25 Fun Things to Do in Fairfax, Virginia with Kids

Kids can perform various experiments at the Children's Science Center. Photo courtesy of the center
Kids can perform various experiments at the Children's Science Center. Photo courtesy of the center

If you're looking for a quick and easy day trip for your family that's only about a 30-minute drive from DC, consider visiting Fairfax, Virginia. This Northern Virginia suburb is home to so many kid-friendly restaurants, shops, parks and playgrounds, museums, and more fun things to do with kids. The city, which began as the Town of Providence in 1805, is also steeped with history—it was the site of several Civil War battles and home to many historic buildings.

Here are 25 fun things to do with kids in Fairfax, Virginia, including great places to eat, play, and walk around. For more fun day trips, check out our list of things to do in Clifton, Virginia with kids and our guide to visiting Kensington, Maryland with kids.


Indoor Things to Do in Fairfax, Virginia

1. Historic Blenheim and the Civil War Interpretive Center

Historic Blenheim, a brick farmhouse built in 1859, includes more than 125 signatures, pictographs, games, and thoughts left on its walls by Union soldiers during the Civil War. This "diary on walls" provides insight into typical soldier life and the effects of the war on local citizens. In the Civil War Interpretive Center, visitors can learn more about the war through an illustrated timeline, artifacts, soldier biographies, and more. Admission is free.

2. City of Fairfax Regional Library

This large library across the street from Old Town Hall hosts storytimes, performances, arts and crafts, and other activities and events for kids and families (currently virtual due to COVID). There's a children's area, a new teen area in the works, and the Virginia Room, which houses Fairfax County's foremost collection of books, photos, and other materials related to the county's history, government, and genealogy.

3. Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center

This small museum, housed in Fairfax County's first two-story brick school that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, explores the history of Fairfax City and Fairfax County through artifacts, photos, and more. The museum is fully accessible, and admission is free.

STEM activities abound at the Children's Science Center. Photo courtesy of the center

4. Children's Science Center

At this small museum/science lab in the Fair Oaks Mall, kids ages 2 and up can explore STEM concepts through a rotating selection of hands-on exhibits, experiments, and other activities. The museum also hosts camps, virtual Family Science Nights, birthday parties, and other special events. Purchase a two-hour timed-entry ticket online.

5. Escapology Fairfax

Escape rooms abound in the DC area, but what sets Escapology apart is that its five themed escape rooms can be played in Kid Mode. Groups of four to ten kids ages 7 to 14 receive a detective checklist customized to their age group that will guide them through the clues and puzzles. They also receive unlimited assistance from workers through a walkie talkie. Grown-ups can hang out in the comfortable lobby while they wait for the kids to escape.

RELATED: The Best Indoor Play Spaces for DC Kids

Kids up to age 13 can have a blast at Jolly Yolly Kids. Photo courtesy of Jolly Yolly Kids

6. Jolly Yolly Kids

This indoor playground made our list of the top kids' birthday part spots near DC, but it also offers daily open-play hours, with a drop-off play option on Mondays through Fridays. It features a large, multilevel play structure for kids up to age 13, a smaller play area for ages 2-7, and a baby section for ages 2 and under, making it a great place for families with children of multiple ages.

7. George Mason University

College sports just have a special energy, don't they? Bring your kids to cheer on the men's or women's basketball, soccer, or other sports teams at George Mason University. If theater is more your family's thing, the university's Center for the Arts hosts a Family Series of kid-friendly performances including magic shows, musical theater, and more. Or, catch larger traveling events like Disney On Ice and Trolls LIVE! at EagleBank Arena.

Can you smell the popcorn? Photo courtesy of University Mall Theatres

8. University Mall Theatres

Feel the nostalgia at this small, charming, old-school movie theater near the university that's beloved by locals. It shows both first-run and older movies for just $8 per ticket on any day and time, and I can vouch that the popcorn is delicious!

