After the long, muggy D.C. summer, fall arrives with a quickstep in the air, promising crisp nights warmed by snapping fires, crunchy apples, and long walks beneath colored leaves. Here are some easy escapes to celebrate the season.
Apple picking, Shenandoah Valley
The Winchester area, about an hour and fifteen minutes west of D.C., has long been famed for its apple orchards, and apple-picking in the fall is the perfect excuse to spend a day in the Shenandoah countryside. Favorite destinations include Showalter’s Orchard & Greenhouse in Timberville; Marker-Miller Orchards in Winchester (try their apple cider doughnuts); and Rinker Orchards in Stephens City.
Leaf-peeping drive, Shenandoah NP
Skyline Drive, arrowing through the heart of Shenandoah National Park, is the epitome of leaf-peeping drives. Starting in early October, the maples, oaks, poplars, dogwoods begin their autumnal show, igniting the woodlands on fire in vibrant scarlets, golds, and orange. The colors change first at higher elevations, so look between Thornton Gap and Rockfish Gap earlier on. If you want to escape the crowds, head instead to US 340, which offers a rollicking drive through the Blue Ridge foothills; the route from Front Royal to Waynesboro has the added bonus of winding through charming little towns along the way.
Wine-tasting, Loudoun County
With autumn comes the grape harvest, when the precious fruits are plucked in anticipation of creating fine wines—and the celebration begins. Wineries throughout the D.C. region host harvest festivals, complete with wine-tastings, music, and small bites. Head to Loudoun County, where you can check out the goings-on at Stone Tower Winery, Chrysalis Vineyards, Greenhill Winery, and Sunset Hills Vineyard for a full day of fun. Grape stomping not obligatory.
Ghost tours, Gettysburg National Park
No fall is complete without a Halloween ghost tour—or three. Gettysburg ranks as one of the East Coast’s most haunted places, the legacy of the gruesome, hard-fought battle that erupted there in 1863. Needless to say, there are plenty of ghosts to be found. Take a walk around town with Sleepy Hollow Ghost Tours and see with whom—or what—you come face to face.