21 Things to Do in Northern Virginia

With settlement dating back to 1699, the “Little City” is named for The Falls Church, an 18th-century Anglican parish (for whom President George Washington was a vestryman). At only 2.2 square miles, this historic suburb of Washington, D.C. is known for its urban village community, nationally ranked school system, restaurants, and a thriving Hispanic and Vietnamese community.

Falls Church, VA, USA
Throughout the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Northern Virginia area, including Falls Church was a hotbed of activity—espionage, divided loyalties, battles, skirmishes, armed incursions, troop movements, encampments, fortifications, hospitals, guerrilla warfare—by both the Union (Northern) and Confederate (Southern) sides. The Virginia Civil War Trails Program highlights some of the lesser-known but very interesting stories and anecdotes Virginia has to offer. Historical markers at various locations give visitors the opportunity to explore the Virginia back roads, learning some history while driving and walking through some beautiful landscapes. Printable trail maps are available on the Civil War Trails website.
127 S Washington St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
Owned by brothers James and Adam Roth, this quaint wine and gourmet food shop welcomes customers to sample a handful of seasonal wines or beers every Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The wines and beers are usually paired with artisanal cheeses and/or charcuterie from their gourmet food section. Ask to be on their email list so as to find out what specials and promotions are happening. Beer tastings are held on Thursday evenings, and wine tastings take place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.
709 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
Occupying the site of a former café, husband and wife Larry and Erica Hoffman opened their second bar in Falls Church in June 2012 (the other being Galaxy Hut in Arlington). Adorned with its illuminated ‘space-age’ sign in the front window and cool retro robot art inside, patrons can enjoy an extensive beer menu with 24 rotating craft beers on tap, many from local area brewers. If you’re unsure of what beers to try, the bartenders (or even Larry and Erica) are quick to assist and will allow you to sample. Pair your beer with their lovely selection of grilled-cheese sandwiches and crisp tater tots.
312 Park Ave, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
One of 11 parks in Falls Church, Cherry Hill Park is known for their annual Sunset Cinema screenings that have been held at 8 p.m. each Friday in August for the past decade. Bring a picnic blanket and food as you enjoy family-friendly movies under the stars! For the last Friday, it was the viewer’s choice vote, with the finalists being E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Escape from Planet Earth, Here Comes the Boom, The NeverEnding Story, and Rise of the Guardians. Who would you have voted for? The city’s annual Farm Day and the Fall Festival and Taste of Falls Church are also held here.
905 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
Known to me as the “little blue house,” this independently owned bibliophile’s paradise has been operating strong on the same Broad Street spot for over 30 years. Inside, the store is crammed with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling books, especially with science fiction and comics. Fans of Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Star Wars, and Star Trek will feel right at home. In addition to purchasing books, you can also trade in books and get credits which you can then use to buy other books. However, staff can be very selective with trade-ins. Not only are comics and science fiction preferred, so are classic novels (e.g. Vonnegut, Steinbeck, Hemingway, etc.).
Falls Church, VA, USA
Before World War II, Falls Church experienced its most significant growth during the Victorian era (1837-1901). Today, the city’s Victorian-era legacy lives on in the charming homes and churches along East Broad Street, in between Roosevelt and Washington Streets. A few years ago, the Victorian Society of Falls Church created a self-guided walking tour map for locals and visitors highlighting Victorian architectural styles and buildings like Tallwood (see above picture), an 1870 home whose previous occupants included a descendant of the founder of Yale University, and a brother of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. An important note: all houses except Cherry Hill are private residences and are therefore not open to the public.
6751 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044, USA
Fans of Vietnamese cuisine are well served in Falls Church, especially if they decide to dine at any of the 29 restaurants at the Eden Center, the hub of the Washington, D.C. area’s Vietnamese community. You might be hard pressed to decide on what to eat, so here are a few places: Song Que Deli serves up wonderful French-inspired Banh Mi sandwiches; for a hot bowl of Pho, head over to Pho Xe Lua; Huong Viet has some excellent Bun Thit Nuong (vermecelli rice noodles and pork) and Bun Rieu (tomato and crab noodle soup); with help from a friend, other recommendations include Viet Bistro, Viet Royale, and Banh Cuon Thanh Long.
300 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
An authentic Latin American kitchen experience at a motel? That’s pretty funky! Chef and owner Raul Claros pays homage to his Venezuelan birthplace and Bolivian childhood by whipping up his mother and grandmother’s old family recipes. Headlining the menu are Bolivian salteñas—imagine empanadas on steroids—filled with a gelatinous beef stew to which he adds carrots, peas, onions, olives, egg, and roast chicken. Representing Venezuela are the arepas, ground corn cakes (grilled or fried) served plain or stuffed with combination favorites like roast chicken and avocado, braised beef in tomatoes and chili peppers, and grilled skirt steak with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. (Thanks to my Dad for introducing this eatery to me!)
100 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
Founded in 1883 by former schoolteacher James W. Brown, originally a grocery and hardware store, this venerated mom-and-pop institution continues to meet the hardware needs of the community. For any home improvement project, large or small, Brown’s extremely friendly and knowledgeable staff will tell you what tools or parts you need, where to find it, and how to use it. Currently operated by James’ grandson Hugh, it is the oldest family-owned business in Falls Church.
300 Park Ave, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
Voted “America’s Favorite Farmer’s Market” in 2010 by the American Farmland Trust and “Best Farmer’s Market” in 2012 by Virginia Living and Northern Virginia magazines, the Falls Church Farmer’s Market is open year-round on Saturday mornings. Over 40 local vendors offer locally grown fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads and pastries, sauces and condiments, ice cream, wine, and plants on the parking lot of Falls Church’s City Hall. Adding to its uniqueness is its monthly Chef Series, bringing chefs from area restaurants to create dishes using local, seasonal food.
6317 Georgetown Pike #2, McLean, VA 22101, USA
Clemyjontri is not your typical McDonald’s PlayLand. This two-acre playground was the dream of Mrs. Adele Lebowitz, who envisioned a playground for children of all abilities, including those with sensory, motor, and developmental disabilities. With a carousel in the middle, it contains four outdoor “rooms": a “Fitness and Fun” jungle gym section designed to stimulate physical exercise; a “Movin’ and Groovin’ Transportation” area full of transportation-shaped play equipment; a “Schoolhouse and Maze” focusing on educational learning games; and the “Rainbow Room,” which teaches colors of the rainbow. In case you’re wondering about the name, Clemyjontri was named in honor of Adele’s four children, Carolyn (CL), Emily (EMY), John (JON), and Petrina (TRI).
6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041, USA
Falls Church is home to arguably the best Chinese in the Washington, D.C. area. Since 1978, generations of the Tsui Family have operated this upscale northern Chinese cuisine establishment, and their clientele have included members of the U.S. Congress, cabinet secretaries, Pentagon bigwigs, Hollywood celebrities, visiting dignitaries, and the Bush presidential families (their favorite restaurant) as seen in the framed photographs that adorn the red-and-gold dining rooms. The crispy Peking Duck wrapped in house-made pancakes with hoisin sauce and locally-sourced spring onions is the house speciality. Along with the duck, order the Four Season String Beans, Szechuan Beef Proper, Juo-Yen Shrimp, and Lamb Chops Peking Style which make up the famous five-course “Bush Special.”
115 E Fairfax St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
The city’s namesake is this formerly wooden church founded in 1732, whose congregation has included President George Washington and Virginia statesman George Mason. The name “The Falls Church” referred to its geographic location as the one church being “near the falls” of the Potomac River. Construction of the present brick building began in 1767 and was completed in 1769. Stand on the stairs where tradition stated that the Declaration of Independence was read to the townsfolk in 1776, triggering the American Revolution.
