Visit a major city in the US and it could cost you $ 20 per person just to visit their art museum. However, head to Washington, DC and check out major art galleries, all of the Smithsonian museums, and the city’s iconic monuments for free. It’s a little-known but budget-friendly fact.
And get this: Fairfax County is the same way. Almost all of our most popular attractions are free or ridiculously cheap considering we’re just a river away from a world capital. When you add our affordable hotels and restaurants, you have a spring break, summer break, fall break, or winter break that is not only world class but also won’t break the bank.
Where can you find the greatest value for your vacation dollar in Fairfax County? Continue reading!
Spend a day full of art. And right to vote.
Courtesy of Patrick Lyon / Lyon Photography
How often do you visit a vibrant arts campus on the site of an old prison that played a role in the women’s suffragist movement? We’re pretty sure the Workhouse Arts Center is the only one. Here you can browse multiple art galleries, visit the studios of more than 60 artists, shop for art and even take a selfie with their LOVE sign. Or you can explore the Lucy Burns Museum and hear the harrowing story of the suffragists imprisoned here and how their story changed public perceptions about women who vote. Both attractions are free, but donations are welcome.
Speaking of female suffragists, this May also see the only national memorial to women’s suffrage in nearby Occoquan Regional Park when the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial opens to the public.
Other free art centers are ArtSpace Herndon; the Emerson, Atrium, and Ramp Galleries; and the Tephra Institute for Contemporary Art.
Take a self-guided tour of some of Reston’s most impressive public art exhibits from a different perspective, or go on a scavenger hunt to find Mosaic’s most colorful murals. Don’t miss the community-oriented murals hidden in the city of Vienna and the city of Herndon.
Admire our most spectacular parks.
Here’s something you might not expect to be this close to Washington DC – a giant waterfall and class V + rapids. Part of the National Park Service, Great Falls Park has plenty of hiking trails, historic ruins, scenic overlooks, and a majestic waterfall that you don’t even have to hike to see it. Entry to the park is $ 20 / vehicle and is valid for 7 days. If you have a national park annual pass, admission is free.
A less crowded, free option is nearby Riverbend Park, which is connected to Great Falls by the Potomac Heritage Trail. (That said, if you’re ready for the moderate hike, you can visit two parks for zero dollars!) Other parks worth visiting include the Bird Watching Hotspot, Huntley Meadows (donation box on-site), and Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge free like the bald eagles that nest there. Then there is the GW Parkway, a national park, and a scenic back road that you can use to get around the area. In spring you can even see the cherry blossoms in a stunning exhibition across the river.
Don’t miss the children’s Frying Pan Farm Park, which recreates a period of great transition in rural America from the 1920s to 1950s. Today chickens, peacocks, sheep, pigs, cows, horses and goats live here. With spacious areas, nature trails and countless child-friendly programs, as well as an antique carousel, this will be a hit with the whole family. Especially with that zero dollar price tag!
Plan to experience the plan.
Established in 1964, Reston is one of the earliest planned churches in America. See the experimental site come to life and visit the free Reston Museum at Lake Anne Village Center, which is shaped by small businesses. Then enjoy a local craft beer from the Lake Anne Brew House or dine by the lake at Kalypsos Sports Tavern. From there, hike the trails to Reston town center while enjoying the art of public life. In the city center, you can shop, dine, and lace up your ice skates at the seasonal ice rink (or go to an outdoor concert in the warmer months).
For other great neighborhood adventures, spend a day in the city of Vienna, where you can eat one of the world’s best chili dogs at the famous Vienna Inn, snap photos of the historic red galley along Route 123, and learn at the Freeman Store and Museum Learn about the history of the area or rent a bike and take a paved ride along “Virginia’s Thinnest Park” on the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail. (Refuel and brew at the Caboose Tavern, which is right off the trail.)
Find your zen in our gardens.
Image courtesy Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is no ordinary garden. Sure, it has 95 acres of stunning ornamental and native gardens that surround a picturesque lake. It is also home to the only public Korean traditional bell garden pavilion in the Western Hemisphere. And as long as you’re in the Western Hemisphere, you should really see it. Admission is $ 6 for those ages 18-54, free for those under 6, and everyone else is charged $ 3.
Two other notable (and free) landscaped gardens are Green Spring Gardens and River Farm, the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society. Green Spring Gardens is an absolute gem with demonstration gardens and a horticultural center with all kinds of garden information. This website, operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority, also has a huge calendar of events for children, adults and families throughout the year. River Farm overlooks the Potomac River and its gardens and views are breathtaking. Call before the visit; It is currently closed to the public due to COVID but can accommodate visitors by appointment.
Treat yourself to wine, beer … and chocolate.
Image courtesy Ono Brewing Co.
Our wine and beer scene has a great bang for your buck with locally made spirits that you won’t find anywhere else. Visit Bull Run Winery in Centerville and Paradise Springs Winery in nearby Clifton. Both offer historical interests and sweeping vistas. If beer is more your style, head to Mustang Sally Brewing Co. in Chantilly for old world style beers. Then make your way to Ono Brewing Co. to check out a self-serve beer wall and visit Fairfax County’s only chocolate factory. Do you want more beer? Get a Fairfax County Breweries Field Guide to help you find your way around the area’s brewing scene and grab some specials along the way!
There are many reasons to plan a vacation or getaway to Fairfax County. We’re close to Washington, DC. Our availability. Our amazing attractions. And if you didn’t know before, our incredible value. However, we are very careful with COVID. While most places are open, some are closed due to government restrictions. Therefore, check the individual business transactions first.
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Budget Friendly Spring Travel Ideas in Fairfax County first appeared on Virginia’s travel blog.