Skyline Drive, neighborhood festivals, and a chance to relish in Renaissance culture—it’s autumn in Washington, D.C., and it’s looking fine.

By Amy McKeever
January 24, 2017

New England may try to lay claim to fall foliage drives, and Renaissance festivals may happen nationwide, but when it comes to autumnal living, Washington, D.C. makes a case for doing it right.

Maryland Renaissance Festival

The Maryland Renaissance Festival, now in its 39th year, is one of the biggest and most freewheeling festivals of its kind in the country. Held on weekends from late August through October 25, Renn Fest sprawls out across 27 acres in Crownsville, Maryland, and depicts life in a fictional English village called Revel Grove.

There’s the 140-odd artisans selling their crafts, taverns full of beer, and food stands peddling turkey legs, “steak on a stake,” fresh seafood, and sandwiches. The village also abounds with performers ranging from a Shakespeare troupe and bawdy balladeers to jugglers, magicians, and even a sword swallower. As per tradition, this year also brings the return of comedy sword-fighting duo Puke and Snot.

Fall Foliage

It’s not New England, but the Mid-Atlantic sure has its own fall foliage beauty. Visit the U.S. National Arboretum to see its collection of bonsai trees in full seasonal splendor in the Autumn Bonsai: The Colors of Nature exhibit at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, or wander through some of the city’s other natural spaces, such as Rock Creek Park and the National Mall. If you’ve got a car and a little bit of time, consider the 75-mile trek out to Shenandoah National Park, known for its amazing vistas of Skyline Drive (pictured).

Neighborhood Celebrations

Festivals focusing on specific neighborhoods are a great part of living in D.C., and there are plenty happening every fall. Two of the season’s biggest—Adams Morgan Day and the H Street Festival—have already happened, but there are still opportunities to explore life on Capitol Hill with the Barracks Row Fall Festival (September 26), and tour neighborhoods across the city as part of CulturalTourismDC’s WalkingTown DC event (now through September 27). Next weekend also brings the Washington City Paper’s beloved annual arts and crafts fair at Union Market, Crafty Bastards.

Fall Harvests

Fall weekends are a great time to take a short trek outside of the city and into the nearby farms of Maryland and Virginia. At Butler’s Orchard, you can jump on hayrides, explore corn mazes, and pick pumpkins as part of their annual Potato Festival, or pick apples on their pick-your-own farm. Meanwhile, George Washington’s former home hosts its own Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Family Days (October 24—October 25), offering wagon rides, a straw bale maze, apple roasting, 18th-century dancing demos, and wheat treading in its barn.

Amy McKeever is on the D.C. beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.