The leaves may not be turning colors just yet, but there’s a feeling of fall in the air. The kids are back in school, temps are no longer blazing, Halloween costume catalogs are thickening up the mail, and I wore jeans for the first time in months last week. But one of the real indicators that autumn is here are the festivals. From street fairs in the city to pumpkin picking extravaganzas on the farm, festival season is officially ON (one actually starts today). Here are some of your best bets for celebrating fall in the DC area. And if you have any other festivals to recommend, please feel free to do so in the comments.
H Street Festival
The corridor in northeast DC has plenty to celebrate—it’s become one of the most popular areas to hang out since revitalization began a few years ago, and the H Street Festival 2010 is sure to reflect that. More than 20,000 people attended last year, and numbers are expected to be even greater this Saturday, September 18. Guests can expect live entertainment on three stages, art gallery exhibits, foods from area restaurants, crafts and wares from local vendors, dancin’ in the street, fashion shows, parades, pie eating contests, and lots of kids’ activities (think face painting, story telling, carnival games, and more). And don’t bother driving—free shuttle bus service is available from Gallery Place and Eastern Market Metros. Enjoy the festivities from 12pm – 6pm.
The pumpkins may not be at their peak yet, but that’s not stopping Ticonderoga Farm in Chantilly from kicking off their Fall Pumpkin Festival. The special activities begin today, September 15, and run through November 10. The $8.95 weekday and $14.95 weekend admission fee (free for cihildren under 2) grant access to hayrides, hillside slides, a pumpkin patch visit, a petting zoo, a swinging bridge, play areas, a Panda Puzzle maze, and much more. Concessions, face painting, karaoke, and a candy corn hunt are available on the weekends only. Open daily from 9am – 6pm. For more details, visit the Ticonderoga Farm website.
Barracks Row Fall Festival
There will be two weekends in a row of festival fun on Capitol Hill. Not quite as big as it’s H Street counterpart, the Barracks Row Fall Festival is a fantastic showcase of the marine barracks and commerce on 8th Street SE. There will be tours of the historic barracks and Home of Commandments, live entertainment on the main stage, a military chef culinary competition, food and art vendors, and plenty of fun for kids (clowns, magicians, face painting, and more). Don’t miss: A skydiver will make a precision landing at 8th and G Streets sometime during the afternoon (check the schedule as it gets closer for the time). The festival runs from 11am – 5pm.
Cox Farms Fall Festival
The Cox Farm Fall Festival is sprawling. As in 90 acres of slides, swings, games, mazes, pumpkins, picnics, entertainment, farm animals sprawling. Owen’s class went on a field trip here last year, and once we split up, we only ran into one other classmate in the whole three hours we were there. But it is a blast, especially the giant slide that takes you swooping down several humps over a hillside. That’s right, I know firsthand because parents can enjoy many of the festival activities just as much as their kids. But there is also a special Kiddie Zone for little ones aged 5 and under. Admission to Cox Farms Fall Festival is $9 on weekdays, $15 on weekends (children under 2 are free). The Festival is officially open from September 25 – November 7, but you can go for a special preview weekend this Saturday and Sunday, September 18-19. For a discount on select dates, see this deal from Groupon. Open daily from 9am – 6pm in October, 10am – 5pm in November.
Fall for Fairfax Kids Fest
On Saturday, October 2, the 18th Annual Fall for Fairfax Kids Fest will offer a day of autumn fun for children. Attractions will include hay rides, pony rides, carnival rides, slides, moonbounces, model trains, scarecrow making, a climbing wall, festival food, and more. Admission to the fair is free, but many of the activities require a fee. The KidZone, featuring many of the slides and bounces, is $12 for an all-day wristband or $2 per ride. The Festival runs from 9am – 6pm and is located at the Fairfax County Government Center. Visit the website for directions.
The Germantown farm’s 30th Annual Pumpkin Festival will take place every Saturday and Sunday in October, plus Columbus Day (Monday, October 11) from 10am – 5pm. Kids will love getting lost in the hayloft, hayrides, the tube slide, a rubber ducky derby, animal petting area, pony rides, pumpkin picking, corn maze, face painting, and much more. Admission is $10 (children under 2 are free), and a few of the activities cost extra. Bring a picnic lunch or purchase food there. And don’t leave without treating the kids, or yourself, to a delicious caramel apple!
One of our favorite places to take the kids for our annual pumpkin picking, Homestead in Poolesville, MD, doesn’t have an official festival, but the farm embraces the spirit of autumn. Tractor rides out to the pumkin patches, apple picking, hot cider, farm animals, and scarecrows make it a great place to spend a few hours enjoying the season with the family. And the good thing about the lack of a festival, admission is free! Of course, you still pay for pumpkins and cider. And caramel apples.