8 Once-in-a-Lifetime Places to Stay in Virginia This Fall

sandy river retreat tipi

Fall is just around the corner, and we are already daydreaming about this special season that is absolutely iconic in Virginia, from the crisp air and colorful leaves to the delicious fall flavors coming to restaurant menus. If you’re looking for a complete fall experience rather than just a standard vacation, skip the hotels and book one of these eight distinctive rental properties that showcase the very best of fall in Virginia.

SANDY RIVER RETREAT LOG CABINS & TIPIS—RICE

If you’re interested in a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, you need to book a stay at Sandy River Retreat just minutes outside of Downtown Farmville. In addition to the log cabins available for rent, the business just began renting out their luxury tipis. These are by no means basic accommodations; the tipis are massive, with queen and full-sized beds, pullout couches, kitchens, bathrooms, air conditioning, and even heated flooring for those cool mornings. The tipis sleep five to six people, while the pet-friendly cabins sleep up to eight people and have many of the same amenities. These rentals are located on the same property as the Adventure Park, which features eleven zip lines, obstacle courses, and a team-building section. Additionally, the property also houses a full farm with sheep, chickens, and two friendly miniature donkeys named Mario and Luigi that are always delighted to make new friends. And the activities for guests don’t end there; Sandy River offers bike rentals for the High Bridge Trail, canoe and kayak rentals for Sandy River Reservoir, and several family games available for guests to use, including corn hole, croquette, volleyball, and horse shoes.

CAIR PARAVEL FARM’S AIRSTREAM IN THE TREES—STANARDSVILLE

Stay in a vintage 1968 Airstream on a property that abuts Shenandoah National Park at Cair Paravel Farm. Immersed in nature, the camper has an expansive wood deck perched on the edge of the mountains, which will provide you with an unreal view of the autumn colors of the valley below. Nature trails wind through the 58-acre working farm, which contains sheep, picks, ducks, turkey, and more. Get eggs for your morning omelet, veggies to whip up a quick salad, or even meats for a barbecue on the airstream’s outdoor gas grill from the farm owners, who either source on-site or work with other local residents to provide you with a truly authentic farm-to-table experience.

BELLE ISLE HOUSE & GUEST HOUSE—LANCASTER

belle isle state park bel air mansion and guest house

Belle Isle State Park rent out both the Bel Air Mansion and the Guest House, but unlike many park accommodations like campsites and cabin rentals, the lodging options in Belle Isle State Park are not exactly roughing it. The Colonial-style mansion is huge, with three twin beds, queen and full bedrooms, and a small daybed, as well as four bathrooms and a fully-equipped kitchen. Get a gorgeous waterfront view when you book the guest house, located …read more

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Trace the Steps of Three Trailblazing Virginia Women 

Salamander Resort & Spa
This article is the fifth in a series commemorating the American Evolution – Virginia to America 1619-2019 . See article one, two, three, and four here.

While Virginia may have established the roots for a new form of government reflecting the will of the people, the role of women at different points throughout Virginia’s history largely reflects that of the rest of the Western world. With a few notable exceptions, until quite recently women’s roles were primarily confined to domestic responsibilities.

But even from Virginia’s earliest colonial period, exceptionally strong women made steady progress on the path towards women’s equality. While these women came from sometimes starkly different circumstances and eras, they share a common sense of ambition, relentless courage and unshakable moral fiber in refusing to acquiesce to the status quo.

Virginia is scattered with historic sites that bear the imprint of these women’s efforts. From modest to grand, these sites all stand as monuments to these incredible Virginia women who advanced the cause of humanity. Here are just a few:

  • In a white-male dominated environment, Sheila Crump Johnson became a pioneer African-American media entrepreneur by launching BET in 1980, and now focuses her attention on her luxurious 200-acre Salamander Resort & Spa in Loudon County.
Salamander Resort
  • Early preservationist Emily White Fleming led the crusade to save Historic Downtown Fredericksburg and nearby Kenmore, home of George Washington’s sister Betty Washington Lewis.
  • The A.P. Carter Museum and the Carter Family Fold Weekly Music performances honor the life of “Mother” Maybelle Addington Carter and her kin from Scott County in Southwest Virginia, early pioneers in the development of Country-Western music

Carter Family Fold Stage
  • Richmond native Mary Elizabeth Bowser was a free woman of color who posed under cover as a slave in the White House of the Confederacy to serve President Jefferson Davis and his wife, pretending to be dim-witted to gain valuable information as a deep-cover Union spy

Six sites related to three other remarkable Virginia Women in History serve as physical reminders of how they used their unique talents to help blaze a trail towards greater opportunity for women.

—18th-CENTURY WIDOW THRUST INTO A MAN’S WORLD—Westover Plantation. c. 1730. An outstanding example of Georgian architecture in America.

Two and a half centuries after its construction, Westover Plantation remains one of the most elegant houses in America. William Byrd III built the brick mansion overlooking the James River in 1750 to serve as the seat of his 1,200-acre estate. He spent lavishly on every detail, so by the time the house was complete it rivaled the proudest English Georgian manors.

Yet Westover Plantation was tiny compared to the nearly 180,000 acres William III inherited along with several residences in Richmond (which his father founded) and an English estate he inherited from his mother’s family. Despite such wealth, by the time the ornate plaster in Westover dried, …read more

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Trace the Steps of Three Trailblazing Virginia Women 

Salamander Resort & Spa
This article is the fifth in a series commemorating the American Evolution – Virginia to America 1619-2019 . See article one, two, three, and four here.

While Virginia may have established the roots for a new form of government reflecting the will of the people, the role of women at different points throughout Virginia’s history largely reflects that of the rest of the Western world. With a few notable exceptions, until quite recently women’s roles were primarily confined to domestic responsibilities.

But even from Virginia’s earliest colonial period, exceptionally strong women made steady progress on the path towards women’s equality. While these women came from sometimes starkly different circumstances and eras, they share a common sense of ambition, relentless courage and unshakable moral fiber in refusing to acquiesce to the status quo.

Virginia is scattered with historic sites that bear the imprint of these women’s efforts. From modest to grand, these sites all stand as monuments to these incredible Virginia women who advanced the cause of humanity. Here are just a few:

  • In a white-male dominated environment, Sheila Crump Johnson became a pioneer African-American media entrepreneur by launching BET in 1980, and now focuses her attention on her luxurious 200-acre Salamander Resort & Spa in Loudon County.
Salamander Resort
  • Early preservationist Emily White Fleming led the crusade to save Historic Downtown Fredericksburg and nearby Kenmore, home of George Washington’s sister Betty Washington Lewis.
  • The A.P. Carter Museum and the Carter Family Fold Weekly Music performances honor the life of “Mother” Maybelle Addington Carter and her kin from Scott County in Southwest Virginia, early pioneers in the development of Country-Western music

Carter Family Fold Stage
  • Richmond native Mary Elizabeth Bowser was a free woman of color who posed under cover as a slave in the White House of the Confederacy to serve President Jefferson Davis and his wife, pretending to be dim-witted to gain valuable information as a deep-cover Union spy

Six sites related to three other remarkable Virginia Women in History serve as physical reminders of how they used their unique talents to help blaze a trail towards greater opportunity for women.

—18th-CENTURY WIDOW THRUST INTO A MAN’S WORLD—Westover Plantation. c. 1730. An outstanding example of Georgian architecture in America.

Two and a half centuries after its construction, Westover Plantation remains one of the most elegant houses in America. William Byrd III built the brick mansion overlooking the James River in 1750 to serve as the seat of his 1,200-acre estate. He spent lavishly on every detail, so by the time the house was complete it rivaled the proudest English Georgian manors.

Yet Westover Plantation was tiny compared to the nearly 180,000 acres William III inherited along with several residences in Richmond (which his father founded) and an English estate he inherited from his mother’s family. Despite such wealth, by the time the ornate plaster in Westover dried, …read more

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Big Concerts Coming to Virginia in September

The Paramount Theater

Festival season may be winding down, but that is not stopping the amount a great music coming to Virginia. From major country acts to the biggest names in rock and pop, catch your favorite artists and discover new ones all over the Commonwealth.

On Sept. 1-3, the largest outdoor musical event on the East Coast, the American Music Festival will feature three major headline bands on the 5th Street Main Stage on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. 311, Rebelution, Michael Franti & Spearhead, 3 Doors Down, and the Wallflowers will be performing.

Lovers of music come together Sept. 1-3 in Stuart for the Front Porch Fest as local, regional and national musicians showcase their talent on three stages at the Spirithaven Farm. It all takes place on Virginia’s front porch to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Appaloosa Festival is a roots music and outdoors experience Sept. 1-3, set at the Skyline Ranch Resort among the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hosted by Scythian, Appaloosa features more than 40 bands on five stages, including some of the most critically acclaimed up-and-coming artists from all over the country.

One of the mid-Atlantic region’s longest-running outdoor music events, the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival presents world-class music by a stellar array of performers. Acts performing in September include Emmylou Harris and Balsam Range.

The Papa Joe Smiddy Music Festival in Duffield on Sept. 3 honors the tireless work of “Papa Joe” Smiddy, a well-known old-time musician, entertainer and educator. Enjoy a summer’s eve listening to traditional bluegrass music at the Natural Tunnel State Park amphitheater.

The award-winning Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion is a three-day music experience Sept. 15-17 that celebrates Bristol’s heritage as the Birthplace of Country Music. State Street in historic Downtown Bristol comes alive with 22 stages of live music.

Head to Berryville for the Watermelon Park Fest Sept. 21-24. The annual celebration will be full of bluegrass, old-time and folk Americana music, with national and regional live music, pickin’ and band competitions and more.

The Hoopla Festival at the Devil’s Backbone Basecamp Brewpub and Meadows brings music, outdoor and beer lovers together Sept. 29-Oct. 1 for workshops & outdoor activities alongside an incredible lineup of live music including Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Langhorne Slim, Blitzen Trapper and more.

Over at Virginia’s many live music venues:

The National in Richmond will be bringing a number of big name artists throughout the month. The venue will be hosting Lucy Dacus (Sept. 8), The Afghan Whigs (Sept. 11), Foster the People (Sept. 16), Citizen Cope (Sept. 17), Adam Ant (Sept. 20), Tesla (Sept. 22), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (Sept. 29), The Psychedelic Furs (Sept. 30) and others.

The Dominion Arts Center will host The Broadberry presents RVA Live! on Sept. 23. The Richmond Symphony shares the concert stage with some of Richmond’s favorite artists including Matthew E. White, Natalie Prass, Clair Morgan, Tim Barry and Bio Ritmo.

Just …read more

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17 Fall Family-Vacation Ideas that Even the Kids Will Love

Massanutten Resort

As summer is winding down and back-to-school planning begins, kids may be reluctant to say goodbye to all that fun in the sun. While you may have to leave the pools and waterfront vacations behind, fall brings all kinds of exciting events and seasonal activities that your children will love. Plan a fall day trip or weekend getaway to check out these educational and fun experiences at a few of Virginia’s most family-friendly fall destinations!

Massanutten Resort—McGaheysville

Most people think of winter sports like skiing, tubing, and snowboarding when they picture Massanutten Resort, but the park is so much more than that. Start with the resort’s Adventure Park, complete with an 800-foot Mega-Zip Line, a canopy tour with wood bridges, rope swings, and four zip line, and a rock climbing wall. Older kids can try mountain biking, with experienced instructors offering lessons and a shop where you can rent protective pads, helmets, and bikes. Pack your swimsuit and check out the indoor water park, filled with water slides, a “water fortress”, lazy river floats, and so much more. For more outdoor activities, the park has fishing, horseback riding, and miles of hiking trails.

