Pack up the car and the kids and head up Interstate 64 for a fun family day trip! From scenic byways and fun activities to wineries and breweries, we’ve got some great ideas for a weekend trip to the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley.
While there’s plenty to do in Richmond every weekend this fall, there’s also a whole host of fun things to do just outside of town. As if you need another reason to make the trek out west, in the coming weeks the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley will burst with fall color. According to NBC12 meteorologist Matt Holiner, we’re almost there:
With that in mind, it’s the perfect time to gas up the car and head west on Interstate 64. Whether you’re into craft beer, Virginia wine, apple picking, or just a scenic drive, there’s something for everyone. We’ve put together a list of ideas for a fun day out, whether it’s just you and some friends or if you have the whole family in tow.
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Sightseeing & Scenic Drives
Between the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive and other winding mountain roads, there’s plenty of places to take in the breathtaking fall foliage west of town either by car or on foot on one of the area’s many scenic hiking trails.
There are also a number of live music venues celebrating the area’s rich bluegrass heritage, as well as a number of cultural and historical museums. Here are a few ideas of what to check out, hand-picked by our friends at the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
Cruise along the Parkway this fall and celebrate 75 years of America’s Favorite Drive. Generations of visitors have made annual fall pilgrimages to the Parkway to view its natural splendor and breathtaking views. Along the way are restaurants and stores, hiking trails and diverse overnight accommodations. Learn about the life of early mountain settlers and watch living history demonstrations at Humpback Rocks Visitor Center. Visit Mabry Mill, the most photographed site on the Parkway. Join a nature hike led by friendly park rangers.
Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail winds through the mountains and valleys of Southwest Virginia, a major wellspring of American roots music and one of Virginia’s best regions for fall foliage. Country music traces its beginnings here, and the area is still a hotbed of bluegrass and Old Time music. Live music venues, museums and cultural centers lie along the trail. Some of bluegrass music’s top acts perform at the Carter Family Fold, the Floyd Country Store and the Rex Theater in Galax and impromptu jam sessions pop up in barber shops and ice cream stands in small communities throughout the region.
Traversing 50 beautiful miles along the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Loop includes four Scenic Byways west of Charlottesville. Take a hike and have a picnic at Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Fish for mountain trout in a stocked pond at Montebello. Stay overnight in a creekside cabin and cozy up.
This roadway is the main artery of Shenandoah National Park and one of America’s best fall foliage destinations. The drive itself is a worthy journey but there is so much more to enjoy along the route. Stay overnight at Skyland Lodge, Big Meadow, or the rustic cabins at Lewis Mountain. At dusk, herds of deer come out to graze in meadows and along roadsides. The eastern black bear can be seen along with a large variety of songbirds.
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Fun for the Entire Family
Bringing the kiddos along for your weekend day trip? There’s plenty to see and do. Here are some ideas for things that will entertain (and hopefully wear out) your little ones that you’re sure to enjoy just as much or more, too.
From apple and peach picking to caverns and natural wonders, you have lots of fun options. Here are just a few.
One of the area’s top family attractions, Carter Mountain Orchard offers a whole day of family fun. Pick your own apples and peaches on the mountainside overlooking beautiful Charlottesville, take a hayride, and don’t forget to pick up a pack of the orchard’s famous apple donuts–they’re to die for. Every weekend in October, the orchard hosts an Apple Harvest Festival with live music, food, and more.
- 1435 Carters Mountain Trail, Charlottesville, VA 22901
Pick your own peaches and apples fresh from the orchard every weekend through Thanksgiving at this fifth-generation family-owned orchard, and select the perfect pumpkin from the orchard’s pumpkin patch. Lots of weekend events and activities to entertain the whole family, too.
- 1351 Greenwood Rd, Crozet, VA 22932
The ever-stunning Luray Caverns make for a fun family outing. The huge limestone caves are as beautiful as they are massive. The formations include one of the largest ‘musical instruments’ in the world, a stalactite organ that actually emits sounds of different tones when tapped gently. The caves and adjacent hedge maze are must-visit family attractions.
- 101 Cave Hill Road, Luray, VA 22835
One of the oldest tourist attractions in the United States, Natural Bridge, named among one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is thought to have formed when a cavern collapsed centuries ago. The scenic attraction draws visitors from around the world.
- 15 Appledore Lane, Natural Bridge, VA 24578
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Craft Beer & HARD CIDER Destinations
It’s almost hard to keep up with all the new craft breweries bubbling up in the Commonwealth. Just a hop, skip, and a jump west, you can sample and enjoy craft beer and hard cider from a number of producers, meet the folks who make them, and enjoy some great food, too.
Here are a few breweries and ciderys to check out in Albemarle and Nelson Counties, an area affectionately known as the ‘Brew Ridge Trail’ for the bevy of breweries.
Offers eight different ciders on tap in their tasting room and an outdoor patio overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- 2545 Rural Ridge Lane, North Garden, VA 22959
A must-go destination on the Brew Ridge Trail. The brewery features a full-service restaurant specializing in brunch fare (try the Local Sausage Flatbread Pizza–trust me), sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Nine to ten beers on tap–order a flight to sample them all, from light to dark. Large dining/tasting room and huge outdoor patio.
