Camping can be about getting away from it all, but it can also be about thrifty travel. If you save money on your accommodation, that savings can then be applied to nearby attractions and dining. Give it a try at one of these campgrounds that have great fun nearby.
Williamsburg KOA was built for family fun with many on-site special events and tons of fun nearby, too. The campground can accommodate RVs and campers of all sizes, but boast deluxe cabins with linens provided, too.
Ed Allen’s Campground and Cottages in Lanexa rests along the shores of Chickahominy Lake. It’s 85 acres of hardwoods, which equals stunning foliage. The lake sunsets rival the best you’ve seen anywhere, and the fishing is good, too.
One of Virginia’s most beautiful seasons is upon us, and you must get out and enjoy the view. Take your scenic drive, but also incorporate one or two of these 10 free things to do this fall. Your weekends are going to be amazing!
1. What a destination Waterford, Virginia is. Founded in 1733, the entire village is a National Historic Landmark and a majority of the buildings predating 1840 are still in use today. October 4-6 is the 70th Annual Waterford Homes Tour & Craft Exhibit. This should be a bucket list item for those who enjoy a walk through history. There are plenty of fun activities for kids, traditional music and dance, Colonial militia encampments, a fife and drum corps, and much more. ** Note: We’ve learned that there IS a fee for this event: $16 in advance; $20 at the gate. In light of that, an additional freebie!
1B. The Callands Festival in Callands, Virginia was named a Local Legacy of American Folk Life and Culture by the Library of Congress in 2000. Join in the fun with reenactors representative of both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, musicians, artisans, and guided tours of the historic buildings. Traditional foods will be available, as will beautifully handcrafted items. It’s happening October 5!
2. The Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy marks the birthplace, early life and emancipation of educator, esteemed orator and presidential advisor, Booker T. Washington. September 21 is a special event, Harvest Time of 1863, which will portray tobacco plantation life during the harvest. Interpretive programs, craft demonstrations, horse-drawn wagon rides and fun for the children are all included in this free event.
Fall Farm Fest on the Blue Ridge Parkway
3. Visit Westmoreland Berry Farm in Colonial Beach. Acres of Rappahannock River frontage are perfect for picnics and bird watching. The kids will enjoy a play area just for them, as well as the antics of the skywalking goats. Give the goats a nibble from the pulley feeder system; they love it! Westmoreland is a pick-your-own farm offering fall raspberries and pumpkins. Hitch a ride on the hay wagon to head to the fields. The only fee incurred at the farm is the rate for pick-your-own products or any cafe purchases you choose to make.
4. A beautiful drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway delivers you to the Fall Farm Fest at Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and Pioneer Farm on September 15. The fun begins at 10 a.m. with mountain crafts workshops and live music.
5. Day at the Point is a free fall festival now in its 16th year. Held October 5 in Lynchburg at Point of Honor, an 1815 Federal style mansion, the festivities include living history, kids games and activities, craft vendors, period music, candle making, beekeeping, blacksmithing, open hearth cooking, farm animals, and free tours of the 1815 historic home. Delicious food will be available for purchase, including Brunswick stew, barbecue, hot dogs, and homemade baked goods. Green thumbs may want to purchase special Point of Honor bulbs ready for fall planting.
Richmond Folk Festival
6. It’s rare to find a free three-day music festival, but Richmond has one. Check out the Richmond Folk FestivalOctober 11-13. Seven stages will host more than 30 music and dance groups – ballet, reggae, bluegrass, Vietnamese, Scissors Dance, polka, salsa, gospel, Cajun … the list goes on. And there’s a place for kids with make-and-take crafts and special performers.
7. How about a hayride? The 60-acre Bluebird Gap Farm in Hampton offers the Bluebird Country Hayride once a month at noon. For fall, head that way on September 14, October 12 or November 9. It’s a leisurely ride around the farm, the pond, through the woods and back again. Before or after your hayride, find a picnic area to enjoy lunch, walk the nature trail or let the kids loose at the playground. 150 domestic and wild animals are on site; bring your quarters to feed farm animals. Hayride is weather dependent.
Bluebird Gap Farm
8. Burke’s Garden is often referred to as God’s Thumbprint thanks to its aerial appearance – a giant thumbprint on the landscape of southwest Virginia. Visit this beautiful mountaintop valley during the Burke’s Garden Fall Festival on September 28, an annual event dating to 1987. “Handmade, homegrown and hands-on” is the feel of this festival that reflects farm living in the Heart of Appalachia.
10. Check out the two-day Culpeper Harvest Days Farm Tour through Virginia’s beautiful Culpeper County on October 5 and 6. Take your time touring through 18 farms and farm related businesses to get involved with some hands-on activities and demonstrations, as well as mingle with llamas, horses, cattle, and buffalo. Expect to see both traditional and unique farm experiences during this free weekend that really does have something for everyone – even wine and moonshine!
If it’s fall in Virginia, it’s time to be on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. Coasting across the peaks and looking down in the valleys … ahh! Good luck beating those views.
About the Blue Ridge Parkway
View from Humpback Rocks
Winding 469 miles from Afton to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway was born out of President Roosevelt’s desire to create jobs in the midst of the Great Depression. Construction of the Parkway was started on the Virginia/North Carolina border in 1935 and was completed in 1983, connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park. This year is the 30th anniversary of the completion of the Parkway and the 78th anniversary of its start.
In Addition to the Foliage
Sure, you travel the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the amazing fall foliage, but what else is there to see and do up there?
