Just outside the United States capital of Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia boasts many interactive experiences for families to discover. From museums and monuments to parks and farms, this vacation will sneak in some great history lessons along with recreation opportunities and culinary treats your whole family will love. Here are just five of many must-visit stops you’ll find while exploring Virginia’s Cultural Region.
1. The Observation Deck at CEB Tower
Ascend 31 stories into the air and experience panoramic views of Washington, D.C. and Virginia’s countryside at the new Observation Deck at CEB Tower. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, get a glimpse of the soaring Washington Monument, the emerald green banks of the Potomac River and the old-world charm of D.C.’s countless neighbourhoods. Those who don’t mind heights can take a step outside onto the open-air terrace for a view of the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.
2. Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
From the mysterious dragon’s blood and mandrake root prevalent in the Harry Potter books and movies to more familiar ingredients like lavender and castor oil, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is filled with unique elements and a rich past dating back to 1792. Located in Alexandria’s beautiful historic district, past patrons have included George and Martha Washington. Today, the museum houses more than 15,000 objects—everything from herbs and bottles to bloodletting devices and real-life ingredients used throughout the 1800s that were also featured as “potion” ingredients in the Harry Potter series.
3. George Washington’s Mount Vernon
No trip to the United States would be complete without a visit to the home of America’s first president. Stop at the beautiful Mount Vernon estate in Fairfax County for an immersive experience and glimpse into the life of George Washington. During your visit, explore the mansion and restored gardens, then spend time in the interactive, hands-on Education Center or with the reenactors presenting 18th-century demonstrations and tours throughout the day. Don’t miss the new “Be Washington” experience that allows you to step into the boots of Washington himself as he made crucial decisions during various battles of the Revolutionary War.
4. Great Country Farms
After exploring Northern Virginia’s rich history, urban towns and historic districts, spend a day in rural Virginia at Great Country Farms. This pick-your-own family operation immerses visitors in farm life and Loudoun County’s rich agricultural history. Visit the animals at the petting zoo, try some catch-and-release fishing, take a wagon ride and grab fresh produce, homemade jams or delicious cider donuts from the country store for your trip home.
5. Prince William Forest Park
Experience one of Northern Virginia’s best-kept secrets – Prince William Forest Park. Operated by the National Park Service, this park is a 15,000-acre oasis just outside bustling Washington, D.C. in Prince William County. Hike 30-plus miles of trails, go for a bike ride along a paved path, fish, or just relax and enjoy the wildlife around you. Visitors can also spend the night in the onsite cabins once used as a spy training camp during World War I & II.
But Now We’re Hungry!
If you visit all those attractions, you’ll sustenance! Try one of these local favourites:
Try ice cream that’s flash frozen before your eyes at Nicecream Factory in the Clarendon neighbourhood of Arlington. Or experience a modern twist on a traditional Italian favourite at Old Town Dolci Gelati where owner Chef Gianluigi incorporates local ingredients into the gelato recipe that has been in his family for generations. Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot is a beloved, family-owned, window-serve spot along Main Street Clifton in Fairfax County offers soft-serve and hand-scooped treats, along with hot dogs and specialty drinks.
Feeling like a little chocolate? The Conche is a chocolate-themed restaurant featuring celebrity chef Santosh Tiptur offering both sweet and savoury chocolate-infused cuisine. And for a waterfront restaurant with a stunning view and fresh seafood, Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse sits on one of the widest points of the Potomac River and offers sweeping panoramic views of the river. Tim’s family has been serving up fresh local seafood favourites for over 25 years.
For more great ideas and to plan a vacation to Virginia’s Cultural Region, visit https://nvvc.virginia.org/