15 Best Things to Do in Fairfax, VA

Fairfax, VA
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Fairfax serves as the seat of Fairfax County but is an independent city in northeastern Virginia.

Nearly 15 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., Fairfax got its name from Thomas Fairfax, the 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who had five million acres of land in the state.

If you’re eyeing a multi-day trip to Fairfax, Virginia, it will consist of several historical tours and modern-day experiences.

You can visit several historical buildings and landmarks and learn about the significant events that shaped the city.

Fairfax also has a variety of recreational attractions perfect for family bonding or creating memorable moments with friends.

Here are the best things to do in Fairfax, Virginia:

Discover the City's Past at Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center

Front view of Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center
Wiki publius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visiting Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center on Main Street is a great way to begin your city adventure.

The museum is located in an 1873 school building near Old Town Fairfax, the city’s historic downtown and entertainment district.

Deepen your knowledge about local and regional history by checking its exhibits and displays, especially “The Fairfax Story” permanent exhibit.

You’ll also catch some tales of the city during the historic Civil War.

At the visitor center, you can find maps, travel guides, and brochures about must-see sites and special events in the area.

You can also buy souvenirs at the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center gift shop.

Reflect on War Stories at Historic Blenheim and The Civil War Interpretive Center

Find more stories about the Civil War and Fairfax by visiting Historic Blenheim and The Civil War Interpretive Center.

It’s a short drive from Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center and a must-see in the city.

Approximately built in 1859, Historic Blenheim is a brick farmhouse atop a grassy hill deemed significant for containing well-preserved examples of Civil War graffiti.

Signatures, drawings, and poetry of more than 100 Union soldiers mark Historic Blenheim’s interior walls.

Meanwhile, the Civil War Interpretive Center is in another building where you can catch a glimpse into the lives of Union soldiers during their occupation of the Fairfax Court House area.

Browse through exhibits that show the impact of the Civil War in Fairfax, and immerse in its full-sized replica of the Blenheim House’s attic, which is off-limits.

Step back in time through the “diary on the walls” of Historic Blenheim and The Civil War Interpretive Center along Old Lee Highway.

Tour the Grounds of Ox Hill Battlefield Park

Amid a heavily commercial area is the Ox Hill Battlefield Park, preserving a piece of land where the Battle of Ox Hill (or Battle of Chantilly as the Union Army calls it) happened during the Civil War.

It’s the only major Civil War battle in Fairfax County, in which both the Confederate and Union soldiers suffered thousands of casualties in 1862.

As you stroll through the park, learn more about the historical battle from the interpretive kiosks and signage throughout the 4.8-acre site.

You’ll also spot a pair of granite memorials in Ox Hill Battlefield Park for the two Union generals who perished during the battle.

Fairfax County Park Authority manages Ox Hill Battlefield Park, located at the intersection of West Ox Road and Monument Drive.

Examine the NRA National Firearms Museum’s Extensive Collection

At the National Rifle Association headquarters on Waples Mill Road, you can look closely at a fine collection of firearms and discover how they shaped American history.

There are 15 galleries you can tour at NRA National Firearms Museum, sprawling over 15,000 square feet, with 3,000 firearms on display.

NRA National Firearms Museum will walk you through a nearly 700-year history of firearms, with stories about manufacturing, hunting, recreational shooting, and more.

The Robert E. Petersen Gallery is a highlight of the museum, which opened in 2010.

You can examine here some high-end British double rifles and shotguns, a large collection of Gatling guns, and other exceptional firearms.

If you’re a film enthusiast, the collection inside the William B. Ruger Gallery might interest you as it showcases around 120 actual guns used in Hollywood movies and television shows.

NRA National Firearms Museum is among the three museums housing the great collections of the National Rifle Association, including the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Missouri and the Frank Brownell Museum of the Southwest in New Mexico.

Test Your Problem-Solving Skills at Bond's Escape Room

For some thrill and fun brain teasers, Bond’s Escape Room is the place for you.

This indoor attraction boasts innovative escape rooms with immersive challenges and exciting puzzles.

Choose your adventure and step into another world from its many thematic escape rooms with varying difficulty levels.

At Bond’s Escape Room, travel back in time to save the world from an all-powerful artificial intelligence or uncover the secret of a missing girl and her horror room.

Two to 10 players can enter the escape rooms depending on the difficulty level.

Work your escape in an hour at Bond’s Escape Room, found along University Drive.

Visit Children's Science Center Lab for Hands-On Learning

Children's Science Center Lab is a great place for families.

Northern Virginia Science Center Foundation manages the lab that opened to the public in 2015 in Fair Oaks Mall.

Spark your children’s curiosity and passion for learning science, technology, engineering, and math topics through the lab’s engaging hands-on exhibits, activities, and programs.

The 5,400-square-foot center consists of different zones where kids can do experiments, create and build, or meet animal ambassadors.

Children's Science Center Lab specifically caters to kids aged two through 12.

It also offers summer camps, birthday parties, field trips, and more.

You’ll find the entrance of the Children's Science Center Lab at the main mall entrance of Fair Oaks Mall, located at the crossroads of US Interstate 66, Route 50, and West Ox Road.

Grab a Bite at The Cheesecake Factory

Worked up an appetite after visiting the Children's Science Center Lab?

You can come over to The Cheesecake Factory in Fair Oaks Mall.

The Cheesecake Factory is one of America’s favorite casual dining restaurants, which has earned several awards for its food quality.

The restaurant’s story began in the 1940s with a cheesecake recipe by Evelyn Overton.

Today, The Cheesecake Factory has several restaurant locations and over 250 items on its menu, prepared with fresh ingredients by its talented staff.

