Washington DC in the Fall: Pumpkin Festivals, Foliage, Haunted Pub Crawls, & More

Long view of the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool in Washington DC in fall

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Washington DC in the fall is a show-stopper! While the Mall and monuments are always picture-perfect, their white marble really pops against the vibrant fall colors as the leaves change. But beyond the pretty views and photo opportunities, DC is full of spooky stories to share that are timely for an autumn visit.

You might also like our other East Coast fall guides if you’re from the area.

We’re especially big fans of New England in the fall if you want to catch that epic seasonal foliage up north!

If you’re looking for more DC travel inspiration, don’t skip our guide to cherry blossom season and check out these day trips from DC, too.

Things to Do in Washington DC in the Fall

National Arboretum 

The US National Arboretum (3501 New York Ave NE) is overflowing with vibrant, colorful trees each fall. 

The arboretum covers over 450 acres, where you can walk through the thousands of trees, many of which are deciduous and change colors in the fall.

There are trees from all over the world in the arboretum, including Asian and North American trees. 

Want to see as much as possible?

Rent a bike and cycle the many paths throughout the Arboretum for epic views!

The arboretum is also one of our favorite recommendations for a walk in a park for a lovely DC date idea.

Vibrant fall folors along a paved path in the US National Arboretum in Washington DC

Find Fall Foliage in the City

Outside of the National Arboretum, there are a lot of places where you can go leaf peeping in Washington, DC.

Some of the best and most popular places include the National Mall, Georgetown, Capitol Hill, and the Tidal Basin. 

You can also see good fall views along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, including at the Wharf and the Capitol Riverfront. 

If you want to avoid the crowds, spend a day away from the busy areas!

The entire city will be covered with fall leaves so you can easily find quiet tree-lined streets to admire the colors set against rowhouses. 

Long view of the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool in Washington DC in fall

Capitol Cider House

Capitol Cider House (3930 Georgia Ave NW) is a good place to go in Washington, DC, for a classic fall cider. 

Capitol Cider brews its cider using local apples that they source from within a 200-mile radius of the Capitol Building. 

They brew a range of ciders, including traditional crisp cider, rosé, fruity flavors, and more. 

And, they brew pommeau, which is similar to port wine but apple flavored instead.

It’s a delicious fall treat!

Fall Flavors at District Doughnut

District Doughnut has fun fall flavors you have to try, including apple, pumpkin, and caramel.

There are four District Doughnut shops in DC, located in Eastern Market, Georgetown, The Wharf, and Union Market. 

District Doughnut at The Wharf in Washington DC

Take a Ghost Tour

A spooky ghost tour is one of the best fall activities in Washington, DC! 

You can choose from various companies and neighborhoods to take your tour in, including Georgetown, Capitol Hill, the Congressional Cemetery, or Lafayette Park. 

This ghost tour centers around scary stories from The White House.

Taking the kids? Check out this family-friendly ghost tour to not get too dark and spooky.

But if it’s just adults and you need a little liquid courage, this haunted pub crawl mixes haunted political history with boozy bravery!

No matter where you decide to take a tour, you might encounter spirits, ghosts, and spooky stories in one of the oldest and most historic cities in the United States. 

Read our guide to DC ghost tours for the full frightening lineup on offer.

The US Capitol Building in Washington DC on a sunny day in Fall

See the Exorcist Stairs

If you are a fan of horror movies, you probably loved The Exorcist. 

Fans of the film will immediately recognize the stairs (3600 Prospect St NW) that were featured in the movie, and October is the perfect time to take a walk on them for extra atmosphere.

Feeling a little nervous?

Enjoy safety in numbers on this ghost story walking tour that includes the Exorcist stairs.

The stairs are in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, which is also a really pretty area to walk around in the fall. 

Not only are the colorful houses on streets lined with autumn colors, but Georgetown University is a stunning college campus that is even prettier in the fall. 

The top of The Exorcist Stairs in Georgetown Washington DC

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park (5200 Glover Rd, NW) is a lovely place to see Washington, DC, fall foliage. 

In the 1,754-acre park, you can hike along more than 32 miles of trails, bike on the paved trails, or take a boat and paddle down the Potomac River. 

Other outdoor activities are available in the fall, like golfing on the 18-hole course, playing tennis, or horseback riding on 13 miles of trails. 

Hiking trail sign for the Western Ridge route in Rock Creek Park Washington DC

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Finally, Theodore Roosevelt Island (George Washington Memorial Parkway) is a great place to see some of Washington, DC’s fall colors.

The 88-acre island is a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt and his love for hiking in the area. 

There are a few good trails to hike on the island in the fall, including the 0.33-mile Woods Trail, the .75-mile Upland Trail, and the 1.5-mile Swamp Trail, which is the park’s longest trail.

On a kayak or canoe, you can also admire the island and its colors from the Potomac River. 

The island actually rests in the Potomac, which divides DC from Virginia.

Parking is available on the Virginia side, or you can walk from the Rosslyn Metro Station in around 15 minutes.

A pedestrian bridge connects you to the island from there.

Statue on Roosevelt Island on the Virginia DC Border

Oktoberfest at Wunder Garten

Head to the DMV’s largest Oktoberfest event between mid-September and early October, hosted by Wunder Garten (1101 First St NE).

Oktoberfest includes all the Munich-inspired activities, including a stein-holding contest, attendees wearing traditional lederhosen and dirndls, and plenty of beers flowing.

No need to deal with jet lag and a transatlantic flight to Germany, just head to Wunder Garten in NoMa instead!

Plus, your pup can join for DOGtoberfest on Sundays.

Fall Activities Near Washington DC

Head out from Downtown DC to explore more of the DMV area (that’s DC, Maryland, Virginia).

For most of these places, you’ll need your own car.

The Metro can take you close to some spots, but then you’d need to Uber the rest of the way.

Get your own wheels and enjoy the foliage during the whole journey instead!

Check out all our favorite day trips from DC for more ideas.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is about 70 miles west of Washington, DC, but worth a drive to see the park in the fall. 

There are over 500 miles to hike through the park and lots of wildlife to spot. 

For a family-friendly hike, check out the Limberlost Trail.

Hiking up Old Rag is a beloved pastime for locals, offering fun rock scrambles and various beautiful viewpoints.

Views from Old Rag Trail in Shenandoah National Park Virginia

If you want to stay in the park and explore for longer than a day, you can camp in the park. 

And, be sure to drive through Skyline Drive, a scenic drive that is even prettier in the fall. 

Doing the whole drive will take about three hours, but you can always stop for some of the other activities. 

Shenandoah is one of our favorite East Coast National Parks.

Autumn landscape with mountains in Shenandoah National park

Distillery Lane Ciderworks

Distillery Lane Ciderworks (5533 Gapland Rd, Jefferson, MD) is a cider distillery near Washington, DC. 

The distillery grows its own apples in its orchard, and then uses them to brew ciders every fall.

The ciders vary from dry to off-dry, and they also do sparkling ciders and seasonal ciders outside the fall season. 

You can also buy fresh apples from them and find their cider at retailers and bars in the area year-round. 

You’ll need a car to get there; the drive is about an hour and 15 minutes from DC.

Agricultural History Farm Park

Agricultural History Farm Park (18400 Muncaster Road, Derwood, MD) has over five miles of trails where you can hike and bike in the fall.

The trees and plants in the park bloom with fall colors, so it is a great place to walk through and admire the foliage. 

It’s only about a 45-minute drive from downtown DC, but you will want a car to get there.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain (7901 Comus Road, Dickerson, MD) is a lovely place to enjoy nature near Washington, DC, in autumn. 

The mountain is a Registered Natural Landmark with plenty of places to hike and admire the fall leaves. 

There are four main trails that are well-marked and range from 1.5 miles up to 7 miles.

You can also have a picnic in the park or take a horseback ride through the trails and up the mountain. 

For a little extra treat, stop into Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (18125 Comus Road) after your hike for tastings of their bold Bordeaux-inspired reds.

Reservations are not required.

Butler’s Orchard Farms

Butler’s Orchard Farms (22222 Davis Mill Rd, Germantown, MD) has a lot of fun fall activities near DC.

Every year from late September to the end of October, they host an annual pumpkin festival where the main attraction is a pick-your-own pumpkin patch. 

There are also hayrides, a corn maze, live music, games, a pumpkin cannon, and face painting. 

You can also find local goods, fall foods, and desserts at the festival market.

Book your tickets in advance for the festival weekends — they usually sell out!

Outside of the Pumpkin Festival, you can visit the farm to pick your own apples throughout September and into October.

Montpelier Farms

Montpelier Farms (1720 Crain Hwy, Upper Marlboro, MD) also hosts a fall festival each year near DC between late September and early November.

At the farm festival, you can pick pumpkins and take a hayride on the farm. 

The most popular part of their festival is the 7-acre corn maze which is open day and night for a scarier experience. 

They also offer a smaller, easier corn maze for kids, giant slides, pedal karts, and a hay play area. 

You can also meet the farm animals and have a wine tasting if you visit in October. 

Summers Farm

Summers Farm (7503 Hollow Rd, Middletown, MD) is another great place to go for a fall festival between mid-September and the end of October.

They have more than 45 fall activities, including a pumpkin train and wagon rides to the pumpkin patch, where you can pick your own pumpkins and gourds. 

There is also a 5-acre corn maze with two and a half miles of trails to explore. 

You can also rent a campfire to use during your visit to the farm, have food and drinks from the farm store, like apple cider desserts, and enjoy live entertainment, including music, clowns, and fireworks. 

Field of Screams

The Field of Screams (4501 Olney Laytonsville Rd, Olney, MD) is the longest haunted outdoor trail in the country.

There are a few attractions at the field, including the Haunted Trail, which is a traditional scary trail, and the Trail of Terror, which is an even scarier 30-minute walk through the forest. 

The Slaughter Factory is a haunted house-style attraction where you can follow the story of an insane factory worker and the horrors that haunt the factory today. 

Finally, there are some spooky carnival games, including axe throwing, Zombie Brain Smash, Crypt Ring Toss, and Bean Bag Pumpkin Toss.

Laurel’s House of Horror

Laurel’s House of Horror (935 Fairlawn Ave, Laurel, MD) is the ultimate place to visit in October for the scariest activities. 

The main attraction is the haunted house, which is built in an old abandoned movie theater and is the largest haunted house in the DC area. 

They also have escape rooms and tours of the movie theater at night. 

During the tours, you go with a guide and hunt for ghosts in the abandoned movie theater using ghost-hunting tools. 

Venture in, if you dare!

Washington DC Fall Foliage Map

While the spooky spots and seasonal festivals are fun, one of the highlights of visiting Washington DC in the fall is the vibrant colors that overtake the city.

The best time to see fall colors in Washington, DC, is during peak foliage, which tends to happen in mid-October and lasts for around two weeks. 

Use this fall foliage map to see where the fall foliage is peaking and when in Washington, DC. 

You can even adjust the date to see the predictions for when foliage will be at its peak. 

Final Words

Are you feeling ready to visit Washington DC this fall?

From pumpkins to haunted houses, stunning fall foliage to scary stories of politicians past…DC is an awesome destination for fall fun!

Let us know your favorite foliage spots and spooky experiences in the comments below.

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