It should come as no surprise that this Florida girl is LOVING her first real fall. Amazing temperatures, crisp air, lack of humidity, pumpkin patches, apple picking, and fall leaves, what more could I ask for? Well, the perfect fall weekend getaway for starters.
As lovely as fall is in DC, I am so close to the Virginian countryside that I could not resist exploring. Fall is one of the most gorgeous seasons in Virginia, with vibrant leaves blanketing the landscapes from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the coastal plains. Who knew that just one hour outside of DC peak foliage, stunning countryside, luxurious resorts, wineries, and fine dining awaited?
I teamed up with the Virginia Tourism Corporation (yes, the amazing organization that coined “Virginia is for Lovers”) to create the perfect fall weekend in the Virginian countryside. This itinerary includes a ton of amazing wine, a bit of history, equestrian culture, and a lot of delicious food. From culinary masterpieces served at some of Virginia’s finest restaurants to orchards and farms opening for Pick-Your-Own experiences and wineries cultivating their latest wines, I quickly learned why fall has officially become “Foodie Season” in Virginia!
My weekend traversed two of Virginia’s most beautiful counties, Loudoun and Fauquier, known for their scenic landscapes, wineries, history, and horses. Loudoun county is nicknamed “DC’s Wine Country.” The county boasts 42 lush wineries and vineyards, horse farms, historic towns, 30-plus breweries and exceptional dining. Fauquier county lies just south of Loudoun and is known as Virginia’s Horse & Wine Country. Steeped in equestrian history and traditions, this county is just 40 miles west of D.C. and sits at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Dating back to the 17th century, the area we now know as Fauquier County was listed in 1608 as part of the Northern Neck of the Colony of Virginia by Captain John Smith, explorer and leader of the Jamestowne Colony!
Although we were only an hour outside of D.C., we felt like we were in a different world! We were able to relax, breath in that fresh country air, and explore charming small towns and villages like Middleburg, Marshall, Upperville, and The Plains – places I didn’t know existed. Until now! We enjoyed scenic drives past rolling hills full of vibrant foliage, horse farms, historic homes, grand country estates, and beautiful vineyards around every corner. We celebrated the bounty of the fall harvest at local restaurants and wineries dotted throughout Loudoun and Fauquier Counties.
I absolutely loved experiencing the heart and soul of Virginia hunt and wine country! And I wanted to share the details of my itinerary, so you could experience it too! This weekend is perfect for those who live in D.C. and are looking for the perfect weekend away. But it is also an easy getaway for anyone outside of the DC area, since there are many direct flights into Dulles International Airport, which is only a short drive away from these properties! Trust me, you won’t want to miss any of these wineries, resorts, restaurants, museums, and towns.
Where to Stay
For our fabulous fall weekend, we stayed at the charming and cozy Goodstone Inn. Breathtaking vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding countryside appeared from every vantage point of this pristine 265-acre estate. We stayed in one of their six historic guest cottages, which were elegantly decorated in English and French Country décor. Our room was covered in antique dog portraits! At Goodstone, you can enjoy numerous recreational activities—try your hand at cornhole or Bocce Ball, stroll through natural gardens, take a hike on their walking trails, or a scenic canoe ride down Goose Creek. And even though it was too chilly to swim, we still enjoyed relaxing on their stunning pool terrace overlooking the property.
Whether staying at the Goodstone Inn or not, you won’t want to miss their incredible restaurant called The Conservatory. Drawing inspiration from the surrounding countryside and farmland, The Conservatory indulges guests with an unparalleled, and multi-course, farm-to-table dining experience. And, their awarding-winning wine cellar offers an extensive selection from Loudoun County local wines along with vintages from the world’s best wine regions.
After a quick, one-hour drive from D.C. we arrived at Boxwood Winery (it’s ok to wine taste at 11 am on vacation!). We were immediately impressed by Boxwood’s modern-meets-historic architecture and state of the art wine making facilities. As a lover of bold reds, I really appreciated Boxwood’s commitment to making premium red & white wines in the Bordeaux tradition, but with their own, distinct Virginia expression.
Lunch at the Market Salamander
After lunch we grabbed a quick coffee at Common Grounds and set off to explore town. Middleburg is the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital.” The town has a rich history, including serving as the site of two skirmishes in 1863 as part of the Gettysburg Campaign during the Civil War. After the turn of the century, the town became a popular destination for fox hunting and steeplechasing, attracting well-known visitors and affluent residents from all over the country, including President John F. Kennedy.
With so much equestrian history and tradition all around, we could resist a quick stop at the Middleburg Tack Exchange for a closer look at equestrian life and fashion!
