When you think of autumn travel in Virginia, one of the first destinations that comes to mind is the Skyline Parkway and Shenandoah Valley. No doubt leaf-peeping on a crystal clear brisk Blue Ridge day is a timeless exercise. As an extra bonus for queer folk, the Shenandoah is home to many friendly and exciting attractions, events, restaurants, and lodging.
Plan this year’s mountain getaway around the Page County Heritage Festival the weekend of October 12-13 in Luray (visitluraypage.com). This year marks the 50thanniversary of the Festival, and it’s a true slice of small-town farm life with a big city progressive attitude. Highlights include live entertainment, Shenandoah Valley craftsmen and artisans, a delightful antique farm equipment show and demonstrations, and food. Oh, the food.
After the festival, head into the town of Luray for some exploring. Roadsnacks.com ranked the town as the 8th Gayest Place in Virginia for 2019 based on the percentage of same-sex households, so you’re bound to run into some friends.
The town itself is centered around a beautiful Historic District, but the famous Luray Caverns (luraycaverns.com) are the area’s top visitor attraction. This U.S. Natural Landmark is the largest and most popular caverns in Eastern America. From well-lighted paved walkways explore cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10 stories high, filled with towering stone columns and crystal-clear pools.
If you’re more of a road warrior, take a ride on the nearby Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop (discovershenandoah.com), a compact tasting trail that winds through the Northern Shenandoah valley. Recommended by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, the Loop features seven wineries, a whiskey distillery, antiques, dining, and the gorgeous natural scenery of the Shenandoah National Park.
You can hop off the Loop and onto Skyline Drive (visitskylinedrive.org) at several spots, and it’s worth the detour. Mid-October is prime leaf season, and the parkway has many overlooks with as many eye-popping photo ops as you can stand along its 105-mile length.
Where to Stay
For LGBT-friendly lodging in Luray, check out Piney Hill Bed & Breakfast and Cottages (pineyhillbandb.com). Comprised of two private cottages and three guest rooms in the main house (a renovated 1800s farm house), the B&B is gay-owned and operated since 2000. It is also consistently ranked as the top inn in Luray each year.
The nearby Shadow Mountain Escape (shadowmountainescape.com) is billed as a romantic couple’s escape and features modern and authentic European timber cottages adjacent to the Shenandoah National Park. Shadow Mountain is recommended as a Best place To Stay by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Both properties are located on the Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop
Where to Eat and Drink
While exploring Skyland Drive, satisfy your appetite at Skyland’s Pollock Dining Room (goshenandoah.com). Right off Skyline Drive near Luray, Pollock’s specializes in Blue Ridge specialties made with farm-to-fork ingredients served with incredible views of the Shenandoah Valley.
In the mood for a true special occasion dining experience? Make a reservation at the Inn at Little Washington (theinnatlittlewashington.com). The 2019 Michelin Guide awarded The Inn three stars, the only restaurant in the Northern Virginia region to receive the honor.
Just a few miles away, you’ll find a completely different dining experience at The Edinburgh Mill Restaurant (edinburgmillrestaurant.com). Located in an 1848 Virginia Historical Landmark, the establishment specializes in rustic American style cuisine. And if you’re lucky, you’ll catch them on a day when some kick ass local live music is in the calendar.