Here Are The Best Places To See Fall Foliage is the Capital Region of The United States of America
Now that you’ve packed up your swimsuits and flip flops, and another school year is well underway, it’s autumn, and the perfect time to enjoy the unrivaled beauty of nature’s magic.
As the mercury drops and the days grow shorter, landscapes across the United States begin to change, turning from lush greens to brilliant oranges, reds and yellows, signaling the official end of summer.
One of the best places to go in the United States to see the fall foliage is the Capital Region, encompassing Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland.
Here, we will focus on the amazing fall colors around the Capital City and northern Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains. I will also mention a couple great places to spend the night as you tour the area. Be sure to have your camera handy at all times!
Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?
Everyone knows that leaves change color in the fall, but many don’t know the science behind the splendor. Plants turn carbon dioxide and water into food through a process called photosynthesis.
The process of photosynthesis is aided by a chemical called chlorophyll, which give leaves their green color. During winter when trees go into their dormant period and shut down their food production, the chlorophyll in the leaves fade to reveal the vivid colors we associate with autumn.
Witness a Fall Wonderland in Washington D.C.
The Washington D.C. area is well-known for its celebrated monuments, world-class attractions, and of course its political ties as the capital of the United States. If you’re planning a trip to the D.C. area in October and November, why not take time to revel in fall foliage at its finest?
The topography and climate of Washington D.C. make for brilliant landscapes during autumn. The best time to see the changing colors is from mid-October through early November, depending on the differing weather patterns each year. Here are some excellent options both in and around the D.C. area for breathtaking scenery:
The National Arboretum
Established by an act of Congress in 1927, the National Arboretum is a lush oasis in the northeast section of Washington D.C., about 10 miles from the Capitol Building.
The Arboretum encompasses 446 acres of breathtaking natural beauty with 9.5 miles of meandering roadways, perfect for an unforgettable fall foliage experience.
Location: 3501 New York Ave., NE Washington, DC 20002
Hours: Every day of the year from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed December 25.
C & O National Historic Park
This national historic park runs the length of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal and was established in 1961 to preserve the historic canal which was completed in 1850.
Not only an intriguing historical site, this park is also the perfect destination to immerse yourself in a blaze of autumn colors. Running about 184 miles from Washington D.C. to Maryland, there are endless postcard-perfect fall photo opportunities.
Location: The Georgetown Visitor center is found at: 1057 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW Washington, DC 20007
Hours: Open daily during daylight hours
Rock Creek Park
When Rock Creek Park was established back in 1890, making it one of the first federal parks, the legislation papers actually cited the immense natural beauty of the area as justification for the founding, and D.C. natives and travelers alike have benefited for over a century since.
Along with a flurry fall colors on natural, untouched display, you can enjoy historical excursions at the Old Stone House, Pierce Mill and Meridian Hill.
Location: The Nature Center is located at 5200 Glover Road NW, Washington D.C. 20015.
Hours: Open daily during daylight hours
Where to Stay?
Many of these sites have as much history to share as they do beautiful scenery, so why not complement your fall foliage vacation with a stay at one of the most historic boutique hotels in Washington D.C., the Phoenix Park Hotel.
Opened in 1922 as The Commodore, this celebrated Washington D.C. hotel has welcomed countless politicians, foreign dignitaries and Hollywood celebrities, along with anyone simply in the market for unforgettable Washington D.C. vacations.
For a chic choice in downtown Washington D.C. hotels, choose the Phoenix Park Hotel.
Visitor Attractions, Events & Fun Activities, in Washington D.C.
Experience the Magic in the Shenandoah Valley
Picture the turning of the colors as you’ve always imagined it: the dense rows of majestic trees, the crisp air of a coming winter, and the fiery bloom of fall colors.
Shenandoah Valley Drone Footage Foliage
Sunset out in the Shenandoah Valley during fall foliage.
Whether you believed it or not, this world you’ve been imagining truly exists, and it’s called Staunton, Virginia.
Situated in the heart of the lush Shenandoah Valley overlooking the eastern crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Staunton area is a lifetime must-see for any true fall foliage fan.
Virginia’s fall colors begin with flecks of orange throughout early September but “peak” with a mid-October rush of vibrant reds and golds. By early to mid-November, the forest will have settled into an inviting blanket of brown, sienna and auburn. Consider these options for viewing the change in the Shenandoah Valley:
Shenandoah Valley National Park
You won’t find a better view. The park’s Skyline Drive offers a safe path up the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains from where the entire Shenandoah Valley will be yours to marvel. The mountainside topography allows for an unusual opportunity to see the full-breadth of the fall change, provided you time it right.
At the top of the mountain you’ll see fully-changed trees while further down the valley you’ll find only flecks of red. Remember, it can be 10 or more degrees cooler up on the mountainside, so bundle up if you’re so inclined.
Location: The park is located about 50 miles north of Staunton off Interstate 81, and stretches for 105 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Hours: The park is always open; however portions of Skyline Drive may be closed due to inclement weather.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Offering the quintessential fall foliage drive, Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles of calm mountainside meadows and scenic glimpses into the past.
Beginning at the Shenandoah Valley National Park and continuing all the way down to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, it is the country’s longest rural parkway and is ideal for viewing the changing of the colors during a leisurely drive.
Location: Runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains beginning at the Shenandoah National Park on the North End.
Hours: The road is always open
Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival
Don’t for a second feel like you have to enjoy the turning of the colors alone. The Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival is inexpensive and well-organized to help outdoor enthusiasts like yourself get the most out of your time.
At this 3-day festival, thousands of eager cyclists come together to explore the fall foliage throughout the Shenandoah Valley. Route options are available from 10 to 100 miles, so riders of any skill level will find a route suited to them.
Admission to the Bike Festival comes with several area perks, including a discount at the Staunton Blackfriars Playhouse. Start gearing up for the festival in October.
Location: Festivities kick off from Shelburne Middle School in Staunton, VA.
Hours: Varies by route and day.
Where to Stay?
Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of a Staunton autumn at The Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center, the most popular Shenandoah Valley lodging.
In many ways synonymous with Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley, the Stonewall Jackson hotel has given the historic town a sense of elegance and refinement since its opening in 1924. The Stonewall Jackson underwent a “re-opening” in 2005, updating its amenities beyond those of other Staunton, Virginia hotels without sacrificing its charming, decades-proven personality.
For the finest of Shenandoah Valley hotels in Staunton, Virginia, stay at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center.
Of course, you can experience the changing of the colors all along the eastern coast from Georgia to Maine, but unless you have two months to spend, get the most of your fall foliage vacation by visiting either D.C. or the Shenandoah Valley.
Visitor Attractions, Events & Fun Activities, in Maryland
No matter which you choose, memories to last a lifetime are only a few camera snaps away!