WanderLove: Fall into the Season in Luray and Page County
As the final remnants of summer are replaced by the first signs of fall, the wonders of autumn transform Luray and Page County each October.
Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but in the Commonwealth — where Virginia is for Lovers — that feeling’s known as WanderLove. And while travel is a little bit different in 2020 due to COVID-19, October marks the prime time for leaf-peepers and fall lovers to take in and wander in the splendor of the season in the Shenandoah Valley.
From pumpkin patches and corn mazes, to haunted houses and long autumn drives, October in Luray and Page County offers a bounty of fall fun and fresh-air adventures.
AUTUMN AWE IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
The best time to visit Shenandoah National Park for fall colors is October, with leaves transitioning from green to gold at the highest elevations during the first week of October. Shades of red, orange and yellow continue through the final three weeks of the month, when fall foliage reaches its peak at mid and low elevations.
“Fall is typically our busiest time of year,” said Shenandoah National Park officials. “For the best chance of avoiding crowded trails and full parking lots, try to visit Shenandoah during the week. If a parking area is full, it's time to move on to another trail. Use this busy time of year to look for the hidden gems that are less traveled!”
Entrance passes are available for purchase online before coming to the park. To help with wait times, special lanes are available at entrance stations for those with pre-purchased passes. The two most northern entrances, Front Royal and Thornton Gap, see the heaviest traffic and longest waits. Park officials suggest trying a circuit trip south through lowlands on Route 29 to the east, or on Route 340 to the west to Swift Run (Route 33), then returning via Skyline Drive.
Luray visitors who opt for a circuit trip can follow Route 340 through the towns of Stanley and Shenandoah to the Swift Run Gap entrance on Route 33. The route offers autumn views of the Valley and passes by two public parks perfect for a scenic walk or picnic — Ed Good Memorial Park in Stanley and Big Gem in Shenandoah. Leaf-peepers can then continue to Skyline Drive and circle back to Luray on Route 211.
Those looking for lodging can call the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center at (540) 743-3915 for more information about an array of cabin, campground, hotel and B&B options in Luray and Page County.
Shenandoah National Park has devised several ways to keep leaf-peepers posted. Every Thursday, a photo will be posted on social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) from three different photo points throughout the 100-mile park. At 2 p.m. every Thursday, the park will additionally premiere a video update on its website, as well as on Facebook and YouTube. And each day, a fall color webcam will capture what one mountain peak in Shenandoah National Park looks like in real time.
The Virginia Department of Forestry additionally posts foliage updates and predictions each week. Fall foliage reports are also available by phone by calling 1-800-424-LOVE (5683).
FALL FESTIVITIES AT FAIRVIEW FUN FARM IN LURAY
Open each weekend in October and the first weekend in November, Fairview Fun Farm in Luray offers a full slate of autumn activities. The farm on Fairview Road includes a pumpkin patch, catch-and-release pond fishing, a hay mountain, corn maze and lots of playground activities.
After picking out a pumpkin, farm-goers can opt to paint it on site or take it home to carve. Hay rides through the property help viewers take in the sights of the Valley. Also available are games, goats, barrel train rides and slides.
In order to help guests feel and “play safe” while making fall memories with family and friends, Fairview Fun Farm asks visitors to practice social distancing from those that are not in their group and wear a face covering when unable to do so. The farm offers hand-sanitizer stations throughout the site. Cleaning and sanitizing methods are also in place each day before opening, throughout the day and after closing.
Fairview Fun Farm is open from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Admittance is $8 per person. Kids younger than 2 are admitted at no cost. Pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks and straw are available to take home for additional costs. Visit the farm’s Facebook page for regular updates, including operational changes due to weather.
A short drive from the farm to the Town of Luray’s Lake Arrowhead further showcases the splendor of the season. In the evenings, fall colors are often reflected in the water and seen from vantage points along a 1-mile trail that circles the lake. Open from sunrise to sunset, the park includes six picnic shelters available for rent, horseshoe pits, a ball field, volleyball nets and playground equipment.
TWENTY SEASONS OF SCREAMS AT LURAY’S DARKWOOD MANOR
Each Halloween season, the paranormals are at their peak at a haunted manor in Downtown Luray. Now in its 20th season, the acclaimed DarkWood Manor is known not only for its macabre makeup and costumes, but its overall production. Every October the haunted house features a new storyline with original characters and elaborate sets.
In 2020, DarkWood is celebrating two decades with an “Awakening,” with the supernatural creatures that dwell within the manor’s walls voicing their protest. Haunted house-goers can also explore “Doctor Brain’s” demented mind in a 3D-maze.
Due to COVID-19, all tickets must be purchased online. When purchasing a ticket, manor-goers will select a date and time slot. Limited tours will be staggered in half-hour increments. All guests must wear a face covering inside the attraction and maintain social distance from other groups both inside and outside the manor. Hand-sanitizer dispensers will be set up at DarkWood’s entrance and exit. Disinfectant procedures are also in place throughout the night in heavily trafficked areas.
DarkWood Manor is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October, with the final night of frights slated for Nov. 1. Tickets are $20 per person and include entrance to the Manor as well as Doctor Brain’s 3D Mind Maze.
SEASON SOUVENIRS AND AUTUMN ACCESSORIES
From fall-time scents and florals to Thanksgiving centerpieces and Halloween decor, Downtown Luray’s 75-year-old Virginia Gift Shop offers an array of special finds. Known for its unique seasonal gifts and accessories — particularly in autumn and at Halloween (the owner’s favorite holiday) — the Main Street shop carries a wide variety of Virginia-made products, like WoodWick Candles, Virginia Diner Peanuts and Nancy’s Homemade Fudge and “Virginia is for Lovers” keepsakes.
Throughout October, Virginia Gift Shop is also offering autumn-themed and Thanksgiving Michel Design Works, Mud Pie Halloween decor and gifts and Mary Lake Thompson flour-sack towels. The shop is open for both curbside pickup and in-store shopping daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks are required for in-store shopping.
A short walk from Main Street or the Luray-Page County Visitors Center in Downtown Luray leads to the Hawksbill Trading Co., a small-business incubator of more than 40 vendors. The trading company offers arts and crafts, produce and baked goods, home decor and antiques and accessories — many crafted, grown, created or restored by local residents.
Throughout October Hawksbill Trading Co. is offering fall finds, including pumpkins and arrangements, decorative gourds and corn and Halloween- and Thanksgiving-themed decor and gifts. The shop on Virginia Avenue is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Seasonal offerings are highlighted throughout the week on Hawksbill’s Trading Co.’s Facebook page.
Pumpkins and mums abound at Massanutten Country Corner in fall. Situated between the Blue Ridge and Massanutten mountains, the country shop features handcrafted goods and gifts from Shenandoah Valley artisans. The store on Route 211 also offers Cork to Barrel products made from recycled wine barrels, bottles and corks, while a farmers market highlights the tastes of the Valley with seasonal goods including produce, honey, cider, jams and jellies. And a garden shop offers decor, supplies and tools.
Massanutten Country Corner is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and on Sundays, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The store also regularly updates its Facebook page with its latest selection and tips