Fall starts in the Northern Shenandoah Valley in September, and every year the communities of Winchester and surrounding Frederick County gear up for the many travelers that come through from all over the region, nation and world. Of course this year it feels like everyone is looking to explore more and stay outside. Fortunately our unique experiences, great local markets and businesses are open and are ready to safely welcome everyone as new friends when they arrive.
Viewing our fall foliage is such an integral part of any trip here this time of year, we’ve just put an icon next to leaf-peeping related opportunities.
Our team has compiled a Top 10 list of Winchester area things you just can’t skip when visiting every year as the nights get cooler, the weather gets calmer, and our outdoor beauty comes into sharp focus. Get out and enjoy!
#1 – Go to a farm market
This season is their bread and butter, and for good reason. You’ve got the big, ever-popular ones like Marker-Miller, Virginia Farm Market, and West Oaks Farm Market and then some really unique and fun smaller finds like Hill High Farm, the Homestead Farm at Fruit Hill Orchard, Richard’s Fruit Market, Rinker Orchards, and Shen Val Farm Market!
#2 – Turn off that GPS and go for a country drive
Yes, I’m telling you to get lost (but seriously, in a friendly way) out on our local roads. We’ve got fields, orchards, rolling hills and mountains all within about 20 minutes of Old Town Winchester. Or if, like many of our fall visitors, you’re headed to the nearby Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park, take a side road like 522 or 11 and enjoy the ride down and make a few discoveries along the way.
#3 – Roll up your sleeves and pick an apple
Surprise, this is apple country. I know you probably already knew that, but to really grasp the scale of it you’ve got to actually get into the trees at one of those orchards. Marker-Miller, West Oaks and Rinker Orchards have pick-your-own operations, or just drive around the countryside and look for some “pick-your-own” signs.
#4 – Hike or mountain bike to a vista point, even if just for an hour or two
The Tuscarora Trail is truly a hidden gem, but may not remain so once people realize there’s alternative for Old Rag to get beautiful valley vistas. We’ll make it easy for you to get magnificent views of our fall foliage – get to Eagle Rock overlook by clicking HERE and hiking about 1.75 miles northeast along the trail, or get to Pinnacle Rock (pictured) by clicking HERE and hiking from the Biby Trailhead. Need maps, gear, or just some local expertise? Then Mountain Trails Outfitters on the Old Town Walking Mall is a necessary stop. There are many miles of mountain biking trails in the George Washington National Forest, through which the Tuscarora Trail runs. Check out Element Sports in town for local expertise, maps and gear.
#5 – Enjoy a meal al fresco
This was our our lastest blog, but it was still a little warm when we posted it. The evenings are perfect now – check out the list, choose at least one and enjoy! BTW this image was taken pre-pandemic so don’t worry, our restaurants are taking all required precautions.
#6 – Go on a horseback trail ride
Okay, we’ve got lots of options regionally for trail rides, and there’s a reason for that. Our surrounding countryside in the Shenandoah Valley provides an incredible trail ride experience. This is a must-do for young and old alike. Check out our professional trail ride outfitters such as Bailey’s Walking After Midnight Farm, Magic Mountain Farm, Raynor’s Hilltop Farm, or the Rocking S Ranch (the #1 rated local attraction on Winchester’s TripAdvisor page).
#7 – Have a local, seasonally brewed pint of beer or cider
In the very recent past, you couldn’t get a pint of locally crafted beer here. Now we’ve got four different, unique and pretty awesome brewery options and an outstanding cidery. Alesation Brewing Company, Broken Window Brewing, Winchester Brew Works, Escutcheon Brewing Co. and Winchester Cider Works all have great fall offerings and on-site tastings. These are all sites along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail, which pulls together every brewery, winery, cidery and distillery in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. Want traditional non-alcoholic apple cider? You’ll find it at most local markets – Rinker’s apple cider is pretty famous.
#8 – Catch a show under the stars at the drive-in
There are only seven drive-in theatres left in all of Virginia, so the Family Drive-In located just outside Stephens City is truly a special place. Owner Jim Kopp has really captured the nostalgic allure of his theatre, and boy, does this place get busy. Open throughout the fall season (not just summer!) and offering special screenings of classic films.
#9 – Get off-road and a bit dirty, then take a mountain dip
The Cove Campground offers over 40 miles of off-road trails set in a 3,000 acres mountain playground. You can bring your own 4×4 vehicle to ride the trails, or jump behind the wheel of one of the Jeeps from Appalachian Offroad Adventure. After an orientation ride, you get to drive on a guided half or full day tour on the trails. Afterward, if the day is still warm, relax on the sandy beach at their largest lake.
#10 – Learn how to fly-fish
Always wanted to learn how to fly fish? Or maybe you’re looking for an adventure to share with your kids or grandkids. You’re in luck – our great local Shenandoah Valley Fly Fishing guide service is helmed by a couple who are teachers by profession. All ages are welcome, and this makes for an unforgettable bonding experience out in our beautiful waterways. Want to go it alone? Check out the interactive DGIF Virginia Trout Fishing map, which shows local stocked lakes & streams, cold water streams, and wild trout streams in our area.
As always, no business or individual paid to be on this list – it’s just a fun collection of some top fall activities that should keep you busy for this fall, and probably next fall as well! Don’t be shy to let us know if we missed anything!.