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Virginia Is For Leaf Peepers

Autumn splendor is backdrop for fall festivals and historic events.


by Rosemary Dietrick, Contributing Columnist

Carl Purcell Photo

Showtime begins in October. First, autumn gently tints the treetops on Virginia’s mountains, then with a lavish brush, lets loose a kaleidoscope of scarlet, gold and orange hues, creating a Crayola landscape throughout the Old Dominion. Before you know it, there are pumpkins to be gathered and apples to be picked.

Not all fall events are found outdoors. Look to a calendar crowded with historic commemorations, a film festival, art shows, and the dedication of two new museums. Celebrate with the Marines the completion of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Prepare to be surprised by the location of Mount Vernon’s Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.

You can have it all: country music, from fiddle bowing to banjo picking; tours, from haunted houses to plantations; and food, from apple butter to Brunswick stew. Get lost in a cornfield maze or climb aboard a hay wagon. Float over the Shenandoah Valley in a hot-air balloon. At the end of the day, toast the bountiful season with apple cider or a Governor’s Cup wine.

Highlights of an autumn itinerary begin in the Blue Ridge, the Alleghenies and the mountains of Appalachia. Start off with Live Downtown Bluegrass Music in Bristol, the birthplace of country music; hear groups from Nashville to Roanoke. (October 17, 24, 31. Call 423-764-4171. www.visitbristoltnva.com.) Take in the scenery on an all-day New River Trail Senior Van Tour from Foster Falls. $ (October 17-18. Reservations required. Call 800-933-PARK. www.dcr.virginia.gov/parks/newriver.htm.) In Leesburg, tackle the Cornfield Maze at Temple Hall Farm Regional Park. Can you navigate an 11-acre maze in 40 minutes? Ten-foot-tall cornstalks – two observation points. $ (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays through October 30. Call 703-779-9372. www.nvrpa.org/templehall.html.)

Photo Courtesy of LexingtonVirginia.Com

It’s not all about leaf peeping. Literary aficionados of the Winesburg, Ohio short stories will enjoy Marion’s Sherwood Anderson Festival and the opportunity to explore the author’s life in southwest Virginia. Tour reservations required two weeks in advance. (Through November 16. Call 276-783-2323. www.sherwoodandersonfestival.com.) Experience Lexington at night. Haunting Tales: Lexington’s Ghost Tour guides you through back streets and alleyways; discover the strange phenomenon lurking in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. (Fridays and Saturdays through

October 28. $ (Call 540-464-2250 or 540-463-3777. www.lexingtonvirginia.com/attractionsb.asp?id=34.)

Graves’ Mountain Apple Harvest Festival in Syria is always a popular venue for food, bluegrass music, clogging, and hayrides. Pick your own apples. Smell the aroma of Brunswick stew cooking in kettles over open fires. (October 14-15; 21-22. Call 540-923-4231. www.gravesmountain.com.)

Attend the 19th annual Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville for the screening of more than 70 films; 80 guest artists and speakers expected. $ (October 26-29. Call 800-UVA-FEST. www.vafilm.com.) A quilt historian will document quilts brought to the Quilt Road Show at Sweet Briar College in Amherst. (October 21. Call 434-381-6248. www.sbc.edu/news/?d=1824.)

In Schuyler, re-visit “John Boy” and family at Walton’s Mountain Museum Anniversary Celebration. Hear gospel, country and bluegrass bands. Fee for admission to museum. (October 21. Call 800-282-8223. www.nelsoncounty.com.)

Marilyn Ott Photo

At Drumheller’s Orchard in Lovingston, during the Apple Harvest & Apple Butter Festival the air is filled with the scent of apple butter in the making; take a hayride to the pumpkin patch or try your luck with an apple slingshot. (October 21-22. Call 800-282-8223. www.nelsoncounty.com.)

Over in the Shenandoah Valley, Waynesboro hosts its annual juried Virginia Fall Foliage Festival Art Show; includes paintings, photography, sculpture, pottery and metalwork by artists from Virginia and 14 states. (October 14-15. Call 540-942-6644. www.svacart.com.) Expect eerie happenings in Roanoke’s Sleepy Hollow at Explore Park; wear Halloween costumes for trick-or-treating; hear scary stories and decorate pumpkins. $ (October 28-29. Call 800-842-9163. www.explorepark.org.)

In Virginia Beach, salt air won’t dampen the spirits at the Fall Harvest Festival at Hunt Club Farm, which features hayrides, a petting farm, pony rides, and a pumpkin patch. $ (Daily through Oct. 30. Call 757-427-9520. www.huntclubfarm.com.) Commemorate the surrender of the British Army to General Washington at Yorktown Observance Day; watch ceremonies, parade and tactical demonstrations by the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard. (October 19. Call 757-898-2410. www.nps.gov/colo.) During Portsmouth’s Olde Towne Ghost Walk, costumed actors escort you past “haunted” mansions of historic area. $ (October 27. Call 757-397-7261. www.otcl.org.)

At Prince William County’s Great Pumpkin Dog Walk, enjoy fresh air with Fido on a two-mile route from downtown Manassas. Free T-shirt for first 100 people registered. $ (October 21. Call 571-222-0033. www.pwspca.org/dogwalk.html.)

Don tweeds for hunt-country steeplechase racing at The Plains’ International Gold Cup. $ (October 21. Call 540-347-1215. www.vagoldcup.com/main.cfm?action=intgoldcup.)

On the grounds of Millwood’s historic Long Branch mansion at the Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon & Wine Festival, enjoy balloon launches and rides, exhibits of antique cars and fire engines, and wine tastings. Balloons and pumpkins glow Friday evening. $ (October 20-22. Call 888-558-5567. www.historiclongbranch.com.)

At Mount Vernon two new buildings, the Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, will revolutionize the visitor’s experience at George Washington’s estate. Underneath four pastoral acres is 65 percent of the complex, its design ensuring it will not detract from views of the historic house. Gallery and media displays explore Washington’s life from early adulthood through his military leadership and presidency. $ (Grand Opening: October 27. Call 703-780-2000. www.mountvernon.org.)

Next to the U.S. Marine Corps Base at Quantico, the National Museum of the Marine Corps boasts a soaring, 210-foot tilted mast atop a 160-foot glass atrium. The design recalls the famous Iwo Jima flag raising of World War II. The museum’s concept will be an immersion experience that tells the story of the Marine Corps through exhibits that transport visitors from boot camp to battlefield. (Dedication: November 10-12. Open to public November 13. Call 703-784-6421. www.usmcmuseum.org.)


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