16 Cool Things to Do in DC This Fall

Oktoberfest celebrations, cidery tours, and more fall fun.

Washingtonians can finally breathe a sigh of relief, and put their cans of bug spray down, as summer winds down and fall arrives on a cool breeze. For an amount of time that always feels far too short, DC is blessed with that refreshingly crisp, sunny weather that’s perfect for the cableknit sweater you’ve been so excited to throw on.

Fall is a great time to be in DC for a number of other reasons, too. It brings with it ample opportunities for outdoor activities, from hikes and cidery visits to apple picking and leaf peeping. Fall concerts return, and so does spooky season: a time for all things creepy, fun, and pumpkin-flavored. So, from a raucous, German-themed beer fest to a haunted wine tour, here are some of the most fun things to do in DC this fall.

ANXO District
ANXO District

Visit a local cidery

Multiple locations
DC and its surrounding areas are teeming with quality cideries, where you can sample some seriously tasty, boozy apple juice. Within the city, there’s longstanding local favorite Anxo Cidery in Brightwood, Capitol Cider House in Petworth, and the Lost Boy Cider Taproom a bit further out in Alexandria. Those with access to a car can make the scenic voyage out to one of the many cideries in Virginia and Maryland, such as the Cider Barn at Mt. Defiance in Middleburg, Virginia or Willow Oaks Craft Cidery in Middletown—Maryland’s oldest organic farm.

All Things Go
All Things Go

Columbia, Maryland
One of the District’s best music festivals is heading to the Merriweather Post Pavilion on the first day of October, with a killer lineup that you’re not going to want to miss. Lorde, Mitski, and Bleachers are just three of the acts we’re excited for, as well as local eats and art installations. It helps that early October is known for some of the best weather of the year, so you won’t be sweating or freezing while taking in all that amazing music.

Cozy up for a drink at a fireplace bar

Multiple locations
There’s something so comforting about sipping a cocktail by a roaring flame, and late fall is the perfect time for spending a long evening doing just that. Luckily, DC has tons of options for fireside imbibing, from the romantic Irongate in Dupont Circle to the 130-foot-tall hearth in the lobby lounge of The Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown. Other favorite fireplace bars include the intimate speakeasy-esque 600T in Shaw, the lobby of Dupont’s Tabard Inn, and Georgetown’s Le Bar à Vin by Chez Billy Sud.

Climb the Exorcist Stairs

Georgetown
The Exorcist Stairs in Georgetown, a filming site from the iconic 1973 horror movie, is obviously a huge draw for tourists, but that doesn’t mean locals should turn their nose up at a visit. First of all, the tall, narrow set of stairs, which connects pedestrians between Prospect Street NW and Canal Road NW down below, is a great workout. Second, a visit during October is a spooky season must—if only for a photo opp.

Wunder Garten
Wunder Garten

NoMa
Now through October 9, Wunder Garten is hosting its popular Oktoberfest celebration, returning to DC for its eighth year. A stateside iteration of the beer-focused festival celebrated annually in Germany, it’s a time to clink oversized steins, indulge in German cuisine (pretzels with beer cheese, anyone?), listen to live bands, play Bavarian games, and more.

Centreville, Virginia
This special tour given at the Winery at Bull Run combines two perfect fall activities: drinking wine and listening to ghost stories. Instead of your typical ghost tour that would lead you through town, this one takes place at a winery, and is led by lantern through the historic grounds. Tickets include the tour, a wine tasting, a glass, and exclusive access to the winery after hours.

Butler's Orchard
Butler's Orchard

Grab some Halloween pumpkins

Multiple locations
Fall is not complete until you’ve purchased at least one enormous pumpkin that you’ll probably forget to carve. Like many things, picking out pumpkins is really more about the journey than the destination. The fun is in visiting a patch with friends or a significant other, picking out the weirdest ones together, taking photos with them—all of that good stuff. Butler’s Orchard is one of the most popular spots within an hour’s drive of DC to pick pumpkins and sip apple cider, and Queen Anne Farm is also a great choice.

Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington

Various locations
The fabulous thing about building the height restrictions in DC is that views from a rooftop bar can span a good portion of the entire city. Catch jaw dropping views of everything from the White House and National Mall to the Potomac River, the charming townhomes of Dupont and Logan circles, and more. The best thing about autumnal rooftop imbibing is the bird’s eye leaf peeping, and the fact that it isn’t 100 degrees. We have your rooftop itinerary covered with this list of a whopping 26 options, where you and your friends can sip pumpkin beers and take in the views.

Belga Café
Belga Café

Various locations
The Sunday scaries, that unshakeable feeling of dread we all seem to feel heading into a new week of work, can creep up at the most inopportune moments. We’ve found the best way to get a leg up on them is to make the most of our Sundays—starting with multiple rounds of mimosas or Bloody Marys at bottomless brunch. Luckily, DC is a brunching city with tons of incredible al fresco options that allow you to take in the sunshine while you inhale a plate of chicken and waffles. Make your Sunday morning decision even easier by checking out our list of favorites.

Bonsai Garden
Bonsai Garden | Lissandra Melo/Shutterstock

Wander through one of DC’s hidden gardens

Various locations
Take advantage of the temperate weather with an afternoon stroll through one of the many hidden gardens throughout the city—potentially the most enjoyable way to reach your daily step count goal. The gardens at Georgetown’s Dumbarton Oaks are particularly stunning, and the Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle is gorgeous to stroll through as the leaves are changing colors. Enjoy a leisurely walk around the enclosed garden of Brookland's Franciscan Monastery, or marvel at hundred-year-old mini trees at the Bonsai Garden within the National Arboretum.

Glenstone Museum
Glenstone Museum

Potomac
Potomac While technically about a 40 minutes from the city, Glenstone is a quick and scenic trip that delivers you to nearly 300 acres of beautiful landscape, sculpture, and other art. A privately-owned gallery, Glenstone is always free but a reservation is necessary and slots can book up well in advance. Arriving there, you’ll feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city—surrounded by nature and in an artsy world of your own.

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral | Flickr/Robert Lyle Bolton

Cathedral Heights
Those who spend most of their time downtown might not think to venture north to the National Cathedral, so we’re here to tell you that it’s worth the trip. Take an interesting tour of the cathedral, like this one that explores the more than 200 gargoyles and grotesques that adorn the building. Casual strollers can also just walk in and poke around for themselves, taking a moment to gaze up at the stained glass windows and venturing to the top of the tower for a view of the city. Hungry? Many don’t realize that there’s actually an Open City at the National Cathedral where you can grab brunch. Another insider tip: Be sure to take a walk around the gardens in the back.

Alexandria, Virginia
Just 30 minutes on the Metro, and you’ll be transported to a quaint riverside town that feels far from the bustling city. Venture around the cobblestone streets of Old Town, picking out your favorite historic homes, taking in the fall foliage, and shopping on King Street, the main road in town full of charming independent boutiques, quaint cafes and restaurants.

QAGOMA Photography
QAGOMA Photography

National Mall
If you missed Yayoi’s last DC exhibit several years ago, now’s your shot to see her work IRL. The Hirshhorn Museum will be displaying five of her works from the museum’s permanent collection, including two of the iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms. The exhibition will be on view until the end of November, so don’t miss your chance to immerse yourself in this otherworldly art.

Grace Street Coffee
Grace Street Coffee

Shop (and eat) your heart out in Georgetown

Georgetown
Despite being DC’s oldest neighborhood, Georgetown remains one of the best areas of the city to spend time in—especially on an afternoon with optimal walking weather. Grab your morning brew at Grace Street Coffee Roasters or enjoy brunch al fresco at the euro-centric Kafe Leopold before strolling your way down M Street for some quality shopping, where you can find storefronts from big retailers like Urban Outfitters and J.Crew to boutique shops like Take Care and Relish. Then cap off the day with dinner at one of the great restaurants in the area.

The DC Improv Comedy Club
The DC Improv Comedy Club

Dupont Circle
A romantic dinner in Dupont is a classic for date night, but we challenge you to get a little more creative next time by catching a post-dinner show at DC Improv. Date or not, who doesn’t love a night spent laughing, with a beer in hand?

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Austa Somvichian-Clausen is a contributor for Thrillist.