Perfect Fall Day in the Shenandoah Valley

It was one of those perfect fall days in Virginia. The air was a little crisp, the leaves were shades of orange and maroon. We decided to load up the van and drive an hour or so from our home in the Washington D.C. suburbs to the beautiful and serene Shenandoah Valley. With a treasure trove of natural beauty, history, and fun things to explore, the Shenandoah Valley is a great destination for a day, a week, or even more.

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Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is a 105 mile scenic and relaxing drive along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Front Royal, VA and Waynesboro, VA. We started in Front Royal and meandered 30 miles on Skyline Drive to Route 211 toward Luray. The leaves were just starting to turn and the views were stunningly serene. At one overlook, a blazing tree perfectly framed the rolling verdant hills of Virginia.

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Twisting through the trees, the leaves lingered as they drifted to the ground. We paused along the way for a couple of short hikes among the ancient rock of the Blue Ridge.

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Shenandoah Caverns

Leaving Skyline Drive, we drove through Luray, VA (and past the awesome, but often very very crowded, Luray Caverns) to Shenandoah Caverns.

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We love Shenandoah Caverns for families because they are fun, stunning and easily accessible. Shenandoah Caverns have been open to the public for tours since the 1920s. To draw in more visitors in the 1960s, cave “pixies” were added throughout the property (and caverns). The tour begins with an elevator ride into the caverns and is mostly level wandering through caves filled with color and amazing formations like cave bacon.

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One of the things we love about Shenandoah Caverns is that all of the features are close and well lit, making it easy for children of all ages to appreciate the wonder.

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Unlike some caverns which are basically just one big cavern that you see from different perspectives, Shenandoah Caverns is a winding cavern with something new around every corner. The typical tour at Shenandoah Caverns is about 1 mile long and takes 1 hour.

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While the caverns are spectacular without any special effects, the kids really enjoyed the fantastical world of the glistening multi-colored caverns.

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Beyond the caverns, there are a host of other interesting attractions as part of Shenandoah Caverns. For us the surprise highlight was “Main Street of Yesteryear” a truly unique look back at some amazing window displays and other momentos of days gone by. Leaving Shenandoah Caverns we said goodbye to a couple of dinosaurs in the picnic area and left for our final destination, Route 11 Potato Chips.

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Corn Maze at Bridgemont Farm

We love visiting (and eating) Route 11 Potato Chips anytime we are in the Shenandoah Valley. However, we forgot that they were closed on Sundays! As a backup plan, we decided to drive down the road to an interesting covered bridge (on Rt. 720) over the Shenandoah River.

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Passing through the historic bridge, we discovered the Corn Maze at Bridgemont Farm. From slides to pedal cars to an epic corn maze, we decided that a visit to the farm would be a perfect (and affordable) way to end our day. Our first stop at the farm was a fun climb through the hay in the barn and then cruising down the massive slide.

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After several trips up the hay and down the slide, up the hay and down the slide, up the hay and down the slide, the kids were ready to brave the maze. The corn was tall, clouds were creeping in, and the mountains loomed in the distance.

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Throughout the maze there were bridges over other maze routes where you could look around and hope to find your way out. But even from above, the corn blended together into one homogeneous mystery.

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Throughout the maze there were coded maps and other clues to help you find your way. However, with amazing views of the Shenandoah Valley all around, we weren’t in any hurry to find our way out.

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After following all of the clues, and an unofficial shortcut, we finally made our way out of the maze as the sun was finally starting to set.

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On our way out of the farm, we stopped by their pedal cars for one last round of fun before the long drive back home. Since everyone was hungry after our perfect fall day in the Shenandoah Valley, we stopped by one of our favorite spots for a quick dinner. Spelunker’s Drive-Thru is a wonderful local custard and burger stand in the heart of Front Royal, VA.

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Fall in the Shenandoah Valley is wonderful. Monochromatic greens shift to yellow, red, and orange as the trees, mountains, and fields get ready for the cold of winter.  In the caverns, it stays a brisk 54 degrees as the big summer crowds fade into smaller groups and short waits. Whether it is walking through a brilliantly colored forest floor, the fantasyland of an ancient cavern, or a measureless sea of old tall corn, a trip to the Shenandoah Valley is one you and your family won’t soon forget.

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