As summer draws to a close, we’ll be looking for places to experience the splendors of autumn. The Mid-Atlantic harbors a plethora of places where you can view the colors, breathe in the cool air, enjoy a concert, sample homemade apple butter, indulge in a wine-tasting, and store up memories before winter sets in.
Among the possibilities:
The Crooked Road, also known as Virginia’s Heritage Trail, winds through the mountains and valleys of the Blue Ridge Highlands and southern Appalachia for over 300 miles. It stretches from Rocky Mount to Hiltons, with access points at towns and cities where there is a strong music heritage. Road signs are marked with the Crooked Road banjo logo and include information about the music that is original to the area.
This month you can listen to live music in a variety of venues on the road, as well as enjoy the autumn colors. On Sept. 10-12, Bristol hosts the 20th year of the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion celebrating the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions.
While you’re in Bristol take time to visit WBCM Radio Bristol and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate. The Carter Family Fold at Hiltons, 25 miles from Bristol, offers Saturday night concerts through Nov. 20. WBRF-FM broadcasts live shows from the Rex Theater in Galax every Friday evening.
“Song of the Mountains” concerts at the Lincoln Theater in Marion are scheduled for Sept. 4 and Oct. 2. The Floyd Country Store offers Friday Night Jamborees and live music other days of the week. Concerts featuring top music singers, including Amy Grant, are held weekly at the Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount (thecrookedroadva.com).
Another great place to see fall colors is Harpers Ferry, one the most scenic and historic spots in the Mid-Atlantic. The confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers forms “The Point.” From here, you can view three states – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Visitors are also drawn to Jefferson Rock along the Appalachian Trail, offering views of the rivers, the water gap, and the surrounding mountains; Loudoun Heights, which overlooks Harpers Ferry and has a 900-foot vertical drop; and Maryland Heights (the highest point), which overlooks the Potomac River, the B&O Railroad and the C&O Canal.
Built in 1848 as an engine and guard house and later used as a prison and powder magazine, John Brown’s Fort was the place where the abolitionist and his men barricaded themselves during the raids of 1859. Three years later, Sept. 12-15, 1862, Confederate forces overpowered the Union Army during the Battle of Harpers Ferry. The National Park Service, which oversees Harpers Ferry, offers a visitors center, tours, and programs year-round. A peregrine falcon chick, hatched in the park, has been seen flying around Harpers Ferry recently (nps.gov).
Lancaster, Pa., is a wonderful area to visit at harvest time. Settled around 1720, it is the largest and oldest Amish community in the United States.
Though professional tours of the area are available, it’s easy to discover the area on your own by driving on the main highways or by taking the back roads. You may encounter an occasional horse-drawn buggy and plenty of livestock, well-manicured gardens, and lines of freshly washed clothes drying in the sun. The Amish adhere to old-fashioned ways of living, so electricity and cars are not the norm. A number Amish restaurants serve hearty meals at affordable prices. One of the best places to mix with the Amish is at the markets that sell local products such as jams and jellies, breads and cakes, fresh produce, butter and cheese, as well as furniture, quilts, and more. Before you go, find out the days the markets are open.
The highly rated Lancaster Central Market, housed in a building that dates to 1889, is the oldest continuously operated market in the United States. Root’s Country Market & Auction has over 200 vendors selling antiques and food items, including pizza. The village of Bird-in-Hand has a family-owned farmers market, lodgings, entertainment, and a restaurant that serves authentic Pennsylvania Dutch food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Most Amish do not want their pictures taken, so visitors should respect that and or at least ask permission before snapping away (discoverlancaster.com).
In addition to visiting Amish country, consider riding the 611 Norfolk & Western at the Strasburg Railroad, located 8 miles from Lancaster. Upcoming excursions are scheduled for Sept. 4-6, Sept. 24-26, and Oct. 2-3 (strasburgrailroad.com).
Leaf trips through Delaware's Red Clay Valley are given by the Wilmington & Western Railroad. Excursions run through the end of 2021 and beyond, but passengers enjoy autumn colors on scheduled runs, including Sept. 4, 11-12, 18, 25-26, and Oct. 1-2, 8-10, 15-17, 20, 22-24, 27, 30-31. The roundtrip to Mt. Cuba Picnic Grove/Ashland takes 1.5 hours, including a layover on the banks of the Red Clay Creek. Pack a picnic or buy lunch at the Greenbank Station. The roundtrip to Hockessin takes 2.5 hours and travels 17 miles to the town of Hockessin, where you can shop and eat lunch at a restaurant. The train route was laid in the early 1870s and carried goods and passengers through the Red Clay Valley. The train transitioned to a tourist train in 1966 (wwrr.com).
Opportunities for celebrating autumn abound in the Frederick area in western Maryland, known for its scenic landscape, Civil War history, museums, and more. Summers Farm in Frederick has special events scheduled through October, including fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights, Oct. 2-24; pig races on weekends; and costume parades on Oct. 24-25, 31, and Nov. 1.
Baugher’s Orchard in nearby Westminster is a 600-acre working fruit and vegetable farm that the family started in 1904. Visitors are invited to pick their own apples on weekends in September and October and/or purchase a variety of apple trees, including Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and CrimsonCrisp.
The Gaver Family Farm in nearby Mt. Airy offers pumpkins, gourds, apples, cider, and baked goods, plus a corn maze, mini mazes, animals, pedal karts, and more.
Catoctin Mountain Orchards in nearby Thurmont allows customers to purchase or pick their own apples, pumpkins, cider, vegetables, and flowers, as well as shop for canned fruits, preserves, jams, honey, baked goods, maple syrup, salad dressings, and relishes.
The Frederick area also harbors a number of wineries and breweries, covered bridges that are on the National Register, the Appalachian Trail, and the National Road. The city of Frederick offers shops, galleries, a variety of accommodations, and trendy restaurants (visitfrederickmd.com).
Beyond the Mid-Atlantic
If you like handmade pottery, put North Carolina’s pottery trail on your list of places to visit. The Seagrove area, located south of the state zoo at Asheboro, is the largest concentration of active potteries in the United States. Shops are open year-round. Visitors are also attracted to special events such as American Craft Week, Oct. 2-10; Celebration of Seagrove Potters Studio Tour 2021, Nov. 19-21; and Holiday Open House, Dec. 4-18 (DiscoverSeagrove.com).
Carol Timblin welcomes travel information at email@example.com.