It seems like as soon as schools starts back, which can be as early as the second week of August, Starbucks kicks off the fall season with Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Before you know it, EVERYTHING is pumpkin-flavored and the Halloween decorations are out. And while I love a Starbucks latte as much as the next person, these are not the things that symbolize fall to me. Fall is a unique time in Virginia – one filled with special sights, sounds and smells that bring back memories.
The following list is a few of the things that make fall one of the best times of year here in Virginia. And while these aren’t all unique to our state, they certainly add to the beauty.
1. College Football
Whether you're a Hokie, a Wahoo, a Keydet, a Duke Dog or a Spider (among others!), it's hard not to get a little excited about football season. The tailgates, the energy and the team spirit are part of what fall is all about.
2. Apples EVERYWHERE
Apples are an intrinsic part of Virginia fall. Here are some of the ways you can enjoy apples this fall…
Fall is the time to get out there and hand-pick the sweetest, juiciest apples you can find. Try pick-your-own apples at
Carter's Mountain Orchard
in Charlottesville and
in Winchester. HINT: Should you have to climb a tree to find the best one, go for it. It will taste that much better for the effort you put in.
From farmer's markets to roadside stands to your local grocery store, this is the time of year when cider starts showing up everywhere. Try it hot, try it cold, or try making your own.
Apple Cider Donuts
These could have been grouped in with Apple Cider, but they truly deserve their own category. For some of the best in the state, try the
The Apple House
in Linden or
Carter's Mountain Orchard
3. Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes and Hayrides
You already know that the kids WILL pick the biggest pumpkin on the farthest side of the patch (and YOU will have to carry it back to the car). But that's half the fun, isn't it? Follow it with a laughter-filled run through a corn maze and an itchy, scratchy, but somehow exhilarating, hay ride…and you might just have the perfect fall day. Try
in Centreville or
Chesterfield Berry Farm
4. Ghost Walks
Yes, you can do these year-round, but they're all the better with a chill in the air and Halloween just around the corner. Try
in Williamsburg, one of the Top 10 ghost tours in the nation according to "US City Traveler."
5. Leaves, leaves, leaves…
I agree, they are not so much fun once they've fallen and have to be raked. But until that time, the fall foliage in Virginia is unparalleled. Take a drive along the Skyline Drive or visit Mabry Mill a little farther south at Milepost 176.1 off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
6. Two Words: Fall. Festivals.
Harvest festivals, apple festivals, music festivals, arts and crafts festivals, wine festivals and of course, Oktoberfest. I would argue that fall may be the best festival season of all. Be sure to check out your local listings for upcoming events near you. (Shown here is the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest in Arlington)
7. Crisp nights = bonfires
The days finally start to cool down and that means, come nightfall, there will be a chill in the air. There's no better way to offset a cool night than with a bonfire, fire pit or chimenea. Whether you're roasting marshmallows with the kids or enjoying some laughs with friends, fall nights are no excuse to stay indoors.
8. Prime hiking season…now, you can't complain that it's too hot.
Fall is an ideal time to hit the trails. Check out some of our Virginia favorites for hiking, biking or walking
9. Birdwatching and Butterflies
Every fall, millions of Monarch butterflies, along with songbirds and raptors (birds of prey) by the thousands, gather at the Eastern Shore before heading out across the Chesapeake Bay to winter in warmer climates. One of the best places to see these migrations is at the
Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge
10. Cheaper beach rentals
Who says summer is the only time to enjoy the beach? With prices dropping to lower off-season rates, usually beginning in September, fall is an ideal time to find a beach rental. You may not be able to play in the surf quite like you do in summer, but an ocean breeze and sand in your toes makes morning coffee on the deck taste better any time of year. For starters, try searching for rentals at Sandbridge, Chincoteague or Virginia Beach.
11. High School Football
High school football will either make you feel really old or just like a kid again. Either way, cheering your local athletes on alongside the community on a crisp, fall night will bring back memories. And thanks to some pretty incredible teams in the state, it's not hard to find a good game. Check out the
in Hampton. They are listed as the state's most dominant team by the football ranking site MaxPreps.
12. Brunswick Stew
For me, it's hard to think of fall in Virginia without thinking of Brunswick Stew. Whether it was watching my grandfather stir his giant kettle over a low fire in the backyard or helping to sell quarts of the stew for high school fundraisers, Brunswick Stew was a part of fall for as long as I can remember. Celebrate this long tradition at events like
Taste of Brunswick Festival
coming up in October.
These are just a FEW of our favorite fall things. What are yours? Let us know what you love the most about fall in Virginia in the comments below!