Washington, DC has amazing fall activities! But where to start? Read this article for the best things to include on your DC fall bucket list!
Washington, DC is beautiful year-round. But I find it especially beautiful in the fall.
Brightly-colored leaves and crystal blue skies provide an incredible backdrop to all the fun activities that the area offers during the fall.
So let’s get started! Read on for the best things you need to do in Washington, DC in the fall.
- 12 Best Foods You Do Not Want to Miss in Washington DC
- 14 Tips for Visiting the Washington Monument in Washington, DC
1. Visit the Exorcist Steps
Want to see something a little spooky just in time for Halloween?
If so, the first item on your DC fall bucket list should be a visit to the Exorcist Steps. The steps are located in Georgetown at the intersection of M Street NW and Whitehurst Freeway NW. These stairs were the location of the final climactic scene of The Exorcist.
Just to add to the overall creepiness of the stairs, there’s an abandoned gas station at the base of the stairs.
I once got a flat tire in the former gas station’s park lot and it definitely spooked me!
If you’d like a little teaser of the steps before you visit, check out this video – if you dare!
2. Go to Night of the Living Zoo or Boo at the Zoo
The Smithsonian National Zoo puts on two great events during October:
- The first is Night of the Living Zoo, which is an adult-only party held after the zoo has closed for the day. Craft beer, food trucks, a costume contest, and a dance party are all part of the fun. Most of the animals will be in their indoor homes for the night but it’s still fun to walk the zoo paths at night.
- The second event is Boo at the Zoo. This is a family-friendly event that offers a cool way for kids to trick-or-treat and experience animal-themed Halloween entertainment.
Even if you can’t make those events, fall is a great time to visit the National Zoo. Cooler days mean the animals spend more time outdoors! Plus, the tree-lined paths provide great fall foliage. Check out this guide for everything you need to know about visiting the National Zoo.
3. Head to an apple orchard
We’re lucky to have several apple orchards in the Washington, DC area.
At many of these apple orchards, you can pick apples, get pumpkins, go on a hayride, and take fall-themed pictures to your heart’s delight.
Aim to do this activity earlier in the fall, since peak apple-picking tends to be in late September/early October.
4. Experience a ghost tour
Old Town Alexandria is one of the most interesting and historic areas to visit in the Washington, DC area.
And because of that history, it has many rich and fascinating ghost stories.
If you book a ghost tour of Old Town Alexandria, prepare to be engrossed and just a little unnerved.
After going on one of these tours, I get a little spooked every time I pass certain areas of Alexandria! But it’s worth it to hear about the rich history of the area.
5. Visit an outdoor beer garden
The DC area has happily jumped on the outdoor beer garden craze. There’s just something about cool fall nights spent outside with friends.
Many beer gardens in the area offer Oktoberfest specials. Perhaps most importantly, many of them offer heat lamps on the chillier nights.
Here are just a couple of the many beer gardens in DC to check out:
- Dacha Beer Garden: Locations in Shaw and Navy Yard. The Shaw location features an incredible mural. The Navy Yard location is across from Nationals Park and is perfect for a pre-game snack and drink.
- Wunder Garten: Go for the craft beers. Stay for the cabanas and fire pits.
6. Watch the High Heel Drag Queen Race
Each year on the Tuesday before Halloween, there is a phenomenal event called the High Heel Drag Queen Race.
This is an event that you have to experience.
Hundreds of drag queens show off their fantastic outfits before racing down 17th Street, NW by Dupont Circle in sky-high heels.
If you want to see this event, you need to get there early. Thousands of people line the street before the event.
The atmosphere is fun, the people are friendly, and you’ll love watching the drag queens walk around before the race.
Read more about the fun history of the event here.
7. Spend the day at a vineyard
There are an incredible number of beautiful vineyards in Virginia and Maryland.
I highly recommend that you take a day trip to visit one (or two) of these vineyards in the fall.
Fall colors adorn the vines, fire pits roar to life, and people happily chat on patios and lawns.
Make the day even more fun by booking a limo tour like this one and leave the driving to someone else.
8. Go to Trick or Treating or Wine Fest at Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon offers some stunning fall foliage and views of the Potomac River.
In the spring and fall, it also offers an amazing wine festival. Dozens of Virginia wine vendors provide tastings of local wine. Bring your own chair and enjoy a sip of wine while gazing down at the Potomac River.
And there’s fun for the kids, too! Every year, Mount Vernon hosts a trick or treat afternoon for the kids. Kids have an opportunity to run around the estate, getting candy at several candy stations.
Even if you can’t make these events, I recommend visiting Mount Vernon during the fall to see the fall foliage. Some of the trees on the estate have been there since colonial times!
9. Check out the fall foliage
The Washington, DC area has many beautiful trees that turn brilliant colors during the fall.
Here are a few of the places I like to check out fall foliage (in addition to the spots listed above!):
- National Mall: Constitution Gardens and the walkway between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial have great fall colors.
- George Washington Memorial Parkway: The drive between Arlington and McLean is especially pretty.
- Great Falls Park: Fall colors tend to peak here before the rest of DC, so don’t wait too late in the season to visit.
- Rock Creek Park: Over 1,700 acres, many covered with gorgeous fall foliage!
- National Arboretum: To avoid the crowds, get there first thing in the morning. Also a great spot for cherry blossoms in the spring.
10. Eat all the fall food
Many DC restaurants offer phenomenal fall-themed treats that deserve a place on your DC fall bucket list. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin spice, hearty soup, and seasonal drinks!
Be sure to book a reservation at your favorite local restaurant to take advantage of their fall food offerings.
For some inspiration, check out this article for some of the best restaurants that DC has to offer.
Washington, DC is absolutely beautiful in the fall. I hope this article helped you to create a spectacular DC fall bucket list! Enjoy the season!