Eat, play and shop your way through a region rich with culture.
By Alexis Evans, Cherise Fantus, Lindsey Leake and Jessica Nicholas
Updated: November 12, 2019
Fighting the traffic and playing bumper cars for a parking spot—all for the sake of shopping—is just not worth it. Stick closer to home. Head to one of Fairfax’s retail districts with a downtown vibe, tony town center and designer corridors.
From knits and wares to make your own threads to gear to trick out any of your seasonal boards, Main Street in Fairfax City has gems to affix your shopping habits.
Stretching sidewalk to sidewalk, this corridor in the heart of Fairfax has unique local shops that remind shoppers that a main transient hub can still possess a community feel.
For a hard-to-find gift for a special event, head into Joy Unlimited, a book and gift shop that holds room upon room of religious items. Pop into Eminence Jewelers to dress yourself in diamonds, gemstones, yellow and white gold, platinum and silver. As a special treat, each month Eminence has a birthstone event sale with discounts on that month’s birthstone. Or to find frilly frocks for young ones in need of trendy, casual or formal attire, head into Young Elegance, an entire store on the main strip dedicated to dressing little ones to a tee.
Create a crafty work of your own with the help of The Quilt Patch, which has an extensive section of quality batik fabrics, embroidery designs for sale and top of the line Berina sewing machines.
Not only does the city house unique fashion venues, it also offers plenty for those more into the active side of life.
Stop by Fairfax Surf Shop, one of the oldest board shops in the Metro-D.C. area, to get the latest goods in the surf, snow and skate industries, including boards, clothing and outerwear for men and women, or get active wear and tips from the knowledgeable staff at Pacers, a family-owned running and walking specialty store that has been in business since 1991, which carries running and walking shoes, apparel and accessories for the avid runner. The store serves as a meeting place for runners and hosts twice-weekly fun runs led by some of the Pacers staff.
Fairfax is also the source for all of your gaming and comics needs, with its recently opened Comics & Gaming Fairfax store. Stop in to get your favorite DC comics, buy new games or even meet up with fellow gamers for supernatural role-play with Magic: the Gathering gaming cards.
A mixture of trendy stores and delectable treat shops, Fairfax Corner is the newest shopping spot for Fairfax residents. Surrounded by popular restaurants like PF Chang’s, Coastal Flats, California Pizza Kitchen, Rio Grande Café and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, the tree-lined streets make it feel as though one is strolling down a boulevard in a quaint downtown, only with a twist of sophisticated style. Anchored by big-name stores such as REI, Plow and Hearth, Arhaus Furniture, South Moon Under and Ann Taylor Loft, the shopping hub also has a range of boutique stores sure to have something for everyone.
Joining the ranks of such popular boutiques as Lucy Activewear and Collectable Treasures, is Chic Envy. an upscale consignment store with well-known tags such as Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Coach and Tiffany’s. Additional well-known, local stores include The Nest Egg, a home-accent shop and Cupcakes Actually, a bakery cooking up Cupcake Wars worthy gourmet cupcakes and other sumptuous treats.
Whether you’re seeking a great deal from a major supplier, or simply running everyday errands, Fair Lakes Shopping Center is the shopping destination of choice.
Divided into sections—the Center, Promenade and Market Commons—Fair Lakes is the main shopping destination for Fairfax, especially with its close proximity to Fair Oaks Mall. The long strip at the center holds such big-box stores as Target, Wal-Mart, BJ’s Wholesale Club, DSW, Layne Bryant, Toys “R” Us, ULTA, Michaels, Kirklands and Best Buy, but also has some local places to catch a bite—Cantina D’Italia, Tsunami, Bagel Buddies and Tony’s Pizza—and some not so widespread but just as intriguing, shops—Home Goods and World Market.
Down the street at Market Commons, shoppers can swing into Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Uptown Pet Bistro and Boutique and Whole Foods.
Closest to the mall is the Promenade, with restaurants such as T.G.I. Friday’s and Silver Diner, and stores Barnes & Noble, Old Navy, Men’s Wearhouse and Broadway Gallery.
