This article is presented in partnership with our friends and partners at Hilton.
Fall in DC is super underrated. Unlike New England, we may not go immediately from the heat of summer to sweater weather post Labor Day. That doesn’t mean that you can’t capture some of that cozy Fall feeling in your very own neighborhood. Here are three days in three different locales that help get you into that Pumpkin Spice Latte kind of spirit. For each neighborhood, there’s even an awesome hotel with great staycation deals. The post-summer room rates (and tourist exodus) are a great time to soak up the Fall fun and then sleep in on a comfy bed you won’t have to make the next day.
The first day of Fall is September 22 this year, but Starbucks already released the PSL (and has apple cider donuts!!) and CVS has had bags of Halloween candy on the shelves since after July 4th, so why wait?!
Day 1 – Explore NOVA
While Northern Virginia, particularly Alexandria, may not seem like a woodsy destination, it’s got some amazing hidden gems. One of the best parts of autumn is enjoying the great outdoors without sweating through your tank top. Even if you’re in the heart of NOVA, those crunchy nature vibes are just outside the door. Start (or end) your day at the well-located Hilton Alexandria Mark Center and easily walk to a ton of great, secluded parks. It’s hard to believe there’s the quiet peace of nature so close to I-395, but that may be one of Alexandria’s best kept secrets. Make sure to check out the Winkler Botanical Preserve, where there are waterfalls perfect for smug, scarf-wearing Instagram moments. From there, grab a bike and check out Holmes Run Scenic Easement and Dora Kelley Native Park, two connecting parks with excellent, woodsy bike trails. Wild turkeys have even been spotted in the park, which may get you in that Thanksgiving state of mind.
Ending the perfect day with a perfect meal is essential. Might as well splurge because you’ve gotten all that physical exercise. Head over to nearby Shirlington and enjoy farm to table delights at Copperwood Tavern or keep it simple with one of the best burgers at Damn Good Burger Co. Splurge out because you need to fatten up for the inevitable hibernation of winter.
If you’re in the Alexandria area on November 17th, don’t forget to check out the Alexandria Cider Festival as part of Cider Week VA. Along with plenty of drink, the event promises fun fall activities. They don’t say what those activities are, but isn’t drinking copious amounts of cider one of the best autumn activities there is?
Day 2 – Play Tourist in DC
Start a crisp fall morning from a luxurious hotel bed at the Washington Hilton, in the heart of Dupont. Stroll your way down Connecticut Avenue to the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market. Yes, the market is year round, but fall is the high, holy season for farmers’ markets. They make you want to start eating apples again. While you’re shopping around, get a bagel from Call Your Mother and some Zeke’s Coffee. Don’t forget to also hit up the SS Maple Camp stand where you can get the nectar of the Fall gods—Maryland maple syrup (it’s not just from New England!).
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Take full advantage of the (hopefully) cooler temps and lack of tourists and play one yourself by taking a walk to the Smithsonian National Zoo to check out the new mole rat exhibit. There are also some many cool fall zoo events, like ZooFiesta on Sept 23rd, Boo at the Zoo from Oct 19-21, ZooLights starting Nov 23rd and running through the New Year.
Day 3 – Rock the Suburbs
Don’t listen to the haters, adorable Fall days were built for the suburbs. North Bethesda, Rockville, and Germantown may be the closest you can get to that essential autumn day. If you are car-less, take the metro to Shady Grove and then a Lyft or Uber to Butler’s Orchard. The ride will cost you around $20, but it’s WORTH IT! You’ll even get to enjoy the really nice view of changing leaves on 270. You will not get more Fall than a trip to Butler’s. Their annual pumpkin festival starts Sept 29 and runs every weekend through Oct 28th and is an explosion of everything to love about the season—there are literal pumpkin cannons! Also there’s apple cider donuts, cider slushies, hay rides, petting zoo, corn maze, giant hay slides, and of course a pumpkin patch. Don’t forget to hit up the market for all the apple butter you can eat.
From there, head over to the Pike and Rose complex in North Bethesda and stock up on all the fall gear you could ever need because they have a L.L. Bean AND an REI. A new pair of Bean boots for Fall is a real must. Around the corner, rest your weary head and your donut filled belly at the Canopy Bethesda North where you can enjoy a glass of red wine under a blanket on their balcony. If there’s a better end to a Fall day than that I don’t know it.
Now that you’re starting to pull out your coziest sweaters and buying your first PSL of the season, don’t forget to check out Hilton’s Capital Adventure Package that has something to offer for all your autumnal dreams. Head here for more info + to book your next staycation.