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11 Fall Activities You Can't Miss in Washington, D.C.

By Noel McCann

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Are you planning a visit to Washington, D.C. this fall? Between monuments, landmarks, and museums, there is never any shortage of things to do in the District of Columbia. The area is particularly beautiful in the fall, as the city is marked by colorful autumn foliage and offers the most comfortable of outdoor temperatures. Whether you are moving into the area or stopping by for an annual family vacation, here are 11 fall activities you can't miss.

  1. Visit the National Mall

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A visit to the National Mall is a must for every visitor making a trip to our nation's capital. Playing host to the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Constitution Gardens, and the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall is simply one of the most famous (and tourist-friendly) spots in the United States. This area is particularly splendid in the fall, with the fall colors shining in the Lincoln Memorial's Reflecting Pool or giving the monuments a splash of color that makes for even better photo ops.  

  1. Walk around Rock Creek Park

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Image credit: ctj71081 on Flickr under Creative Commons license

 

Speaking of fall colors, don't miss them in Washington's Rock Creek Park. The large urban park is perfect for a relaxing walk, a morning run, or a crisp autumn picnic. Alternatively, grab one last golf round for the year at the Rock Creek Public Golf Course or take a horseback ride through the park. Either option is a wonderful way to enjoy the last bits of great weather for the year.

  1. Stop by the U.S. National Arboretum

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Image credit: sikeri on Flickr under Creative Commons license

 

If you can't get enough of nature's beautiful fall colors, the U.S. National Arboretum is another place to visit. For no charge, you can wander around the arboretum's 446 acres. The most iconic site is the Capitol Columns—a set of pillars that used to be a part of the Capitol Building but now stand freely. If you're a photographer or a serial Instagram-er, this site is one you won't want to miss—especially amidst the colors of fall harvest time.

  1. Make the most of the Taste of DC Festival

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Image credit: Taste of DC

 

Like food, beer, and wine? The Taste of DC Festival is billed as Washington, D.C.'s largest festival for all three. The event takes place each October and packs Pennsylvania Avenue with booths and stations full of food and drink. Each participating restaurant offers tasting items that cost between $1-$3, allowing you to mix and match without breaking the bank. When you're full, wash down your snacks with a $2 to $4 5 oz. beer at the Bier Garten.  Click here to learn more about the event or purchase tickets in advance.

  1. …And explore other festivals

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The Taste of DC Festival is not the only festival to look forward to each fall in Washington. The extensive list also includes Taste of Georgetown, which is another terrific showcase of local food and wine (and one that rivals Taste of DC in size and appeal). The beer fans will love fall in D.C. too, as it plays host to several of the nation's very best Oktoberfests (the highlight of which is actually called Das Best Oktoberfest). If you are looking for festivals that celebrate things other than food, beer, and wine, D.C. has the answers as well. Mid-September features Fiesta DC, a celebration of Latino culture, while late September boasts the National Book Festival, which fills the National Mall with author signings and readings.

  1. Take in a free show at the Kennedy Center

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In the summertime, it's easy to stay out exploring D.C.'s parks and monuments well into the night. In the fall, however, the sunset comes earlier and the temperatures cool down faster. As such, it's a good idea to fill your evenings with indoor entertainment, and there's arguably no better place for it than the Kennedy Center. If you're on a budget, check out the Millennium Stage, which offers free shows at 6:00 p.m. each evening. At the Millenium Stage, watch musicians play live jazz or local rising dance stars turn in stunning performances. If you're willing to splurge on a show or two, browse the schedule for ballets, operas, concerts, and other high-profile shows. Click here to see what the Kennedy Center has to offer while you are in town.

  1. Go to the zoo

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For 364 days a year (the zoo is closed on Christmas), the Smithsonian's National Zoo is a top destination for Washington, D.C.'s locals and tourists alike. The zoo is always free of charge, making it an affordable activity for families or other large groups. It also houses some 1,800 animals, hailing from 300 different species.Whether you're looking for apes, big cats, or birds, you'll find that there's plenty for your family to enjoy in the zoo. However, the fall is arguably the zoo's finest season, featuring fun kid-friendly events like Boo at the Zoo and Night of the Living Zoo. Around Halloween time, neither should be missed.

  1. Tour the museums

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No visit to Washington D.C. is complete without touring the area's many museums, and fall is prime museum-going time. The Smithsonian Institution operates 19 different museums in Washington D.C., including world-renowned destinations like the Smithsonian Castle, the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, the American Art Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and the recently opened African American History and Culture Museum. Like the National Zoo, all of the Smithsonian museums are open every day of the year except Christmas and are open to visitors free of charge.

  1. Spend a Sunday morning at the Eastern Market

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Image source: dcapped.com

 

D.C. has plenty of places and festivities to each and drink. If you don't want to eat out every night, however, stop by the Eastern Market to pick up some delicious groceries. On weekend mornings, the market packs with local merchants (and big crowds of people to shop their wares). It's not difficult to see why once you arrive and see the fresh, locally made goods on offer. Whether you are looking for artisanal cheeses, fresh produce, or delectable baked goods, you will find D.C.'s best at the Eastern Market.

  1. Take a haunted house tour

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If your visit to Washington DC coincides with late October, get yourself in the Halloween mood by taking a haunted tour through the nation's capital. These tours aren't expressly "Halloween-themed," which means that they are popular draws throughout the year. However, as All Hallows' Eve draws closer, there's something especially spooky of exploring DC with a focus on old and potentially haunted houses and neighborhoods. Along the way, you'll learn a bit about famous historical figures and landmarks. There are several tours to choose from here, including attractions like Capitol Hauntings: Ghosts of the U.S. Capitol and Ghosts of Georgetown.

  1. Watch live sports

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Washington, D.C. isn't necessarily known as a premier sports town, but its reputation is certainly growing in that regard. Washington's NFL games frequently sell out, bringing football fans out for loud and rowdy Sunday afternoons. Fall also marks the start of the NBA and NHL seasons—which might take you to Verizon Center to see the Washington Wizards (NBA) or the Washington Capitals (NHL)—and the end of the MLB season. If you're going indoors, root for Washington's hometown heroes such as John Wall for the Wizards or Alex Ovechkin for the Caps. If you're going to see baseball in Nationals Park instead, enjoy the sunny fall day and watch the Washington Nationals fight for a spot in the post-season.

Conclusion

As you might imagine, Washington, D.C. offers no shortage of fantastic attractions—whether during the fall or otherwise. The eleven fall activities listed above are our favorite ways to spend autumn in the capital city. However, you can't go wrong with any of the capital's other landmarks, museums, festivals, or walking tours.

If you are looking for housing in our nation's capital, HomeSuite can help. Click here and type in your trip information (location, date, and number of bedrooms) and click "Search." We'll show you the furnished rentals we have available and help you plan the perfect autumn stay in Washington, D.C.

 

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by Noel McCann

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