What’s There to Do near Dulles for a Few Hours?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Brian Mosley

“Dear PoPville,

My cousin is leaving to study abroad and will be at Dulles for 8 hours on Sunday. I’m thinking about driving down and getting her out of the airport for a bit, even if it’s just for a meal to hangout. I am seeking recommendations on where to go/how to spend a few hours since I’ve only been to Dulles a handful of times in 8 years.”

How ’bout visiting the Mosaic District? Any other ideas?

44 Comment

  • Air and Space museum. The one right there is AMAZING!

    • ah

      +1. Unless she hates planes, this is definitely the thing to do out there. Or Tysons Corner

      • Tysons might be too risky one a tight time schedule. The one time I went there I got stuck in a huge line of cars trying to park for an hour and a half.

    • I second Udvar Hazy – even if your friend doesn’t like planes it’s AMAZING. (Space Shuttle!) You can always catch an IMAX too if the timing is right.

    • I haven’t yet been, but if I were going to be in the Dulles area for several hours, I’d check out the Udvar-Hazy Center.

    • Right near Dulles Airport, you’ve got the Udvar-Hazy Center; One Loudoun (Family Meal; Nando’s; Alamo Cinema, etc.) and Dulles Town Center. Any of those would be far closer and less prone to getting-to-the-airport problems than going to Tysons or the Mosaic District. Saying those two places are “close” to Dulles is like characterizing National Airport as being close to Bethesda instead of sending people to Arlington.

      Udvar-Hazy even has a Fairfax Connector route that goes directly between the museum and the airport as part of its route, the 983.

      Outdoors and parkish, you’ve got the Sully Historical Site nearby as well, which now has a Wawa up at the top of its access road. Could always grab some snacks and kick it at the picnic benches in the park.

  • Udvar-Hazy Air & Space museum is pretty cool. Then you could go to the Dogfish Head Alehouse for a meal.

  • Spa World! Spa World! Spa World!

    • That was my first thought after Udvar-Hazy. If both of them have no hang-ups about getting naked together, it could be the perfect thing to do during a long day of travel.

  • Almost finish the walk from security to the gate?
    Wait for the bus out in the parking fields?
    Cathartically vandalize the “brutalism” Wikipedia page?
    Try — and fail — to find a vendor selling food in the terminal?

    Change your return flight to end up at National?

  • Blue Ridge Arsenal shooting range. Its like Call of Duty but in real life!

  • The Mosaic District is not that close. If you want to give her one last taste of American Suburbia before sending her off, Reston Town Center should be good enough.

  • Go to a brewery! Ocelot and Lost Rhino are very close.

  • Yeah, Mosaic District isn’t close at all. If you’re into shopping, you could go to Tyson’s or the Leesburg Outlets. If you’re into local beer, West Ox Brewery is close, and so is Lost Rhino. Lost Rhino has food, too, so you can grab dinner and a drink.

  • +1 On the Udvar-Hazy center. On the chance you’re into Civil War history, Manassas National Battlefield Park minutes away, or you’re less than an hour from Harpers Ferry, or just over an hour to Antietam or Chancellorsville (I love visiting those places, and NPS does a spectacular job preserving them).

  • Definitely support the Udar-Hazey idea – it is a great museum. Though with 8 hours, you don’t really need to be so limited. Even with traffic (should be light on Sunday of a long weekend) and getting back to the airport 2 hours before take-off, you would have a solid 4-5 hours to do anything in the region, including in DC.

    • SouthwestDC

      You never know with traffic around there. It once took me three hours to drive from Fairfax to Dulles on a Sunday afternoon, and the person I was dropping off came really close to missing her flight. I’d stay nearby just in case.

      • FWIW, I did recently notice that taking the toll road to the beltway to the GW Parkway is almost exactly the same distance as toll road to 66. Considering how hot of a mess 66 inside the beltway generally is, could be a better option.

      • It will rarely take three hours to get that far. At non-peak rush times, Dulles is about 40-45 minutes from downtown.

        • I’m reminded of that Master of None episode where they miss their flight because they SHOULD HAVE had plenty of time to go across town to buy a bottle of hot sauce. I wouldn’t put much faith in how long it SHOULD take when the consequences of missing a flight (especially an international one) are so great.

        • Also the OP would have to make two round trips to Dulles (assuming he picks up and drops off the cousin) which is probably not ideal.

        • I second this. Not sure why people are so skeptical about getting to/from Dulles within an 8 hour time frame. There would need to be a lot of bad luck for one not to leave the airport, go anywhere in the region to do something fun, and get back for their flight.

          I once had a similar situation, coming back from studying abroad. My flight took my through Dulles with an 8 hour layover before flying home. I managed to navigate myself to the WMTA bus stop, ride into Rosslyn, take the metro into downtown DC, meet a friend for lunch on her work break, and do the reverse trip back with hours to spare and continue to wait in the terminal.

          Have fun- you’ve got the better part of a day to explore!

          • SouthwestDC

            The PTI for the DC area is 5.72. So if you’re taking a 45-minute trip you should build in an extra 4 hours to be reasonably sure you’ll get to your destination on time.
            When I was traveling around NoVA a lot for job interviews I took the expected travel time and multiplied it by 3 determine when I should leave. This worked really well most of the time. I usually got there early, but not too early, and was only late once or twice. I’d probably be a bit more conservative in this situation.

  • If the weather is good, plenty of outdoor options not too far…Harper’s Ferry, Great Falls, various battlefields, even Shenandoah National Park. Don’t know if cousin is of drinking age, but there is also the Winery at Bull Run. 8 hours is also enough time to get downtown, if traveling outside of rush hours…

  • If a little nature is desired, Great Falls, the Virginia side, is not far from Dulles, about 15 miles.

  • jim_ed

    Willard Barbecue is a few miles south of the airport and some of the best barbecue in the DC area. Definitely the place to eat. There’s also a laser tag place next door if you wanna be a kid for a bit.

  • If you like golf, the new Top Golf facility out there looks awesome! Only been to the one in Springfield, but the one in Louden County looks 10 times better.

    • I totally forgot about TopGolf!! My parents live right near this (and Dulles), and we’ve been a few times. It’s super popular and tends to get crowded, so you may want to leave some time on the front end to wait for a bay to be available–you can wait at the restaurant and grab dinner then.

  • There’s a Wegman’s not far from the airport… doesn’t get much better than that.

  • Agree about Reston Town Center! I live 7 minutes from Dulles Airport and RTC is about 15 minutes away. It’s an upscale, outdoor retail area. There are several places to eat (Try local favorite Jackson’s,) and shopping (J. Crew, South Moon Under, Sephora, Anthropologie, Apple, etc), a movie theatre. It’s a hot spot for the 20-30 year old crowd for weekend brunch and happy hour.

  • Ocelot Brewry. I love that place so much. Right next to Dulles !!!

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