Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. And while travel doesn’t look quite the same this year, you can still explore Virginia’s endless beauty with an epic road trip!
Charlottesville is a picturesque city with a booming wine scene, indie boutiques, beautiful accommodations, tasty eateries, and outdoor activities. Its location in the Blue Ridge Mountains’ rolling foothills makes it the ideal getaway for a girls weekend. It is also consistently mentioned as one of the top, up-and-coming, award-winning wine regions to visit for those who love wine. This charming city is home to nearly 40 wineries and vineyards and is a significant producer in Virginia’s wine country. What also makes this wine region unique is the numerous vineyard B&Bs and wine experiences – perfect for a safe vacation during this global pandemic. And it’s just a short two-hour drive from Washington, DC.
Photo Credit: Bram Reusen
No matter where you are driving from, you will know that you arrived in Charlottesville when you see views of rolling hills and mountains, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see them peeking above the fog. It is a sight to behold.
We arrived in Afton and checked-in to The Farmhouse at Veritas Bed and Breakfast. Built in 1836, The Farmhouse offers eight luxurious bedrooms with stunning views of the mountains and grapevines. Each reservation includes a bottle of sparkling wine and a fresh farm breakfast. I highly recommend staying in the Derby Room — a contemporary, two-level, airy room with views of the Petit Verdot and Viognier vines. The room also has a spiral staircase, which leads to the king bed on the second level. A private entrance leads to a beautiful wraparound porch, which includes multiple rocking chairs. If you’re unable to stay in the Derby Room, any room will do, as it is the crème de la crème of vineyard B&Bs — especially if you prefer accommodations with charm, elegance, and a bit of European flair.
Photo Credit: Carlita Pitts IG: @iamthelita
Need a larger space? I recommend booking the Barn Cottage. The vineyard also offers a full dining experience in any three indoor dining spaces equipped for social distancing.
If you desire a vineyard accommodation with a tranquil, resort experience, I recommend Glass House Winery Bed and Breakfast in Free Union. Free Union is ten miles northwest of Charlottesville and is located on a hill overlooking the vines and a lake, plus the scenic views of Blue Ridge Mountains in the background make the drive worth it.
Photo Credit: Carlita Pitts IG: @iamthelita
Glass House B&B is a group-friendly bed and breakfast with a pool and hot tub. The house itself is large, with funky décor and lots of space to move around. I highly recommend staying in the Suite to the Stars, a two-bedroom suite, with a living room, dining area, kitchen, and a large private deck. Each reservation comes with a complimentary wine flight at the winery and some decadent chocolates made in-house.
Wineries & VineyardsNear Charlottesville
There are so many beautiful wineries along Virginia’s Monticello Wine Trail that it’s hard to choose which to visit. If you’re traveling for a girls’ weekend, be sure that the wineries you select are near each other, so you aren’t driving all over Charlottesville. Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is one of my favorites. I’ve visited multiple times, and it gets prettier each time. You can’t beat the beautiful landscaping, mountain views, boutique wines, and farm-to-table menu. While you’re out there, check out Blenheim Vineyards, owned by Dave Matthews. This beautifully designed winery has excellent views of the vineyards and countryside. If you’re up for winery hopping, I’d suggest stopping by Jefferson Vineyards and Gabriele Rausse Winery.
Want to add adventure and a great bonding experience to your trip? I’d highly suggest booking a private horseback riding tour through the vineyards with the Indian Summer Guide Service. We planned our ride at Veritas after Saturday brunch, and it was terrific. Our horses, Gracie and Amber, were well-mannered, and our guide was very patient with us. When we booked this tour, we didn’t realize we were riding up the mountain, and when we got to the top, we saw the most beautiful views of the wineries, farms, and properties. It was indeed a memorable experiermnce that I would do again in a heartbeat.
Photo Credit: Carlita Pitts IG: @iamthelita
Another excellent wine experience to add to your itinerary is the Roseland Polo Match at King Family Vineyards on Sundays. It’s fun to get dressed up in floral sundresses, hats, and wedge heels to watch an action-packed polo match with the background’s dramatic mountain views. Don’t forget to take lots of photos for the ‘gram!
There are many great places to dine in Charlottesville. Given that Charlottesville is in the south, it’s most known for southern cuisine such as fried chicken, smoked BBQ, and black-eyed peas.
While we wanted great food on our trip, given that it is a girls’ weekend, we also wanted to dine at trendy restaurants with great views. On Friday night, we ate at Common House, a contemporary member’s only social club. It is beautifully designed, with a multipurpose event space, networking lounge, library, game room, and roof terrace. It rained the evening we went, so we didn’t get to see the roof terrace. However, we enjoyed our meals while we there, and we were equally impressed by the décor and service.
On Saturday evening, we dined at the Quirk Hotel in downtown Charlottesville. The Quirk is one of Charlottesville’s newest boutique hotels, opening earlier this year, and is a modern hotel with a chic, artsy atmosphere. Upon entering, you’ll notice the curvaceous ceiling, a large art gallery, two restaurants, and a café.
We dined at the rooftop bar, which was just as stylish as it is beautiful. Like the rest of the city, the roof bar had lovely panorama views of downtown Charlottesville and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The restaurant offers a rustic Italian menu serving pizzas, oven-fired vegetables, pastas, charcuterie, and cheeses. They also locally sourced craft beer and wine from the Virginia wineries.
I’ll never forget my trip with my girls to Charlottesville and its surrounding wineries. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we’re already planning our next visit!
THIS GUEST BLOG POST IS COURTESY OF Carlita Pitts, a vineyard loving, wine sipping, travel enthusiast living in Northern VA. She is the chief content creator of Divine Lita, a vineyard, wine, and travel blog – which mostly highlights her experiences visiting the wine regions in Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Visit her blog or catch her on Instagram @iamthelita to learn more.
Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. And while travel is a little bit different in 2020 due to COVID-19, you can still explore Virginia’s endless beauty with an epic road trip! To help you plan your next vacation out on the open road, we’ll be sharing a few of the most scenic and adventure-filled routes through the Commonwealth, including the best outdoor adventures, important sites, restaurants, and lodging options to add to your itinerary.
Follow this family-friendly road trip through the Virginia Mountains for a relaxing vacation that the whole family will love!
**While we have shared COVID-19 alternate hours and closures when possible, please contact individual businesses before visiting, as these details may change at any time.
DAY 1: Explore Park & Virginia’s Blue Ridge
Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson
Start your adventure in Virginia’s stunning Blue Ridge, right near the beautiful town of Roanoke. For your first adventure, head to Explore Park, located right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Explore Park will provide more than a full day’s worth of activities. Kids ages 4+ and adults will love the Treetop Quest ropes course. All of the equipment is sanitized in between uses, and the outdoor, spacious course is perfect for a socially distanced adventure. We loved that there was a smaller course for younger children, and more challenging ones for older kids and adults.
Photo Credit: Shannon Terry
Once you’ve climbed around while safely harnessed, head over to Blue Mountain Adventures to do some tubing down the river. The gentle rapids mean adults and kids 7+ can go on their own – perfect for maintaining social distance. There’s truly an activity for every interest in the Virginia mountains!
Photo Credit: Creative Dog Media, IG account: @creativedogmedia
After your day of adventure, grab some dinner – some great options are Wildflour Cafe, Tuco’s Taqueria, Taaza, and Cedar’s Lebanese. All of these should be open for carry out, so you can eat outside wherever you wish, or consider taking your meal back to Natural Bridge KOA, a fantastic campground for families. Whether you’re in your own RV or renting one of their private cabins, it’s a perfect way to have your own space and relax. The campground is spacious and clean, and has full RV hookups for a comfortable stay.
DAY 2: Natural Bridge & Rockbridge County
Start your morning with a scenic drive through beautiful Goshen Pass. There are several pull offs where you can stop to admire the Maury River and the surrounding beauty. Depending on your timeline, you may want to consider fishing, swimming, walking the trail on the north side of the river, or tubing. Virginia’s mountains have a vast variety of activities, giving you lots of options for outdoor fun.
If it’s a Thursday-Sunday, consider stopping at Wade’s Mill, Virginia’s oldest continuously operating commercial grist mill. You can even purchase grains fresh to order!
After stopping for some lunch (consider the Pink Cadillac Diner), head over to Natural Bridge State Park. The 215-foot tall natural limestone bridge was carved out by Cedar Creek, and is surrounded by forested area and hiking trails. A National Historic Landmark, the area was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Admission is $6 for kids age 6-12, and $8 for those 13+.
The Cedar Creek Trail will take you to a 30-foot waterfall with beautiful views along the way. Stop to take in the awe-inspiring wonder of the natural bridge itself, and don’t forget to cross the small pedestrian bridge to peek into a cave. There are several easy access points to the creek, so little ones will love getting their feet wet in the shallow and cool water. And at just 1.6 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain, it’s perfect for families (though not stroller-accessible). While the Monacan Indian Village is currently closed to visitors, hikers can still view the outdoor setup as they walk by.
After your hike, head back to your campsite at Natural Bridge KOA and relax while you make some dinner.
DAY 3: Virginia Safari Park & Downtown Lexington
On your third morning, consider doing something a bit different – a Virginian safari! At the Virginia Safari Park, visitors can view animals from the comfort of their own vehicles, and kids will love that the animals often come right up to the car to eat. Plus, the park is just down the road from your campground, offering easy and quick access during your stay.
After your morning fun, head into downtown Lexington to pick up lunch and explore this enchanting city, which is home to both Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, giving it the beautiful and vibrant feel of a college town.
Be sure to walk around the charming streets of the downtown area, and consider any safe indoor activities that might be open, such as Boxerwood Nature Center, or just drive around taking in the beautiful homes and Virginian charm!
Finally, head back for a final night at Natural Bridge KOA. It’s the perfect convenient spot to launch your adventures during the following day.
DAY 4: Covington & the Alleghany Highlands
Now that you’ve explored the Lexington and Roanoke areas, head towards the Alleghany Highlands in the Virginia Mountains for some gorgeous and restful time in the Great Outdoors. On your way to some distanced outdoor activities, detour to the charming town of Covington.
For your first stop, seek out the Downtown Covington LOVEwork right on Main Street. It’s a perfect photo op to start your day and remember this incredible adventure. Next, head to the Eastern National Children’s Forest, a beautiful forested monument in an area that once suffered from wildfires. The site was planted by over 1,000 children – a fact any little travelers will love.
Stop in for lunch at Cucci’s Pizzeria, a Covington staple. The pizzas are huge and the crust is fantastic, so be ready to take home some leftovers if you’re traveling solo or with a single companion.
Next, head over to the LOVEwork at Humpback Bridge. This was our family’s favorite by far, and you’re sure to love it, too. The bridge itself is a National Historic Site and is the oldest remaining covered bridge in Virginia. The LOVE letters here are all constructed from materials unique to the history of the area.
Once you’ve snapped a few photos with the LOVEwork, take some time to walk under the bridge over to the grassy area on the other side. The water is usually fairly shallow here, so it’s a fun place for little ones to get their feet wet, or if it’s moving more quickly, there are plenty of rocks to throw in – an activity that could keep the kids occupied for several hours if they are anything like mine!
After playing at the bridge, head up to Falling Spring Waterfall. The 80-foot waterfall and its surroundings are incredibly scenic, and there is a beautiful viewing area that’s perfect for taking a few photos. It’s a great stop even if little legs are tired because the view point is right by the parking lot – no hiking required.
Finally, head up to Morris Hill Campground at Lake Moomaw. It’s an amazingly beautiful area with private sites that are surrounded by trees. It’s a perfect spot to roast marshmallows and sit around the campfire. Just be sure to pack away all food and trash as black bears do frequent the area. They’re generally harmless, but it’s always best to keep everything safe.
DAY 5: Alleghany Highlands in the Virginia Mountains
It’s your final day exploring this beautiful area of the Virginia Mountains! Kick things off with a peaceful morning bike ride along the Jackson River Scenic Trail and Blueway. Alleghany Outdoors is located right near the Intervale trailhead, and has bike rentals available for riders ages 10+. You can either ride as far as you’d like and turn back or do a one way rental and catch the shuttle back. If you have younger riders, feel free to bring your own bikes – the trail is perfect for little ones as it has finely packed gravel and only a 1% grade. The protected path is perfect for all ages, even kids in bike trailers.
After your bike adventure, switch to a different outdoor adventure – kayaking! Alleghany Outdoors also rents kayaks to paddle down the Jackson River (Ages 8+; 6+ for tubing). It’s a perfect way to see the beautiful cliffs along the river and to experience the stunning Alleghany Highlands from the water. The full trip is about two hours downriver (a shuttle will take you to the start), while a shorter trip of about an hour is also possible. If you have smaller children, consider instead walking across the swinging bridge.
Finally, finish out your time in the gorgeous Alleghany Highlands by heading up to the Coles Point Beach area at Lake Moomaw. The swimming area is clean and perfect for families, with warm, clear water and a sandy beach. Bring a picnic and watch the sunset over the water before heading back to Morris Hill Campground for the night.
This guest blog post is courtesy of preethi, the author of the local passport family blog. Preethi feels passionately about providing a diverse education for families through travel. She works to make travel and the outdoors more inclusive, and helps families develop curiosity and connection by connecting with the world at home and abroad. She loves exploring with her 5 kids, and writes about actual and virtual travel, global education, and parenting.
Northern Virginia is home to a spirited mix of history, culture, dining, and shopping – all of which you can experience on your next epic road trip adventure. Learn about the events and places that helped shape the United States while discovering quaint downtown neighborhoods where locals treat visitors like family. Stroll tree-lined streets and tour charming boutique wineries. Hop on bikes to ride along the banks of the Potomac River for some of the most stunning views of Washington, DC. Browse the home of America’s first president, hoist a pint at a historic brewery, dine at a celebrity chef’s restaurant or treat yourself to a little retail therapy. It’s all waiting for you in Northern Virginia.
Loudoun’s county seat is a picturesque little burg with a historic downtown bustling with restaurants, breweries, boutiques and chic home décor stores. Dine on oysters, tacos and farm-to-table fare on King Street (our restaurant row) and soak up the storied ambience of a town that’s been home to icons such as President James Monroe.
America’s horse and hunt country capital, and Loudoun’s second largest town, Middleburg is a gorgeous settlement dating back to 1728. The historic downtown is lined with chic boutiques, raffish men’s stores and superb cafés and restaurants, while the surrounding countryside is straight out of an Edith Wharton novel: handsome mansions at the end of oak shaded driveways, thoroughbred horses frolicking in the fields.
Gainesville, which once serving as a path for Civil War soldiers, is now a vibrant suburban district home to major shopping, dining, and entertainment choices. Visitors can enjoy a fun night on the town at several bars and nightclubs, world-class PGA golf courses, and even find time for a hike at the Conway Robinson State Forest.
Woodbridge is probably the most renowned area in Prince William, Virginia due to its location adjacent Interstate 95, the giant Potomac Mills Sign, IKEA, and other roadside views. Visitors can find a wide assortment of destination shopping, dining, outdoor recreation and entertainment choices and of course it is also home to Virginia’s largest outlet mall, Potomac Mills Mall.
This historic area of southern Fairfax County is home to an exceptional number of historic homes and attractions, including George Washington’s beloved estate. Explore a Frank Lloyd Wright home, an arts haven that exists in a former prison tied to the suffragist movement or find a peaceful oasis on the Mason Neck peninsula. You’ll never believe you’re just a few miles from the nation’s capital.
On the Potomac River waterfront, Old Town is the heart of Alexandria and the city’s downtown, filled with architecture dating back to the 1700s alongside picturesque cobblestone streets and alleys, independent shops and restaurants and a vibrant waterfront.
Photo Credit: Kristian Summerer
Things to Do:
Shop 100+ local boutiques in and around the King Street Mile, from eco-friendly and fashion-forward Threadleaf to fibre space.
On the Potomac River waterfront, and named the nation’s Ice Cream Cone Capital, Old Town is the heart of Alexandria and the city’s downtown, filled with architecture dating back to the 1700s alongside picturesque cobblestone streets, independent shops and restaurants and a vibrant waterfront.
Centered around made-for-strolling Mount Vernon Avenue, Del Ray is lined with locally owned eateries, eclectic shops, wellness businesses, Art Deco architecture and murals. Come for the relaxed vibe, casual eats and signature festivals and events.
Photo Credit: Kristian Summerer
Things to Do:
Tour Del Ray’s murals, from the photo-ready “Greetings From Del Ray” wall to the musicians muralled on St. Elmo Coffee Pub’s exterior.
A walkable, urban district, Crystal City has great restaurants, cafes, specialty stores and the region’s premier physical theater, Synetic Theater. In addition to the dining options along Restaurant Row, 23rd Street between South Eads and South Fern streets has an eclectic, independent dining scene and active nightlife.
Spectacular views of the D.C. skyline, myriad dining options and an urban vibe make this section of Arlington County an ideal home base for exploring the capital region. Right across Key Bridge from Georgetown, Rosslyn’s tall buildings are surrounded by natural beauty and historic landmarks.
Tysons is the urban center of Fairfax County and has been called “America’s Next Great City” as the growth and development of this former unassuming rural crossroads takes the thriving city into a booming business and tech hub near Washington, DC. Around the corner, Merrifield has become a vibrant community that is home to the ever-expanding urban village called Mosaic, which has been attracting some of the region’s best chefs, retailers, and boutiques.
Don’t you love it when those first fronts of cooler air sweep over the land, harkening autumn’s arrival? It is time for fall fun – marshmallow roasts, corn mazes, harvest festivals – and camping. And when you come camping for fall fun in Virginia your options are limited only by time. Do you want to pitch your tent or park your RV near the coast, enjoying a mix of oceanside scenery and autumn colors that extend well into November, or do you want to head for the one and only Blue Ridge where regal mountains and deep valleys are clothed in a cornucopia of color, where mountaintop vistas extent to distant horizons.
Camping for fall fun means not only do we park our RV or pitch our tent at scenic locations, we also enjoy nearby autumn activities. If you want to maximize your camping experience Virginia is the place!
Check out the following Virginia camping destinations for fall fun. Then get out there and make some fall fun memories of your own.
What You Need to Know: Recently voted best RV resort in the nation for the 3rd time!
GPS Coordinates: 37.6483, -76.58881
Situated on the south shore of the lower Rappahannock River where it opens into Chesapeake Bay, this resort is top notch when it comes to on-site fun and being kept in excellent shape. Over 700 campsites are ready for you and the place is smoothly run, no hassles. They have a host of services and activities, so many you never have to leave the place, everything from fishing charters to movies to corn hole tournaments, live music, kayaking and canoeing, even wellness programs.
Recommended Fall Fun: Take a cruise on the restored tour boat Chesapeake Bay Deadrise and enjoy the fall colors, or bring your own boat for aquatic leaf viewing. The local Urbanna Oyster Festival in early November is a tradition that has been celebrated for six decades. Eat oysters every way they can be prepared, learn about the oyster industry and life in Chesapeake Bay. Explore nearby Wake Beach or head across the Rappahannock River to Belle Isle State Park for an autumn hike.
Fall Color Peak: Mid-October through the end of October
What You Need to Know: The campground’s seven-acre lake is enveloped by mountains
GPS Coordinates: 37.5659, -79.54007
Nestled in the mountains in the valley of Back Run, this historic campground offers superlative natural beauty and outdoor activities combined with convenient access to nearby towns such as Lexington. With only 41 campsites the refuge offers an intimate experience where you can be one with the mountains. Flush toilets, warm showers are available. You can jump onto hiking trails directly from the campground.
Recommended Fall Fun: Take a hike around Cave Mountain Lake, encircled by mountains. Head up to the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway for a fall color drive. You can also pick up the Appalachian Trail and take a stroll on Virginia’s master path through Thunder Ridge Wilderness. Also, visit gorgeous Apple Orchard Falls.
Fall Color Peak: Early October through late October
What You Need to Know: Big Meadows Campground stands over 3,700 feet
GPS Coordinates: 38.52815, -78.43661
Big Meadows is at the heart of Shenandoah National Park and makes for a perfect base camp to explore the preserve as well as nearby autumn activities. The highland camp is large, offering over 200 sites with plenty of amenities such as hot showers, flush toilets and water spigots. Big Meadows is a field amidst the mountains and is a botanically rich area as well as wildlife hotspot, so area hikes and trips along Skyline Drive may yield a sighting of deer, wild turkeys or even a black bear.
Recommended Fall Fun: Make a fall color trip on Skyline Drive. Hike to Lewis Spring Falls, Rose River Falls or Dark Hollow Falls. Climb to the top of Stony Man. Hike the Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble. Have dinner at the Big Meadows Lodge. Head down to nearby Syria, Virginia for the annual Graves Mountain Apple Harvest Festival during October weekends. Enjoy hayrides, a hay maze, see apple butter being made over an open fire, pick your own apples, listen to live music. Take a pony or horseback ride. Graves Mountain Apple Harvest Festival is a whole lot of fun.
Fall Color Peak: Mid-October through early November
What You Need to Know: This underappreciated campground never fills, making it one place you can always count on a campsite.
GPS Coordinates: 36.60236, -83.63099
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park is one of Virginia’s hidden jewels. The park is centered on Cumberland Gap, a break in the Appalachian Mountains used by animals, American Indians, settlers, and armies to enter Kentucky from Virginia. Today, you can park your RV or pitch your tent in a fine campground and explore the park’s history via car or trail.
Sprawling Wilderness Road Campground is situated on a sloping, heavily wooded ridgeline. However, each campsite is leveled. Three full-service bathhouses serve the campground, with water spigots adjacent to them. Loops B and C have electric hookups and are the domain of RVs. Other than that, the many sites offer every possible combination of sun and shade.
Recommended Fall Fun: An iron furnace, remnants of two Civil War forts, and a pioneer settlement are auto accessible historic features. Natural features include Skylight Cave, Cudjo Cave, and far-reaching views from the Pinnacle and my personal favorite, White Rocks.
A system of shorter and longer trails spurs directly from Wilderness Road Campground. Grab a detailed trail map at the campground entrance station. Shorter paths include the Greenleaf Nature Trail, the Colson Trail, and the Honey Tree Spur Trail; longer ones include the Lewis Hollow Trail, which leads to Skylight Cave and the Pinnacle, and the Gibson Gap Trail. You can make a 10-mile loop out of the campground linking the Gibson Gap, Ridge, and Lewis Hollow trails.
Fall Color Peak: Late-October through mid-November
What You Need to Know: Hiking, mountain biking, historical study and trout fishing are moments away from the campground.
GPS Coordinates: 38.92899, -78.32694
I strongly recommend a camping trip here. I have camped at Elizabeth Furnace more than a dozen times and give it a ringing endorsement. With 30 sites situated along Passage Creek, the campground also has hot showers and flush toilets available through October. Bring your own water if camping there in November. The campground is low elevation yet deep in the mountains. Many of the campsites are close to Passage Creek. The charming and historic town of Strasburg is just a few miles away yet Elizabeth Furnace exudes a back of beyond atmosphere.
Recommended Fall Fun: Check out the nature trails around Elizabeth Furnace, a former iron forge. Grab a view from Signal Knob, an important post during the Civil War. Finally, make sure and visit the log cabin across the creek from the parking area.
Fall Color Peak: Late-October through mid-November
What You Need to Know: This campground is situated on 43 wooded acres of a working farm.
GPS Coordinates: 38.87607, -77.61063
Greenwood Farm Family Campground is a peaceful, serene getaway where you park your RV or pitch your tent in a wooded area of a working farm. The RV pull-throughs are long and level while the tent sites are nestled into nooks in the woods. They do offer non-wooded sites. Water and electric hookups as well as hot showers and flush toilets are available. Fish in a pond on site, no license needed.
Recommended Fall Fun: I think it’s a cool idea to camp on a farm then visit the nearby Cox Farms Fall Festival, an ongoing autumn event (cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19). It is the biggest fall festival farm in Northern Virginia. Go on a haunted hayride or maze and sit by a big bonfire. Explore the fall produce market or the animal farm. Take the Imaginature Trail or participate in farm chores. Check out the antique farm equipment. There’s a lot going on a Cox Farms.
Fall Color Peak: Late-October through mid-November
What You Need to Know: This campground is well situated to explore multiple activities in the heart of Virginia.
GPS Coordinates: 37.17617, -78.27304
Twin Lake State Park sits on 548-acres and is carved out of the much larger Prince Edward-Gallion State Forest. Speaking of large, the campsites in the 33-site campground at Twin Lakes are all outsized and all have water and electricity. Located near Goodwin Lake, the camp is clean and in ship shape. Hot showers, and flush toilets are available and sites can be reserved.
Recommended Fall Fun: Walk the trails around the two lakes, seeing the autumn colors reflect off the water. Ride a paddleboat or fish or kayak on the serene electric-motors-only lake. Another exciting place for fall fun is nearby Sandy River Outdoor Adventures, a zipline adventure park. Tackle over 20 zip lines in one location! Other local adventures include paddling the Appomattox River or bicycling the converted rail trail that is High Bridge State Park.
Fall Color Peak: Early-October through late October
What You Need to Know: This campground sits in a perched remote valley at the base of mile-plus high Mount Rogers, Virginia’s highest point
GPS Coordinates: 36.68786, -81.53959
Grindstone is a well-kept, well-maintained campground at Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. A large flat at the upper end of the Laurel Creek is the setting for this shady old time camping area that is kept neat and clean, a place where time slows. Mount Rogers stands directly to the south and the Iron Mountains rise to the north. Nice campsites — many of them electric — hot showers and flush toilets make Grindstone attractive for those in an RV or a tent.
Recommended Fall Fun: The Whispering Waters Nature Trail makes a .6-mile loop from near the campground amphitheater but the real action is in the surrounding high country, which is the loftiest in the state. The Mount Rogers Trail is the campground gateway into the Lewis Fork Wilderness, located just south of the campground. It’s a little over 2,000 feet to the top of Mount Rogers through the wilderness, but the change in flora will amaze. You can also drive to higher nearby trailheads, such as Scales, then more easily explore this land of open meadows, rock outcrops and dense tree stands complemented with wild ponies and wild bears. Also, the famed Virginia Creeper Trail is nearby, where you can take a 17 mile downhill bike ride through magnificent mountain and rural scenery.
What You Need to Know: One the shores of Philpott Lake
GPS Coordinates: 36.80444, -80.06014
Enjoy land and water based recreation at this attractive and well maintained U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Campground. Philpott Lake stretches 2,900 acres and has over 100 miles of shoreline. Though it may be too cold to water ski, an autumn boat ride or fishing trip will enhance your campout.
Enjoy panoramas of the Blue Ridge rising west from the campground. Most campsites have electric and water hookups. The bathhouses offer flush toilets, hot showers, and drinking water. A beach, boat ramp, dock and fishing pier are on-site.
Recommended Fall Fun: Head to nearby Ferrum for the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, held at Ferrum College (cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19). Check out the folk music, sit in on a storytelling, enjoy the food and crafts. Or go visit nearby Fairy Stone State Park. Hiking trails, history and the strange minerals that give the park a name are there to be discovered.
Fall Color Peak: Late, late October to mid-late November
What You Need to Know: This state park is situated on Virginia’s largest lake
GPS Coordinates: 36.7028, -78.66627
North Bend Park Campground is enveloped on three sides by huge Kerr Reservoir, a.k.a. Buggs Island Lake, the pride of Southside Virginia. The camp is run like a well-oiled machine by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Just because this campground is on a lake and has a beach doesn’t mean it isn’t good for fall fun.
North Bend Park Campground is sizeable with over 200 sites, but don’t worry about being full during autumn. Coveted lakeside sites with stunning views of autumn color should be available. Late October through mid-November is a great time to visit. Southside Virginia is still relatively warm then and the fall colors will surprise. Hot shower, flush toilets and electric sites serve all types of campers.
Recommended Fall Fun: Have a ball bicycling the roads through the campground, especially in cooler autumn. A fishing dock makes angling easy and shorter interpretive trails can be picked up right from the camp. Take your boat, kayak, or canoe out on the lake to see autumn from a new perspective. Take a bicycle ride on the nearby Tobacco Heritage Trail, a rail trail great for a linear ride.
Harpers Ferry Adventure Center – From tubing and whitewater rafting to an aerial adventure course and ziplining, there is something everyone in the family can enjoy at this outdoor center in western Loudoun. Located on the banks of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, this is the perfect place to get on the water for a remote and relaxing afternoon.
Enjoy a family picnic (with takeout) at one of Alexandria’s vibrant waterfront parks on the Potomac River.
Hailey Zurschmeide, Great Country Farms
Great Country Farms – Take a scenic drive through the country for a stop at Great Country Farms. Featuring 400 acres, there is plenty of room to do everything from pick-your-own fruits and vegetables and visit animals to play a game of mini golf or fish in the pond.
The Little Goat Farm at the Lake – Located on beautiful Lake Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia, the Farm provides guests healthy, sustainable food as well as goat, alpaca, llama, bee products, and free-range eggs. Enjoy special events such as Goat Yoga, Open House Farm Tours, Private Tours, Newborn Snuggling, & Private Parties. Reservations are required to visit.
Plan ahead for a volunteer day at Arcadia Farm to help build garden beds, tend to the chickens, seeding and/or weeding, and learn about farm life.
Enjoy quality time with the farm animals (and babies!) at local favorite, Frying Pan Farm Park. The farm preserves and interprets farm life of the 1920s to 1950s, but is also home to a country store, old-time carousel, an equestrian center, and beautiful nature trails.
Hiking & Biking
Jake McGuire, Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island – Escape to the great outdoors in the middle of an urban environment with a trip to Theodore Roosevelt Island, a 91-acre wooded island sanctuary featuring miles of trails designed for hiking or running.
Neabsco Creek Boardwalk – This ¾ mile long boardwalk allows hikers access to wetlands where the tall grasses and marsh filter pollution from the river and provide a rich habitat for local animals and birds. The walkway is also part of the Potomac Heritage National Trail, which was established by Congress in 1983 designating an 800-mile trail network stretching from the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania to the Potomac River, winding through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.
Gravelly Point – Take a walk or a bike ride along the Mount Vernon Trail to Gravelly Point and watch planes fly to and from nearby Reagan National Airport. Its unique location just a few hundred feet from the north end of Reagan’s runway 1/19 makes it one of the best spots in the United States for airplane-spotting. Bring a picnic lunch, frisbee and/or your bike and explore beautiful scenic views of Washington, DC and the Potomac River.
Support local bicycle businesses while picking up a coffee or juice before hitting the bike trails in Fairfax County. A couple of great ones to start with that are located directly off the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (a 45-mile paved stretch through three counties) include Green Lizard Cycling in Herndon and The Bike Lane in Reston.
Bike into D.C. or along the riverside Mount Vernon Trail with rentals from Unlimited Biking or Pedego Electric Bikes in Alexandria. While cycling, scan the tidal marsh for creatures across the food chain, from darting fish to sun-tanning turtles to stately bald eagles.
Nicole Warner, Leesylvania State Park
Leesylvania State Park – This picturesque park has five tent-only campsites. One large group campground and four individual campsites for visitors arriving by canoe or kayak. The group campsite contains several picnic tables, benches, running water, and a large fire pit with a grill top. There is also plenty of room for recreational activities in the large field adjacent to the campsite. The individual sites are located near a small boat launch and contain a picnic table, a fire pit with grill top, and a lantern hook. Leesylvania State Park is known for great fishing, beaches with swimming areas and historical hiking trails.
A universally accessible fishing pier, playground, boat launch, boat storage area, snack bar and store, visitor center and gift shop are available. A 20-station fitness trail and canoe and kayak rentals also are available.
Algonkian Regional Park – Rent one of 12 vacation cottages along the Potomac River at this regional park in Loudoun. With decks, grills, full kitchens and multiple bedrooms, these cottages are perfect for a secluded vacation destination spot. While at the park, tee up at the 18-hole golf course, hike the trails or utilize the boat launch to get out on the water.
Prince William Forest Park – With 3 front-country campgrounds, 1 back-country campground and 5 cabin camps, Prince William Forest Park offers prime tent and RV camping in the Northern Virginia/DC area.
The park gives visitors a unique opportunity to camp in, hike through, and explore 15,000 wooded acres filled with wildlife and more than 300 years of human history. Campers can enjoy an array of outdoor activities at the park including the 37 miles of hiking trails, on and off-road biking, bird watching, an orienteering coarse, as well as streams and ponds for fishing (permit required and can be obtained at the parks Visitor Center).
History, Parks, and More
Kristian Summerer, Old Town Alexandria
Explore self-guided Great Walks in Alexandria with themes ranging from centuries-spanning architecture to photo-friendly artwork to expansive Black history and more. For each walk, check out our accompanying Google Map to plan your route—though you’ll be tempted (and welcome) to detour.
Air Force Memorial – Located on a beautiful hillside vista, the Air Force Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of U.S. airmen with three stainless steel spires evoking an image of jet and space vehicle flight. The Air Force Memorial is open to the public, and admission and parking are free. The memorial is located adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery and is about a mile walk from both Pentagon City Station and Pentagon Station.
Roer’s Zoofari – This local zoo is home to Waffles the Giraffe, lemurs, zebra, kangaroo, cheetah and more. Rather not get out of your vehicle? Book a spot on the Self-Drive Safari Tour, which gets you up close and personal with nine different species, including bison, llamas, fallow deer, and more.
Colvin Run Mill is an often overlooked 19th century historic site that is home to a working waterwheel, miller’s house and blacksmith forge, scenic walking areas, and a general store where you can purchase cornmeal and flour that was produced on site!
George Mason’s Gunston Hall – Learn about the life of Founding Father George Mason, the father of the Bill of Rights, at his iconic home, Gunston Hall. Archaeology and hiking opportunities are exciting add-ons to the mansion tour.
While the 4th of July in Virginia this year may not have the typical crowd-filled festivals and events, you can still catch brilliant fireworks displays, pay tribute to America’s history at special exhibits, and enjoy many of the time-honored traditions of Independence Day at these social-distancing celebrations, held throughout the Commonwealth this year.
Valley 4th Run, Harrisonburg
Date: July 3-5, 2020
Get active this Fourth of July with a virtual running event, Harrisonburg’s Valley 4th Run. This virtual race is a collective community effort to run, walk, or jog a total of 6,136 miles between Friday, July 3rd at 8am and Sunday, July 5th at 8pm. Participants in the event can choose their own distance, pace, and location, and once finished, will log their miles through an online platform, contributing to the total goal.
Happy Birthday America, Staunton
Date: July 4, 2020
While the traditional Fourth of July festival held in Staunton’s Gypsy Hill Park had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, the city will still host the 50-year-old tradition of Happy Birthday America as a Facebook Live virtual event. Beginning at 7pm on the 4th, the two-hour celebration will feature an acoustic concert by Wilson Fairchild and end with a live stream of fireworks from Washington, D.C.
Liberty Celebration at The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Yorktown
This year’s Fourth of July marks the 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and you can acknowledge this major moment in American history at the Liberty Celebration at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Newly reopened, the museum will follow social-distancing procedures to keep visitors safe during the momentous event, with many of the day’s activities happening outdoors to allow for more visitors with plenty of room to participate. On July 4th, they will host interpretive reenactments, such as a recreation of a Continental Army encampment and a Revolutionary-era farm, 18th century artillery demonstrations, and educational seminars that cover both the freedoms earned after the American Revolution and the limitations of the victory for many Americans who were not granted the same freedoms and liberties. Don’t miss the Forgotten Soldierspecial exhibition, on display at the museum until July 8th, which explores the personal stories of African-American soldiers and their valiant contributions towards an independent nation.
4th of July Fireworks, Berryville
Date: July 3, 2020
Clarke County’s annual Independence Day Fireworks begin at 9:20pm on Friday, July 3rd at the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds. Social distancing measures will be in place to protect visitors from COVID-19, including requiring all guests to stay in or around their vehicles (wandering the fairgrounds is not allowed) and the closure of all concession stands and grandstands (attendees are welcome to bring their own food and drinks, although alcohol is prohibited). Parking will be available at D.G. Cooley Elementary School, Clarke County High School, and Chet Hobert Park.
Fourth of July Fireworks & Patriotic Presentation, Culpeper
Date: July 4, 2020
Culpeper’s Fourth of July Fireworks & Patriotic Presentation are still scheduled for July 4th, but will implement an array of social distancing guidelines in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order. The event begins with a Patriotic Presentation held on the Culpeper Courthouse lawn at 1pm, followed by a flyover conducted by the Commemorative Air Force’s Capital Wing featuring vintage WWII aircrafts, and concluding with a fireworks display around 9:15pm that will be held in Rockwater Park. Any changes to the event due to inclement weather or other circumstances will be posted on the Visit Culpeper Facebook page.
Fireworks at The Diamond, Richmond
Date: July 4, 2020
Photo Credit: Virginia History & Culture Museum
Richmond’s Flying Squirrels will not hold their annual baseball game followed by a fireworks show at the Diamond, but are partnering with the city of Richmond and CBS 6 to put on a fireworks showthat will be televised from 9-10pm and can also be seen over the city skyline.
Chesterfield Fireworks Show, Chesterfield
Date: July 4, 2020
Like many other Virginia counties, Chesterfield will replace their annual Fourth of July festival with a fireworks celebration at the Chesterfield County Fairgrounds that can be viewed from the parking lot. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the fairgrounds will be closed and there will be no additional activities, concession stands, or entertainment. No glass, alcohol, fireworks, or pets are permitted.
Fredericksburg Nationals 4th of July Spectacular, Fredericksburg
Date: July 4, 2020
The Fredericksburg Nationals host a 4th of July Spectacular on Saturday July 4th from 8:30-10 p.m, with fireworks starting at 9:30pm. The show is free to the public and all attendees will view the show from their cars, meaning that you don’t need to be parked at the ballpark to see it! Tune into Superhits 95.9 for patriotic music paired to the fireworks show.
Massanutten Fireworks Display, McGaheysville
Date: July 4, 2020
Photo Credit: Joshua Gooden
Shenandoah Valley’s Massanutten Resort celebrates Independence Day with afireworks show held at the top of the mountain on the resort grounds. The show begins at 9pm and will be visible from the resort and the surrounding areas of McGaheysville, Harrisonburg, Elkton, and other surrounding areas in the Valley. While large gatherings will not be permitted near the fireworks launching spot, the parking lots will be open and visitors staying at the resort will be able to view the fireworks from their accommodations.
Firecracker 4-Miler Virtual Run, Richmond
Date: July 4-31, 2020
Another virtual running event in Virginia, the Firecracker 4-Miler is a fun and active way to commemorate the Fourth of July this year. Sponsored by Sports Backer, this virtual run invites participants to walk or run four miles at any time between July 4th and July 31st, completing the race at their own pace and in their own location while following local health and safety guidelines.
Blue Mountain Barrel House, Arrington
Date: July 4, 2020
Blue Mountain Barrel House is throwing an Independence Day Low Country Boil on Saturday, July 4th with delicious low country boil food served between 12-6pm and live music from Virginia band The BLNDRS from 3-5:30pm. In addition to the festivities, the Tasting Room and Food Truck will be open and serving during their regular business hours of 11am-9pm. Guests are encouraged to bring their own pop-ups and folding chairs to enjoy the music in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.
4th of July Light Show at Chapman-Beverley Mills, Prince William County
Date: June 26-July 6, 2020
From June 26 to July 6, the Chapman-Beverly Millin Thoroughfare Gap will be illuminated from dusk to dawn with red, white, and blue lights, which are visible by car from Interstate 66 and Route 55 East. Sponsored by the Turn the Mill Around Campaign and the owners of the mill, the project celebrates Independence Day while kicking off the mill’s annual fundraising efforts.
Independence Day Celebration, Luray
Date: July 4, 2020
The town of Luray will host their annual Independence Day fireworks extravaganza on Saturday, July 4th beginning at 9:15pm. In order to allow for social distancing, the event has been moved to the new location of the Page Valley Fairgrounds, which provides plenty of space for visitors to spread out their blankets and chairs and get clear views of the fireworks.
