8 Fun Fall Outings With Kids
Make the most of the autumn season with these family-friendly festivals and events in the DMV.
Costumes and sweaters are stocking the shelves, which means fall festival season is upon us. The DMV has plenty to check out, but not everything is about speeding down a slide on a burlap sack and walking away with a mini gourd. We’ve compiled a list of other area events happening between now and October that promise to (pumpkin) spice up the days as temperatures cool.
Aug. 27-Oct. 23 (weekends and holidays)
Dust off your jousting sticks! RennFest is nigh and the year is 1536. King Henry VIII is preparing to marry Jane Seymour (that is, once his second wife, Anne Boleyn, is beheaded). “We portray different years of King Henry VIII’s reign. Every season we focus on a different year and with that are original scripts written for the events and things that happened,” says RennFest artistic director Carolyn Spedden. The festival kicks off with Children’s Weekend Aug. 27-28, when kids 15 and younger get in free with a paying adult, but families will find kid-friendly events occurring throughout the festival’s 19 days, including a daily children’s knighting ceremony and photo op with the king, along with entertainers, shows, shopping and food. New this year is “Knightwings: Birds of Prey” with flight demonstrations. Now celebrating its 46th year, the festival typically attracts 320,000 people. Spedden advises wearing comfortable shoes. “People are stunned at the scope of the event, so you really want to give yourself time to enjoy the day,” she says. “This is not a thing you do for one or two hours.” Entrance fees are $24 for adults 16-61; $12 for kids 7-15; $21 for seniors over 61; free for children 7 and younger—after which prices increase to $30, $15 and $26, respectively. //1821 Crownsville Road, Annapolis, Maryland
Sept. 17, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
This free aviation extravaganza was virtual in 2020 and was limited to a plane pull in 2021. Now it’s back in full force, and it has wings when it comes to opportunities for kids. Families can form teams and grab a rope to test their strength against an 82-ton FedEx Airbus A320 or a United Boeing 757, or kiddos can go up against a 123Junk dump truck. Other kid-friendly activities include riding a firetruck and spraying the hose on a runway, checking out aircraft and classic car displays, bouncing around an inflatable, and chilling in an air-conditioned mobile lounger (those bus-like units that transport passengers between terminals). All profits from the 30th annual event benefit Special Olympics Virginia. Presented by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and United Airlines, the festival attracts about 15,000 people each year and raised $400,000 in 2019, according to Ellen Head, senior director of development at Special Olympics Virginia. “We’re really excited to have the full-blown event back,” she says. // Dulles International Airport, 1 Saarinen Circle, Dulles, Virginia
Sept. 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
This perennially popular Little City gathering includes a Taste of Falls Church featuring a variety of eats from 13 local restaurants, plus a beer garden with beverages from two Falls Church breweries. Proceeds from beverage sales will benefit the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation. Spanning the parking lot of City Hall and the adjacent Cherry Hill Park, the daylong event promises plenty of ways to keep little ones entertained, including inflatables, crafts, a magician, musicians and pony rides. Organizers are welcoming 85 vendors this year—about 10 more than usual—says Scarlett Williams, special events program supervisor for the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. “Everyone’s ready to come back out, which is wonderful,” she says of the event, which usually draws about 12,000 attendees. Admission is free. Food, drinks and local goods will be for sale. //300 Park Ave., Falls Church, Virginia
Sept. 24, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
This beloved street fair in the heart of Clarendon brings food and drink from local restaurants, live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors and a large kids’ area with activities such as temporary tattoos, arm painting and giveaways. The festivities will stretch across a six-block section. This year’s musical lineup in includes ’90s and ’00s cover band Uncle Jesse and funky tunes by Captain Seawalker’s Yacht Rock Party. Hosted by the Clarendon Alliance for more than 20 years—save for a Covid hiatus in 2020 and 2021—it typically attracts about 20,000 revelers of all ages, including plenty of families with strollers and dogs. //The festival will take place around the Clarendon Metro stop and along Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards, Arlington
Sept. 24-25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Discover more than 50 military vehicles, including tanks and armored vehicles, peppering 70 acres during this open house event, accompanied by about 200 historians who can tell stories about them. Visitors can see some of the equipment in action in the demo area and watch reenactments of historical events. When all that learning works up an appetite, you can grab a bite from onsite food trucks and browse wares in the covered shopping areas. A suggested donation of $10 for attendees 11 and older ($5 for kids ages 5-10) helps to cover the costs of staging the event and supports the National Museum of Americans in Wartime. //13906 Aden Road, Nokesville, Virginia
Oct. 8, 1-5 p.m.
Pack up your pooch and trot on over to this annual street fair that offers a Water Bar—a selection of bottled waters in doggie bowls—high-energy music and vendors who can meet your pet’s every need, from pet-sitters and dogwalkers to groomers and veterinarians. Featured vendors so far include the Arlington Animal Hospital, Clarendon Animal Care and Paws Mind Body. Don’t have a furry friend but are in the market for one? You can adopt a pet on event day from one of the participating local shelters: Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Rural Dog Rescue and Tails High Cat Rescue. And you might want to dress up for the occasion. Arlington photographer Alex Sakes will be onsite to snap a portrait of you and/or your pet for free; sign up in advance. //950 S. George Mason Drive, Arlington
In person for the first time since 2019, the 23rd annual literary festival, hosted by George Mason University, will present about 100 authors, including several children’s book writers. On Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m., Fairfax author John Gallagher, whose graphic novel series Max Meow was inspired by a character students created in an after-school class he taught at Oak View Elementary, will lead kids in drawing their own superheroes at the Burke Centre Library (5935 Freds Oak Road, Burke). The following day brings two-time National Book Award finalist and cartoonist Gene Luen Yang to the Harris Theater (4471 Aquia Creek Lane, Fairfax) for a discussion about the value of comics and the importance of reading diversely. The festival also promises a Children’s Day (for toddlers through middle schoolers) on Oct. 8 in partnership with Fairfax City’s 46th Annual Fall Festival. Authors will take over Old Town Hall (3999 University Drive, Fairfax) to read and talk about their books, and to lead participants in interactive activities such as arts, crafts and STEM projects, says event director Kara Oakleaf. // Multiple locations in Fairfax, Virginia
Oct. 15-16, 3-10 p.m.
Take to the skies over Manassas in a tethered hot air balloon at this festival, which also features a Kids Zone chock full of games and rides such as trains, bounce houses, rock walls and a zip line. Attendees will also find live music, food vendors and craft booths on the festival grounds. A Grand Finale after 8 p.m. each night will feature a Hot Air Balloon Glow and Laser show, during which all of the balloons will be lit up at once. Guests are welcome to bring blankets, chairs and umbrellas to stake out a viewing spot. Admission is $20 for adults; $8 for kids 5-18. Balloon rides are $25 per person. Kids Zone rides are $1 – $10. //10624 Dumfries Road, Manassas