In winter, a cozy fireplace can become the beating heart of your home. It’s a place the family can gather to bask in the warm glow of the fire. If you’re stuck at home this winter, try dedicating some screen-free evenings to spending time by the fire as a family. We’ve rounded up some innovative ideas for fireside activities. Even if you’ve been enjoying your fireplace for years, read on! You may discover a new way to relax by the fire on a winter’s evening.
1. Cook on the fire – it’s not just for summer!
You may have spent many evenings by your fire, but have you ever thought of making dinner on it? Just like a campfire, the fire in your hearth can be used for cooking. Gather around the fireplace on a winter’s night for a fun dinner that will remind you of those summer campfire cookouts. For some ideas to get you started, see here and here. Bonus: cooking as a family in the living room gives mom a break!
If you’re not in the mood for cooking a full dinner, you can still enjoy your fireplace and some delicious fire-roasted snacks or deserts. S’mores can be made indoors, just as they can on an outdoor campfire. Or for a Christmassy option that will remind you of a popular song, try some chestnuts “roasted on an open fire.” Make sure you have butter and cinnamon ready to dip them in! Baked apples are another great option for a fun and easy fireside desert.
2. Enjoy the Mood Lighting!
If you can turn off the lights while you’re gathered around the fire, you’ll notice how quickly the mood changes. Distractions melt away, and stresses seem to disappear, as the warmth and light of the fire comfort body and spirit. Skeptical . . . just give it a try one night: we promise, you’ll love it. Bonus points if you have Christmas lights up at the same time.
3. Have a Fireside Chat
There’s something about sitting by a fire together that can get people to open up and engage in great conversations that would not happen so easily otherwise. Need some help getting a conversation going? Consider keeping a pack of “conversation starter” cards near the fire. You never know, you might learn something you never knew before about a family member or guest.
4. Try a Fireside Game
There’s nothing like a family game night for involving everyone in some fun. Do it around the fire, and you’ll find it’s an unbeatable combination. If you’re going to play a family game around the fire, it’s ideal if it doesn’t involve too much moving around, and doesn’t require bright lighting. You’ll find some ideas here.
5. Read a Story Together
When the whole family is gathered around the fire is a great time to crack open a book and start reading aloud. If you can find a collection of short stories, that’s a great place to start. They’re short enough that you can get through a whole story – or two – in an evening. The short stories of Edgar Allan Poe will give your family a lot to think and talk about. They’re not a great option for younger audiences though. Or dig through a second hand bookstore, such as Front Royal’s own Royal Oak Bookshop and see what treasures you can find for yourself.
When the weather outside is frightful, the fire can be delightful. Take the time to enjoy your fire and your family this winter. Here’s to memories made around the fireside that will last a lifetime.
Late fall can be a bleak time of year. But for those who know what to look for, late fall has its own beauty. Among the mostly bare trees, you’ll still find a few that are holding on to their leaves. When the best of the fall foliage has passed, it’s a great time to look out for oaks and beeches. These two species typically hold onto their leaves for the longest. In fact brown leaves can remain on oak trees through the whole winter, until the new growth in spring replaces them.
But as the season of fall slowly winds, down, there’s still time for some fun in the town of Front Royal. Located at the northern entrance to Skyline Drive, Front Royal has even more to offer than just its natural beauty. In the town itself, you’ll discover a wide range of fun activities, together with delicious local food and drink. It’s small-town living at its best. Here’s our top ten ways to have fun in Front Royal. It’s a small town, but it can make your leaf-peeping day complete.
1. Throw an Axe!
The brand new sport of axe throwing appeared in the U.S. in 2006. It’s growing fast, and it’s come to Front Royal. To spend an hour throwing axes, visit Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co in the heart of Front Royal.
2020 has been a stressful and frustrating year. Axe throwing is a fun way to let off some steam!
2. Become Part of a Pizza Tradition
Melting Pot Pizza is a local favorite haunt. Visit once and you’ll know why. This Front Royal tradition has been serving up delicious East Coast thin-crust pizza since 1972. It’s a fun, family friendly environment. There are even gluten-free options, so all your friends and family can enjoy. With delicious pizza and a friendly vibe, it’s no surprise that this place has been around for almost forty years.
3. Sip on a Latte
If you’re looking to unwind with a book and a cup of something warm, look no further than Happy Creek Coffee and Tea. This cozy coffee shop has delicious beverages and plenty of character. In addition to hot drinks, they’re famous for their cold brew coffee on draft. If you’re there around breakfast time, you can enjoy a fun yogurt and oatmeal bar. Gluten free baked goods are available throughout the day.
4. Feel the LOVE
Outsize letters spelling out the word LOVE have been popping up all over the state of Virginia in recent years. In turbulent times, they’re here to remind us that our beautiful state is all about love. It’s become a statewide tradition to hunt down the LOVE signs.
If you’re on a LOVE sign hunt, you’ll want to stop by Front Royal. If you’re new to the idea, Front Royal is a great place to start. Front Royal’s LOVE letters were made right here in town at AG Laser Technology. Stop by the Front Royal Visitor Center and Main Street Gazebo area to check out Front Royal’s very own LOVE letters.
Don’t forget to snap a picture and share on social media using the hashtag #LoveVA.
5. Enjoy a Craft Beer
Front Royal is a great destination for lovers of craft beer. The Front Royal Brewing Company offers award-winning craft beer brewed on site (as well as delicious food). The names of the different beers honor the local area.
Pavemint Taphouse is a conveniently located micro-brewery, housed in a creatively renovated gas station. Pavemint offers a wide range of craft beers. Drive by most days, and you’ll see the smoker outside with wood piled up next to it. Delicious meat is on the way for lucky diners.
Tap into history and the beer at the one and only Virginia Beer Museum! With Virginia having over two hundred craft breweries, this unique stop allows you to experience Virginia beer while appreciating the history of its growth in our state! Don't miss it!
6. Sample Kale Ice Cream (or Another Flavor You’ve Never Tried Before!)
C & C’s Frozen Treats is a fun ice cream shop with a retro vibe, located on Front Royal’s Main Street. The shop specializes in unique flavors of ice cream. Recent offerings have included Tomato and Basil, and Kale. You’ll also find flavors to suit more traditional tastes such as brownie batter, peach, or salted caramel. The menu changes weekly, so fall tastes such as pumpkin pie will likely pop up. You shouldn’t count on a particular flavor, but you can count on being deliciously surprised.
7. Paint Your Own Pottery
For a fun fall craft project with no clean-up, visit the Kiln Doctor to paint a piece of pottery in store. You can choose from a range of unpainted pottery pieces, including plates and mugs, or seasonal ornaments such as jack-o-lanterns and garden gnomes. Get to work and enjoy yourself. They’ll take care of the clean-up, and they’ll give your piece of art a professional finish.
8. Ride the Trolley
For a retro adventure, take a ride on the Front Royal Trolley. The fare is only fifty cents each way. Relax and enjoy the scenic town of Front Royal in a whole new way.
9. Discover a Classic or a New Favorite
Royal Oak Bookshop is the perfect place to hunt for a treasure in a used book. It’s the rambling used bookstore you’ve been looking for, complete with friendly cats!
10. Go for a Riverside Walk
The Shenandoah River runs right through Front Royal. Visit Eastham Park for a scenic stroll on an easy walking trail by the side of the river. The trail is lined with trees, so you can enjoy fall foliage here too.
Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park is an incredible leaf-peeping destination. It’s not surprising that the park is something of a national treasure. The only problem is that it does attract significant crowds during the peak of fall foliage.
If you’re looking to enjoy fall foliage in the Front Royal area without dealing with crowds, this post is for you! We’ve rounded up some spots for leaf-peeping that will take you a little off the beaten path, while still ensuring that you can enjoy the unparalleled beauty of the Shenandoah Valley in fall.
1. Shenandoah River State Park
This amazing park is like Skyline Drive’s overshadowed little brother. Located just nine miles down the road from Skyline Drive’s Front Royal Entrance Station, Shenandoah River State Park doesn’t get the attention it deserves. However, there’s plenty to write home about here. The park extends right up the Shenandoah River, and you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
Visit Shenandoah River State Park to discover 5.2 miles of Shenandoah River shoreline, over 24 miles of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and opportunities for camping, horseback riding, and fishing.
2. George Washington National Forest
George Washington National Forest is another great option for fall outdoor adventure in the Front Royal area. Though less frequented than Skyline Drive, the National Forest is full of hiking and biking trails, and also boasts great locations for camping and fishing. Passage Creek is a stocked trout stream that flows through the forest. It’s a favorite of local fly-fishermen. And, of course, the forest features plenty of trees, so there’s lots of fall foliage to enjoy.
If you’re looking for scenic views in the George Washington National Forest, Buzzard Rock is a great hike to check out. It’s something of a local favorite. You’ll follow a wooded trail before eventually emerging on the exposed rocks at the top of the mountain. From this vantage point, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside. There’s a good chance you’ll even see some buzzards soaring through the skies.
3. Enjoy Fall Views from the Shenandoah River
If you want to enjoy a relaxing outdoor adventure away from the crowds, don’t forget that Front Royal sits right on the famous Shenandoah River. You might associate river trips more with summer, but the river can be a great fall destination too. As fall colors appear on the tree-lined banks of the river, a boating trip is a great way to enjoy them. To plan your trip, get in touch with one of Front Royal’s River Outfitters. Or, if you have your own boat, you can organize a day on the river independently. This map shows public river access points in the Front Royal area.
4. Take a Scenic Fall Drive
Skyline Drive isn’t the only scenic road in the Shenandoah Valley. There are plenty of other options for those seeking less heavily travelled fall foliage drive. If a fall drive through the Front Royal area sounds appealing, consider this Fall Foliage Driving Tour, developed by the experts at the Virginia Department of Forestry. They’ve carefully planned out the route to ensure lots of opportunities for enjoying the fall leaves. To make the day complete, stop in Front Royal to pick up some fall-themed road trip snacks or a pumpkin spice latte to sip on as you drive.
Don’t let fear of crowds prevent you from enjoying all that the Shenandoah Valley has to offer in the fall. Even if you’d prefer not to join the crowds at Skyline Drive, there’s plenty of beautiful fall foliage in the Front Royal area.
For special needs parents, it can be tough to find activities that whole family can enjoy together. But doing so is totally worth it. You don’t want your special needs child to be left out of those great memories that siblings share. Not to mention it’s more efficient if everyone can have fun at the same time! And that’s worth taking into consideration… After all, special needs parents are some of the busiest people in the world!
The good news is that the Front Royal area has plenty of opportunities for special needs family fun. We’ve done the research to round up a selection of accessible Front Royal destinations that will appeal to all different abilities and interests.
Whether you’re planning a trip to the Shenandoah Valley, or already live in the Front Royal area, this post is for you. Read on for a comprehensive list of accessible activities that parents and siblings will also enjoy. Everyone’s included!
Accessibility in Shenandoah National Park
No doubt about it, the top tourist attraction of the Front Royal area is Shenandoah National Park. With its stunning mountain views, the park attracts over one million visitors every year. It’s also one of the most accessible of America’s National Parks. In fact, this park was specifically designed with driving in mind. In an era when cars were first becoming widely available, the park’s designers planned that the central feature of the park should be Skyline Drive, a road leading all the way down the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can enjoy the park’s major attraction without ever having to leave your car! There are also plenty of accessible picnic spots with stunning views, conveniently located right by the road.
If you're not already aware, individuals with disabilities are entitled to a free lifetime pass to our National Park system! Learn more here!
With a variety of accessible facilities, including lodging and camping, Shenandoah National Park is a welcoming destination for the special needs family. For a fully accessible hike, check out the Limberlost Trail. Shenandoah National Park is beautiful all year long, but it’s a particularly popular destination in the fall.
Horseback Riding for the Whole Family
For special needs families in the local area, North Star Stables offers both able-bodied and therapeutic horseback riding lessons, for riders of all capabilities. You won’t find a more welcoming environment! Head instructor Teresa Pilegaard is a special needs mom herself. She’s seen the benefits of therapeutic riding in all areas of development: physical, mental, and emotional. North Star Stables is truly a treasure of the Front Royal area. There isn’t another PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor for hours around! The best part? Able-bodied siblings are welcome at North Star Stables too. All the kids can jump in and experience the benefits of horseback riding!
Note: due to medical clearance requirements, North Star Stables is unfortunately unable to offer one-off sessions for traveling families.
Summer Fun: Pools and Parks
If you’re thinking that water fun is an essential part of summer, we agree! And Warren County does too! Special needs families can enjoy the Claude A. Stokes Community Swimming Pool, which features a lift to assist those with mobility challenges to into the pool. Or for splashing and sprinklers, visit the splash pad at the Dr. Saul Seide Memorial Gardens. You’ll find it’s fully accessible and fun for all the family. Within the same park, you’ll also find Free Wheeling Way, a wheelchair accessible playground structure, complete with accessible picnic tables. It’s a recipe for a day of summer fun at the park.
Several of Front Royal’s other parks also feature accessible walking trails. The beautiful Eastham Park walking trail is located right on the banks of the Shenandoah River. Other options are the Skyline Soccerplex trail and the Rockland Park walking trails. Enjoy in the summer, or any time of year!
Even More Accessible Activities in Front Royal
After a day at the pool, on Skyline Drive, or on horseback, there’s still more to enjoy in Front Royal!
Older children, or those with a special interest in history, may enjoy Front Royal’s Civil War Driving Tour. Did you know that Front Royal was the scene of a Civil War battle? The driving tour will take you to all the important spots, and bring the history to life.
Arts and craft lovers will want to check out Explore Art and Clay. The studio is wheelchair accessible and offers paint your own pottery sessions. Come make memories painting a mug, plate, or seasonal decoration. They’ll give your work of art a professional finish. Budding sculptors should check their event schedule for the Kids Clay Club sessions. Projects can be adapted to suit different ability levels.
Finally, bowling is an all-time favorite for family fun. Bring the whole family to Royal Family Bowling Center. The lanes that are fully wheelchair accessible, and bowling ball ramps are available. Kids and adults of all abilities can play.
When the whole family’s together, you’ll make memories you’ll cherish for years to come. Start your adventure in Front Royal, Virginia. It might be as simple as a day at the park, or as exciting as a series of horseback riding lessons. Whether you’re coming for a visit or here to stay, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the unique opportunities you’ll find in the Front Royal area.
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