Overview of Northern Virginia

Arlington Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia, often referred to as NoVA, encompasses the Washington metropolitan area. The region is made up of counties Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, independent cities Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park and major towns Dumfries, Herndon and Vienna. NoVA makes an ideal location for getting away from more tourism-oriented attractions in Washington, D.C. and offers plenty of things to do, from learning about the nation’s history to exploring the wildlife and taking in the scenery.

Northern Virginia Hotels

If you’re wondering where to stay near the Northern Virginia breweries, parks and historic sites, you can find accommodations in every city. Because most of NoVA is close to metropolitan Washington D.C., you can even stay in the nation’s capital and make day trips to the surrounding areas.

Staying in one of the Northern Virginia hotels gives you access to so many things to do. You might have to plan several trips to the area just to take advantage of it all. Some of the top hotels in Northern Virginia include the Westin Washington near Dulles Airport in Herndon, the Hyatt Regency at Tysons Corner and the Landsdowne Resort & Spa in Leesburg.

Northern Virginia Restaurants and Breweries

It’s worth a drive to some of the best Northern Virginia restaurants, such as Artie’s in Fairfax. This eatery features model boats and classic American seafood. L’Auberge Chez Francois charms diners with French cuisine in a refined farmhouse in Great Falls.
Be sure to check out some of the local independent breweries in Northern Virginia, like Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton and Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church.

Metropolitan D.C. and the Northern Neck

The District of Columbia itself is not part of the definition or history of NoVA, even though many attractions associated with Washington D.C. are actually located outside of the city.

However, the history of Northern Virginia involves an area called the “Northern Neck of Virginia.” Early documents describe this as the land between the eastern Chesapeake Bay and the Fairfax line to the west. Now the Northern Neck is sometimes defined as separate from Northern Virginia.

Things to Do in Northern Virginia 

If you live in or visit the area, you can take advantage of a wide variety of things to do, including Northern Virginia restaurants, museums, shopping and events.

Arlington and Alexandria

Those who enjoy learning about the nation’s history will have a field day in Arlington and Alexandria. Arlington National Cemetery is located on 624 acres of land across from Washington D.C. It honors soldiers who died in U.S. conflicts including the Civil War. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a monument that venerates those who have died in combat without being identified.

The nearby Mount Vernon Trail takes you from the Arlington area through Alexandria and ends at George Washington’s estate. It runs along the Potomac River and offers beautiful views. You can stroll, jog or bike a portion of the trail or the entire 18 miles.

If you stop in Alexandria’s Old Town, you can take in the quaint architecture, fine dining and world-class shopping. Interact with artists at the Torpedo Factory Art, a group of studios that are built in an old munitions factory. You can also dine on the waterfront or take a boat tour.


Fredericksburg is home to a number of colonial sites. Tour the Kenmore, a stately plantation house with picturesque gardens. Chatham Manor lies across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg and played a major role in the Civil War and history of Northern Virginia. Hugh Mercer Apothecary houses a small exhibit about 18th-century medical treatments and Hugh Mercer’s life in a preserved historic building.

You can also spend time in nature while walking down the 1.8-mile Canal Path, visiting the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve or building up adrenaline at the nearby Adventure Park at Wilderness Presidential Resort in Spotsylvania.

Fairfax County

One of the highlights of Fairfax County is Great Falls Park. The Potomac River rushes through this magnificent landscape, creating breathtaking waterfalls. You can go boating, biking, hiking, fishing or horseback riding at the park.

Great Falls is one of the attractions along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. If you’re not in the mood for outdoor adventures, you can drive along this scenic road and stop at historic sites along the way.

Northern Virginia Events

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is an amphitheater near Vienna. The historic Wolf Trap farm was donated to the National Park Service in the mid-1900s. Today it welcomes major musicians from all over the world for concerts.

If you’re looking for other Northern Virginia events, there are a number of festivals in the area. All the counties in Northern Virginia have some kind of fair, community event or celebration each year. Manassas holds the Fall Jubilee the first weekend of October, and the King Street Art Festival takes place in Alexandria the third weekend of September. Mount Vernon holds a Spring Wine Festival and Sunset Tour in May.

Many Northern Virginia breweries offer small festivals and outings. Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria holds group cycling events, trivia and yoga. Capitol City Brewing Company hosts Oktoberfest in the fall.