9. Patriot Pawsabilities

If your kiddos are cat lovers, bring them to this cat lounge where they can play with, pet, and snuggle a variety of cats and kittens. All of the animals are available for adoption, but you don't need to be in the market for a pet to visit. Call ahead of time to schedule a one-hour visit, as only five children age 13 and under are allowed inside each hour. Kids under age 4 are not permitted in the lounge.

Drop in for some ice skating at Fairfax Ice Arena. Photo courtesy of fairfaxcounty.gov

10. Fairfax Ice Arena

This indoor ice arena, which made our list of 14 great ice skating rinks near DC, offers public skating sessions every day of the year, with extended public skating hours on holidays. Skate rentals are available, and advance reservations are not required. Fairfax Ice Arena also offers lessons, figure skating camps and competitions, and hockey clinics.


Kids of all ages love to play at Luv 2 Play. Photo courtesy of Luv 2 Play

11. Luv 2 Play

Luv 2 Play, located in the Fair Oaks Mall, is an indoor play space, arcade, and cafe geared towards babies through age 12. It features a three-level playground with slides, tunnels, crawl spaces, and more; separate toddler and baby soft-play areas; redemption video games and kiddie rides; an eating area where families can enjoy pizza, fries, and more; and party rooms. There's also a seating area for grown-ups with free WiFi.

Outdoor Things to Do in Fairfax, Virginia

12. Kidz Korner at Old Town Square

Attend a special kids' program every Saturday morning at 10:30am in July and August at Old Town Square. The events include children's concerts, nature shows, science demonstrations, and more. All events are free, but pre-registration online is required.

13. Rock the Block!

On the fourth Friday of the month from May through October, Old Town Square hosts free, family-friendly outdoor concerts featuring local bands from a variety of genres. There are also food vendors and a beer garden. Bring chairs or blankets and enjoy the live music!

Related: 17 Splash Pads and Spraygrounds to Beat the DC Summer Heat

Make a splash at Old Town Square. Photo courtesy of fairfaxva.gov

14. Fairfax City Splash Pad at Old Town Square

From May through October (exact dates vary), the splash pad in Old Town Square is turned on and ready to help kids beat the heat. It's open daily from 8am to 10pm, except on Rock the Block! Fridays, when it closes at 3pm.

15. Ratcliffe Park

As my kids have gotten older (ages 10 and 7), it's harder to find playgrounds that are exciting enough for them. The playground at Ratcliffe Park next to the Fairfax Museum definitely is! Its larger structure has rope-climbing walls, suspension bridges, ladders, slides, and lots of other features to bring out kids' inner ninja warrior. There's also a smaller playground and a sandbox for little ones, plenty of swings (including a flying saucer-shaped one that my kids love to pile on), a baseball field, a basketball court, and covered picnic pavilions.

There's something for everyone at Van Dyck Park. Photo courtesy of the park's Facebook page

16. Van Dyck Park

This 20-acre park next to the Sherwood Community Center is my family's favorite park in Fairfax. It has something for everyone—three playground areas with several unique play structures, a shaded walking trail, a skate park, lighted tennis and basketball courts, and sand volleyball courts. There are two covered picnic pavilions that can be rented, as well as a large grassy area that often holds special events like outdoor movie nights.

RELATED: Destination Playgrounds in the DC Area

Providence Park offers plenty of shade—and fun. Photo courtesy of cityoffairfaxva.gov

17. Providence Park

This shaded, tucked-away park has two playgrounds, a large soccer field, tennis courts, a picnic pavilion, and charcoal grills. A gravel trail, roughly a quarter-mile long, encircles the entire park and is perfect for biking, hiking, or jogging.

Neighborhoods to Visit in Fairfax, Virginia

Spend the day shopping, dining, and relaxing at Mosaic District. Photo courtesy of @wearedens

18. Mosaic District

You can spend a whole day at this shopping, dining, and entertainment district and still not get bored. There are more than 30 restaurants, many of which offer outdoor seating, and nearly 30 stores, from Target and Barnes & Noble to smaller boutiques. There's also a movie theater; Muse Paintbar, which offers plenty of workshops for kids and families; Tiny Dancers, where kids ages 2-12 can take dance lessons; and more. At the center of it all is a large open area with artificial grass that's perfect for picnicking and the site of many special events.