This restaurant has something for everyone—from burgers and pasta to steaks and seafood.

Try one of its legendary cheesecakes and desserts to complete your experience.

Shop ‘Til You Drop at Fairfax Corner

With fun events, great retail shops, superb dining spots, and an excellent movie theater all in one corner, you wouldn’t want to Fairfax Corner along Palace Way and Monument Corner Drive.

Fairfax Corner is a mixed-use shopping center that integrates office space for rent and residential living where you can live, work, dine, and shop.

It’s patterned after traditional “main streets” with walkable streets, public spaces, and beautiful buildings.

At Fairfax Corner, you can tour local boutiques for fashion items, unique decorations, and gifts, as well as establishments that offer a wide array of services.

In between shopping, you can catch a movie at the theater or indulge in various cuisines served in the restaurants and cafes on site.

Play on Ice at Fairfax Ice Arena

Fairfax Ice Arena has been providing pure fun to families and groups for several decades as the first indoor ice skating rink facility in Virginia.

Entrepreneur Eileen Weisiger established Fairfax Ice Arena which opened to the public in 1973.

Weisiger and her sons made significant contributions to introducing recreational ice skating in the region and developing competitive figure skating and ice hockey programs.

Fairfax Ice Arena is mostly popular for its public ice skating sessions, but it also offers lessons for beginners and talented ice skaters.

Ice skating party packages are available, too, along with special events.

Visit Fairfax Ice Arena on Pickett Road.

Book a Tee Time at Penderbrook Golf Club

Take in scenic views as you practice your golf swings at Penderbrook Golf Club along Golf Trail Lane.

Average to advanced golfers can expect an excellent game on this 18-hole par 71 championship golf course built in 1980.

Boasting mature trees, ponds, and rolling terrain, Penderbrook Golf Club’s layout has seven water holes and over 60 bunkers to challenge players.

After a fun time at the golf course, you can unwind at Penderbrook Golf Club’s restaurant.

Mulligan’s Pub will satisfy your hunger with its full menu of appetizers, burgers, main dishes, and more.

It also has a full bar where you can have cocktails, beer, and other liquors.

Bring Out Your Inner Artist at Muse Paintbar

Muse Paintbar on District Avenue is a nice place to chill while doing something worthwhile.

Create your masterpiece with the help of its artist-instructors, who will share with you their passion for art.

Find inspiration from the mural and several paintings that decorate the walls of the Muse Paintbar.

This creative hub began with a simple concept and has expanded across the east coast from its first location in 2012.

Recognized for its one-of-a-kind paint and sip experience, Muse Paintbar also houses a kitchen and bar, so you can enjoy a tasty bite and drinks during your art session.

Explore the Power of Scents at DIY Scent Studio

Five miles from Muse Paintbar is another establishment that provides a unique recreational activity focusing on scents.

DIY Scent Studio along University Drive offers two-hour guided sessions with half or full access to a perfume organ with various scents.

You’ll learn blending techniques and basic concepts and receive bottles for your output.

Other activities offered at DIY Scent Studio include sessions with natural essential oils, a self-guided open lab session, and an educational course for a deeper dive into the perfume industry.

With extensive knowledge and worldwide travel experience exploring scents, perfumer Sherry Meredith established DIY Scent Studio in 2016.

Raise Your Glasses at Dogfish Head Alehouse

Dogfish Head Alehouse is a craft beer restaurant along Lee Jackson Memorial Highway that locals frequent for its comfortable atmosphere, top-notch beer on tap, and mouth-watering offerings.

Watch out for its special burger of the week and rotating beer selection.

Enjoy a feast from its menu of pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and more items from its wood-fired grill.

Dogfish Head Alehouse also hosts fundraisers, craft beer dinners, and special parties.

Indoor and outdoor seats are available at Dogfish Head Alehouse.

Experience World-Class Entertainment at the Center for the Arts

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university.

Its campus in Fairfax, sprawling over 677 acres, houses most of its undergraduate student population.

Center for the Arts at George Mason University is touted as the premier destination for the arts in Northern Virginia.

It features expansive glass-walled lobbies and a 2,000-seat Concert Hall that can be turned into a theater.

At George Mason University's Center for the Arts, you can enjoy excellent entertainment—from operas and ballets to musical and theatrical performances.

It’s known for its “Great Performances at Mason” season, which showcases the talents of the world's finest artists.

Don’t miss the presentations from Mason's College of Visual and Performing Arts and Fairfax Symphony Orchestra at the Center for the Arts.

Visit George Mason University's Center for the Arts along Mason Pond Drive.

Watch Sports Events and Shows at EagleBank Arena

EagleBank Arena is another point of interest at George Mason University, located on Patriot Circle.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment manages the arena that can accommodate approximately 10,000 people.

Watch for exciting events at EagleBank Arena, like Mason men's and women's basketball games, concerts, and family shows.

Well-known performers and artists have graced the arena.

You won’t get hungry at EagleBank Arena, as several concession stands sell burgers, chicken tenders, ice cream, and more.

Stay updated with the latest offerings at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena.

Final Thoughts

Have a rejuvenating trip to Fairfax, Virginia, and discover its charm by wandering through its significant landmarks, bustling districts, and indoor attractions.

Tour its historical sites to learn more about the stories that shaped Fairfax and the defining moments in the American Civil War that took place here.

Have a blast by trying several recreational activities, from creating your artwork and perfumes to watching world-class entertainment and performances.

Wondering where to head next with family and friends?

Bookmark this page for the best things to do in Fairfax, Virginia!

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