Fair Oaks Mall
If rain or the simple fact that you like the mall is keeping you indoors, Fairfax has one with more than 190 stores; including, Michael Kors, Coach, Francesca’s Collections, Aveda, Sephora, Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids, Forever 21 and H&M, as well as anchor stores Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Sears and JCPenny. The mall also houses some big-name places to grab a bite; including Cheesecake Factory, Texas de Brazil, Corner Bakery and Champps. 11750 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax; (703) 359-8300; https://www.shopfairoaksmall.com/
Off the Beaten Path
Judy Ryan of Fairfax
Wedged between service stores at the Twinbrook shopping center on Braddock Road is a gem of a local shop, Judy Ryan of Fairfax. Carrying lines of Brighton, Hobo International, Jag Jeans, Hue and kids’ apparel and accessories from Zutano and Kidorable, Judy Ryan also dabbles a little in home accessories, as well as handbags and jewelry. 9565 Braddock Road, Fairfax; 703-425-1855; www.judyryanoffairfax.com.
To satisfy one’s hobby cravings, go no further than Hobby Works. With everything from model trains and cars to rocket ships and games, you’re certain to find just what your project requires. Fairfax City Mall, 9650-42 Main St., Fairfax; 703-426-8600; www.hobbyworks.com.
Hudson Trail Outfitters
Almost 40 years ago, Hudson Trail Outfitters opened its doors as a specialty store featuring mountaineering, trekking, backpacking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, climbing, biking, skiing, snowboarding and fly-fishing gear. Today, it’s known for providing customers with the best in gear and the best in customer service. The store carries products from well-known vendors like Patagonia, The North Face, Columbia, Black Diamond Climbing and Montrail Footwear. 9488 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax; 703-591-2950; www.hudsontrail.com.
At Patriot Harley-Davidson, the emphasis is on customer service and community. Its enthusiastic staff can help you purchase your first-ever motorcycle or customize a classic.
And if you would rather look like a biker, instead of be one, the store has the black leather garb to help you pull it off. Patriot also partners with the City of Fairfax to help sponsor the Ride of the Patriots, which honors the men and women in our U.S. military. 9739 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax; 703-352-5400; www.patriothd.com.
CULTURE & EDUCATION
There is more to a community than just the places where you can eat and shop, and Fairfax is one steeped in historical significance.
Historic Blenheim and Civil Interpretive Center
From 1862 to 1863, Union troops occupied the Blenheim estate, an 1855 central hall-plan brick farmhouse on 12 acres in Fairfax. There, soldiers graffitied the walls of the home with their signatures, art and poetry, leaving future generations with a “diary on walls” that provides insight into solider life during the Civil War. Today, the estate is the site of a new 3,800-square-foot Civil War Interpretive Center that houses exhibits, meeting and education spaces, restrooms and a gift shop. 3610 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax; 703-591-0560; www.fairfaxva.gov/museumVC/
Joshua Gunnell House
Built in 1830, the Joshua Gunnell House is now the Bailiwick Inn, a bed and breakfast listed as a Historic Hotel of America. The structure is famous because, during the Civil War, then-Gov. “Extra Billy” Smith ran from the house to take command of the Warrenton Rifles in a skirmish against Union forces. The house is also historic because Union Col. Johnstone escaped capture there by Mosby Rangers by hiding under the outhouse in his nightshirt. 4023 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax; 703-691-2266.
National Firearms Museum
Owned and operated by the National Rifle Association, the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax houses a world-class collection of civilian and military firearms, accoutrements, ammunition and accessories. The museum explores the history of firearms and promotes the preservation of the heritage of firearms. 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax; 703-267-1600; www.nramuseum.org
The Virginia Room at the City of Fairfax Regional Library
Want to learn more about the City of Fairfax? Visit the Virginia Room, located in the City of Fairfax Regional Library. It holds the county’s foremost collection of books, photographs and manuscripts relating to Fairfax County history, government and genealogy. Highlights include papers from past presidents, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. 10360 North St., Fairfax; 703-293-6227; https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/branches/virginia-room.
Legato School Museum
Built in 1877, the Legato School Museum is Fairfax County’s last one-room schoolhouse. In 1969, the Fairfax County School Board chose to restore the structure to commemorate 100 years of public education in Virginia. Today, it is furnished much as it would have been over 100 years ago. 4000 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, 703-279-8166; www.fcre.org.
Fairfax Station Railroad Museum
Visitors to Fairfax Station Railroad Museum will discover the station’s impact on history, from its role in the Civil War as a shipping station for wounded Union soldiers to the efforts displayed there by Clara Barton, duly named “The Angel of the Battlefield” and founder of the American Red Cross.
