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How to have the best fall ever in D.C., from picking apples to drinking cider

Michael Ostmann, Garrett Ostmann, Ellee Wilson and Shawn Wilson roam through the corn maze at Summers Farm. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

After an endlessly sticky summer, fall brings cool days and crisp nights that invite — no, practically beg — you to go outside and pick apples, take in the cornucopia of orange and red leaves, or spend an afternoon roaming a corn maze. The heat’s over, and winter will be here soon enough. Here’s how to make the most of this time of year.

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Go visit a cidery outside the city

First-time visitors to Distillery Lane Ciderworks, in Frederick County, Md., might be surprised to see no Golden Delicious on the thousands of trees. At the orchards, the four dozen varieties of apples are flavorful but little-known, such as Roxbury Russets and Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Newtown Pippins. Visitors can learn about the heritage styles on self-guided tours of the orchards, designed for kids and adults, or during post-picking tastings of fresh-pressed cider. Grown-ups can head to the tasting room, across from the barn where those rare apples are pressed, to sample some of the area’s most delicious hard ciders. Traditional English styles are the stars, but don’t miss the Kingston Black, almost a dead-ringer for a buttery Chardonnay, or the versions aged in locally sourced rum and bourbon barrels. — F.H.

Distillery Lane Ciderworks, 5533 Gapland Rd., Jefferson, Md. Hard cider tastings, $7 for five samples.

Have a drink by the fire

As the weather starts to chill, it’s time to start looking for a warm fire to sit by. Fortunately, Washington has no shortage of bars and restaurants with fireplaces suiting different moods and occasions. For classic cocktails, such as hot ciders and Manhattans, along with lighter fare including fried calamari and Middle Eastern dips, head to Tabard Inn, where the lounge is furnished with plush couches surrounding an ornate fireplace, alongside live jazz three nights a week. Or, if the weather’s not too cold yet, try the beers and bar fare at Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse, where a large, marble-accented firepit is the focal point of the outdoor balcony. — M.G.

Tabard Inn, 1739 N St. NW.

Ivy City Smokehouse, 1356 Okie St. NE.

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Wander through a corn maze

Three years ago, Summers Farm in Frederick, Md., made international headlines with a gigantic Taylor Swift-themed corn maze (“Lawn goals,” the singer wrote on Instagram, with a photo of the cornfields). Since then, locals have eagerly anticipated the farm’s autumnal follow-ups: Last year was an armed forces theme, and this year Summers Farm is all about the Washington Nationals. Featuring 12 acres of nine-foot stalks, the design has both easy and more difficult paths leading to its “Curly W” center, while the rest of the farm has many of the other fall activities you’d expect, including wagon rides and a pumpkin patch. And for those who want to get lost in a maze celebrating a different (and more victorious) local team, Bowles Farm in Clements, Md., and Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian, Md., both have Washington Capitals-themed mazes this year. — M.G.

5620 Butterfly Lane, Frederick, Md. $8-$14. Through Oct. 31.

Pick out the perfect jack-o-lantern

Throw on your favorite flannel and celebrate the season with a day-long adventure to Great Country Farms. About 70 minutes outside the city, the Loudoun County farm has a pick-your-own-pumpkin patch and apple orchard, and a multitude of fun fall activities. A general-admission ticket grants access to a corn maze, hayride, petting farm, pumpkin cannons and, most important, pig races. Other activities include marshmallow roasting, cider pressing and catch-and-release fishing (BYO tackle). The grounds are pet- and kid-friendly.

Afterward, grab some extra apple-cider doughnuts for the road and pair them with a glass of wine in the picnic area of Otium Cellars. The scenic winery, just outside the town of Purcellville, is nestled next to a private equestrian facility, and you can watch beautiful Hanoverian horses gallop around the expansive grounds as you sip. — M.M.

Great Country Farms, 18780 Foggy Bottom Rd., Bluemont, Va. $8 for children, $10 for adults. Free for military members.

Otium Cellars, 18050 Tranquility Rd., Purcellville, Va. Bottles of wine from $25-$36. Cheese, meat and crackers are also available for purchase.

Check out some fall foliage

You don’t have to travel to Skyline Drive in Virginia to see a parade of fall colors; walk around the 444-acre National Arboretum for a varied autumnal show instead. Stop by the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum to see the miniature masterpieces’ transformation from green to amber orange and burgundy red. (The Autumn Bonsai exhibit runs from Nov. 10-18.) Fall fans will also want to visit the white National Capitol Columns, which pop more than usual against the seasonal backdrop. Other local, leaf-peeping destinations include the George Washington Parkway, Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, and Theodore Roosevelt Island. — M.M.

U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave. NE. Free.

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Yes, it’s peak PSL season, but there are many other delicious, fall-inspired drinks to cradle in your mitts before sweater weather turns into slush season. Get cozy with a warm and frothy apple “chaider” ($3.40) from A Baked Joint — an apple-cider-and-chai blend that tastes like a spiced mulled cider (or a hug in a mug). Or, indulge your sweet tooth with a flavorful maple latte ($4.50), sweetened with Vermont maple syrup, at Compass Coffee. For those looking to get their pumpkin fill, Compass also carries a pumpkin chai latte ($4.65), featuring pumpkin syrup and a house-made masala chai blend. It’ll give you all the fall feels. — M.M.

A Baked Joint, 440 K St. NW.

Compass Coffee, multiple locations.

This story has been updated with the new dates for “Beautiful Transitions: Autumn Bonsai Exhibit” at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum.