May is finally here, the end of the school year is well in sight, and (if you haven’t already) it’s a great time to start making travel and tourism plans for the summer. In Front Royal, we love the many guests who pass through our small town. May 1-7 is Travel and Tourism Week, and we’re joining the celebration by recognizing the fantastic folks who find something to draw them to Front Royal. There are so many things to love about Front Royal, that tourists come into town for many different reasons. Read on for our handy guide to six kinds of tourists/travelers you’ll find passing through town!
1. Hiking Legends
The most legendary hike in the U.S.A. is unquestionably the Appalachian Trail. Large numbers of dedicated hikers taking on the daunting challenge of hiking the over-two-thousand mile trail every year. As the Appalachian Trail passes close by Front Royal, it’s not surprising that many of them drop by our town. In fact, with an affordable shuttle service from the trail to the town, a free locker, laundry, and shower service, a premium gear shop, and fantastic restaurants to fill hungry hikers, it’s not surprising that Front Royal is a favorite stop for Appalachian Trail hikers. There’s even lodging specifically provided by and for Appalachian Trail enthusiasts. An officially designated Appalachian Trail Community, Front Royal has become a model for many of the towns that host Appalachian Trail hikers every year.
If you enjoy hiking, you don’t have to be undertaking the Appalachian Trail to find some hiking to love around Front Royal. Shenandoah National Park is another favorite hiking location, with stunning scenery and hikes ranging from easy to challenging, including the beloved Old Rag.
2. River Relaxers
For those who enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, tubing, or anything that requires a river, Front Royal is a dream destination. With the North and South Forks of the scenic and lovely Shenandoah River meeting right in town, there are so many opportunities for river recreation that Front Royal is known as the Canoe Capital of Virginia. Bring your own gear, or work with one of our friendly outfitters. You’ll find an enthusiastic welcome, a beautiful river, and a boatload of memories waiting to be made! Check out Front Royal’s riverside campgrounds for even more time to enjoy the river.
“Leaf-Peepers” are the tourists known for pursuing the stunning sights of the changing leaves of fall throughout. Fall is a great time of year to visit Front Royal. With Shenandoah National Park one of the top leaf-peeping destinations in the country, October is a popular month for visitors. Head to Front Royal to access the park and enjoy the stunning vistas of vibrant fall colors spread across the Blue Ridge Mountains.
From to farm-to-table operations, pick-your-own farms, craft breweries and internationally acclaimed restaurants, the Front Royal area has plenty to keep a foodie happy for a long, long time. Plan a weekend or longer to explore the gourmet food options of the Front Royal area, and enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner Front Royal style!
5. Wine Lovers
With sensational sipping spaces, rolling vineyards, and stunning mountain views, Front Royals wineries are a special destination for all lovers of wine . . . from the casual to the connoisseur. Pack a picnic, enjoy a tasting, or buy a bottle. There are so many ways to enjoy the amazing Virginia wines and wineries of the Front Royal area. Don’t forget to stop by Front Royal Wines before you leave town and pick up some souvenirs to bring home.
6. Big City Escapees
Living and working in the big city takes its toll, and sometimes you just need a little WanderLOVE. For residents and commuters in the D.C. Metro area, Front Royal is the ideal destination to find that love and enjoy a country weekend. Less than a 90 minute drive from central Washington D.C., it’s convenient enough for a day or weekend trip, but still rural enough that you’ll feel like you’ve truly entered a different world. Break free of the city and head to Front Royal for fun, adventure, relaxation, and restoration.
Front Royal draws visitors for many reasons, and it’s a dream destination for a variety of tourists and travelers. Do you find yourself drawn to join one (or more!) of our groups of happy visitors? If so, make plans for your trip to Front Royal today! You’ll find yourself wanting to come back again and again!
Every fall sees large numbers of visitors heading to the Front Royal area in pursuit of the breathtaking fall foliage vistas. But if you’re seeking nature’s glory splendor in Front Royal this year, make sure you catch the whole show! Mother Nature isn’t done after a day of drinking in the splendor of fall. There’s an equally glorious display about to come: the star-filled night sky.
There’s something about stargazing that’s good for the soul. The sight of thousands of sparkling lights coming from worlds away is one that never gets old. It’s a good reminder of how big the universe is. And how small we are.
And maybe it’s something we’re meant to see. After all, for most of human history, people everywhere enjoyed star filled skies on a regular basis. Today, light pollution has made stargazing difficult for those living in highly populated areas. That’s yet another reason to escape to the Front Royal area this fall so you can enjoy the night sky the way it’s supposed to be.
Stargazing Spots in the Front Royal Area
For those in search of the thrill of gazing at a starlit sky, there are two parks in the Front Royal area that offer particularly outstanding displays.
