Fairfax County is Americana at its most dignified. From George Washington to Lucy Burns, from cherry blossoms to waterfalls, from world-class museums to Frank Lloyd Wright homes, this corner of Virginia — just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC — offers monuments to culture, masterpieces of nature, and so much more.

From its nearly 300-year history, we could come up with 300 reasons to love Fairfax County, but that’d take a while. Instead, here are the top 20 reasons to love — and visit! — Fairfax County in 2024.

1. You can walk in the footsteps of America’s first President…

Photo: George Washington’s Mount Vernon/Visit Fairfax

The most visited historic estate in the United States, George Washington’s Mount Vernon still stands high in Fairfax County, on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. The venerated Virginian veteran lived here from 1754 until his death in 1799 — today’s visitors can explore both his immaculate home and its 500-acre grounds, which include his successful whiskey distillery. (More on that later.)

2. …and on trails blazed by pilots and astronauts.

Photo: Visit Fairfax

Everyone becomes a space geek when they step inside the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, where thousands of aviation and space artifacts, from Space Shuttle Discovery to a Blackbird SR-71, rest across two large hangars. Not to be confused with the National Air and Space Museum on Washington’s National Mall, this is a twin-sister facility with a larger footprint.

3. You’ll see how George Washington meets Frank Lloyd Wright.

Photo: Lincoln Barbour for Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House

Architecture buffs get a two-fer at the Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House. Woodlawn, an 1805 Federal-style mansion, was a gift to George Washington’s granddaughter and was partially designed by the general himself. And on the mansion’s grounds stands the Pope-Leighey House. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Pope-Leighey is the only Frank Lloyd Wright home on regular display in the National Capital Area — it even contains its original Usonian decor.

4. You can witness America through the eyes of its soldiers…

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

The first national museum of its kind, the National Museum of the United States Army — on the site of Fort Belvoir — opened in 2020. Via galleries, theaters, and a learning center, the museum tells stories from a unique perspective: through the experiences of soldiers. (Bonus: Admission is free.)

5. …and suffragists…

Photo: Matador Network/Visit Fairfax

New to Fairfax County in 2021, the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial relates the history of the 120 suffragists who were imprisoned in the Occoquan Workhouse, simply for picketing for the right to vote. News of their torturous treatment galvanized the nation to pass the 19th Amendment — and that spark was lit right here.

6. …and artists.

Photo: Visit Fairfax

Yep, America has a national park dedicated to the performing arts: Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. The only park of its kind, Wolf Trap stages every theatrical and musical genre — from opera to country — across a variety of outdoor and indoor stages. The lights go up outdoors from May to September, but even if there’s not a show during your visit, come for the serene trails that wind across its 117 acres.

7. You can nab a seat at Capital One Hall…

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

Swinging open its doors in late 2021, Capital One Hall means Fairfax County has yet another artistic juggernaut on the scene. The venue seats 1,600 in the main theater, and visitors will catch everything from the music of Billy Joel to the lights of Broadway — no hoofing it through DC traffic required.

8. …or pop into an arts enclave.

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

The Workhouse Arts Center is also a workhorse for local artists. More than 100 visual artists meet their dreams here, from scoring affordable studio space to exhibiting in the center’s many onsite galleries. Offering 300+ classes and workshops, plus community events, Workhouse Arts Center keeps Fairfax County’s art scene thriving, both for those who simply enjoy art and for those who make it.

9. You can chase waterfalls…

Photo: Angela B Pan Photography

Wait — another national park site in Fairfax County? Yep. Great Falls Park is easily the most spectacular natural landmark in the DC area. Here, the storied Potomac River thunders over a sea of jagged rocks as it flows through the narrow Mather Gorge. Once you’ve gotten fully misted, check out the park’s 25 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback trails (and climbing routes!).

10. …meander through meadows…

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

The DC area may be known as a cathedral of granite and steel, but Fairfax County’s Huntley Meadows Park proves there’s still room for cathedrals of nature. Over 1,500 acres of wetlands, meadows, and forest converge to create a unique environment for more than 200 species of birds, and the park’s ADA-accessible wetland boardwalk is pretty great for humans, too.

