Everything seems better in the fall. The dreaded Virginia humidity and heat of summer gives way to cool breezes and beautiful temperatures. There’s football. The leaves change. The kids go back to school. Coffee tastes more wonderful. In all of the places I’ve lived in my life, Charlottesville is one of my favorite places to enjoy fall. Here’s a list of my favorite ways I’ve enjoyed fall (by no means a comprehensive list).
The fact Charlottesville has amazing hiking should be no surprise to anybody. While summer hiking usually has the benefit of getting to enjoy swimming holes, fall hiking has the benefit of great weather and the changing leaves. I like that most of the trails are dog- and kid-friendly. My children tend to enjoy the trails with less elevation change (such as Albemarle County’s Preddy Creek Trail Park, pictured to the left). There are also tons of ways to walk close to the city including Darden Towe Park and Pen Park (on each side of the Rivanna River north of town and each featuring a down and back nature trail along the river), the Rivanna Trail (which circles the entire city of Charlottesville), Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Observatory Hills (on the grounds of the University of Virginia), and the Ivy Creek Natural Area to name a few. One of my all time favorite hiking areas is near the Sugar Hollow Reservoir along Mooreman’s River, about 30 minutes west from town at the base of Shenandoah National Park (which also adds hundreds of miles of hiking trails within an hour of Charlottesville).
Trick or Treating on the Lawn – at the University of Virginia’s famed academical village
Trick or treating on the Lawn is one of those combinations of amazing and insane. Thousands of Charlottesville and area residents cram onto the UVA Lawn as resident students, faculty, and student groups pass out what must be literally tons of sugar to kids. Let’s be honest, traffic and parking are the worst, the lines can be super long, and you’ll very likely have a moment or two where you think… “I’ve done it. I’ve lost my kids forever in this sea of humanity.” However, the entire atmosphere, the generosity of the University students and faculty, the cute and creative costumes (children, students, adults, and pets), and just the general sense of community makes all of it worthwhile.
Apple Picking at Carter Mountain Orchard
This has been an annual tradition for my kids since moving back to Charlottesville in 2008. In fact, they’re heading there tomorrow with their mom. Carter Mountain is a lot of things to those of us in Charlottesville — great apples, amazing views of the city, wine, apple cider donuts, apple cider, hayrides, face painting, pumpkins, and now the Bold Rock Cider Cellar.
My kids absolutely love going to Carter Mountain… and so does thousands of others so if you can plan your trip for a weekday, I’d highly recommend it. It’s free to visit. If you pick apples, it’s pay by the pound (there’s also already-picked apples and lots of other apple-themed goodies).
University of Virginia Cavaliers Football
Ok so the Wahoos haven’t done so great in football since the Jim Welsh era (Coach Welsh was the winningest coach in ACC history when he retired in December of 2000), when UVA won at least seven games a season from 1987 through 1999. But that doesn’t make Saturdays at Scott Stadium any less amazing. From some seats, you’ll get an amazing view of the Charlottesville foothills. The pre-game atmosphere is worth the ticket price as the UVA marching band performs and the infamous Cavman animation on the big screen leads to the real-life Cavman entering the field on horseback, followed by the cheerleaders, and players. And despite the mediocre to poor seasons, Virginia fans are still pretty amazing. You’ll sing the Good ‘Ol song after each score and see the students storm the field after almost any win against a respectable team. The grassy hill on the west side of the field remains general seating (with a paid ticket of course), so you can bring a blanket and watch the game relaxed if you want. There’s no alcohol served on premise so if that’s your gig, find a good tailgate to join!
The Changing of the Leaves… and other awesome parts of Fall
I think the fall leaves are amazing all throughout the east coast, from Georgia to Maine, but there’s something about being a Virginian that makes Charlottesville the place to view them. Whether it’s from my house, a friend’s house, during a hike, out for a drive, or sitting along the downtown mall, there’s just something about the foothills and mountains exploding in color or the city trees dropping bright red or yellow leaves on my Saturday brunch table that just makes me feel good inside… seeing the hot air balloons overhead… putting on the light jacket for the first time… sipping coffee and contemplating life… taking pictures of my kids with fall-colored backdrops and remembering how much I love being a father. That’s what fall is all about to me.