Virginia boasts more than 3,000 miles of scenic roadways, taking travelers to coastal beauty, mountain vistas, quaint small towns and peaceful countryside. Combine this with 15 million acres of fall foliage and two of the country’s most legendary scenic drives and Virginia is the ideal place for a classic fall road trip. A fall road trip in Virginia is one of those shared experiences that help visitors feel completely connected to loved ones. Virginia Tourism Corporation’s 12 Virginia fall drives for 2012 make the journey as memorable as the destination:
Drive a classic: The Blue Ridge Parkway is among the most beloved scenic drives in America. Stretching southward from Shenandoah National Park, the Parkway has been a favorite of families since the 1930s. Its beauty is unmatched, but there is much more to enjoy just off the roadway itself. Wineries such as Chateau Morrisette and Villa Appalaccia are welcome stops adjacent to the parkway. Outstanding resorts including Wintergreen and Primland offer luxury accommodations, golf, restaurants, spas and outdoor recreation. The best in mountain music can be experienced at the Floyd Country Store, Rex Theater and the Blue Ridge Music Center. Iconic Mabry Mill has been a photo stop for generations.
- Ride the Sky: Winding 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park, the legendary Skyline Drive has 75 overlooks providing spectacular views of mountains and valleys. Get out of the car and enjoy easing hiking along well-maintained trails. Flora and fauna abound. Check the park schedule for family nature programs and guided hikes. Break up the trip at good restaurants and overnight accommodations.
- Take a trip through American history: The 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects three of America’s most historic addresses, Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg. Open vistas of the James and York rivers along with tidal estuaries and shady passageways through pine and hardwood forests – along with a lack of commercial development – make the Parkway a driving dream. For family fun visit the historic attractions at Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg. Shop and dine at Yorktown’s Riverwalk Landing and at a multitude of places in Williamsburg.
- Blaze a trail through the pass: Rt. 39, going westward from the historic Shenandoah Valley town of Lexington, winds through one of the most gorgeous fall destinations in Virginia – Goshen Pass. The Maury River chiseled its way through the mountains here leaving a three-mile-long rocky gorge covered with just the kinds of trees that produce the most brilliant fall foliage. The river gurgles, churns and twists its way through, with swimming holes and good rock hopping along the way.
- Pathway of Presidents: The Charlottesville area is home to American presidents, great wineries and spectacular fall scenery. Visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Monroe’s Ash Lawn Highland and James Madison’s Montpelier, an experience made more pleasurable by the splendid scenic drives that link these historic homes. Routes 22, 20 and 231 wind through the pastoral Virginia Piedmont and through the memorable small towns of Gordonsville and Orange where good shopping and dining abound. Visit the wineries of the Monticello Wine Trail, as Mr. Jefferson would recommend.
- Relax in “God’s Thumbprint:” High in the mountains of Southwest Virginia is a bowl-shaped valley resembling the impression left by a giant thumb. Named “Burkes Garden” for an early explorer, the valley contains some of the most fertile soil in Virginia producing unmatched flora. An autumn drive through Burke’s Garden always gets a thumb’s up.
- Harvest the scenery: Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County is a favorite getaway place because of its abundant wineries, back roads finds, U-pick farms and fabulous restaurants. It also contains a wonderful web of scenic byways. Fall harvest in Loudoun is a time of celebration. Kids love the activities at Loudoun’s farms, picking pumpkins, petting alpacas and scampering through corn mazes. The wineries get in on the act too, hosting special events during October Virginia Wine Month: Discover Your Local Crush. Loudoun also has the kind of restaurants that make news in national food publications. The setting is one of the prettiest in Virginia and the scenic roads all seem to lead to something extraordinary.
- Follow the birds: Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, is in the direct migratory path of songbirds and raptors. In the fall the Shore is a haven for bird watchers and nature lovers. Stops along the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail provide vantage points to spot birds and other animals in the wild. Rt. 600, running from the southern tip of the Eastern Shore to the town of Nassawadox is a Virginia Scenic Byway, meandering along salt marshes and farmers’ fields.
- Take the Colonial Route: Modern Rt. 5 follows the trace of the old Colonial road between Williamsburg and Richmond paralleling the James River. Significant vestiges of those days remain along the way. Dating to 1613, Shirley Plantation has been home to the 11 generations of the Carter Family and is America’s oldest family-run business. President William Henry Harrison was born at nearby Berkeley Plantation which is where the famous bugle call Taps was written and hosts the annual Virginia Thanksgiving Festival. The Bed & Breakfast Piney Grove at Southall’s Tavern hosts fun progressive dinners and other special functions. Parts of the roadway are canopied in lush tunnel of trees and a high bridge leads over the Chickahominy River.
- Find the “Daughter of the Stars:” Shenandoah is a Native American word meaning “Daughter of the Stars.” During the day light twinkles off the clear, bubbling rivers and creeks while on clear nights the stars seem to shimmer with a special glow. Shenandoah County lies in the heart of the famous Valley of Virginia. Nearly every road in the county is picturesque, running alongside brooks and creeks and past centuries-old farmsteads. One of those roads leads across Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge which spans the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Historic Highway 11 goes through superb small towns, farm markets, antique stores and roadside attractions.
- Visit The Waltons: Nelson County is the home of the fictional Walton Family, creation of Nelson native Earl Hamner and the first family of television in the 1970s and ‘80s. Running through the county is Rt. 151, “Main Street of the Rockfish Valley.” Just on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the valley is a place of splendor as well as fun. Wineries, craft breweries, small towns, Bed and Breakfast and natural beauty are around every bend in the road. While in the area, also take a drive on the Nelson Scenic Loop, a 50-mile route along the shoulder of the mountains that leads past one of Virginia’s great beauty spots, Crabtree Falls.
- Ride on a Dragon’s Back: Motorcyclists from across the country love to cruise along Rt. 16 between the towns of Tazewell and Marion . The panoramic vistas are as inspiring as the road is fun to maneuver. The up-and-down meanderings of this ribbon of road has led it to be called the Back of the Dragon, but be assured that this serpent is friendly to both cars and motorcycles.
Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. For more information on planning a Virginia vacation or getaway, visit Virginia.org or call toll-free 1-800-VISITVA for a free Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide.