Market, or the brand new Tastemakers in Brookland.

Gravelly Point

This National Park Service site in Arlington is just a few hundred feet from the north end of the runway at Reagan National Airport, and it's just the place for boaters, cyclists and aviation enthusiasts.  Gather some local goods from a farmers' market and pack a picnic to enjoy as you sit by the river and watch planes soar overhead.

National Gallery of Art

Free to all visitors and open seven days a week, The National Gallery of Art is a year-round activity in the capital. However, cooler fall temperatures and fall-induced colorful scenery make autumn an ideal time to treat yourself to live music in the Sculpture Garden. 

Head inside to admire the collection of carefully curated paintings by world-famous artists such as Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Matisse and Pollock while exploring fascinating temporary installations. Finish out the day with a dining experience at one of the four on-site dining options. 

National Museum of African American History and Culture

You'll want to plan ahead to visit this popular Smithsonian Institution museum on the National Mall. While most museums, this one included, are offering free entry, you'll need the required free entry pass for access.  

Although, it's worth the additional effort. Discover the storied diversity of African American culture and how overcoming various obstacles, such as slavery and oppression have, shaped African American lives today. 

Embassy Row

As its name suggests, Embassy Row is a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue that many Diplomatic Embassy mansions call home. So grab a warm beverage and your camera for a picturesque stroll down Embassy Row. 

Consider signing up for a walking tour or try an audio tour for a self-guided approach. Finally, with a bit of planning, you can even tour an Embassy mansion. 

Wine Tasting During Crush Season

 

Wine-loving travelers will appreciate fall, also known as harvest season, in Washington D.C. for its proximity to vineyards in the surrounding area. So, if you're up for day tripping, rent a car and go for a drive through the rolling hills of Loudoun County, Virginia, for harvest season activities. 

However, you won't have to go far for a proper tasting if leaving the District isn't on your itinerary. You can always stay local and still enjoy a fall harvest activity: visit District Winery, a 1,700 square-foot urban winery.

Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Days

Take a step back in time to discover what life was like on a thriving 18th-century plantation with a visit to George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. As one of the nation's most visited historical sites, it's home to a long list of things to do year-round. However, fall on the estate offers visitors of all ages plenty of seasonal activities. 

Whether you decide to take a wagon ride, play colonial games, enjoy a fall wine tasting or try your hand at trick or treating, there are various harvest-themed events at Mount Vernon.

Haunted D.C. Tour

The District hums non-stop as federal and international officials work to keep the United States running smoothly. But stick around after dark and you might notice a different kind of activity.

Historic Washington, D.C. neighborhood.    

For a spookier capital city experience, sign on for a historic tour filled with ghosts and ghouls, such as the "Capitol Hauntings: Ghosts of the U.S. Capitol" tour, which focuses on one of the city's most historic neighborhoods. 

Georgetown French Market

Transport yourself to Paris, France, by way of this annual Georgetown event in which the charming Book Hill neighborhood of Georgetown transforms into a Parisian-inspired open-air market.

Don't forget to save your appetite, and bring your reusable shopping bags for this locally-focused food and shopping event. 

Boo at the Zoo

Head to the Smithsonian National Zoo during select evenings for some delightful family fun featuring costumed trick-or-treating, animal encounters and plenty of fall treats.

Where to Stay: Situated on the top floors of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Washington D.C., The District by Hilton Club offers travelers convenient access to some of the nation's most storied sites.

Read "5-Day Getaway: Washington, D.C." to discover how one Owner experienced the ultimate city-escape — 18 sites and activities in just five days.

 

 

Vacationeer

The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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