The Fairfax Station Museums also houses model train displays and hosts many model train events during the year. 11200 Fairfax Station Road, Fairfax Station; 703-425-9225; www.fairfax-station.org.
Fairfax Art League
Founded more than 20 years ago, the Fairfax Art League promotes art in the community with an active exhibit program featuring local talent. “Art is engrained in Fairfax,” says Mark Isaac, publicity director of FAL and longtime painter. Each month, the League’s members and volunteers hang a new installation in their Old Town Hall gallery, exhibiting works of watercolor, Impressionism, photography and more. FAL encourages anyone over 18 to join the League and thus to have the opportunity to display art in monthly shows. The League’s gallery is open to the public from Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is located on the second floor of the Old Town Hall, on the corner of University Drive and Main.
The highlight of the League’s exhibit season is always the annual City of Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts held each spring, when the Fairfax Art League holds a reception and award ceremony for its Spotlight exhibit. The League also sponsors the Fairfax High School Student Art Show as part of the Spotlight, an exhibit that showcases student work in many mediums that include photography, graphic design and paint. 3999 University Drive, Fairfax; www.fairfaxartleague.net.
George Mason University
George Mason University (GMU), one of Virginia’s larger universities with over 35,000 students, faculty and staff, began in an eight-room elementary school with only 17 students in September 1957. GMU was named after George Mason, one of the founding fathers of the United States and composer of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which became a model for the national Bill of Rights.
U.S. News & World Report named GMU the No. 1 national university to watch in its 2009 college rankings, due in part to its strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in fields such as engineering and information technology, organizational psychology, health care and visual and performing arts. GMU professors conduct groundbreaking research in climate change, public policy and the biosciences. George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax; 703-993-1000; www.gmu.edu.
GMU’s Center for the Arts complex includes the 2,000-seat Concert Hall, two experimental theaters, three dance studios and music and fine arts studios. There are dance, music and theater events almost daily—most open to the public. Check out TAO: The Martial Art of Drumming, an energetic and rhythmic ensemble, on the 20th or 21st of this month. Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax; 703-993-8888; www.cfa.gmu.edu.
GMU’s Patriot Center is a 10,000-seat sports and entertainment arena designed for basketball, concerts headlined by international musicians and other sports and entertainment events for people of all ages. The center’s arena hosts over 120 events annually and in 2007 attracted more than 480,000 visiting guests. The popular rock band, Muse, will be performing there on the 1st of this month. The George Mason University Patriot Center, 4500 Patriot Circle, Fairfax; 703-993-3000; www.patriotcenter.com.
Fairfax Symphony Orchestra
In 1957, a small group of musicians founded the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (FSO). Over the years, the FSO has grown into one of the finest metropolitan orchestras in the United States, now operating with an annual budget exceeding $1 million. Hailed as “the pride of Fairfax County,” the FSO has enhanced the region’s cultural life with performances by outstanding local musicians and internationally celebrated guest artists. Each summer, the orchestra’s ensemble presents more than 30 performances, free of charge, in Fairfax County parks. 3905 Railroad Ave., Suite 202 N, Fairfax; 703-563-1990; www.fairfaxsymphony.org.
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE
If there’s one thing that brings people together, it’s food, and Fairfax has a plethora of eateries. Whether it’s a quick bite, an international feast or comfort food you seek, options are plentiful.
The Auld Shebeen
In old Ireland, a Shebeen was an illicit drinking den, much like an early-20th century American speakeasy, where patrons gathered secretly for good drink, good food and good friends.
Today’s Auld Shebeen is operating legally, of course, but still captures “Auld” World charm with its cozy pub atmosphere, traditional menu and 16 beers on tap, including Guinness, Smithwick’s and Harp, all Irish favorites.
Adding to Auld Shebeen’s authenticity are the live Irish bands—which staff says are guaranteed to get you clapping along—that perform every Friday and Saturday night from 7 to 9:30 p.m. 3971 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax; 703-293-9600; www.theauldshebeenva.com.
The Wine House
Having spent time in Napa and New Zealand’s wine country, Michael Pearce and his wife Jackie wanted to open a fine dining venue that paired boutique wines with delicious bistro fare. The result was The Wine House, a posh wine bar in downtown Fairfax.