422 S Washington St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
Following the American Civil War, Falls Church has been home to the predominantly African-American Tinner Hill neighborhood. Named for Joseph and Mary Tinner, who owned a portion of the land as well as the granite quarry, they went on to become prominent civil rights activists fighting against segregation. In 1999, the Arch was erected memorializing the site where in 1915, Tinner established the first rural branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.C.A.A.P.) in the United States.
108 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
Nicknamed “the chic boutique,” New To You has been a popular Northern Virginia consignment shop for the stylistic fashionista seeking a savvy bargain for a second-hand Armani, Anthroplogie, Carolina Herrera, Chanel, Hermes, Prada, or another high-end name. Gently worn designer, vintage, and good-as-new clothing, business wear, gowns, shoes, boots, scarves, purses, and jewelry constitute many of the items carefully screened and selected by owner Christine Novak. Strong emphasis on quality, cleanliness, and fit.
312 Park Ave, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
Cherry Hill Historic House and Farm at 321 Park Avenue is a social center and a tourist draw. Built in 1845, it was once a thriving 73-acre farm owned by William A. Blaisdell and was occupied during the Civil War. Today, it is owned by the City of Falls Church and operates as a museum showcasing 18th and 19th-century furniture and tools, a buggy shed, a tackle barn, a corn crib, a well-house, and “necessary” (outdoor toilet). Guided tours are offered Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays (April-October) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition, events and public programs such as afternoon teas, concerts, children’s activities, workshops, weddings, and receptions occur year round.
410 S Maple Ave, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
In recent years, Falls Church has become home to an emerging artistic community, which provides events and opportunities to enjoy and participate in the visual arts, performing arts, and literary arts. Leading the way is ArtSpace, a 3,000 square foot venue that houses a 95-seat theatre and an art gallery for its theatrical productions, dances, concerts, and art shows. It currently serves as the home for the Creative Cauldron and Falls Church Arts organizations, both of whom are devoted to making the arts affordable and available to all. A listing of performances and exhibits are available through their websites.
1551 Trap Road
Located about five miles west of Falls Church, America’s only national park to the performing arts continues to host world-class performances of every genre since its creation in 1971. With an average of over 90 concerts from May to September, area residents and visitors are blessed to see the biggest names in music grace the stage of the 6,800-seat indoor/outdoor Filene Center. In addition, Wolf Trap holds indoor concerts at the nearby Barns, as well as educational programs and special events such as the International Children’s Festival and the yearly Holiday Sing-A-Long.
7400 Georgetown Pike
For the birds and other wildlife, it’s a sanctuary. To local residents, it’s an ideal place to walk the dog. For hikers, it’s one of the Washington D.C. area’s loveliest venues with well maintained and seldom used trails. The main four-mile-long trail takes you through riverside woodland and rocky outcrops leading to a couple of eye-catchers: a 15-foot waterfall that feeds into the Potomac River, and the ruins of an 18th-century homestead with chimney still standing. There are two entrances to the park, both located off of Georgetown Pike.
7115 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043, USA
For the diners, ever wonder if the chef is preparing your food correctly and where the ingredients are coming from? And for the chefs, ever wonder if the diners will enjoy your cooking? This full-service bistro eliminates the isolation of the kitchen and brings it out to the forefront allowing face-to-face interaction between chef and diner about the dishes featured on the seasonal, ingredient-driven menu. It also functions as a rentable kitchen space for chefs, catering services, cooking classes, and competitions.
4412, 418 S Washington St, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA
With the Latin American restaurants and cuisines featured, one must not forget to mention El Salvador. Having the largest immigrant population in the Washington D.C. area, their reputation for hole-in-the-wall restaurants boasting their signature pupusas have won the palates of locals and residents. Blanca’s on S. Washington Street ranks among the elites. Your choice of soft, warm, thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, pork and cheese, beans and cheese, jalapeño and cheese, or loroco, a type of exotic flower.
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