Fairfax is a compact city in Virginia, 14 miles (23 km) to the west of Washington D.C. Connected to the capital by Washington’s metro system, it’s super easy to travel between the two cities. Fairfax makes a convenient escape if you are looking for a break from the bigger city. It’s also a good base to explore the capital if you’re looking for somewhere quieter to stay.
With just over 20,000 people, Fairfax is more laid-back and low-key than its neighbouring metropolis. It has a small-town vibe, yet there’s plenty to see and do, with the added convenience of the capital city practically on your doorstep.
Founded in 1869, Fairfax has historic streets and sites to appreciate the area’s rich history, plus modern amenities and attractions. It’s also a college town, with plenty of entertainment and hospitality options to keep students, locals and visitors busy. From immersing yourself in the town’s history to exploring its lush parks, political connections and urban legends, here are the best things to do in Fairfax, Virginia.
- Fairfax, Virginia
- 20 Things To Do In Fairfax
- 1- Get Your Bearings At The Fairfax Museum and Visitor Centre
- 2- Visit The NRA National Firearms Museum
- 3- Connect With History At The Civil War Interpretive Centre
- 4- Escape Into Nature At Daniels Run Park
- 5- Meet The Locals At The Old Town Square
- 6- Admire The Grandeur Of The Old Town Hall
- 7- Get Your Skates On At Fairfax Ice Arena
- 8- Ride Through The Past At Fairfax Station Railroad Museum
- 9- Take A Walk Through Time In Ox Hill Battlefield Park
- 10- Let Your Kids Be Inspired At The Children’s Science Centre Lab
- 11- Dare To Cross The Bunny Man Bridge
- 12- Peer Back Through The Centuries At Fairfax Historic Courthouse Museum
- 13- Enjoy Mindless Fun At Fairfax Corner
- 14- Pack A Picnic For Gateway Regional Park
- 15- Say Hello To The George Mason Statue
- 16- Splash Out At Mosby Woods Pool
- 17- Wander Through Mosby Woods Park
- 18- Follow The Rocky Run Stream Valley Trail
- 19- Mingle With The Locals At The Weekend Farmers’ Market
- 20- Indulge At Paradise Springs Winery
- 20 Things To Do In Fairfax
20 Things To Do In Fairfax
1- Get Your Bearings At The Fairfax Museum and Visitor Centre
For the perfect introduction to the city, head to Fairfax Museum and Visitor Centre as your first stop.
Set within a historic schoolhouse, the museum houses exhibits on the history of the building as well as the development of Fairfax throughout the years.
Aside from offering a thorough glimpse into the heritage of Fairfax, the visitor centre also helps you better plan how to spend your time in the city.
This is where you can pick up maps, leaflets, and guides about all the various local attractions.
You can also find information on local restaurants, transport, and public events.
Fairfax Museum and Visitor Centre 10209 Main St, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
2- Visit The NRA National Firearms Museum
Displaying over 2,500 guns, from rifles to pistols, the National Firearms Museum is a gun-lovers dream museum.
The museum is organised into 15 galleries, each dedicated to a particular period in America’s history.
There is also a gallery dedicated to guns used in film and television.
You’ll find guns wielded on screen by legends including Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, along with action stars like Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis.
NRA National Firearms Museum is at 11250 Waples Mill Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
3- Connect With History At The Civil War Interpretive Centre
Like most cities and towns in Virginia, the civil war plays a big part in Fairfax’s history.
Nowhere celebrates this heritage more than the Civil War Interpretive Centre.
The grounds of the historic Blenheim House were used as a camp during the war, while the house itself served as a military hospital.
The soldiers stationed there scrawled diary entries, doodles and signatures on the walls, most of which are still there.
They act as a snapshot in time, giving visitors deep insights into the minds of the soldiers who were stationed here.
The Civil War Interpretive Centre is at 3610 Old Lee Hwy, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
For more ideas in Virginia and West Virginia:
4- Escape Into Nature At Daniels Run Park
Right in the heart of Fairfax city, Daniels Run Park is an oasis of natural calm.
This little swathe of woodland provides the opportunity to escape into the wild without leaving downtown Fairfax.