Patrons can pair any wine in the store with their meal, by selecting a bottle off the rack at retail price and opening it at their table for a small corking fee. There are also many wines by the glass, and Wednesdays are Flight Nights, where guests can taste and analyze wine alongside the experts. 3950 University Drive, Suite 212, Fairfax; 703-352-2211; www.winehouseonline.com.
Diner 29 popped up on Lee Highway in Fairfax in 1947 and has been a popular spot for 24-hour breakfast ever since.
Because it’s so rare to find a continuously operating diner of its age, Diner 29 was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. 10536 Lee Highway, Fairfax; 703-591-6720; www.29diner.com.
Todai Sushi (Now Sushi On)
Expect at least three dozen different types of designer sushi alongside assorted salads (eggplant, imitation crab), soups (miso, spicy seafood), noodle-of-the-day dishes, a hot bar with assorted meats and poultry, and a fully stocked dessert island.
Sushi winners include the volcano roll, white surf clam, spicy, octopus, dynamite roll and roasted fresh water eel. 11750 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax; 703-273-0120; sushionbuffet.com.
Cee Fine Dining
Seems everywhere you turn these days, a new Thai place crops up overnight.
But while many of these fly-by-night operations offer little more than Americanized take-out or deliberately bland buffet offerings, the traditionalists at Cee have accessorized their authentic cuisine with stylish surroundings, as well as unreserved hospitality.
Waitresses see to your every need, offering suggestions for those who might flounder when faced with the nearly 100 dining options. 9901 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax; 703-293-9898; www.ceefinethaidining.com.
Italian-born Riccardo Bellucci and Giuseppe (Joe) Ricciardi have spent over a decade living the “sweet life” in Fairfax, during which their restaurant, Dolce Vita, has thrived as a popular destination for homemade Italian favorites.
The festive locale boasts daily lunch specials that include assorted sandwich, 10-inch pizza and pasta deals. And on weekends, patrons are treated to the musical stylings of a charismatic guitarist-singer who flows from Italian to Spanish to contemporary pop with absolute ease. 10824 Lee Highway, Fairfax; 703-385-1530; www.dolcevitafairfax.com.
Inundate your senses with the earthen spices and competing textures of Indian cooking via fragrant spoonfuls of dal makhni, slow-cooked lentils steeped with cream and butter at Jaipur.
Native of Rajasthan, a northern Indian province west of New Delhi, the manager and chef brings patrons a host of flavorful Indian cuisine. 9401 Lee Highway, Fairfax; 703-766-1111; www.jaipurcuisine.com.
Providing freshly made sushi by well-trained chefs, Arigato Sushi is a good place to pop in if you want to catch a quick bite.
Chefs make authentic fresh sushi daily at the restaurant and quickly prepare to-go packages as well. 11199-A Lee Highway, Fairfax; 703-352-9338; www.arigatosushi.com.
This stylish Indian upstart specializes in Tandoor cooking, fresh-baked breads and multifaceted vegetarian fare. The full bar and lunch buffet are popular amenities. 3955 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax; 703-273-0031; www.bollywoodbistrofairfax.com.
Dogfish Head Alehouse
Dogfish Head—Delaware’s debut microbrewery—has taken our area by storm with its area full-service alehouses, including one in Fairfax. And it seems local craft beer junkies have never been hoppier.
The biggest draw, according to Ryan, is obviously their homemade beer selection. At any given time, the restaurant appears to carry about a dozen signature drafts and bottled beer selections, including assorted seasonals, limited releases and some seriously wicked barley wines.
Appetizers are appealing, and their pizzas are grilled on both sides in order to lock in an authentically wood-fired flavor. 13041 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway, Fairfax; 703-961-1140; www.dogfishalehouse.com.
