Hawk Watching on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Watch broad-winged hawks gliding south along the rocky spine of mountains. After a cool front moves in see the mild blue sky fill with boiling kettles of thousands of broadwings. Experts say Rocky Knob at Milepost 168 near Tuggles Gap is the place go.
Grab your binoculars, a field guide, and a lawn chair and wait for the hawks – you’ll see ospreys, red-tails, sharp-skins, Cooper’s hawks, even bald eagles.
Leaf Peep from Big Walker Lookout
The essence of fall in the mountains is the magnificent scarlet, gold, and tangerine of changing leaves. And what better way to enjoy the mountain scenery than a leisurely drive along a Virginia Scenic Byway to Big Walker Lookout Tower and General Store. Just 12 miles north on U.S. Route 52 from Wytheville, the lookout offers views of farmland as well as forested wilderness. Climb the 100-ft. tower above the treetops for an unbelievable view of five states. On weekend afternoons, watch demonstrations of blacksmithing, soap-making, or apple butter boiling and listen to live bluegrass or gospel music. www.scenicbeauty-va.com
Celebrate Fall in Grayson County
Always the last weekend in September, the Rugby Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department, have entertained tens of thousands of people since 1976 with their live exhibits of Appalachian culture. Step back into a simple age when horses and mules ground cane into juice to be boiled into sorghum or molasses; when apple cider was the soft drink of the time; when fresh apples were cooked in a copper kettle over an open fire all day long to render apple butter; when Saturday night was reserved for fiddling and making music with neighbors. Such was the lifestyle of the early Appalachian pioneers.
Come out for the Outhouse Races
The Blue Ridge Mountains have their own autumn traditions, some you’ll never find anywhere else. Consider turning out to cheer at the Official Virginia Grand Privy Race at Independence’s Annual Mountain Foliage Festival October 13. Outhouses on wheels race down Main Street in double elimination heats until a grand winner is declared. The Friday night before has both men and women vying in a hilarious beauty contest for the title of Potty Princess. Festivities include a pie baking contest, music, and games throughout the day. www.independenceva.com
Muddle through a Sunflower or Corn Maze
More than a walk through the flowers, these gigantic puzzles incorporate befuddling pathways, clues, and riddles. Doe Run Farm in Patrick County’s Ararat has a sunflower maze open in late September through early November. You can also pick pumpkins, pick your own flowers, or stock up on fresh popcorn, apples, gourds, or pies. Or try out Mountain Meadow Farm’s Corn Acoustics musically-themed corn maze in Meadows of Dan. Children love the smaller hay bale maze. www.doerunfarmvirginia.com and www.mountainmeadowcrafts.com
Toast Fall with Craft Brews
Creek Bottom Brewing Company has been a successful brewery, restaurant and craft beer market in Galax, VA since 2013. They produce six year-round beers and multiple seasonal ales from their on-site brewery. This pub focuses on wood-fired brick-oven pizza, smoked wings, handcrafted sammiches & awesome appetizers. Creek Bottom Brewing Company handcrafts its beers onsite in small 7 barrel batches under the close personal attention of a master brewer. Cheers fall with good brews and food at this local favorite in Galax, VA. www.cbbrews.com
Pick a Pumpkin
Whether you go to Blue Ridge Pumpkins LLC near Fancy Gap, Williams Orchard in Wytheville, or any of the other fine farms of the Blue Ridge Highlands, it’s always more fun to pick out your jack-o-lantern pumpkin on the farm. Both Williams and Blue Ridge Pumpkins offer hay rides, child-sized hay-bale mazes, face-painting, produce sales, and refreshments to add to their weekend festivity.
Immerse Yourself in Mountain Music
Preserving and celebrating the musical heritage of bluegrass and old time music, Song of the Mountains showcases live performances every month in the historic Lincoln Theatre in downtown Marion. Recorded and broadcast by PBS to over 52 million people across the nation each year, this Grammy award-winning show is a bucket list for any music lover. Don’t miss out on the distinct honor of joining the live audience of this official state television series, taped on the first Saturday of each month at 7pm. www.songofthemountains.com
Go for a Great Fall Hike
If you want the high views, head for Grayson Highlands State Park, the highest of Virginia’s state parks. With just over 4,500 acres, this park has a lot of territory to explore and a many spectacular views. Look for the wild ponies that graze on its bald ridgetops and for the brilliant red sugar maples in the hillside forests. The park offers 15 miles of trails for hiking plus year round access to the 2,184 mile long Appalachian Trail. Plan to visit Sept. 29-30 when the air fills with old-time music and the sweet scent of sorghum molasses and apple butter. Wild ponies will be auctioned off on Saturday afternoon. www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/gra.shtml
Catch Some Musical Theatre
The autumn leaves won’t last but your appetite will! Grab a seat and enjoy the spectacle of dinner theatre in Wytheville, VA. Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre is a German-themed dinner theatre nestled in the Blue Ridge Highlands, and is a must see while you’re visiting. Their luxurious dinner theatre promises audiences the most unique theatre and dining experience around. While seated in comfortable-lounge style chairs, you will be served a four course meal prepared by the in-house chef. Then sit back and relax and be entertained by Broadway caliber musical productions. Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre is Virginia’s only ALL musical theater, ALL the time! www.wohlfahrthaus.com