Milepost 5 & 6 – Humpback Rocks – See Appalachian farm buildings of the 19th century and visit the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center for additional exhibits, a gift shop and restroom. If you like to hike, two miles from the parking lot is Humpback Mountain, part of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a strenuous, but very popular hike. Map
Peaks of Otter Lodge
Milepost 63.6 – The James River Visitor Center features an exhibit on the James River and Kanawha Canal, once a primary commercial route. A trail takes you to a restored 19th century lock, and if you like to fish, check out Otter Creek. It runs 10 miles down to the James, and Otter Lake is accessible from the Otter Creek Campground.
Milepost 83.1 – Fallingwater Cascades Trail is a National Recreation Trail, approximately 1.6 miles long and moderately strenuous.
Milepost 85.9 – Peaks of Otter are three peaks – Sharp Top, Flat Top and Harkening Hill. In this area you’ll find a restaurant, a 63-room lodge, lake and campground. The entirety of Peaks of Otter is a premier fall destination on the Parkway.
Also at 85.9:
Elk Run Trail is a self-guided nature loop = .8 mile; easy
Milepost 176.2 – Mabry Mill is not to be missed. It’s one of the most – if not the most – photographed sites on the Parkway. Get a bite to eat at the famed Mabry Mill Restaurant before exploring the mill, blacksmith shop, wheelwright and whiskey still. Demonstrations and tours are available. Be sure to find a treasure in the gift shop, too!
About Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive is 105.5 miles spanning the ridge of Shenandoah National Park. Ground was broken in July 1931 and the first 34-mile stretch from Swift Run Gap (Route 33) to Thornton Gap (Route 211) was completed in 1934. Thornton Gap to Front Royal (another 32 miles) was completed in 1936, and another 32.4 miles between Swift Run Gap and Jarman Gap was completed in 1939.
Of note is that Jarman Gap to Rockfish Gap was originally built as part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Those 8.5 miles were completed in 1939 and were deeded to Shenandoah National Park in 1961.
In Addition to the Foliage
The highlight of Skyline Drive is, of course, Shenandoah National Park. Interestingly enough, the Drive existed before the Park came to be. Shenandoah National Park was authorized in 1926, established in 1935 and dedicated by President Roosevelt in 1936.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park
Seventy-five overlooks dot Skyline Drive and 518 miles of trails meander back and forth across it through Shenandoah National Park, making it a most impressive destination for leaf-peeping.
Milepost 21.5 – Overall Run Falls – If you’re looking for a great waterfall to hike to, this might be the one. With a 93′ drop, it’s the highest in Shenandoah National Park. The hike is a moderate 6.4 miles ’round trip to the falls and back.
Milepost 41.7 or 42.5 – Skyland Resort – Dating to 1886 and originally called Stony Man Camp, Skyland was a summer retreat for the Pollock family. Skyland is the highest point of Skyline Drive at 3,680 feet, overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. Stay here if you like, in one of the 178 accommodations. Enjoy the restaurant on site, too.
Milepost 42.6 – Whiteoak Canyon - Waterfalls ranging from 35 to 86 feet with swimming holes at the bottom of each are the reward for this 4.6-mile out-and-back hike to the upper falls. Want to see more? Add another 2.7 miles to your trip by descending further down the mountain. Map
Milepost 51.3 – Big Meadows Lodge – This lodge dates to 1939 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The stones were cut from Massanutten Mountain and the timber is native chestnut. Enjoy the Roosevelt Fried Chicken or New Deal Turkey Platter at the Spottswood Dining Room, if you find yourself hungry.
These two drives – two of “America’s Most Iconic Drives,” according to Travel + Leisure – are just the beginning of your Virginia drives for fall foliage, as we have more in store and coming soon. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to have the posts delivered directly to your inbox. We wouldn’t want you to miss a single thing about fall in Virginia.
Fall in Virginia. What is there to say except that it’s stunning, breathtaking, amazing, vibrant, crisp and that there must be at least one hundred more adjectives that can describe the immense beauty of the season. This fall promises to be especially incredible, as Virginia’s summer was wetter and cooler than usual – the perfect scenario for amazing foliage.
Who would you pick to stand by your side at a Blue Ridge Parkway overlook when the season is near or at peak? Probably your significant other, hand in hand. With that in mind, this is the first of eight posts that will give you grand ideas for ways to spend 48 hours in Virginia this fall. Enjoy!
Much Ado About Staunton
Virginia’s foliage spreads west to east and the Shenandoah Valley is one of the areas to see orange, red and yellow first. If you’re planning multiple fall getaways, start here.
I mentioned the food. Food is important and you want to make sure Zynodoa is on your “to eat” list. Zynodoa’s ingredients are locally sourced and esteemed Chef James Harris is at the helm. Harris has kitchen management at the Mobil five-star The Inn at Little Washington under his belt.
American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse
Autumn Splendor in the Cabin Capital of Virginia
Luray is the Cabin Capital of Virginia. If you’re looking for a sweet, snuggly place for the two of you to be alone, look no further.
Shenandoah Mountain Escape
Contact Shadow Mountain Escape to inquire about their luxury Ladybug or Bumblebee cabins. The last I checked, those two still had a Sunday-Monday availability in October. Mid-week stays are possible for the rest of fall.
Another great option for a fall cabin getaway is to call Shenandoah River Cabins to ask about their Angler, Drifter and Paddler cabins, which all sit riverfront, have a queen bed with fireplace and a private hot tub. Each cabin still has weekend availability for September and October.
From the center of this historic town, you’ll encounter several types of art galleries and can also schedule a plein air landscape painting lesson with artist Nora Harrington. Your handcrafted creation will be quite the memento to recall your trip.
Subscribe to receive our latest blog posts via email so you don’t miss a thing this fall! We have part two of the eight part 48 Hour Fall Getaways in Virginia series coming up Thursday, so keep an eye out.
LOVE is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. Virginia is for Lovers.