Annual & Major Events: August 2013 – July 2014
National Night Out (NNO)
Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. On the first Tuesday in August, Fairfax neighborhoods come together to host a variety of events—including parades, block parties, flashlight walks and contests—to promote and learn about public safety. Local police and fire departments also visit participating neighborhoods. / https://www.nno.org/
Fall for the Book Festival
Sunday, Sept. 22 to Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. Since 1999, George Mason University and the City of Fairfax have come together each autumn to host activities and events that promote literature and a love of reading among locals of all ages. The festival is also committed to getting children excited about reading and offers student writing workshops in conjunction with the Northern Virginia Writing Project and Dominion. Featured authors for 2013 include Benjamin Percy, Stephen Graham Jones, Ellen Crosby, Allison Leotta, Brad Parks and more. / Multiple NoVA locations; 703-993-3986; https://www.fallforthebook.org/
37th Annual Fall Festival
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Celebrate the season in historic downtown Fairfax among over 400 food, arts and crafts, and information vendors. There’ll be plenty of family-friendly activities for the kids, as well as a variety of music and live entertainment. / Old Town Fairfax; 703-385-7858; Free admission; Rain date Sunday, Oct. 13
27th Annual Holiday Craft Show
Saturday, Nov. 16, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sunday, Nov. 17, 2012, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The City of Fairfax Parks & Recreation Department brings you an eclectic blend of national and local artisans at one of the area’s most popular arts and crafts shows. This is a great opportunity to get a jump start on your holiday shopping by purchasing one-of-a-kind gifts for loved ones on your list. / Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax; 703-385-7949; Tickets $5/day or $8/weekend pass, children under 18 free
Festival of Lights & Carols
Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. What better way to ring in the holiday season than with live entertainment, hot cider, s’mores, lighted trees and lunch with Santa Claus himself? / Entertainment, hot cider and tree lighting held at Kitty Pozer Garden (behind Old Town Hall), 3999 University Drive, Fairfax; Lunch with Santa held at Sherwood Community Center, 3740 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax; 703-385-7858; Santa tickets must be purchased in advance from City of Fairfax Parks & Recreation Department, Free admission to tree lighting event
Chocolate Lovers Festival
Saturday, Feb. 1 & Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. The brainchild of the City of Fairfax, the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Fairfax Coalition, the Downtown Fairfax Merchants Association and George Mason University, the Chocolate Lovers Festival has been a staple of the Fairfax community for over 20 years. The annual weekend extravaganza is centered around, you guessed it, chocolate! The festival features a number of legendary activities including the Chocolate Challenge, in which participants create art using chocolate, and the Taste of Chocolate, where chocolate vendors display a myriad of sweets. / Old Town Fairfax; 703-385-1661; https://www.chocolatefestival.net/
28th Annual Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts Festival
2014 dates TBA. Ring in spring with three weeks of dance, theater, art, choral and music concerts throughout Fairfax. Spotlight on the Arts also awards six different scholarships to graduating high school students who intend to major in the arts at George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College. / Multiple NoVA locations; 703-352-2787; https://www.fairfaxspotlight.org/
16th Annual Ride of the Patriots
2014 dates TBA. Each year, thousands of motorcycles meet up in Fairfax and ride together to the Pentagon to participate with 400,000+ Rolling Thunder riders in honor of Memorial Day. / Ride begins at Patriot Harley-Davidson, 9736 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax; 703-352-5400; www.dwcllcsolutions.com/rop_new/default.asp
Celebrate Fairfax Festival
2014 dates TBA. More fondly referred to by locals as the “Fairfax Fair,” this start-of-summer event welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each June. The 25-acre Fairfax County Government Center grounds transform into a whirlwind of carnival rides, games and hundreds of exhibitors and vendors. / Fairfax County Government Center grounds, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax; 703-324-3247; https://www.celebratefairfax.com/
48th Annual Independence Day Celebration Parade and Evening Show
Friday, July 4, 2014. This star-spangled celebration includes the largest hometown parade in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and, of course, fireworks. / Parade held in Old Town Fairfax; Fireworks at Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax; 703-219-2200
The Community Farmer’s Market
Saturdays & Sundays, May – Nov. While Virginia wine and meats, homemade jams and a variety of produce are available, this community market doesn’t just sell food. Antiques, collectibles, jewelry, pottery and photography are also available for purchase. For the remainder of the 2013 season, the market will be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. through Nov. 3. / Corner of West St. & Main St. near Wells Fargo Bank and adjacent to Historic Fairfax County Courthouse, Fairfax; https://www.fairfaxsaturdaymarket.com/
A Note About the Events:
The dates, times, locations and admission costs of the events listed above are subject to change, especially in the event of inclement weather. Please check the websites and/or call the phone numbers that correspond with each event as it gets closer to the occurring date for the latest information. Also, please note that these annual and major events only represent a small sample of the arts, culture, food and entertainment events that occur within the City of Fairfax and the greater Fairfax area of Fairfax County throughout the year. For an elaborate, up-to-date listing of other local events happening near you, check our Entertainment and Food & Wine calendars weekly!
(Updated August 4, 2013)