As much as we hate to say goodbye to summer, it’s hard to deny the beauty of fall. In fact, many of us, myself included, find that fall is one of the best seasons of all, especially in Virginia. And with so many incredible attractions, parks, trails, and events going on right here in Richmond, fall is the perfect time to get out to explore, discover new things, and simply enjoy time together as a family.
With the calendar officially declaring the start of the fall season, many of us are already in full pumpkin spice mode. And as you know from our many guides and resource lists, Richmond and the surrounding areas are full of festive fall activities—from haunted houses and not-so-scary Halloween activities to pumpkin patches and fall festivals. But fall isn’t just about Halloween, pumpkins, and festivals. Fall is also the perfect time to enjoy local attractions; to discover new towns and to enjoy the natural beauty that makes Richmond and the surrounding areas so special.
The following list highlights some of our favorite fall places that are perfect for family outings, day trips, and most of all, fall fun. Take a look and if you have a favorite fall destination that we’ve overlooked, be sure to let us know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Despite being an urban area, Richmond is known for its impressive green spaces. The city hosts a large number of parks, trails, and outdoor spaces that provide the perfect backdrop for a fall family outing. Take a picnic, ride bikes, or just head out as a family and enjoy the colorful leaves and beautiful outdoor settings that make Richmond so unique. If you’re up for a drive, many of the most breathtaking spots in the state are within a few hours or less. Be sure to check out our must-visit spots below, or discover your own!
If you live in Richmond, then its only natural that you’re a bit partial to the James River Park System. But, not many people would call you out for your bias, especially not the folks at REI, a national retailer of outdoor and sporting goods. Recently, they named The James River Park system among Six of the Best River Parks in the U.S. With more than 500-acres along the banks of the James River, the parks that make up this incredible outdoor wonderland offer riverside trails for biking, hiking, and running; lush forests for hiking and walking; and open spaces that are ideal for picnics, getting a picture-perfect view of fall foliage, and simply enjoying the season. Plus, if you want to get more involved as a family, the park system offers a busy calendar of fall events, including activities like tree planting, park clean-up, owl watching, and more.
Not only is Monument Avenue considered a Richmond treasure, it’s also a national treasure, earning the distinction of National Historic Landmark. Along with Jackson Ward, Monument Avenue is one of only two areas to earn that honor in the city. Stretching for about five miles from downtown Richmond into Henrico County, the street is renowned for its massive monuments and architectural splendor. Lined with trees and gracious historic homes, “The Avenue” has been walked by the likes of Commander Richard Evelyn Bird, Winston Churchill, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Queen Elizabeth II. Thanks to its many trees, fall is one of the best times to take a stroll down Monument Avenue. The designated historic district extends from Stuart Circle to Roseneath Road and includes the 1200 and 3100-3300 blocks of West Franklin Street and the 1500 block of West Avenue.
Contact: To learn more about Monument Avenue and the surrounding architecture, visit the National Park Service website, or stop by The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design, located in The Branch House at 2501 Monument Avenue.
Located just over an hour’s drive from Richmond near Fredericksburg, Lake Anna State Park helps you make the most of fall with an abundance of outdoor activities. From hiking to biking, canoeing or kayaking, the park offers endless opportunities for family fun. You can head to Lake Anna for the day to see the fall colors, have a picnic, hike or bike the park’s 15 miles of trails, take a boat out, or even try your gold panning at the Goodwin Gold Mine. Or, if you want to make it a fall weekend getaway, check out the park’s camping and cabin options. Whatever you decide, be sure to check out the full calendar of events and see what is happening at Lake Anna this fall.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—as Richmonders, we are so fortunate to have easy access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural resources. The Shenandoah National Park is a quick 2-2 ½ hour drive from the Richmond area and offers some of Virginia’s most pristine nature. With more than 200,000 acres of protected woodlands, mountains, and breathtaking views, the park is one of the best places to witness fall in Virginia. In fact, with peak foliage viewing happening within the first few weeks of October, now is the best time to head to the park. Plan your visit with updates on the current color conditions via the park’s Mountain View webcam, or check in every Friday for staff observations on the latest changes. Even if fall leaves aren’t your thing, the park is packed with outdoor activities that are ideally suited to fall weather, including hiking Old Rag Mountain, biking along the Skyline Drive, bird watching, horseback riding and so much more. Click here for a complete list of things to do at Shenandoah National Park.
