Celebrate the Beauty and Bounty of Fall in Virginia!
Families wishing to indulge their senses this fall look no further than Virginia. As 15 million acres of foliage bursts into color and fall harvests ripen, the state offers many affordable, family-oriented celebrations of nature’s beauty and bounty. Moms, pops, kids and critters will experience magnificent views, devour farm-fresh harvests, participate in outdoor adventures, and enjoy various festivals, fairs and other fall classics. Visit www.FallinVirginia.org for the latest info on what makes Fall 2011 great in Virginia.
Leaf Peepers Revel as Mountains Shine in Western Virginia
It is no secret that Virginia is a state with natural beauty, but fall is unique, especially in western Virginia, where wilderness is pristine and mountains glow in the sunlight. With more than 15 million acres of foliage and 2,500 miles of scenic drives, Virginia provides the perfect backdrop for witnessing the colorful transformation as green leaves turn vibrant shades of gold, orange and red. The colors typically peak in western Virginia is around early October. The colors of Virginia’s coastal regions change by mid-November. To make planning easy, weekly foliage reports will be posted to www.FallinVirginia.org starting early September.
There’s no better way to take a leaf peeping trip than along one of Virginia’s National scenic byways, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, which follows the Appalachian Mountain chain for 469 miles, and provides spectacular scenery; with 100 species of trees, a variety of flowering shrubs and wildflowers and elevation reaching 6,000 feet in certain areas. The parkway is also a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts, with 54 different mammals and 59 species of birds inhabiting the drive. To top it off, the towns along the parkway are quaint and welcoming. Highlights of the Blue Ridge Parkway include scenic overlooks, historic structures, walking trails and waterfalls. One visit to the parkway and you will see why it is referred to as “America’s Most Scenic Drive.”
Outdoor Enthusiasts Haven: Parks and Natural Wonders
Virginia is great for adventurous families, and fall is a perfect time to get out and play: the weather is mild and the beautiful scenery is vibrant with color. Virginia has many parks and protected forests where families can truly engage with the great outdoors and hike, bike, go horseback riding, rock climbing and more.
Cameras are a must when visiting Shenandoah National Park and the 105-mile Skyline Drive, where the beauty of unspoiled nature is breathtaking. At the park, the family can get away from it all and experience nature. Hike to one of nine waterfalls, have a picnic, watch white tail deer and other wildlife, mountain bike or just sit at one of 75 overlooks and photograph the bright mountain vistas.
Nearby await many family-friendly outings in Shenandoah Valley. Exit Skyline Drive at the Front Royal entrance on October 11 for the Festival of Leaves, with historical displays, arts and craft vendors, a parade, live entertainment, children's corner, living history interpretations and more. Visit Luray Caverns, the largest caverns in the Eastern USA, where stalactites and stalagmites have formed a beautiful underground world that all ages are impressed with. Also, check out the Natural Bridge, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, once owned by Thomas Jefferson, who called it "the most sublime of nature's works."
Head southwest to the Heart of Appalachia, a region rich in beauty, culture and history, and visit the "Grand Canyon of the South" at Breaks Interstate National Park. Located on the Virginia/Kentucky border, Breaks is one of only two Interstate Parks in the country, encompassing 4,500 acres of greenwood lands and mountain scenery. Home to the largest canyon east of the Mississippi, and reaching more than five miles long and 1,600 feet deep, the park offers many amenities: an Olympic pool, a lake with paddleboats and fishing, hiking trails, camping areas and a full-service lodge.
Another great park is Cumberland Gap National Park; consisting of approximately 20,000 acres and 70 miles of hiking trails, the park is a historic mountain pass used by wildlife, Native Indian tribes and later by settlers, including Daniel Boone. Today the park has numerous scenic and historic features and park and ranger led programs offered throughout the year.
Add in a visit of any of Virginia’s award-winning state parks and families have the perfect getaway for outdoor adventures.
U Pick It Fall Fun
Fall in Virginia heightens the senses as sights, smells and tastes of autumn are all around. Create a fall family tradition and visit Virginia farms and harvest festivals to reap the benefits of nature’s bounty. Apples, berries, peanuts and pumpkins are only a few of the tasty treats the Virginia countryside provides. Have your pick of the freshest local produce and delight in hay rides, corn mazes and pumpkin patches.
Sinkland Farms in Christiansburg hosts the area's largest and longest standing pumpkin festival; with eighteen acres of pumpkins, squash and gourds, hayrides, mazes, pony rides, face painting, music and more.
In northern Virginia, visit Fall Harvest Family Days at Mount Vernon, October 22 – 23 and October 27-28. Bring the whole family and enjoy wagon rides, wheat treading in the 16-sided barn, a straw bale maze and early-American games and music. Kids can make their own cornhusk doll and cook over an open fire, and families can also take advantage of the Potomac River sightseeing cruises which are half-price during the event.
Corn mazes are all the craze and the people at Cows & Corn in Midland, Virginia are masters of the stalks. This family-owned dairy farm thrills guests each fall with new and exciting corn maze designs. Check out their “cowlendar” for all the information on upcoming events.
