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Shenandoah Valley

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Shenandoah Valley

My husband and I will be taking the Autotrain from Florida to Lorton, VA. We'd like to experience fall in the Shenandoah Valley, of course including Skyline Drive, but we don't want to drive south entirely on the Drive. Are there any segments more interesting than others?Would a few days in Loudon County at the beginning of our trip be worthwhile? Which towns on the way south are special and worth a day or two stop? What about Charlottesville and Monticello? If anyone knows the area well and could suggest an itinerary, we'd be very grateful. Also, would starting the trip on or about October 1 be a good time to see fall colors and have nice weather? Earlier? Later? We're flexible. Any help you can give us will be very much appreciated.

Ashburn, VA
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1. Re: Shenandoah Valley

Loudoun County is northwest of Lorton, VA. onticello/Charlottesville are in a more southwest direction from Lorton. I'm not clear which direction you plan to be heading once you get off the train. Do you plan to loop around and then continue on to some other state or are you heading back to the Autotrain after seeing the Valley?

Virginia
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2. Re: Shenandoah Valley

That Autotrain used to be wonderful and fun. I hope you let us know how it goes.

Here's a tour suggestion I posted for someone else coming in Oct....on the Charlottesville forum:

Monticello.org (Jefferson's home)

montpelier.org (check the directions and map first on the site so you can see it's not right in Charlottesville...but not far for Madison/history lovers.)

Depending on time, interest and where you will be you might look into these vineyard tours. Incredibly, Virginia has 100 vineyards now. The largest cluster is up and down - loosely - Rt. 29 from south of Charlottesville to far north of Charlottesville.

You might try: Monticellowinetrail.org. Click on 'trails' for the breakup of the various collection of vineyards....in that area there are 21. The western ones will take you toward the Blue Ridge Mts. Others could be combined with historic tours.

You might explore this site for the Blue Ridge:http://www.blueridgeonline.com/

Two other places of interest:artisancenterofvirginia.org, which is along Rt. 64 west of Charlottesville, and virginia.edu/kluge-ruhe, where John Kluge compiled one of the foremost private collections of Australian Aboriginal art in the world.

------------------------------

You might also like to check out some of the inns and b&bs along the Shenandoah Valley, great places for the Autumn and places whose innkeepers are treasure troves of information on their area. Check on bbonline.com/va/region2.html for those places in Shenandoah Valley.

Also check on: bbhsv.org/vabblist.asp specifically for "Bed and Breakfasts of the Historic Shenandoah Valley".

While I love the scenic drive myself, I have heard some people say, regarding it, "A little goes a long way"...referring to the 20/35/45 mile drive of winding roads. But there are several pulloffs for wonderful views not to be missed...magnificent scenes that tell you how the "blue" ridge got it's name. There are places to stop nearby or in nearby towns.

You might look into the Shenandoah National Park lodging: visitshenandoah.com/lodging.shtml

Viewing the pictures will give you more of a personal feel for the beauty and if you want to stay at any of these places.

You might consider coming down from Lorton to Charlottesvile and doing antiques/wineries/history and then cutting over to the Mts and looping back up and then heading over to Lorton, exploring more of the history, backroads, small towns, etc. along the way.

Keep asking questions about any of the info.

Luray, Virginia
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3. Re: Shenandoah Valley

Skyline Drive runs for almost 100 miles, starting at Front Royal and going south to Waynesoboro. I am bias..but think the central portion of the Drive is the best! Luray Caverns is a place you will want to see. The best on the east coast for sure. The views from Skyline Drive between Luray and say Charlottesville are really spectacular if the weather is cooperative.

Oct. 1 is a bit early for fall colors though you never know with the weather. The first weekend of Oct is also Parent's weekend at JMU in Harrisonburg and that means little or no rooms available within at least an hour drive of Harrisonburg and sometimes further.

The 3rd - 4th week of Oct is usually the traditional time for "peak" colors, but last year it went until the first weekend of Nov. No predictions here for Mother Nature.

Charlottesville and Monticello are wonderful places. So much to see and do there. If you have never been, you really should go.

Enjoy the Valley! We love it here!

Virginia
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4. Re: Shenandoah Valley

Oh, that's right. October has the Family Weekends or Parents' Weekends for the many many colleges, universities and private schools all around the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville and Lynchburg so everyone tries to get rooms even in neighboring towns. So decide as soon as you can in order to have your accommodations.

Jupiter, FL
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5. Re: Shenandoah Valley

Thank you all so much for your replies! We plan to take the Autotrain north from Florida, then drive back home through Durham, NC, and on south. Our emphasis will be on Virginia, though, particularly the Shenandoah Valley. Y'all have answered my question about the Skyline Drive by saying the central part is best. I knew we didn't want to dirve the whole thing, but didn't know which section to choose. I wondered about detouring to Loudon County at the beginning of the trip because we got some brochures of the area and it looked charming and quaint. No need for a detour if you say that other towns on our route are equally charming and quaint--please be specific about which ones surpass others so we'll plan to overnight in those places. Would hate to stay somewhere and find that the next town on the way would have been more fun, prettier, etc.! I'm distressed to hear that we have to make reservations ahead--we had hoped to travel at will, lingering wherever the place appealed and then moving on. Maybe those days are gone forever! Even more reason to get advice about the most serendipitous places. I'll look forward to hearing from you.

Virginia
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6. Re: Shenandoah Valley

When I referrred to the frustration of the "20/30/45 mile drive", I guess anyone understands I meant the frustration of the "20/30/45 mile PER HOUR drive". That would have to be the frustrating part for those that like to get somewhere fast. That's what others tell me. I'm happy staying on it longer with stops.

Oh, bring your binoculars!

Virginia
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7. Re: Shenandoah Valley

I'll think about those towns. Aside from all the many schools having parents/fall/family weekends in October, that month is also when the Leaf Peepers love to drive on the Skyline Drive.

Ashburn, VA
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8. Re: Shenandoah Valley

There are many colleges and universities in the area you plan to explore. Parents/Family Weekends and Homecomings will fall during your travel time. Three of the biggest:

James Madison University, Harrisonburg - 10/6 Parents Weekend and 10/16 Homecoming (Go Dukes!)

University of Virginia, Charlottesville - 10/20 Parents Weekend, not sure of homecoming

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg - 10/21 Homecoming and 11/4 Parents Weekend

This may hamper your wish to get a hotel when the mood hits, unless you are traveling midweek. As a previous writer said, hotels in these college areas book up fast.

Also, I have to agree that early October just won't get you the fall color you really should see. Best to wait until later in the month.

Lastly (just a minor point), Loudoun is spelled with 2 "ou"s. It's named for the Earl of Loudoun. : )

Enjoy your trip to Virginia!

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9. Re: Shenandoah Valley

Thanks for the spelling correction--I'm a spelling and typo nut and hate to be guilty myself! Thanks to everybody's input, we'll plan to arrive a bit later and travel in the college areas during the week. Now that I think about it, even if we're a little too early for the peak, whatever's happening with the leaves and weather will be a delightful change from South Florida, where it will still be in the 90's, both temperature and humidity!

Virginia
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10. Re: Shenandoah Valley

That's what I was thinking. It'll be cooler and beautiful and maybe not quite as crowded...although Ocober is busy. The overlooks, where you pull off for views are spectacular any time of year.