Daniels Run Park is compact but manages to squeeze in various hiking trails through the trees and along its babbling creek.
Playgrounds and picnicking areas make it the perfect destination for a family afternoon in the fresh air.
Daniels Run Park is at 9712 Barlow Rd, Fairfax, VA 22031, United States.
5- Meet The Locals At The Old Town Square
You’ll find the Old Town Square at the centre of Fairfax; the lovely central plaza provides a starting point to begin exploring the city.
Old Town Square is surrounded by shops, restaurants and cafes and a short walk from various local attractions.
Events such as concerts and seasonal festivals are held in the square throughout the year.
The centre of the Old Town Square is dominated by a pretty water fountain with multicoloured illuminations, making it especially lovely after dark.
Other features include decorative gardens, seating and dining areas, and the beloved Fairfax Rotary Clock.
6- Admire The Grandeur Of The Old Town Hall
At the southwestern corner of the Old Town Square stands a grand building, the Old Town Hall, with its imposing columns and vaulted windows.
The Old Town Hall was constructed in 1900 and has been acknowledged on the National Register of Historic Places.
Nowadays, it is mainly used as an events venue, hosting everything from private soirees to public parties.
The Old Town Hall is at 3999 University Dr, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
7- Get Your Skates On At Fairfax Ice Arena
Looking for some family-friendly fun but tired of traipsing around museums or trekking through parks?
A visit to Fairfax Ice Arena will make a refreshing change of pace.
Visitors of all ages can head out onto the rink for some only moderately risky entertainment.
If you don’t feel like heading onto the ice yourself, you could check to see if any hockey games or figure skating shows are scheduled during your stay.
Fairfax Ice Arena is at 3779 Pickett Road, Fairfax, VA 22031, United States.
8- Ride Through The Past At Fairfax Station Railroad Museum
Another landmark that served a significant role in the civil war, the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum celebrates the importance of railways in the development and legacy of the area.
Along with extolling the station’s heritage, the Railroad Museum houses exhibits on various trains and rail cars.
An array of different carriages are displayed, along with intricate model railways and related artefacts.
It’s a must-visit for any trainspotter passing through Fairfax.
Fairfax Station Railroad Museum is at 11200 Fairfax Station Rd, Fairfax Station, VA 22039, United States.
9- Take A Walk Through Time In Ox Hill Battlefield Park
West of Fairfax is the pretty little Ox Hill Battlefield Park.
As the name implies, Ox Hill lies over an area that was once a civil war battlefield.
Now a leafy public park, Ox Hill Battlefield Park is littered with memorials and monuments dedicated to the area’s history and the people who fought and died there.
Walking trails wind through the park, lined with information boards providing insights into the park’s history.
Ox Hill Battlefield Park is at 4134 West Ox Rd, Fairfax, VA 22033, United States.
10- Let Your Kids Be Inspired At The Children’s Science Centre Lab
If you’re visiting with the kids in tow and looking for something a bit different to entertain the young ones, look no further than the Children’s Science Centre Lab.
The Science Centre uses hands-on displays to get kids excited about learning about science with activities ranging from mixing slime to solving clues to completing a treasure hunt and various experiments and games.
Themed programmes throughout the year make repeat visits just as fun.
The programmes are popular, so book tickets to ensure you get a place.
The Children’s Science Centre Lab is at 3949 Pender Dr, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
11- Dare To Cross The Bunny Man Bridge
A little way outside of Fairfax city limits, you can find a location steeped in mystery and local legend.
The otherwise unassuming bridge remains at the centre of local folklore that dates back to 1970 when there were numerous supposed sightings of a man in a bunny suit wielding an axe.
In the intervening decades, the story of the Bunny Man has acquired a supernatural twist.
Ghost hunters and paranormal investigators flock to the bridge, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Bunny Man.
Unsurprisingly, it is a popular destination around Halloween.
The Bunny Man Bridge is at 6497 Colchester Rd, Clifton, VA 20124, United States.
12- Peer Back Through The Centuries At Fairfax Historic Courthouse Museum
If you’re at all interested in the city’s history, you will definitely want to swing by the Fairfax Historic Courthouse Museum.
