American Sojourns: Virginia
The annual “changing of the leaves” in autumn is one of the best things Mother Nature has to offer, and with 15 million acres of foliage, Virginia is a great place to take in the show! Each fall, without fail, the landscape becomes a kaleidoscope of color as leaves turn every hue under the sun. From the vivid orange of beech trees to the deep purple of dogwoods, the golden yellow of poplars and the reddish brown of oaks, this seasonal transformation is simply spectacular.
We took a road trip recently in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We thought it was only fitting to pay homage to the trees whose natural beauty had inspired some of our favorite fall products, including pillows and rugs featuring colorful leaves, and our recycled glass Autumn Tree Nightlight crafted by an artisan glassmaking family. Read on for some highlights and stopping points on our memorable journey:
- The Blue Ridge Parkway, a.k.a. “America's Favorite Drive,” provided us a wonderful opportunity to experience the brilliant fall foliage.
- The Barn Swallow, an artisan gallery/gift shop in Ivy (just a short drive from Charlottesville) is chock full of charm and unique goods handmade by more than 80 local artists. A lovely flower garden leads to the shop – a rustic 1800s barn, actually –where everything from pottery and glassware to jewelry, scarves and soaps await.
- Apple picking is an autumn tradition, for two good reasons: it’s fun, and fresh-plucked apples taste amazing! The hardest part was deciding which Virginia orchard to visit, because they’re almost as plentiful here as the breathtaking fall foliage views. We love the Carter Mountain Orchard, in part for its family friendly ambiance and scenic views of Charlottesville. But truthfully, their scrumptious apple cider donuts are what make this place a cut above.
- The Old Rag Mountain hike in the Shenandoah National Park is consistently voted by locals as the best the region has to offer. With its panoramic views of the mountains and fall foliage, shaded woodland trails and a challenging rock scramble at the end, there is something for everyone.
- Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park: this historic 105-mile road meanders along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers 75 scenic overlooks. Along the way, you might spot deer, black bears, wild turkeys and other woodland creatures.
- A nice place for a casual lunch in Charlottesville is Al Carbon Chicken, which features the traditional tastes and textures of South American cuisine. Their charcoal rotisserie chicken is a favorite, as is their Elote Con Mayonesa, a Mexican street corn on the cob with mayo that’s rolled in cotija cheese, and sprinkled with chili powder and lime zest. For dessert, the Bavarian cream filled churros are divine!
- The Monticello Wine Trail is comprised of 30 wineries that were inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vision of winemaking. In addition to wine tastings and sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the trail is dotted with historic sites, including the former homes of three U.S. presidents (Jefferson, Madison and Monroe), and the Landmark Ruins of Thomas Jefferson's mansion for James Barbour, Virginia’s governor during the War of 1812.
- Rise early to take a hot air balloon ride through the Shenandoah Valley. The changing leaves, crisp air and morning dew are best seen and experienced from 2,000 feet in the air.
- No Virginia getaway would be complete without a stay at the renowned Clifton Inn, which skillfully blends world-class service with the comfort and intimacy of small inns. Each of the Clifton’s 17 individually designed rooms and suites are uniquely enchanting, a perfect match for the bucolic 100-acre setting with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.