This 52-mile paved trail combines outdoor beauty with history. Stretching from Richmond to the former colonial capital of Virginia in Williamsburg, the trail runs along the Scenic Route 5 corridor. Not only can you take in the beauty of colorful leaves and crisp fall days, but you’ll also catch glimpses of the countless sites and landscapes that shaped Virginia’s history over the last 400 years. Run, walk, or bike the trail with your family—you can even bring a picnic and stop at one of the many designated picnic spots along the trail
Contact: Visit the interactive trail map to find entrance points near you, picnic spots, bike rentals, and much more.
From amusement parks to historical homes, Richmond and the surrounding areas have plenty of attractions to offer throughout the year. In fact, while we might take many of the local attractions for granted, Virginia is a popular vacation destination for outdoor lovers, history buffs and more. That’s why fall is a special time for those of us lucky enough to live here. First of all, the cooler weather makes everything more pleasant as a general rule. But the best part is that with the summer vacation crowds long gone, most places are less crowded and even more fun to explore. Take a look at some of our favorite fall attractions.
Agecroft Hall is one of Richmond’s most unique attractions. This stately “hall” began its history in the late 15th century in Lancashire, England. Agecroft saw the reigns of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and James I, but fell into disrepair until the mid-1920s when a wealthy Richmond businessman, T.C. Williams Jr., bought the home. He had it dismantled, shipped to Richmond, then rebuilt to its original splendor. After serving as a private home for many years, Agecroft is now a museum with breathtaking English gardens that give us a firsthand look at Elizabethan England. Set back in the tree-lined neighborhood of Windsor Farms (just west of Carytown), the home and gardens are beautiful any time of year, but the fall brings special beauty to the home and its surroundings. With plenty of stunning foliage to admire, not to mention house tours and plenty of fall-themed special events, fall is a perfect time to wander the estate’s 23-acres overlooking the James River and see what English life was like hundreds of years ago.
Contact: Agecroft Hall is located at 4305 Sulgrave Road, Richmond, VA 23221. For more information or to read a history of the estate, visit the Agecroft Hall website, call (804) 353-4241, or email email@example.com.
Named one of the World’s Most Beautiful Theme Parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a favorite destination for families from all over. Lucky for us, it’s only an hour or so from Richmond—and it’s practically perfect during the fall. Although the park isn’t open all day every day in October, November, and December, it does offer a number of special activities on select days, including Howl-O-Scream (for older kids and adults) and The Count’s Spooktacular – Kids’ Halloween throughout the month of October, followed by Christmas Town from late November through the holiday season. And, of course, with shorter lines for the parks many attractions, including roller coasters, kid-friendly rides, shows and animal encounters, you can spend more time enjoying yourself and less time waiting!
Contact: The park is located at 1 Busch Gardens Blvd, Williamsburg, VA 23185. For more information, visit the Busch Gardens Williamsburg website, call (757) 229-4386, or email BGW.GuestRelations@buschgardens.com.
Located just north of Richmond in Doswell, King’s Dominion is a favorite destination for families looking for some thrills. With dozens of rollers coaster, thrill rides, and kid-friendly rides and activities, this local theme park is fun anytime you visit. But like most of our attractions, the fall promises cooler weather to enjoy a day of walking around, shorter lines thanks to lighter crowds, and special fall events like their exclusive Halloween-themed HAUNT, The Great Pumpkin Fest, and coming in November 2018, WinterFest. The best part is that when you visit King’s Dominion this fall, you can get some of the season’s best discounts with tickets as low as $41, plus you can lock in the lowest prices of the year on upcoming 2018 Season Pass. For a limited time, when you buy an adult season pass, you can register for a FREE pre-K pass, which grants free admission to children ages 3-5 for the entire 2018 season.
Massanutten Resort is a popular destination for winter sports, but some would argue (me included) that fall is the best time of all to visit this beautiful four-season resort. Whether you plan to visit for a day or want to stay for a weekend or longer, you’ll enjoy an indoor/outdoor waterpark; a Family Adventure Park complete with zip lines, canopy tours, kids’ play areas, climbing walls and more; mountain biking and hiking trails; two fantastic golf courses; live music and special fall festivals; family activities; an Escape Room; farm-to-table dining; shopping; and a day spa. Talk about having it all! But what really sells this resort as a fall getaway is the fact that you can get some of the best rates of the year during the fall season. Check out some of their great fall package deals or, because the resort is only two hours from Richmond, you can plan a day trip anytime.
Whether you’re looking for a place to see fall foliage, visit with animals, or just want to stroll around on a beautiful fall day, Maymont has it all. If you’re looking to stay outside, head to the Children’s Farm where your little ones (and big kids, too!) can visit farm animals up close and personal. Or take a closer look at wildlife native to the Richmond area, including black bears, fox, birds of prey, bobcats and more. If you want to spend some time inside, be sure to head to the Nature Center where you can see local fish, plants, and animals native to the James River, including everyone’s favorite James River otters. For history, head over to the Dooley Mansion for historic home tours and a stroll around the early 20th-century estate, carriage house and lawn. You can even take the family on a carriage ride. Last but not least, don’t miss the park’s unparalleled gardens, perfect for catching the fall foliage at its peak. From the carefully crafts Italian Gardens to the peaceful zen of the Japanese Gardens, Maymont has something for everyone in the fall. Be sure to check out their ongoing special events, including fall-themed activities.
Contact: The Historic Estate entrance is located at1700 Hampton Street, Richmond, VA, 23220 and the Visitor and Nature Center is located at 2201 Shields Lake Drive, Richmond, VA, 23220. For more information, visit Maymont’s website or call (804) 358-7166.
The Metro Richmond Zoo is open all year-round. However, this fall is the perfect time to visit. Not only does the temperate weather ensure that more of the outdoor animals will be out for viewing, but there are some new faces at the zoo! Within the last two months, the zoo announced the birth of four new cheetah cubs, three servals (a wildcat from Africa) kittens, two dromedary camel calves and the addition of a new animal nursery where you can see new babies being hand-raised by the zoo staff. Since the zoo is primarily an outdoor attraction, the cooler weather will make exploring more comfortable for the whole family, plus, if you want to make a full day of it, you can head over to the Treetop Zoofari Adventure Park for even more fall fun. Treetop Zoofari features rope courses and zip lines high in the trees around the zoo, giving you a bird’s eye view of the animals, not to mention a close-up look at the beautiful changing leaves. With courses for nearly every age and skill level, Treetop Zoofari is the perfect way to wrap up a fall outing to the zoo.
Contact: The zoo and adventure park are located in Chesterfield County at 8300 Beaver Bridge Road, Mosely, VA 23120. For more information, visit the Metro Richmond Zoo website, call (804) 739-5666, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearby Cities and Towns
You could easily stay in Richmond for all four seasons and never run out of things to do. But, sometimes it’s nice to get out of town for the day and explore other places that offer a picturesque fall setting. The following cities and towns are all within a few hours drive of Richmond, but provide a pleasant escape from the routine.
Featuring architecture, history, and plenty of small city charm, Charlottesville is only an hour or so drive from the Richmond area and is, perhaps, at its loveliest in the fall. As the home of former president, Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville grew up around the University of Virginia, which was founded by Jefferson. Today, the city is a thriving college town full of art, culture, music, and plenty of amazing restaurants, many of which source ingredients from local farms. In the fall, you can stroll the university grounds, visit museums, attend football games, and take part in local festivals and events. And of course, you don’t want to miss the chance to head up Carter Mountain for a visit to Jefferson’s historic home at Monticello, which along with the University of Virginia is one of Charlottesville’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On your way back down the mountain, stop by Carter Mountain Orchard to pick your own apples, enjoy hot apple cider donuts, and see some of the most breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding countryside. If you’re still hungry after that, try lunch at historic Michie Tavern, a living history museum, and restaurant located at the site of a 1780s inn and tavern. If it’s fall foliage you’re after, Charlottesville doesn’t disappoint. Click here to see the 10 best places for fall colors in and around Charlottesville.
Contact: For more information on how to plan your trip, local attractions, and upcoming events, go to Visit Charlottesville online.
Located only about an hour or so up I-95, Fredericksburg is a place that it’s easy to take for granted given its proximity. But if you haven’t explored Fredericksburg properly, then this fall is the perfect time to do it. Filled with history, charm, and beautiful natural surroundings, Fredericksburg offers family fun at every turn. For history buffs, sites like Ferry Farm, George Washington’s boyhood home, or the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop make for must-see spots. Or stop by one of the many Civil War sites and battlefields that lie in and around Fredericksburg. With a 40-block historic district in the city itself, you’ll have plenty to see, by foot, trolley, or horse-drawn carriage. If fall festivals are your thing, Fredericksburg has plenty that are fun for the whole family. And last but not least, if fall puts you in the mood for Halloween hauntings, then keep in mind that Fredericksburg is considered one of the most haunted cities in America. Join in for one of the many haunted tours available in this historic city—or dig up some haunts for yourself.
Contact: For more information on how to plan your trip, local attractions, and upcoming events, go to Visit Fredericksburg online.
Although Natural Bridge is best known for the 215-foot natural limestone bridge for which it is named, there’s more to it than that. Surrounded by natural beauty on every side, this small area in Rockbridge County offers natural beauty that is only highlighted by the fall season. To start, visit Natural Bridge State Park to see the soaring bridge that has been called one of the natural wonders of the world and named a National Historic Landmark. From the bridge, you can head down the Cedar Creek Trail to take in the beautiful fall leaves, see the Monacan Indian Living History Exhibit, and visit Lace Falls. Nearby, you’ll find the Natural Bridge Caverns which extend 34 stories into the earth and are the deepest caverns on the East Coast. If you want to make a weekend trip out of it, consider staying at the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel and Conference Center, portions of which date back to the Colonial era. For other activities, visit the Virginia Safari Park, where the animals roam free and come right up to your car as you drive through. And finally, a trip to Natural Bridge wouldn’t be complete without a stop off at The Pink Cadillac Diner, a classic diner that is easily identifiable by the King Kong statue and, you guessed it, pink Cadillac out front.
Contact: To learn more about Natural Bridge, visit the Natural Bridge State Park website or plan your trip with the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel and Conference Center’s helpful list of local attractions and activities.
Tucked away in southern Virginia, South Boston is a town that boasts beautiful views and amazing outdoor recreation. If your family enjoys camping, wildlife, or canoeing/kayaking, you need to stop by South Boston and take advantage of the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway. It is a freshwater trail that provides amazing scenery, quality fishing, and miles of paddling adventure. For families with animal lovers, Shangrilla Guest Ranch is a perfect spot to visit for a relaxing horseback ride or an interactive farm experience with several farm animals. After a day filled with fun, your family may not be quite ready to head back home. Consider visiting The Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center for a restful stay. Berry Hill is a National Historic Landmark offering elegant accommodations with a distinctive Southern charm. Located only 2 hours from Richmond, South Boston offers a families a great combination of history and outdoor fun.
Contact: For more information on how to plan your trip, local attractions, and upcoming events, go to Discover Halifax and South Boston.
You’ve most likely heard the term “Sunday drive,” but have you ever you ever actually taken one? When we spend so much time in the car taking kids from place to place or fighting commuter traffic, it’s rare that we take a drive just for the sheer pleasure of it. But if you want to enjoy fall in its prime, surrounded by colorful leaves and enjoying a brief moment where you might even be able to roll the windows down because it’s not too hot and not too cold, there are a number of scenic drives in Virginia that are well worth the car time. Best of all, many of them are nearby or even start in the Richmond area.
Colonial Parkway runs for 23 miles from the York River in Yorktown to the James River in Jamestown. It’s only natural that as one of Virginia’s most famous scenic drives, it also connects three of Virginia’s most historic sites: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Along the route, you’ll see woodlands filled with colorful fall foliage, as well as historic sites. Be sure to take a moment to stop at Archer’s Hope, a site about five miles from the Jamestown gateway. This site was where Captain Gabriel Archer wanted to begin the first permanent English colony in 1607, only to be overruled when the ships couldn’t make it close enough to the shore. But today, it’s easy to see why he was impressed. The site offers panoramic views of the James River, Jamestown, and Colonial Parkway.
To learn more about Colonial Parkway, click here.
We mentioned The Capital Trail earlier for hiking, biking, running. Well, this is the driving version. Route 5 runs along the James River from the present-day capital of Virginia in Richmond to its colonial counterpart in Williamsburg, passing through Henrico County, Charles City County, and James City County. Along the way, you’ll pass through 400 years of history. From Richmond, you’ll hit Charles City County where you’ll see historic James River plantations like Berkeley Plantation (site of the first official Thanksgiving in 1619), Shirley Plantation and Sherwood Forest Plantation. Stop in for house tours or keep on driving to see the Chickahominy Wildlife Management Area. There you’ll see ospreys, bald eagles, and other wildlife. Keep going for more plantations, but don’t forget to stop and enjoy the fall leaves along the way. Much of the route is rural, offering picturesque fall vistas. The route ends in Williamsburg—which offers a great place to get out and explore before heading home.
If you like to see fall foliage at its peak then you won’t want to miss Skyline Drive. Skyline Drive runs 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park and offers unrivaled views—especially during the fall. To drive the entire length of this beautiful scenic road, you’ll need to set aside about three hours, but it will be worth every moment. Whether you’re stopping at one of the 75 scenic overlooks along the way, or just cruising along, it’s almost impossible not to be awed by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the fall foliage that surrounds you.
To make the most of your drive, be sure to check this driving map before you go.