Busch Gardens—Williamsburg

On weekends from October 7-29, 2017, Busch Gardens Williamsburg hosts “The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular,” a Halloween event that is family-friendly and veers towards the silly rather than the scary. Dress the kids up in their Halloween costumes and participate in the theme park’s costume parade. Additionally, a full range of children’s activities and shows will be available during this daytime event.

Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park—Tazewell

Historic Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park

Learn about the cultural heritage of the Appalachian region at Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park, located in Southwest Virginia. Spanning from the indigenous people living there 500 years ago to the modern age, the museum showcases everything from the wildlife found in the region to the people who have lived there over the centuries. After discovering the artifacts and remains of a 500-year-old community on the site, researchers preserved and restored the materials, which are now on display in the museum. Walk through exhibits featuring the animals of the Appalachian region, including black bears, turkeys, coyotes, and bald eagles. You’ll also find displays that tell of pioneer life, the Revolutionary and Civil War battles fought in the area, and the history and importance of coal mining to people of the Appalachian Mountains.

Maymont—Richmond

Maymont is one of Richmond’s most gorgeous landmarks, and while anyone can appreciate the manicured gardens and lush green grounds, kids flock to the Nature Center where they can get to know the wildlife of the city’s most important natural resource, the James River. Inside the visitor’s center, they can take a peek into large aquariums filled with otters, turtles, fish, and even snakes. If the weather isn’t too chilly, head outside to the Children’s Farm to feed the goats and see all types of farm animals roam their …read more

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Hiking Virginia’s Appalachian Trail

Virginia is home to 544 miles of the esteemed Appalachian Trial, more miles than any other state! Every year, hundreds of brave hikers, young and old, set out on the 80-year-old footpath in hopes of “thru-hiking” its 2,190 miles – often from Georgia to Maine.

There’s often talk on the A.T. about iconic places and must-see spots that await in Virginia, like the sunrise at McAfee’s Knob and the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park, or the famous Blue Ridge Parkway and scenic Skyline Drive. Virginia is also popular for weekend and section hikers, from novice to outdoor enthusiast, hoping to experience the trail’s endless beauty for a while.

We asked couple Staige Davis and Andrea Parra, both thru-hikers on the trail, to share some of their experiences and insights by answering a few questions about their journey through Virginia this past June.

How long have you been hiking?

There are many answers to this question! We both started hiking when we were kids, thanks to schools, summer camps, and our families. I (Staige) remember my father taking my sisters and me on camping trips to places in Virginia like Bear Creek Lake State Park. I was hooked for life! As for this trip, specifically, we started at Springer Mountain in Georgia on March 5th. We hiked for about 460 miles through Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, before crossing into Virginia at the end of April. Then we did more than 500 miles of hiking in Virginia! We go to West Virginia at the very beginning of June.

How did you plan your trip?

Cold Mountain Sunset

The most important trip planning exercise was doing “practice” weekend backpacking trips as often as we could. We enjoyed weekend trips at Grayson Highlands State Park, the Three Ridges Wilderness, Cold Mountain, and McAfee Knob – all in Virginia! Aside from the practice hikes, extensive internet research and purchasing our gear carefully were key.

Were there any Virginia AT stops or places you were looking forward to visiting?

So many! Damascus, VA marks the entrance to Virginia on the AT, so it’s a big milestone to get there. I (Staige) felt a big sense of accomplishment for having walked all the way to my home state. Another place we were really looking forward to was Devil’s Backbone Brewery in Nelson County. The food and drinks were amazing and they have a free campsite for thru hikers!

What were some of your favorite, overall experiences?

Goose McAfee Knob

We had an absolute blast in Damascus, relaxing with friends from the trail and enjoying the hiker hospitality in town. We were especially glad to be in Damascus because it POURED rain while we were there, but we spent those nights warm and dry in a hostel! At …read more

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