- 9519 Critzers Shop Road, Afton, VA 22920
Brewery and tasting room with seven beers on tap currently. Offers a variety of appetizers and sandwiches. Live music every Saturday at 3:30 PM.
- 495 Cooperative Way, Arrington, VA 22922
A favorite among local cider drinkers, Bold Rock offers three varieties of their adult apple juice–Virginia Draft, Virginia Apple, and Crimson Ridge–all light, crisp, and flavorful. Growler fills are available in the cidery’s recently-opened, much larger tasting room, too. Best of all, unlike many places, cider tastings are complimentary at Bold Rock.
- 1020 Rockfish Valley Highway, Nellysford, VA 22958
A perennial favorite among Virginia beer fans. Huge tasting room, tons of beers across the entire spectrum of brews, appetizers, and sandwiches. Live music and events take place on a regular basis.
- 200 Mosbys Run, Roseland, VA 22967
This Charlottesville favorite it currently undergoing renovations, but is expected to open on November 3rd.
- 106 West South Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Another favorite among local beer drinkers. More seasonal and year-round brews than you can shake a pint glass at. Lots of live music and events here, too.
- 5391 Three Notched Road, Crozet, VA 22932
Tucked away in a wooded grove, part of Wild Wolf’s brewery is a historic former one-room Nelson County schoolhouse. Offers flights of beer across the tasting spectrum, has a spectacular outdoor patio, brunch and lunch favorites, and live music on the weekends.
- 2461 Rockfish Valley Highway, Nellysford, VA 22958
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Unique & Secenic VIRGINIA WINERIES
There’s a popular bumper sticker out there that reads, “Napa is for auto parts. Virginia is for wine.” While the Commonwealth is not quite as widely-known for our vino as the Napa Valley, the region is getting more and more national attention and Virginia wineries are picking up an increasing number of national awards.
There’s no shortage of unique and interesting vineyards in Central and Western Virginia offering tastings, wine by the glass and bottle, a slew of events and festivals, and scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to boot. Here’s a small selection that are relatively close to one another to help you plan a day of vineyard hopping.
Afton Mountain’s tagline is “grapes don’t grow in ugly places.” And they’re right. This winery offers some of of the best panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the area. Taste Afton’s selection of six white wines and seven reds or enjoy a glass or bottle on their outdoor patio and take in the views.
- 234 Vineyard Lane, Afton, VA 22920
Barboursville, an estate designed by Thomas Jefferson for James Barbour, was built in 1822 and later burned. The brick ruins of the stately home still stand on the property of the present-day winery, which offers a wide-ranging menu of wines, a posh restaurant, and inn.
- Mansion Road, Barboursville, VA 22923
Delfosse offers a portfolio of over 20 different wines across the tasting spectrum that you can sample and enjoy in the tasting room, exceptional views of the mountains, and periodic events like wine dinners in the field.
- 500 DelFosse Winery Lane, Faber, VA 22938
Horton’s huge tasting room and production facility is exceptionally cool. Upon arrival, you’ll think you’re about to enter a small stone Victorian castle. The winery offers a number of events and festivals throughout the year, plus one of the most thorough facility tours you’ll get in the region with one of their expert winemakers (seriously–expect to spend an hour or more on the tour). You’ll learn a lot.
- 6399 Spotswood Trail, Gordonsville, VA 22942
The land upon which Jefferson Vineyards operates today was used as early as 1773 by Thomas Jefferson and his cohorts, who started the Virginia Wine Company–thought to be the first wine operation in the country. Today, Jefferson Vineyards offers tastings (you can choose either a classic or reserve tasting), a garden patio, a quaint tree deck (with trees growing through openings in the middle), and a concert field where acts of all kinds play during the warmer months.
- 1353 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Keswick is a producer of a number of award winning wines (at both the state and national level) operating around the historic Englewood Estate. The winery hosts a number of outdoor and cellar-room events, many centered around pets, such as their ‘Yappy Howl-O-Ween’ dog-centric Halloween celebration.
- 1575 Keswick Winery Drive, Keswick, VA 22947
The picturesque King Family Vineyards is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains on all sides and offers stunning panoramic views, a selection of 14 different wines across the spectrum, and even polo matches on the weekends. It’s truly a unique and beautiful place.
- 6550 Roseland Farm, Crozet, VA 22932
Pollak Vineyards has a stately vaulted-ceiling tasting room overlooking both the mountains and a sparkling pond. Enjoy a glass or bottle of wine on the patio or at picnic tables down by the water, and grab a baguette or cheese plate from the kitchen to complement your vino.
- 330 Newtown Road, Greenwood, VA 22943
Veritas offers a selection of 12 different wines, a beautiful tasting room and large event space, and periodic events in the attached ballroom. A great spot for a picnic and lots of room for the kids to run around while you enjoy a glass or bottle.
- 151 Veritas Lane, Afton, VA 22920
Photo: Joseph Gruber/Flickr