19. Fairfax Corner

Fairfax Corner is another shopping, dining, and entertainment district that has something for everyone—nearly 20 shops, 10+ restaurants, a movie theater, and more. Fairfax Corner is also home to Escapology escape rooms (listed above), a splash pad in the summer, and various special events throughout the year.

Explore history in Old Town Fairfax. Photo courtesy of the Fairfax Business Association

20. Old Town Fairfax

Fairfax City's walkable downtown area, also known as Old Town Fairfax or the City of Fairfax Historic District, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That's because there are structures dating from the early 1800s, many of them identified with sign markers. Stroll around Main Street and the surrounding blocks to see how many you can find, then duck into some of the many shops and restaurants in the area. This area is also where you'll find Old Town Hall (built in 1900), Old Town Square, and the City of Fairfax Regional Library.

Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Fairfax, Virginia

Enjoy juicy burgers and delicious custard at Freddy's. Photo courtesy of Freddy's

21. Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

This chain's burgers, fries, and frozen custard are to die for. The kids' menu offers hot dogs, grilled cheese, and chicken tenders in addition to burgers, while grown-ups can opt for chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, or veggie burgers if hamburgers aren't their thing. Be sure to try the signature turtle sundae—vanilla custard topped with hot fudge, caramel, toasted pecans, whipped cream, and a cherry—if no one is allergic to tree nuts. After your meal, walk over to the little playground at Stafford Drive Park so the kids can blow off steam.

22. Woody's Ice Cream

This mom-and-pop shop, which made our list of 12 must-try ice cream shops near DC, is conveniently located across the street from Old Town Square and near the City of Fairfax library. That makes it the perfect place to go after a visit to the splash pad or library. Woody's serves up more than 30 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream from a local creamery, as well as soft serve, sundaes, milkshakes, and more. Enjoy your ice cream indoors or on the large, dog-friendly covered patio.

Try the baby crab-cake sliders at Coastal Flats. Photo courtesy of the restaurant's Facebook page

23. Great American Restaurants

This local restaurant group has 17 eateries in Northern Virginia and Maryland that are all reliably delicious and kid-friendly. Its Fairfax locations include Artie's on Old Lee Highway (temporarily closed for remodeling) and Coastal Flats and Ozzie's Good Eats in Fairfax Corner. Artie's is classic American with a menu heavy on meats, chicken, and salads; Coastal Flats lives up to its seaside theme with more seafood options; and Ozzie's skews a bit more Italian with items like lasagna and chicken parmesan. It's totally worth it at all three restaurants to pay the extra $1 for the community bread basket—the famous donut-like Ozzie rolls are a must-try, and the money is contributed to fight food insecurity in the community.

24. Sugar Mama's

This family-owned and operated ice cream shop serves only old-fashioned, scoopable ice cream—no soft serve! Choose from a rotating selection of handmade, egg-free flavors, from classic vanilla bean and chocolate to peppermint and coconut chocolate crunch. There's no gluten in the ice cream either, other than in added items like Oreos and cookie dough. Sugar Mama's also offers sundaes, milkshakes, "fried" ice cream, and other special treats.

25. Silver Diner

Billed as a "Next Generation Diner" that means happy parents and happy kids, with a kids' menu that has all your kid's favorite foods, with a healthy spin. Kids will gobble up gluten-free quinoa coconut pancakes for breakfast or a gluten-free pasta for dinner, or choose from the usual suspects like hotdogs and chicken nuggets—all free-range and nitrate-free. Meanwhile, parents indulge in a range of options, which include incredible cocktails.

Places featured in this article:

Stacy C. Sherwood CommunityCenter

George Mason University Center for the Arts

Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center

Historic Blenheim and the Civil War Interpretive Center

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers