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Get Outdoors and Soak in the Foliage

by Casey | Posted on September 10th, 2012

From the shores of the Chesapeake Bay to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia’s beautiful outdoors are a major draw each fall as 15 million acres of foliage burst into color and illuminate parks, forests and coastlines. Families, friends and couples who love the outdoors can enjoy Virginia’s mild fall weather and stunning scenery while spending quality time together in the great outdoors. Below are trip ideas to get you outside and into Virginia’s fall splendor.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Soar Above the Foliage on Virginia’s Eastern Shore - Glide over the Eastern Shore of Virginia like a bird while gazing down at some of the most beautiful scenery on the East Coast on a Discovery Hang Gliding Flight at the Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center. No experience is necessary and all ages four and older are able to enjoy this pure form of flight from 2500 feet or a mile high.

Take a Cycling Scenic Road Trip – Road cycling enthusiasts looking for an epic fall ride can enjoy a scenic ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the country’s most legendary scenic roads. This 469-mile scenic route winds through 39 counties in Virginia. It is one of the best leaf peeping destinations on the East Coast and is popular among bicyclists and motorists during fall.

Go on a Guided Backpacking Trip in Shenandoah National Park – See places in Shenandoah National Park that few people know about; breathtaking waterfalls, high meadows, rugged mountaintops, even historic structures. This guided backpacking trip includes gear, meals and instruction by an experienced guide. Prices start at $225 per person.  Folks who want to plan an independent backpacking trip can certainly do so without a guide in Shenandoah National Park, or in other outdoor wonderlands like Mount Rogers Recreational Area and along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

Stay in a Luxury Tree House – Located near the Blue Ridge Parkway, the new Golden Eagle Tree House at Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan is a highly luxurious way to experience fall foliage. Designed by La Cabene Perchee, one of the world’s top tree house architectural firms, the tree house sits in one of Primland’s oldest and most beautiful trees – without the intrusion of one single nail – and overlooks the Dan River Gorge. The red cedar tree house features a king bed, huge deck and all the luxurious amenities found at Primland’s main lodge.

Watch Roaring Falls Framed by Colorful Fall Foliage - Great Falls National Park, just outside of Washington D.C. is a collection of jagged rocks jutting up from the Potomac River in the narrow Mather Gorge creating an amazing series of falls. There are 15 miles of trails – five are multi-use and allow bikes and horses – to see the falls from various angles.

Go Tree Climbing – Adventurers can get an up close and personal leaf peeping experience as they climb among the foliage up to the tree tops. Blue Ridge Tree Climbing in Southwest Virginia and Riverside Outfitters in Richmond offer the chance for folks to climb to sky-high branches using safety techniques borrowed from professional arborists.

Ride Along Virginia’s Rail to Trails – Families can enjoy any number of Virginia’s rail trails, many of which are multi-use trails that trail runners, hikers and bikers of all skill levels can enjoy as they are well maintained, primarily flat trails converted from old railroad lines. In Martinsville, try the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail, a paved 4.5 mile section of the old Danville and Western Railroad. In Nelson County, the Virginia Blue Ridge Rail Trail runs along the Piney River and crosses into Amherst County – a beautiful wooded trail set against the Blue Ridge Mountains.

James River

James River

Visit Virginia’s State ParksVirginia State Parks are consistently rated the best in the nation and have been the backdrop for perfect family vacations for more than 75 years.  Families will find that Virginia’s 35 state parks are as diverse as the state itself, with parks found along the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, on historic sites, in the Blue Ridge Mountains or just outside of major cities, making fall outdoor fun accessible in every region of the state.

Float through Foliage on Virginia’s Scenic Water Trails - Virginia’s vast system of scenic rivers, salty tidal bays and quiet inlets and streams provide paddlesport enthusiasts endless opportunities to experience fall from the water.

Look for Wildlife - Virginia is full of places for wildlife viewing, especially along the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, which consists of 65 trail loops throughout Virginia. The first such trail in America, this trail reaches every part of the state and brings visitors up close and personal with Virginia’s abundant wildlife treasures. Fall is particularly great for birding as one of the most important migration stop-overs on the East Coast happens. Millions of songbirds and butterflies and thousands of raptors will converge on Virginia’s Eastern Shore during their long journey south in October.

Discover more ways to connect in Virginia’s beautiful outdoors at

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A Cool August Weekend in Bath County

by Casey | Posted on July 17th, 2012

Escape the heat of August with a weekend in Virginia’s cool Allegheny Mountains. August 4 is the 4th annual Wings and Wheels Car and Acrobatic Air Show in Hot Springs, Virginia.

Wings & Wheels logoThe Ingalls Field Airport will host a display of cars, trucks, motorcycles and tractors – all competing for the coveted Peoples’ Choice Award. In addition, airplane rides and two flight simulators put you in the cockpit while flying lawnmowers and aerial acrobat performances thrill the crowd. Bring a chair, kick back and relax with the music of Daryn Burkholder (country), The Announcers (gospel) and Moonshine Express (country). Food will be available, as will children’s activities.

All day admission to Wings and Wheels is affordable at $5 per car or $10 per van or bus.

Perhaps planes and automobiles aren’t your thing, or maybe it’s the country and gospel music that doesn’t suit your taste. If that’s you, turn to Garth Newel Music Center for Viola Extravaganza! on August 4 at 5 pm. Enjoy the compositions of Mozart, Granados, Lavenda, and Bach performed by six talented musicians.

The Homestead

The Homestead

Tickets for Viola Extravaganza! are $22 for adults, $10 for students 13-18, and free for children 12 and younger. If you’d enjoy dinner after the concert, the combination ticket is $75 for adults, $63 for students and $53 for children. Buy Tickets

Regardless of which event you choose to attend, The Homestead is the place to enjoy an overnight stay.

Check out their new activities including Allegheny Springs, a family fun water area with pools, slides, a lazy river and sandy beach. Two can stay one night, enjoy two tube rentals and access to Allegheny Springs for just $279. Book Now

See more Homestead packages.


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Destinations, Events | 1 Comment

Everyone Loves a Baby

by Casey | Posted on June 25th, 2012

Admit it. You love baby animals and your kids do, too. So where can you go to see baby animals? In addition to the zoos in Virginia, there are other places to spot new sweet faces.

Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton

Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton

At the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton you’ll visit working farms each with buildings moved from its country of origin and reconstructed on site. “Visit” 1600s England, 1700s Ireland, Germany and West Africa, and America from the 1700s through the 1850s, including rare breeds grazing along with their new young ones.

Visitors to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg will find more than great roller coasters and performances. Beautiful animals call the park home, like the Gray Wolves of Wolf Valley, or the Black Clydesdales and Scottish Blackface Sheep of Highland Stables.

The Stables welcomed a new member to the Clydesdale family in April. Aidan was born to mother Panola and father Dakota on April 20.  At just over a month old Aidan weighed in at 250 lbs. Once fully grown, he will weigh up to 2,000 lbs.

Also born this spring at Busch Gardens were five Scottish Blackface lambs – Lia, Coara, Bryce, Lily, and Rhosyn. See the clip below from the Inside Busch Gardens blog of the lambs at play. Additionally, two African Pygmy Hedgehogs were born at BG this spring, and good golly are they cute (pic)! If there could be anything cuter, it’s that baby hedgehogs are called hoglets!

Baby animals in the wild are not hard to find in Virginia. Any day trip across Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway will yield families of wildlife living their lives.

Bears on Skyline Drive and Deer at Peaks of Otter

Bears on Skyline Drive and Deer at Peaks of Otter

To the right are a bear and her three cubs on Skyline Drive, as well as a doe and her fawn at Peaks of Otter.

You’ve heard about the wild ponies in Virginia, yes? You can see them on Chincoteague IslandAssateague Island, and even on Mount Rogers in southwest Virginia.

The annual Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction in July is unique to Virginia and should be on everyone’s bucket list. Perhaps you’ll want to take one home with you.

REMINDER: Do not disturb, feed, or try to approach any wild animals you may see, but feel free to photograph from your car.

- 95 Places to Find Wildlife in Virginia

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Family, Outdoors, Video clips | 3 Comments

Summer in the Great Outdoors: Tubing

by Casey | Posted on June 20th, 2012

Author’s Note: This blog was updated August 2, 2013 to reflect rate changes and include a couple new outfitters.

Back in May we highlighted awesome waterways for kayaking and canoeing. Tubing isn’t a far stretch from those two water-loving pastimes, other than the pace is quite a bit more relaxed and you probably don’t want the big rapids to throw you off your game.

James River Reeling and Rafting

James River Reeling and Rafting

James River Reeling and Rafting departs from Scottsville, just 25 minutes south of Charlottesville. Trips are self-guided and cooler tubes are available for rental as well. Kick back and enjoy the slow float. Reservations are required. Shuttles leave on the hour during the week and on the half-hour Saturday and Sunday. Tube, shuttle and rope is $23/person. Groups of 25 or more are $21/person. No children under six and no pets.

James River Float Company, we noted, is a leader in SUP (stand up paddleboarding) on the river, but as their name implies, they’re a source for a nice float, too. The “local float” is $22/person and basically keeps you in the Lynchburg vicinity. Pull your friends together for a party float – even your cooler can go downstream with you.

River City Rafting is centered in Virginia’s urban whitewater hub of Richmond. A whitewater guide will accompany you and five or more of your friends aged 9 and older as you leisurely while away the day. $30/person. If you’re brave enough to go it alone, ask about The Half Shuttle at $25/person.

James River Float Company

James River Float Company

If you choose to float with Outdoor Adventure Experiences out of Dayton, you choose an awesome family day out on the water. Not only do you get your own tube, but you also get a giant tube made for group play in the deeper, slower spots on the river. Trips with OAE include (and require the use of) a safety helmet and life vest. If you’re looking for a freer, more casual float, this one might not be for you. Half-day trip $35/person; full-day trip $45/person with a trip minimum of $120 and $180, respectively.

The Shenandoah River is one of Virginia’s top picks for a relaxing float, meaning more nearby outfitters are ready to rent you a tube.

The headwaters of the James River are pretty tame compared to the whitewater you’ll find near the fall line downriver in Richmond. For that reason, exploring the Upper James River Water Trail might be advantageous to tubing lovers.

Tangent Outfitters

Tangent Outfitters

Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan is eager to serve your Upper James River needs at an affordable rate. You can take a tube down one trip (about a 90-minute float) for $15, or you can spend the day floating the route time and again for $20. The fee includes tube, life vest, safety orientation and shuttles from the shop up to the put-in point. Want a quick run at the end of the day? “Last call” floats depart at 4 PM and only cost $10!

The New River is the second oldest river in the world, geologically speaking, and it’s pretty unspoiled and pristine. Sounds like a peaceful, serene float, huh? Put in at Bisset Park in Radford with Tangent Outfitters. The 2-mile float (which can vary from 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on water levels) is $15/tube on weekdays or $20/tube Saturday and Sunday.

>> More Rafting/Tubing Options
>> Virginia’s Rivers

Check the real-time water levels through the National Weather Service prior to getting on the river. Tubing with a guide is the safest option to enjoy your river experience.

Family, Outdoors | 1 Comment

Virginia by Motorcycle

by Casey | Posted on June 12th, 2012

Motorcycles are the epitome of freedom. Wide open roads full of sun, wind, and nothing holding you down or back. Go where you want to go, see what you want to see. Yesterday’s cares are in that tiny rear view mirror, if only for a short while.

Back of the Dragon

Back of the Dragon

Scenic drives through Virginia are so rewarding. The views are quite literally breathtaking, the serenity of being away from interstates and major thoroughfares is unequaled, and besides needing a stretch once in a while, you might not want to stop riding. Here are a few suggestions for a weekend ride through the countryside.

Back of the Dragon is Route 16 between Marion and Tazewell. The route courses over three mountains for a total of about 33 miles. For a taste of what the ride is like, see this clip of a Harley-Davidson V-ROD laying through the turns.

A winding route that delivers up great river and mountain views is Route 39. Begin in Lexington, traversing through Goshen Pass and working your way to Warm Springs. Along the way you’ll have stop over points like Dan Ingalls Overlook. Eventually you’ll find yourself passing the historic sites at the base of Warm Springs Mountain – Jefferson Pools and The Milk House Market and Old Dairy Barn. Take 220 over into Hot Springs and check out The Homestead Resort. Sam Snead’s Tavern is the perfect place to dine and have a cold beer.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is undeniably the most beautiful route for drivers and riders alike. Ride it for a while and then hop off to see the other sites along the way on the 50-mile Nelson Scenic Loop. The Loop winds along the BRP, Route 56, Route 151 and Route 664, and includes unique attractions like the Montebello Fish Hatchery, Crabtree Falls and Devil’s Backbone Brewery.

The Route 611 Cumberland Mountain Scenic Drive is a mountain course in Clintwood with incredible overlooks and an abundance of wildlife. If you find yourself looking for a great place to stay, this route is just a few miles from Breaks Interstate Park on the VA/KY border. You can have a true outdoors weekend in the Heart of Appalachia.

For more ride ideas, check out our Scenic Drives & Places directory.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

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Couples, Outdoors | 2 Comments