11. …and scout for bald eagles.

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

While the American bald eagle might be the beloved icon of DC, the birds themselves prefer to hang out 25 miles away in Fairfax County’s Mason Neck State Park. Bird walks and eagle watches are common events here — have you seen an eagle’s nest? They’re 4 to 6 feet in diameter! You’ll likely spot other creatures, too, like hawks, white-tailed deer, fox, and beaver.

12. You can get out on the hiking trails…

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

It’s hard to believe Fairfax County — what with its urban appeal — offers 900 miles of trails, but the numbers don’t lie. Hikers will be wildly at home here, from the aforementioned Great Falls, Huntley Meadows, and Mason Neck parks to the equally impressive Burke Lake, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, and the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. Pack your hiking shoes for this one.

13. …frolic through botanical gardens…

Photo: Angela B Pan Photography

DC’s cherry blossoms are certainly an experience, but with the crowds, they’re not exactly tranquil. Instead (or in addition!), head to the weeping cherry trees of Fairfax County’s Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. You’ll get all the blossoms you can handle, plus walking trails, lakes, and an authentic Korean Bell Garden, the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

14. …and go NOVA Wild.

Photo: Matador Network/Visit Fairfax

Focused on animal welfare, NOVA Wild is a safari-meets-zoo, two-in-one adventure. Start by driving NOVA’s 30 acres, where you can feed the creatures that come up to your window, like watusi cattle and water buffalo. (Don’t worry, they’re gentle!) Afterward, stroll through the enclosures to witness capybaras, cheetahs, and more, learning all about the wildlife efforts of this nonprofit spot.

15. There’s an early 20th-century farm to explore.

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

Just 100 years ago, life in rural America was virtually unrecognizable from that of today. The tractor and milking machine had just been invented — what was life like on a farm in the 1920s? On the National Register of Historic Places, Frying Pan Farm Park recreates this era, welcoming visitors to explore a working 20th-century farm, meet its animals, participate in workshops, and more.

16. You can grab a pint of Virginia’s best…

Photo: Visit Fairfax

With over a dozen craft breweries to choose from — each doing their own thing, from classic German lagers to Hawaiian-style sours — you’re never far from a pint and a patio in Fairfax County. But before you hop onto a barstool, know this: Beer fans should nab the “Locally Poured” savings pass, which sends discounts straight to your phone.

17. …and then a glass…

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

Fairfax County sits at the doorstep of Virginia’s wine country, where the traffic starts slowing and the wine starts flowing. Leave the city behind and you’ll soon run into Paradise Springs Winery and The Winery at Bull Run, each with gorgeous 18th- and 19th-century buildings, vineyard views, and tasting rooms to sip today’s fast pace away.

18. …and then a snifter.

Photo: April Greer/Visit Fairfax

George Washington wasn’t just the model of a modern major general — he also owned one of the largest whiskey distilleries in America. And that distillery still operates today, right on the grounds of his Mount Vernon estate, crafting small-batch spirits via 18th-century methods — including George Washington’s Rye Whiskey®, which was recognized as the official spirit of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Admission is included in your Mount Vernon pass, but you’ll need to visit on weekends from April to October for a tour.

19. You can find the region’s best shopping…

Photo: Macerich/Tysons Corner Center

Once you’ve had your fill of spirits and vineyards, get ready for a different kind of R&R: shopping. From the massive, upscale Tysons Corner Center — routinely ranked as one of the top 10 shopping centers in the country — to the specialty shops located across the county, souvenir hunters will find everything from high-end fashion to unique boutique offerings that don’t break the bank.

20. …and products from hundreds of local makers.

Photo: Visit Fairfax

Fairfax County has invested in a “Made in Fairfax” initiative, and any product that can tout that label is one that deserves your support. From George Washington’s whiskey to the galleries at Workhouse, local makers are busy creating all sorts of goods throughout the county, and you’ll spot them at farmers markets, indie shops, and more. If it’s “Made in Fairfax,” it’s made with Virginia LOVE.