15 fun things to do in NoVA during the summer months

We’re in the midst of the warmer months, and these weekend adventures happening throughout the region will give you another line on your summer bucket list.

Photo courtesy of Splashdown WaterPark
1. Splash into summer in Manassas

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. At least it is at SplashDown WaterPark. Spend a relaxing day floating down a 770-foot-long lazy river at the region’s largest water park. Open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, the expansive park offers vacation vibes with three giant water slides, a ropes course over the water, a splash section for little ones and snack stands to recharge—before you hit the lazy river one more time. // 7500 Ben Lomond Park Drive, Manassas; Daily tickets $16 for guests over 48 inches, $12.25 under 48 inches, $95 season pass for ages 3 and older

Photo courtesy of Caboose Brewing Company
2. Follow Fairfax’s field guide for the best brews

Fairfax is home to seven breweries, and they’ve collaborated on a brewery field guide—aptly titled Locally Poured—to help you visit them. When you arrive at any of the participating breweries, ask the bartender to stamp your guide. After collecting at least four stamps, you’ll gain VIP access with paid admission to the Fairfax County Brewfest on Sept. 22 at Mustang Sally Brewing Company. It’s a fun, and dare we say, organized method to determine your new favorite craft beer. The guide is available at Fairfax County Visitors Center and member breweries. // Tysons Corner Fairfax County Visitors Center: 1961 Chain Bridge Road, Tysons; Mustang Sally Brewing Company: 14140 Parke Long Court, Chantilly;

3. Kick off the weekend early in Del Ray

Technically it’s not the weekend, but everyone knows Thursday night feels very close—especially in the summer. The community of Del Ray wholeheartedly subscribes to this philosophy and founded a First Thursdays Del Ray celebration along the neighborhood’s main street, Mount Vernon Avenue. Themes vary, but for the rest of this year it’s Red, White and Blue (July 11), Aloha Thursday (Aug. 1) and Show Your Spirit (Sept. 5). The festival occurs on the first Thursday of each month, April through July and September.// Del Ray Association: 2308 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; free

Photo by Renee Sklarew
4. Explore natural wonders in Great Falls

Riverbend Park in Great Falls offers visitors 400 acres of natural wonders. Whether you seek a field of bluebells, a leafy path along the Potomac Heritage Trail or a wagon ride through meadows hunting butterflies, this is the place to immerse yourself in nature’s great bounty. The county park is a vital habitat for wildlife, but it’s also a fun place to paddle. Located at Potomac Gorge, after launching your canoe, kayak or row boat, you must head north—downriver leads to the Aqueduct Dam and Great Falls (yikes!). Enjoy a blissful workout on a hot summer day in this secluded county park. // 8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls; rentals available through Labor Day; kayak half- and full-day rentals: $18-$30, canoe $20-$32, row boat $18-$30

5Discover NoVA’s next great chefs in Leesburg

The new foodie incubator Chefscape Kitchen in Leesburg features a market, food hall and bar. Like its sister complexes in Manhattan’s Seaport District and Tribeca, ChefScape helps launch new food businesses by providing a shared commercial kitchen and other services. The rustic food hall features innovative vendors like Johnny Ray’s Sultry Soul Food and Tumi Urban Kitchen, with plans for up to 50 vendors. There’s a lot going on here—Bar AhSo hosts happy hours every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m.—and the EatLoCo farmers market is open 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. There’s even a night market on Fridays, plus cooking classes for adults and kids. // 1602 Village Market Blvd. SE, Leesburg; open Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

6. Snap a selfie by Rosslyn’s outsized public art

Strike a pose or two on the Rosslyn Public Art Walking Tour. The self-guided tour showcases the neighborhood’s acclaimed public art installations. Rosslyn has 12 modern art structures within close walking distance of each other, including Miriam Schapiro’s colorful steel dancers at 1525 Wilson Boulevard, and Boaz Vaadia’s stone “family” at 1300 17th Street. Before setting out, download the Rosslyn Public Art Walking Tour map or pick one up at the Arlington Cultural Affairs office. New projects are in development in Freedom Park and other locations. // 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; free

Photo by Renee Sklarew
7. Celebrate Old Town’s birthday

Do you feel down after the fireworks are spent, and Independence Day is just a memory? If you’re the patriotic sort, bring a picnic dinner to Oronoco Bay Park in Old Town Alexandria to celebrate one more time. Every year, Alexandria hosts a party for the city’s—and the nation’s—birthday. This year, Alexandria hits 270 years old, and the U.S. turns 243. On July 13, come savor the cooling breezes off the Potomac, while the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performs, followed by a spectacular fireworks show. Everyone gets a piece of birthday cake, too, and food trucks will sell popcorn, hot dogs and more. // 100 Madison St., Alexandria; 703-746-5592; free

8. Sample the dining scene in Charlottesville

Charlottesville is a small town with a big dining scene, and an ideal way to sample the town’s acclaimed restaurants is during a three-hour guided tour with Taste of Charlottesville. As you move from restaurant to specialty shops guided by owner and tour guide Deborah Hoal, you’ll hear about Charlottesville’s architectural treasures, colonial history and fun facts, like why one neighborhood is called Vinegar Hill. While tasting small plates at the five to seven restaurants, you may even meet a chef or two. Book online, and choose between noshing in the afternoon or evening. // Throughout Main Street, Charlottesville; 434-589-5558; lunch tour: $59, adults; $36, ages 8-11, $24, ages 7 and under; evening tour (adults only): $79