Patriotic 4th of July Displays at Dorey Park & Meadow Farm Museum, Henrico
Date: July 1-5, 2020
Henrico’s Parks & Recreation department will showcase patriotic displays from July 1st-5th at Dorey Park and Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park, including artwork, a sand sculpture, and 70 flags to honor our country. These exhibits are open for visitors to view at their leisure, but social distancing measures are in effect to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, an Uncle Sam on stilts will be at Crump Park on Friday, July 3rd from 4-7pm to greet guests, and Dorey Park will have a historical re-enactment led by Colonial Williamsburg historian Jamar Jones, who will tell the true story of London Pleasants, an enslaved man who defined his own independence during the Revolutionary War.
Nauticus’ Battleship Wisconsin will offer options for small group adventures that allow for fun and engagement in a limited social environment starting on Friday, July 3rd. The Adventures on Deck series feature tours like the Top of the World Battleship Wisconsin Tour (9 people max), where you’ll explore the ship’s uppermost exterior command centers and enjoy the best view of Norfolk’s skyline, the ROV Workshop (6 people max), which tests your flying skills as you maneuver an ROV through a challenging course, the Sailing Excursion (4 people max per boat), an educational experience where you’ll learn the basics of sailing on the Elizabeth River from a licensed instructor, and the Behind-the-Scenes Aquarium Tour (5 people max), where you’ll find out how the aquarium cares for sharks and other sea creatures.
Tazewell 4th of July Celebration, Tazewell
Date: July 4, 2020
The town of Tazewell will have an Independence Day Fireworks display on Saturday, July 4th beginning at 9:30pm that will occur at the Tazewell Middle School baseball field parking lot. A food truck will be onsite at 7pm, and spectators are encouraged to practice social distancing while viewing the fireworks.
Richlands Indepence Day Celebration, Richlands
Date: July 3, 2020
Join the Southwest Virginia town of Richlands for a fireworks celebration on July 3rd beginning at 9:30pm. Fireworks will be viewable from downtown Richlands, and spectators are asked to remain in their cars during the show.
Stable Craft Brewing 4th of July Celebration, Waynesboro
Date: July 4, 2020
Stable Craft Brewing is celebrating the 4th with a new craft beer release, the Dreamsicle Sour, a sour ale infused with orange purees, and the re-release of their crowd-pleasing Watermelon Cider, made with pounds of crushed watermelon that results in the perfect summer beverage. The brewery will be open on July 4th from 12-10pm for a special “Grab the Glass” event; visitors to the brewery will get to keep a limited-edition Independence Day glass with any brew purchase (while supplies last). To ensure the safety of their guests, the brewery has expanded their outdoor covered dining area and requires masks in the indoor dining spaces, which have also been spread out to prevent close contact.
July 4th Backyard Celebration at Western Front Hotel, Saint Paul
Date: July 4, 2020
Southwest Virginia’s Western Front Hotel is hosting a July 4th Backyard Celebration, featuring live music from the 49 Winchester Band and all sorts of summer foods and drinks available for purchase from their onsite gourmet restaurant, Ina + Forbes. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are limited due to social distancing safety measures; $15 per person tickets include free s’mores and sparklers.
July 4th Virtual Celebration & Scavenger Hunt, Ashland
Date: June 30-July 4, 2020
Sponsored by Hanover arts, the town of the Ashland will celebrate Independence Day with the July 4th Virtual Parade and Celebration. Follow their Facebook page for more information on the events, including a photo contest with prizes, live music performances, and a slideshow of parades from previous 4th of July celebrations. Additionally, the in-person scavenger hunt is spread over five days and will feature local businesses in Downtown Ashland; all completed scavenger hunt checklists will be entered into a drawing for a prize.
Stars & Stripes Getaway Package at the Craddock Terry Hotel, Lynchburg
Date: July 3-5, 2020
Book the Stars and Stripes Getaway Package at the Craddock Terry Hotel in Lynchburg for an overnight Independence Day getaway that the entire family will love! The package features a one-night stay in a deluxe or premium room, a Kid’s Fun Bucket packed full of celebration goodies for two kids, Scavenger Hunt game cards, four bike rentals for up to two hours to explore downtown Lynchburg, cupcake decorating kits, and complimentary Continental Breakfast for up to four delivered to your room. Call to book this special Fourth of July package.
Pocahontas 4th of July Celebration
Date: July 4, 2020
Celebrate the Fourth of July in the town of Pocahontas with a fireworks display, beginning at 9pm. Pocahontas’ newest restaurant, Thirteen Nine, will be set up in Laurel Meadows Park for visitors to purchase food and drink; visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing measures during the event.
Bluefield Blue Jays Fireworks Celebration, Bluefield
Date: July 3, 2020
The Bluefield Blue Jays will be sponsoring a fireworks celebration on July 3rd at 9pm at Bowen Field. The stand will not be open, so visitors are asked to remain in their cars to watch the fireworks display from the parking lot.
July Fourth Weekend at Primland, Meadows of Dan
Date: July 3-5, 2020
Another overnight option to celebrate the Fourth is a July Fourth Weekend at Primland, a resort that sits on over 12,000 acres of land, allowing for easy social distancing throughout your stay. The package begins with a guided nature hike after check-in on Friday, July 3rd, followed by a wine reception on the terrace and an outdoor family movie held after dark on the resort’s driving range. On Saturday, July 4th, begin the day with a yoga class ($10 per person) and another guided nature hike (10 people max), then attend their kite-flying clinic in the afternoon. Another afternoon guided hike (10 people max) will take visitors to the most photo-friendly spots on the resort grounds. The resort will also offer DIY Crafts Kits on Saturday afternoon, an evening wine reception, and another family movie night on the driving range. The weekend wraps up with a full itinerary of fun on Sunday, including morning yoga ($10 per person, 9 people max), guided nature hikes (10 people max), and more arts and crafts opportunities for the kids.