At Great Country Farms in Loudoun County, experience a spectacular display of more than 2500 carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns illuminating the night sky during Pumpkin Glow Night on October 25. Enter a Jack-o-lantern in carving competitions, warm up by the bonfire, roast some marshmallows and enjoy an evening of memories in the country.
Folks in southeast Virginia go peanuts in the fall! Celebrate famous Virginia Peanuts, farmers and the fall harvesting season at Emporia’s 46th Annual Virginia Peanut Festival, September 25 – 28. The little peanuts will also love the Suffolk Peanut Fest, October 9 – 12, with live entertainment, fireworks, a shrimp feast, a demolition derby, peanut butter sculpture contest, carnival rides, craft exhibits and more.
Head to Nelson County in Central Virginia and check out Drumheller's Orchard’s Apple Harvest & Apple Butter Festival, September 24 – 25 and October 15 – 16 for hayrides, pumpkin patches and a corn maze. Try your luck at the apple sling-shot and pick from large selections of apples, fresh cider, honey, hams and other food, while listening to live music.
All of Virginia’s fantastic fall festivals are listed at www.FallinVirginia.org.
Spooky Side of Fall Fun
Virginia ranks at the top of the Haunted Places list from the National Register of Haunted Locations, with nearly 70 spooky sites claiming paranormal happenings!
Many of Virginia’s towns and cities their ghostly haunts on haunted walking tours. One notable tour is Ghosts of Fredericksburg; with a past that stretches back to pre-Colonial times and a Civil War legacy of four major battles that claimed over 100,000 casualties, it is no wonder that Fredericksburg has a reputation as one of the most haunted small towns in the country.
Travel further north to historic downtown Leesburg and learn about area history and haunts at Ghost Tours of Leesburg -the only tours operated by paranormal investigators and historians dedicated to understanding the true scientific nature of paranormal activity.
The Shenandoah Valley is also home to some chilling tours. Check out Haunting Tales: Lexington Ghost Tour to experience the eerie transformation of the charming city of Lexington after the sun goes down. Walk through back streets and alleyways to witness the strange, unexplained phenomenon which has occurred nightly without fail in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery.
Howl-O-Scream at Bush Gardens Williamsburg September 23 to October 30 will get the blood boiling, as the park transforms after dark into a “scream park” for guests to enjoy. While in the area, check out Colonial Williamsburg where tales of haunted places and spellbinding legends provide a spooky and educational way to learn about life in the Colonial area.
Fairs and Festivals
Funnel cakes, caramel apples and cotton candy — enough said! Fairs are playgrounds for young and old alike, and Virginia has plenty. The mother of all fairs is the Virginia State Fair, September 29 – October 9, in Doswell. Witness the famous State Fair Duck Slide, experience blue ribbon competitions, animals, agricultural, historical and commercial exhibits, midway rides, shows and daily entertainment.
The 29th annual Hampton Bay Days, September 9 - 11 is a popular event with free entertainment on three stages, a children's stage, kiddie rides, inter-active educational fun encouraging stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay, 100 arts and crafts booths, food booths, a specialty car show and one of the longest fireworks displays in the area.
Visit the Richmond Folk Festival, October 14 – 16, to celebrate the roots, richness and variety of American culture. Featuring more than 30 performing groups on seven live music stages, with continuous music and dance performances traditional craft and food and more, the festival is sure to delight – and the best part – it’s free!
Staunton City, hosts the Fall Foliage Bike Festival, October 21 – 23, where bikers can feed their life force while enjoying views of the Alleghenies in glorious fall color. After a day of biking, discover many attractions of the historic city of Staunton, including shops, theater and fine restaurants.
Get inspired at the Alexandria Festival of the Arts, September 13 -14, where more than 200 artists from around the country display and sell a variety of fine art. Alexandria's King Street will transform into an outdoor art gallery, as various local businesses host activities.
Expand the family’s cultural horizons at one of the cultural festivals in Virginia such as the Festa Italiana in Virginia Beach, September 16 -17. Food is the heart and soul of the festival so plan to attend with an empty belly and nibble on pizza, prosciutto and fontina, caprese, lasagna, cappuccino, gelato and more. Entertainment offers something for everyone - Italian music, from current pop hits to the classics.
The 24th Annual Indian Festival at the Virginia Natural History Museum in Martinsville will envelop visitors in Native American culture on September13. The event features Aztec dancers, pottery making and basket weaving demonstrations, Native Americans in full regalia, host and guest drums, and jingle, fancy and hoop dancers, weapons and lifestyles demonstrations, children’s activities, crafts and vendors. A ceremonial powwow features a grand entry procession of many tribal affiliations, including chiefs, head dancers, elders, and children. A Master of Ceremonies will direct the activities in the arena and explain the symbolism, protocol, and spiritual meanings of the dances, regalia and drums to the spectators.
Virginia’s fall passions make for diverse and beautiful destinations and great family getaways. To start making plans to live passionately this fall in Virginia, visit www.FallinVirginia.org or call 1-800-932-5827 to request a free copy of the Live Passionately – Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide.
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Note to media: www.FallinVirginia.org is the official fall tourism site for the Commonwealth of Virginia and is updated annually on August 1. For planning purposes prior to the update of the fall site, visit www.Virginia.org.