The first is Shenandoah National Park. Driving on Skyline Drive already makes you feel a bit closer to the sky. But for stargazers there’s still some light pollution from the towns in the valley below. To maximize your night sky viewing, head to one of the park’s top stargazing areas. The Big Meadows area is a sought-after stargazing spot, and the location of Shenandoah National Park’s formal astronomy program, which takes place on select Friday nights through the month of October. The Skyland Amphitheater is another top stargazing spot in the park. Making arrangements for a campsite,cabin, or hotel room in Shenandoah National Park is a great way to enjoy some stargazing without having to make a long trip home at night.
For more tips, see this guide to stargazing in Shenandoah National Park. The guide includes including a list of the top overlooks in the park for stargazing (with the least light pollution interference).
On the other side of Front Royal, another great option is Sky Meadows State Park. Sky Meadows offers such great night sky views, that it’s recently become an officially designated Dark Sky Park. The park typically closes at dusk, but check their schedule of events for the popular Astronomy for Everyone program. For these family friendly events, the park stays open after dark, and you can enjoy a guided stargazing experience. Or if you want a real stargazing adventure, plan on using their primitive hike-in tent camping site and spending a memorable night under the stars.
Five Stargazing Tips
If you’re sold on making stargazing part of your next Front Royal adventure, read on for a few more tips that will help make your experience great!
1.Plan with the moon in mind. The brighter the moon, the less you’ll see of the stars, as the light of the moon can drown out these smaller nights. Stargazing will be best with a new or crescent moon above you.
1.Wait for clear skies. You’ll also want to make sure that there’s minimal cloud coverage blocking your views of the stars. Choose a crisp, clear fall night (and maybe bring a mug of hot chocolate!).
1.Let your eyes get used to the dark. You may not be used to being outside after dark, but your eyes will get there quicker than you think. While it takes several hours for your eyes to completely adjust to darker conditions, major changes take place in your eyes after just ten minutes of darkness, allowing you to see better. To help your eyes adjust, avoid using flashlights or other artificial lights as possible. It’s also helpful to avoid looking at phone screens. If you must use a light, try using one that’s tinted red.
1.Stay safe. If you’re an adventurous spirit in the park after dark, you might be tempted by the idea of a stargazing hike. While hiking at night can be a fun and memorable adventure, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll want to take added safety precautions. Don’t stray from trails at night. You may find it impossible to retrace your steps without light. Also, avoid trails with hazards such as steep drops that could be particularly dangerous in the dark. Be particularly alert for wildlife. And as always, make sure someone knows where you are going, and when you expect to return.
For more stargazing tips, see this article on stargazing in Shenandoah National Park.
There are few sights as captivating as a night sky filled with stars, or as stunning as the Blue Ridge mountains lit up with the colors of fall. Plan to enjoy both this year. A combination leaf-peeping star-gazing trip will leave you filled with awe at nature’s wonders.
All of fall is beautiful, but the season’s “peak” is that much-anticipated time when the greatest abundance of fall colors fill the landscape. It’s a short window, arriving when the vast majority of leaves have assumed their fall hues, and ending as they turn brown and fall from the trees. In the Shenandoah Valley, peak usually arrives in October (predictions for 2021 point to early-mid October). The season typically lasts around two weeks.
If you’re coming to the Front Royal area to enjoy peak foliage, we’ve put together some helpful information. Read on some fun facts about the beautiful trees you can expect to see. We’re also featuring Front Royal’s top fall attraction: Skyline Drive.
Who’s Who in the Peak Foliage
Yellows, oranges, and reds are the signature colors of fall, and together they make up a peak fall landscape. However, it takes a variety of trees to make all of these vibrant shades appear. Different species contribute different hues to the display. If you’re seeing yellows and oranges, you may well be enjoying a view of beeches, sycamores, or sugar maples. Red maples take their name for the bright scarlet that they contribute to the riotous colors of fall. Meanwhile, oaks are a well-known species that contribute a spectrum of reds, russets, and browns (in addition to covering the ground with acorns – another signature sight of fall).
Of course these tips can only get you so far in determining which tree you’re looking at. If you’re wanting to go a little deeper in your enjoyment of the peak foliage, a little tree identification may fit the bill. Equip yourself with a tree identification field guide before heading out on your hike or fall picnic. You’ll find that identifying trees is a fun activity for all the family. And it’ll definitely help you increase your appreciation of nature’s handiwork.
Skyline Drive from the Front Royal End
Speaking of fall hikes and picnics, the premier spot for such pursuits is Virginia’s Skyline Drive. The central road of Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is one of the nation’s favorite places to enjoy peak fall foliage. Cresting the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountain range, Skyline Drive provides access to many unparalleled vantage points from which to enjoy the vistas of fall in the Shenandoah Valley. The northern entrance of the park is conveniently located right in the town of Front Royal.
Simply enjoying a drive through the park is a great way to enjoy the foliage display. In fact, Skyline Drive was actually designed with driving in mind. However, October is Skyline Drive’s most visited month, and the traffic can get frustrating. If you’re looking to enjoy Skyline Drive from the Front Royal end, we’ve rounded up some ideas for leaf-peeping in the park without having to drive too far. That way you can spend more time enjoying nature, and less time waiting in leaf-peeper traffic.
Compton Peak is a fantastic hike near the Front Royal end of the park. It’s a family friendly trail that includes a mildly strenuous climb, but is manageable for most. Park at the Compton Gap parking area (mile-marker 10.4). Cross the road, and head south/west on the Appalachian Trail into the woods. After a mile or so, the Compton Peak trail intersects the Appalachian Trail. Look out for a concrete marker to tell you the you've arrived at this point. A right turn takes you up hill to a stunning viewpoint, where you can enjoy the fall foliage and a sense of accomplishment. Heading left will bring you to a more obstructed viewpoint, but fascinating rock formations. Can’t decide? The two overlooks are close enough that you can check out both.
If you’re not up for a hike, there are some great picnicking spots also within easy distance of the Front Royal entrance to the park. Range View Overlook (mile-marker 17.0) consistently makes it on lists of the park’s top overlooks. From this viewpoint, take in the beauty of the piedmont on the Eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For views of the Shenandoah Valley to the West, good options are Gooney Run Overlook (mile 6.8), and the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. Dickey Ridge is also a great place to get advice from a park ranger on other good spots to check out in the park.
Peak fall foliage in Shenandoah National Park is truly a national treasure. Don’t miss out on one of America’s favorite leaf-peeping spots. Plan your peak foliage visit to Skyline Drive today!
Early Fall: the Best of Both Worlds
Early fall is a thoroughly enjoyable time of year. It’s still warm enough to enjoy a picnic in the sunshine, or your last chance to cook out in shorts and a t-shirt. Nevertheless, fall has unmistakably arrived. The first hints of color are showing among the leaves, and there’s a welcome coolness in the air – although it’s not too cold yet. Apple-picking season is in full swing, and it’s a great time to enjoy a beautiful orchard among Virginia’s sunny hillsides. You can enjoy harvesting delicious fruit without worrying about overheating in the blazing heat of summer.
This week, we’re providing our guide to early fall in the Front Royal area. Read on for the scoop on the foliage you’ll see in early fall, as well as our top “picks” for local apple orchards. We’re even throwing in some tips on how to use that big bag of apples when you get it home.
Early Fall Foliage in Virginia
Early fall doesn’t bring the riotous beauty of full-on fall foliage, when vivid colors totally overwhelm the landscape. Nevertheless, early fall foliage has its own particular charms. The deep green of the forest changes to a lighter shade. The first bright pops of red and yellow against this green background are charming . . . and they hold the promise of more to come.
If you’re out hiking or driving through Virginia in early fall, you’ll see the first signs of fall foliage. Among the first colorful leaves of the fall, you can expect to see Virginia Creeper, Black Gum, and Dogwood. Virginia Creeper is one of the first heralds of fall, but it isn’t actually a tree at all. This vine climbs on anything – trees, walls, houses, even along the ground. In Shenandoah National Park, the sight of bright red Virginia Creeper leaves intertwined among the still-green tree branches is one of the first signs of the arrival of fall. Black Gums and Dogwoods will be among the first trees to turn, bright splashes of red, gold, and even purple standing out from a tranquil green background.
Apple-Picking Around Front Royal
You can enjoy the sights of these early turners while on an apple-picking expedition in the Shenandoah Valley. The Front Royal area is home to several pick-your-own apple farms. Check out Hartland Orchard or Hollin Farms, both located just one exit down from Front Royal on I-66. Stribling Orchard is another favorite, with a stunning mountainside location. Or try Valley View Farm and enjoy sipping some hard cider, wine, or mead after you fill your basket with apples.
If you’re driving from Front Royal to pick apples at any of these orchards, you’ll drive directly past the local favorite Apple House, right before you get on I-66. Make sure to stop in and pick up some of their famous Apple Butter Cinnamon Donuts. These divine creations are the perfect treat to enjoy on your apple-picking adventure (or on your way home!).
Apples, Apples Everywhere!
There’s just one thing about apple-picking. That basket of apples looks a whole lot bigger on your kitchen counter than it did in the field! If you’re overwhelmed by a huge supply of apples, we’ve rounded up some ideas for you.
Apple pie and apple crisp are classic favorites that need no explanation. It’s also surprisingly easy to make your own apple butter. You don’t even need to peel the apples, and as they cook all day in your crock pot, they’ll make your whole home smell like fall. Or enjoy apples baked on a fall campfire. There’s even a good use for all those apple cores that get left over from your baking. Apple scrap vinegar is a fun way to use the parts you would otherwise throw away. And it has an impressive range of uses and health benefits.
Fall is in the Air!
Many pick-your-own orchards offer apple cider for sale, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you could try making your own. You’ll need an apple crusher to break down the apples, before squeezing the juice out in a cider press. Commercial apple cider equipment can be forbiddingly expensive, but for home use, you can get what you need for a more reasonable investment. Enjoy your fresh, sweet cider warm or cold, or ferment it into hard cider for an extra challenge.
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