Photo courtesy of Top of the Deck in Arlington VA
9. Take in the very best views of the DC region

Most global cities have a skyscraper with panoramic, awe-inspiring views. DC’s towering lookout point is just outside of DC in Rosslyn. The 31-story-high Observation Deck at CEB Tower—opened just last summer—is now the tallest publicly accessible point inside the Beltway. From here, you can marvel over the breathtaking views of the National Mall and the sprawling skylines of our nation’s capital, Maryland and Virginia. The Observation Deck offers HoverDC’s immersive flyover experience, plus an interactive tour called Windows into History that tells the story behind each landmark. After you’ve snapped all your selfies, sip Champagne at The View DC Champagne Bar, nearly 400-feet above Washington. // 1201 Wilson Blvd., Suite 214, Rosslyn; $22 adults, $12 kids ages 5-13, children under 5 free; save $1 buying online

Photo courtesy of National Park Service from Visit Hampton VA
10. Observe an important anniversary at Fort Monroe

August 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the first Africans to land on the English-speaking shores of the New World. Captured in Central Africa, they were transported on a Portuguese ship heading to Mexico when it was attacked by pirates. The ship was re-routed to Point Comfort (now Fort Monroe). The City of Hampton and the National Park Service recognizes the enduring legacy of this historic event and are opening an interpretive Visitor & Education Center at Fort Monroe on Aug. 24. The center will host ongoing programs related to African-American and Native American heritage in America. // 41 Bernard Road, Hampton; free

Photo courtesy of Fredericksburg Regional Tourism
11. Explore a brand-new state park in Stafford County

When the state of Virginia obtained parcels of waterfront property on the peninsula known as “Wide Water,” the plan was to preserve and protect the landscape where captain John Smith landed in 1608. Officially opened in November 2018, the new park—Widewater State Park—borders Aquia Creek on one side and the Potomac River on the other, with idyllic places to fish, picnic and hike, as well as launch a kayak. The visitor center explains the history of settlements in the area, like Widewater Plantation, and the lifestyle of the watermen who fished in these waters for centuries. // 101 Widewater State Park Road, Stafford; Open 8 a.m.-dusk; some fees apply

12. Remember the moon landing at DC’s Air and Space Museum

July 20, 2019 marks 50 years since NASA’s Apollo 11 first landed on the moon—and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is celebrating. Back in 1969, people marveled as courageous astronauts hopped around the planet’s dusty surface for the first time. Glued to black-and-white TV screens, Americans cheered when these rocketeers planted the Stars and Stripes. The Air and Space Museum on the National Mall kicks off a year-long commemoration with official programs from July 16 to 20. The groundbreaking mission comes alive when you see astronaut Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit—on display at the museum for the first time in over a decade—or listen to a lecture from NASA scientists. // Independence Ave. at Sixth St. SW, Washington, DC; free

13. Find a tempest in a teapot in Richmond

Imagine sitting in the courtyard of a 16th century Tudor manor, while an actor spouts lines from The Tempest. Sounds like Merry Olde England, right? It’s actually a summer performance at Richmond’s historic Agecroft Hall & Gardens. The actors are from the city’s classical Quill Theatre Company, and they’ve performed at Agecroft for 21 years this season. This summer’s Richmond Shakespeare Festival runs from June 6 to Aug. 4 and includes The Tempest and The Taming of the Shrew. Bring a picnic and arrive early, because when the grounds open at 6 p.m., the company likes to show off its sonnets, bawdy songs and fencing skills. // Agecroft Hall & Gardens: 4305 Sulgrave Road, Richmond; $30 adults,$25 seniors (65 or older), $20 students (must show ID)

Photo by Dominique Munoz
14. Go undercover at the International Spy Museum in DC

Sneak a look inside this entertaining museum focused on all things covert. The International Spy Museum’s new home at L’Enfant Plaza was designed by the architects who developed the Pompidou Center in Paris; with sweeping views of DC, it’s double the space of the former location. Through immersive RFID technology, visitors can take on a spy persona and mission as they try to crack codes and explore the craft of spying in the old and modern world. The expanded narrative includes new stories, like an African-American spy who served George Washington during the Revolutionary War, and the women who tracked the capture of Osama Bin Laden. // 700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC; $24.95 adults, $19.95 seniors; military $19.95, $14.95 kids 7-12; free for kids 6 and younger

15. Rock out with modern music at Colonial Williamsburg

The Virginia Arts Festival introduces a new event this summer with Williamsburg Live, on June 21 and 22. Grammy-winner Norah Jones (June 21) and Country Music Hall of Famer Emmylou (June 22) will play on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg for two powerhouse performances at this must-do event for country music fans. Skip the weekend traffic and sit back and relax on the round-trip Amtrak route from Alexandria to historic Williamsburg. // 326 Francis St. W., Williamsburg; $45-$237 event tickets; $35-$61 Amtrak tickets one-way from Alexandria station

This post originally appeared in our July 2019 print issue, as part of the 52 Weekend Adventures cover story. Want to stay up to date on all of the best things to do in Northern Virginia? Subscribe to our biweekly newsletter, here

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