The grand, red brick courthouse was built in 1799, before Fairfax was even founded as an independent town, making it one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city.
Although many historical records housed within the courthouse were destroyed during the civil war, some surviving documents still date back to 1742, when Fairfax county was first established.
Fairfax Historic Courthouse Museum is at 4000 Chain Bridge Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
13- Enjoy Mindless Fun At Fairfax Corner
Take a break from sightseeing and cultural enrichment to have some laid-back, contemporary fun at Fairfax Corner.
This modern development is the city’s hub of hospitality and entertainment.
The bustling shopping complex houses a mix of chain stores and independent boutiques.
There are many cafes and restaurants when you need a break from roaming the shops.
If you have more time to kill, there’s also a cinema where you can while away a few hours on the latest blockbuster.
Fairfax Corner is at 4100 Monument Corner Dr, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
14- Pack A Picnic For Gateway Regional Park
Another of Fairfax’s charming little parks, Gateway Regional Park, is one of the best options for picnicking.
The leafy park has plenty of dedicated picnic areas and seating, both sheltered and open.
Located along the popular Fairfax Connector Trail, you can also find maps guiding you through the various walking routes leading through Gateway Regional Park.
Gateway Regional Park is at 2823 Pickett Road, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
15- Say Hello To The George Mason Statue
Being so close to Washington, it should be unsurprising that Fairfax has some significant political heritage.
One of the founding fathers, George Mason, is believed to have been born in the area now known as Fairfax.
The local university bears his name, and an impressive bronze statue of the man stands in the centre of campus.
Several plaques are embedded in the floor around the statue and it is said to be bad luck to tread on them.
Not to worry if you do, though. Rub George’s toe, and your bad luck should be dispelled. Apparently.
16- Splash Out At Mosby Woods Pool
If you’re going in summer and looking for somewhere to cool down or to enjoy the sunshine, head to Mosby Woods Pool.
This completely open-air swimming pool is the perfect place to spend a family day out.
With a snack bar, waterslide, and plenty of sun loungers, Mosby Woods Pool is ideal for soak up some sun while your kids burn off some energy in the pool.
Mosby Woods Pool is at 3136 Plantation Pkwy, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
17- Wander Through Mosby Woods Park
If you still have energy, head to Mosby Woods Park, which is a charming little wooded area nearby.
Trails lead through the trees and a creek burbles along beside the paths.
It’s fairly small, so you won’t have to worry about getting lost, but still forested enough to feel removed from the surrounding town.
18- Follow The Rocky Run Stream Valley Trail
Dive into nature and get the whole hiking experience without leaving the town at Rocky Run Stream Valley Trail.
The trail runs through the woods, following the route of the Rocky Run Stream.
You’ll find picnic areas, playgrounds, and bridges crisscrossing the water along the trail.
It has a bit more of a wild feel to it than many of Fairfax’s other parks, despite still being fairly compact.
Rocky Run Stream Valley Trail is at 12826 Mt Royal Ln, Fairfax, VA 22033, United States.
19- Mingle With The Locals At The Weekend Farmers’ Market
Get into Fairfax’s local atmosphere by heading to the weekly farmers’ market, which runs on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Aside from being a great place to mingle and chat with the locals, you can pick up some excellent local produce here.
Expect to find stalls selling local ciders, cheeses, baked delicacies and more.
It’s not just food, either, as you can usually find several craft stalls set up here, perfect for picking up souvenirs.
Weekend Farmers’ Market 10500 Page Ave, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.
20- Indulge At Paradise Springs Winery
A little southwest of Fairfax, nestled well into the countryside, is Paradise Springs Winery, the oldest winery in Fairfax County and the closest one to Washington.
With an 18th-century log cabin and a vineyard, there’s plenty to see and do at Paradise Springs aside from just enjoying the wine.
The tasting sessions and tours of the winery, including the vineyard, are well worth travelling outside the city limits for.
There are also various events here, from live music evenings to bingo nights.
Paradise Springs Winery is at 13219 Yates Ford Rd, Clifton, VA 20124, United States.