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Sunday Drives in Virginia

2017 September 14
by Becky

We’ve spent the last two weekends exploring the Virginia countryside and Oh. My. it’s gorgeous. As if I wasn’t enamored enough with our new home, it had to go and be all mind-blowingly beautiful just an hour from our door step.

GreatCountryFarms-VirginiaLandscape

We didn’t explore very far West last time we lived here, there was so much to do! We ventured East and North and then moved. But we couldn’t wait another second to see what this fine state had to offer!

It’s hard to capture. The beauty of the lovely little farms and crumbling stone walls and old barns shadowed by the incredible Blue Ridge Mountains is tough to translate through a camera or computer screen. So far we’ve meandered down the first leg of the Skyline Drive and picked apples at Great Country Farms.

GreatCountryFarms-TractorRide

Stu was traveling last Sunday so I asked the boys what they wanted to do. “Apple picking or the aquatic gardens?” were the options I put forth. “Apple picking!!!” was the unanimous reply. This was before I told them about the jumping pillow and obstacle course and plethora of slides featured at said apple orchard. And after I explained we’d have to drive for about an hour to get there. They were still on board so off we went. My little explorers.

The beauty sneaks up on you. Here we’re driving down the interstate, passing Dulles airport exits, and suddenly things get interesting. “Horse!” shouts Finn from the back seat and, while he’s probably just trying to be a part of the conversation, there really are horses and cows popping up around each bend in the road. Small towns and apple picking signs become more frequent sights.

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We arrived at the cutest little farm, past a pristine pond surrounded by rolling hills covered in vineyards…just what we were looking for. (That’s right, the Virginia orchards/pumpkin patches have wineries—and a brewery!—right next door.) We took the wagon ride out to the orchard and filled our boxes with gorgeous apples.

ApplePickingBoys

Finn ate no fewer than five apples in the thirty minute picking adventure.

Ethan was committed to finding the Honey Crisp apples and, though we thought we missed the window, he was successful! They weren’t as shiny as in the store, but he knew exactly which ones he wanted and he was right.

GreatCountryFarms-Finnpicking

We headed back to the farm, dropped our bounty at the car, and spent the next few hours doing EVERYTHING Great Country Farm had to offer. Ethan flew down every slide, Finn conquered every swing. We mined for gold. We saw animals. We tasted apple cider and had apple cider donuts thrust upon us and sipped apple cider slushies. There was a theme. The boys climbed into the car sticky and exhausted.

The weekend before this trip, we checked out the famous Skyline Drive. Not knowing what to expect, we headed west on a Saturday.

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We noticed the hills getting taller, but really didn’t see an incline as we passed through the town of Front Royal, Virginia onto Skyline Drive. It wasn’t until we slipped through the dense forest to our first lookout that we really understood where the road had taken us.

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“They really are blue mom!” exclaimed Ethan as he looked out over the countryside. Finn spent the day looking for volcanoes, his new obsession. (I’m staring straight down the path of a volcano-themed third birthday party people…he never stops talking about them. Anyone have a dry ice hook-up near Old Town Alexandria?)

We slowly took the road to Luray, Virginia and headed toward the Luray Caverns, which are supposed to be amazing and feature an organ made from stalagmites. I say “supposed to” because one look at the full parking lot and long lines had us turning the car right around. It was close to noon and apparently peak visiting time. So we opted for lunch in picturesque downtown Luray, popping into West Main Market for delicious sandwiches and potato salad, sitting on the patio in the perfect, breezy fall-like weather before heading home.

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We brought reinforcements (Finn’s blanket) to ensure naps on the ride back. Worked like a charm!

We headed up 340 highway to Front Royal to get back home since the Skyline Drive is a 35 mph max speed. I think next time—there will be at least one next time to see fall leaves—we’ll head down to Luray first, then take in the sights of Skyline. Or maybe just leave waaaaay early (like 7am). That way we’ll beat the crowds!

Next time we head out to the country, I commit to pulling over at every old barn for a picture, no matter how many cars are riding my tail. Driving through these winding roads is like being in a movie, the quaintness overwhelms.

This is just our first taste of exploring Virginia. We plan to visit Richmond, Williamsburg, Charlottesville, and more of Shenandoah State Park within the next few months. Even though we’re here for the foreseeable future, I have all this adventure energy built up in me from our four years away from the East Coast. No waiting around this time! I want to see it all.

It’s a good thing my kids have become flexible thrill-seekers ready for the next adventure…because I’m ready to take them everywhere.

 

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