Socially distanced activities you can do this fall

Fall has arrived, and, unfortunately, it looks like the coronavirus pandemic will be here for all of it.

This knocks out some of the classic fall activities such as hayrides and crowded harvest festivals, but there’s still some COVID-safe fun to be had out there.

From nature walks to wineries, here are some activities to make a fall season that can be salvaged.

Hiking and leaf peeping

The D.C. area is amazingly well stocked with beautiful trails that offer easy strolls and more challenging hikes.

With falling temperatures and the soon-to-change foliage, getting out for a hike is great option that carries a low risk of infection.

Here are just a few good options nearby:

Annapolis Rock

Tucked away in South Mountain State Park, in Maryland, Annapolis Rock is a good day hike at slightly over five miles.

Along the way, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Greenbrier Lake and Black Rock Cliff.

The trail is popular among hikers, so bring a mask out on the trail in case it begins to get crowded.

Shenandoah National Park

Located just over an hour outside the District, Shenandoah National Park is a perfect option for those who want to catch sight of the changing leaves.

Whether you hop on one of the many trail heads, pull off the road for a scenic overlook or cruise the 105 miles of Skyline Drive, Shenandoah has a little something for all nature lovers.

Keep in mind that some of the trails can get crowded at times, so be aware of your surroundings and bring a mask just in case.

Popular trails:

For those seeking a sunset views, many of the pullouts and overlooks that face west offer stunning views of the nearby towns and valley, as well as the Shenandoah River, that complement an autumn sunset nicely.

C&O Canal

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal runs more than 184 miles from D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland.

Hiking and biking along the trail is relatively easy, as it mostly follows the canal itself on fairly flat ground.

Those looking for a more adventurous experience can seek out the Billy Goat Trail for some rock scrambling and Potomac River views. Use caution out there, as a misstep can lead to serious injury — just ask Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, who handle many of the emergency calls out there.

Great Falls is also worth a stop — viewable from either the Maryland or Virginia side of the river. Again, this area gets crowded, so bring a mask.

Drive-in movies

An old-school pastime has seen a resurgence thanks to a mixture of nostalgia and social distancing requirements.

There are several options for a drive-in movie experience in the D.C. area this fall:


Sitting outdoors at a vineyard is a great way to take in a crisp fall afternoon. Many trips offer scenic views of the vineyards where the grapes that go into the wine you’re drinking grow.

For those who want to try a few vineyards in a single trip, there are several wine trails or clusters of wineries within a short distance of each other.

As with almost every food service venue these days, guests will have to wear a mask while in common areas of the vineyard.

Be sure to call ahead before you visit any winery, as each will have their own operating rules and some may not be offering on-site tastings.


Virginia boasts more than 300 wineries and many of them offer ample outdoor seating near vineyards.

Click on the links below to see wineries by county.


With more than 80 to choose from, Maryland has some solid winery options not far from D.C.

Again, be sure to call ahead, because some Maryland counties may still have restrictions in place that prevent service at the winery itself.


If you’re looking for an experience similar to a winery that’s more family-oriented, many orchards in the area are still offering an experience similar to that of a normal year.

Whether you’re picking your own apples or munching on an apple cider donut, orchards offer great low-risk activities for families — especially those with young children.

Be sure to call ahead to any orchard you plan to visit; some may not be offering pick-your-own experiences this year, and others require you make a reservation ahead of time.

While Virginia has no shortage of options for orchards, Maryland also has some good destinations such as Butler’s Orchard, Homestead Farm, and Milburn Orchards.

Find an orchard that works for you in Virginia.

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Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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