Mount Defiance Cider Barn
After reminding ourselves that we absolutely did not need an equestrian look, we headed to Mount Defiance Cider Barn to try their tasty and creative ciders.
Dinner at The Conservatory
Breakfast at Goodstone
After our 6-course gourmet meal at The Conservatory the night before, we vowed to skip breakfast the following morning. That was until we saw the breakfast at Goodstone. “Just coffee” quickly transformed into avocado toast, yogurt parfaits, and eggs benedict.
National Sporting Library and Museum
After breakfast we set off to learn more about the region’s equestrian and sport history. Founded in 1954, the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) is located in Middleburg, the heart of Virginia’s beautiful hunt country. The inviting, 6-acre campus, world-class research Library, and fine art Museum highlight the rich heritage and tradition of country pursuits. We learned all about horsemanship, shooting, steeplechasing, foxhunting with a guided tour through their impressive art collection (the current exhibit featured hunting portraiture).
Depart Middleburg for Fauquier County
Slater Run Vineyards
Slater Run Vineyards is an estate vineyard and winery located in Upperville, Virginia. It is a solar-powered winery that has 12+ acres of vines, including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. They specialize in making premium Virginia wines in a dry French style from estate grown grapes. The winery effort continues a long family history on the farm.
Lunch at Hunter’s Head Tavern
Hunter’s Head Tavern is an authentic English Pub that serves pub fare, fine dining cuisine and mouth-watering homemade desserts. At Hunter’s Head Tavern, you can experience organic local farm meats and produce harvested from neighboring Ayrshire Farm, which raises only Certified Humane® animals. You won’t want to miss the chicken pot pie!
Village of Paris
Next we headed to the small little village of Paris for some shopping at The Paris Apothecary, once the Paris General Store. Filled with ethical, sustainable, organic herbal lotions and potions, a botanical bar, along with locally crafted artisan art, pottery, jewelry, chocolate, soaps, candles, and more, the Apothecary will transport you back in time. Dedicated to offering the highest quality herbal products, with something for everyone from the novice herbalist to the hardcore ethno-botanist.
The owner, Susan Leopold, PhD, has more than 20 years of experience as an ethnobotanist and is a passionate defender of biodiversity. She has worked extensively with the indigenous in Peru and Costa Rica, is Executive Director of United Plant Savers, and Director of Sacred Seeds Project. She serves on the Board of Directors for Botanical Dimensions and the Center for Sustainable Economy, and more!
Next we headed to the Delaplane winery. Delaplane Cellars is nestled on Lost Mountain, overlooking the Rural Historic Crooked Run Valley. They offer carefully crafted wines made only from 100% vinifera varietals grown in Virginia. The best part of this winery is their lovely terrace and sweeping views.
Explore the village of Marshall
Marshall, a historic village located in Virginia’s beautiful northern Piedmont, is surrounded by wineries, farms and sprawling estates. Hounds and horses abound in this area and it is not uncommon to see horse trailers and vans parked on Main Street on any given day. However, it is also a place where writers, actors, politicians and other well-known people live quietly and anonymously. You may see them when they stop by town for food or supplies.
Be sure to stop for a sweet treat at the charming Red Truck Bakery, frequently by celebrities as displayed on their wall, and a drink and live music on the fun Bubble Decker Bus!
Dinner at Field and Main
We ended our second day with an incredible meal at Field and Main. Once again, we ate way too much, but we could not resist as each course was more delicious than the last. In addition to being comfortable, yet refined and creative and locally sourced, many of the dishes are prepared using their wood-burning hearth. The star of our meal was definitely the smoked brownie!
Breakfast at the Salamander
Just down the road from the Goodstone Inn is another fabulous resort. The Salamander is a French manor-style hotel with a splurge-worthy spa and a state-of-the-art equestrian center. If you’re not staying there, you will at least want to stop for breakfast (get the cinnamon monkey bread and banana pancakes… trust me) and a walk around their equestrian center.
Scenic Foliage Drive
While we definitely saw our fair share of peak fall foliage, I couldn’t resist a little exploratory drive before departing. I found this recommended drive on the Virginia Department of Forestry—From the Red Fox Inn and Tavern route to Mountville Road and Foxcroft Road, then to Sam Fred Road and finally back the Red Fox Inn. It only takes about 25 mins, or in our case an hour since we pulled over to take a ton of pictures!
Return to D.C.
Sadly, after our scenic drive, we had to head back to D.C. Once again, in just an hour we were back home. Of course, we already plotting our return!