Written by Karen GrahamSometimes all it takes is a little planning to have a great family outing. When routine exploits just aren’t cutting it anymore, shake things up by exploring new terrain, taking in an exhibition, or visiting a landmark and learning a little something about our local history. Here are awesome events to attend and places to visit around town before fall ends. Best part? All of them can be done on the cheap and on one tank of gas—or less!
Ticonderoga Farms, Chantilly, Virginia
Why Go? The farm frequently has special events loaded with activities for all ages. The changing season brings hayrides, pumpkins, slides, making s’mores by the bonfire and more.Ticonderoga Farms remains one of the "hidden gems" for farm visits in Northern Virginia. Located in Chantilly, the farm hosts special events throughout the year, including its fall festival, which begins Sept. 21.
Insider Tip: "The swinging bridge is the longest bridge in Virginia. The cow train is fun and s'mores roasting is a must. We love that the slides are accessible year-round!" said Lisa Zimmerman of Ashburn, who enjoys taking her family to Ticonderoga Farms. And, ingredients for roasting s'mores can be purchased on site. The cow train only runs on weekends.
Must Do! "Definitely check out the swinging bridge, slides and pet the goat," said Donna Taylor, manager of Ticonderoga.
The Fine Print. Ticonderoga Farms is located at 26469 Ticonderoga Rd, Chantilly. 703-327-4424. Admission includes hayrides, activities and access to the pick your own pumpkin field and a pie-size pumpkin to take home. Children under the age of 2 are free. The Fall Festival is mid-September to first week of November.Weekday $ 9.95 per person; Weekends Oct 26, 27 & Nov 2,3 $14.95 per person. Weekends Oct 19,20 $16.95 per person. Hours are 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Ticonderoga Farms accepts Visa, Mastercard, check and cash for its market and admission.
Flying Circus Air Show, Bealeton, Virginia
The Flying Circus Air Show in Bealeton, Virginia is a unique day trip you won’t want to miss. Every Sunday from the beginning of May until the end of October, a lively crew of aviators makes it their mission to re-enact the barnstorming days of the 1930s on a bucolic 200-acre park in Fauquier County.
Why Go? According to Elaine Jean, author of Carpe Weekend: 52 Day Trips and Adventures near Washington, DC, "kids—and people of all ages—love watching pilots perform aerial acrobatics in beautifully restored biplanes. As a highlight, one of several wingwalkers gracefully steps out of the plane to strut his or her stuff—at 200 feet above terra firma. When the show is over, the audience is invited onto the field to admire planes and collect autographs," Jean said.
Insider Tip: Picnics are also welcome, and families may set up at 11 a.m., enjoy recordings of old-time radio broadcasts and relax on the property before the 2:30 p.m. show. That helps keep the cost down, although the Flying Circus does offer snow cones, BBQ and burgers from a concession stand.
Must Do: Elaine Jean recommends a stop at the Moo-Thru in Remington for ice cream made by real dairy farmers. "Flavors range from the traditional to the exotic, and dogs may be treated with a Pup Cup for just $1," Jean said.
The Fine Print: Admission fee is $15 per adult ($7 for ages 5-12 and free for children under 5); leashed dogs are welcome.
18780 Foggy Bottom Rd
Bluemont, Virginia, 20135
Why Go: This trip is perfect for couples and kids alike. The admission to the farm includes a wine tasting a Bluemont Vineyard, a tasting which includes three different wines, called a "Farm Flight". Driving west on Route 7, through Loudoun County, you will come to a small town called Bluemont about 15 miles past Leesburg. About five miles off Route 7, you will findGreat Country Farms and Bluemont Vineyards, located across the road from one another. Great Country Farms offers a long list of family activities, including U-Pick for dozens of fruits and vegetables grown on the farm.
Across the road and up the side of the mountain is Bluemont Vineyards, which is owned by the same family and is known not only for its delicious wines, but also for its incredible views. "I don't know any other farm in the area that includes a wine tasting," said Kate Zurschmeide, owner of Great Country Farm. In addition to the long list of family activities on the farm, including apple and pumpkin picking, the farm also frequently hosts festivals and special events, such as the Fall Harvest Festival in October or the Pumpkin Chunkin after Halloween.
Insider Tip: If you have time to make the visit on a weekday afternoon, it is "really nice and quiet," said Zurschmeide. "It's a fun afternoon thing to do if you can escape for a few hours". Make sure to try the homemade cider donuts. "We make them every day but Monday and when they are hot off the machine they are very yummy," Zurschmeide said.
Must Do: The new "triple threat" slide, which is 80 feet long and has three tubes. "From the top, you can have a cool view of the play area and can send down three kids at once from each tube," Zurschmeide said.
The Fine Print: Open 7 days a week 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $8/child (3-10yrs) & $10/adult weekdays. $10/child (ages 3-10) & $12/adult on festival weekends. Children 2 years and under, Active Duty and Retired Military ID card holders, CSA members and Fan of the Farm Season Pass holders are free of charge.
11200 Fairfax Station Road, PO Box 7
Fairfax Station, VA 22039
Why Go? Take the kids out for a day of railroad history in Fairfax Station and Clifton. There's a train museum in Fairfax Station, which often has special exhibits. Spend the afternoon in Clifton watching trains go by, climb on the old caboose, enjoy Peterson's homemade ice cream and play in the park in town. Nearby, there is another park with nature trails to explore and places to have a relaxing picnic. Clifton is the last remaining location in Fairfax County to have a railroad crossing. It is a great activity for families with young children, especially when they are in the "train" stage. It’s also a pleasant, small town to visit. "It's like stepping back in time and allows people to just rest their minds and enjoy themselves," said Deborah Dillard, a member of Clifton's Town Council.
Insider Tip: Eight Acre Park in Clifton has nature trails, where you can "bring a picnic and enjoy the outdoors", Dillard said. There’s also a park in the center of town with a "nice play area for kids," she added.
Must Do: The Fairfax Station Railroad museum, which is only open on Sundays, is nearby. The historic station was an important supply and medical evacuation site during the Civil War. Start your visit in the Town of Clifton. "Buy lunch at theGeneral Store in Clifton and eat it by the railroad crossing. The kids can play on the tracks and by the old caboose; you can climb on the back of it and pretend you are driving while waiting for the trains," said Keri Ross, a frequent visitor to Clifton.
The Fine Print: Clifton is located a short drive off the Fairfax County Parkway. The General Store in Clifton is open seven days a week. Peterson's Ice Cream Depot is open Saturdays and Sundays only after Labor Day, 12 - 8 p.m. through mid-November and re-opens in March.