Apples and pumpkins and mazes, oh my!

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Northern Virginia and autumn naturally go together. All thats needed to embrace the season can be found just beyond your door.

For fall foliage and hiking, head to Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County and access the Appalachian Trail, or explore the panoramic scenery of Skyline Drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.
For less adventurous excursions, try your hand at apple picking or pumpkin gathering at local family-owned orchards and farms. Many of these locations also offer hayrides, nature activities, barnyard attractions, and homemade goodies and crafts.

If your goal is a leisurely, pleasant stroll, find your way to and then through a corn maze. Discover your inner-child again.

Any of these activities makes the perfect getaway for a family-friendly day trip within easy driving distance. Add a picnic to complete the occasion, and take along a camera to capture the autumn scenery and the fun.

If your destination is an apple orchard, refer to the map provided on location for the different varieties of trees. Whether picking apples on your own, with friends or with little family helpers, bag the varieties separately as you go. Aim for a selection to please every age and palate: crisp snack-size; tart for cheese trays and pie; and medium-sweet for applesauce and baking.

Among the most popular and versatile of fruits, apples are healthy and nutritious, and can be readily stored and simply prepared across the board from appetizer to side dish to dessert. This is reassuring, as the piles of apples you loaded into your car will seem to have multiplied on the trip home. Share the bounty with neighbors or co-workers.

Should your day trip center on traipsing through a corn maze, allow time for dead-ends, doubling back and regrouping. Again, the map overview provided on-site will be your guide in navigating the multi-acre, circuitous 10-foot-tall cornstalk-screened pathways.

There is no GPS technology or On-Star button to push for directional assistance. However, to ensure that this is a fun not frustrating outing, most mazes will include clues at dead-ends to point you in the right direction, or colorful flags on long poles to carry along, then hoist and wave for ground support if you are confused. Another option: Tag along behind someone who seems to be a natural at orienteering.

After you have bagged your last apple, selected the perfect pumpkin, bumped along on a hayride or successfully maneuvered through a corn maze, spread out a blanket, relax with a picnic and drink in the fresh air. This therapeutic time-out is a world away from the weekday hustle and bustle. What better way to recharge, to embrace the season and to take a taste of fall home with you.
A partial list of fall outings resources follows. For further details and a complete list of offerings, call or visit the Web sites. Confirm location, dates, hours, availability, activities and any admission fees.

Apples, fall activities
Ticonderoga Farms, Chantilly
703-327-4424
www.ticonderoga.com

Hartland Orchard, Markham
540-364-2316
www.hartlandorchard.com

Stribling Orchard, Markham
540-364-3040
www.striblingorchard.com

Crooked Run Orchard, Purcellville
540-338-6642
www.crookedrunorchard.com

Pumpkins, fall activities
Burke Nursery and Garden Center
703-323-1188
www.pumpkinplayground.com

Cox Farms, Centreville
703-830-4121
www.coxfarms.com

Great Country Farms, Bluemont
540-554-2073
www.greatcountryfarms.com

Hollin Farms, Delaplane
540-592-3574
www.hollinfarm.com

Leesburg Animal Park/Pumpkinville, Leesburg
703-779-2332
www.leesburganimalpark.com/pumpkinville

Meadows Farms, Vienna
703-759-3900
www.meadowsfarms.com

Sky Meadows State Park, Delaplane
540-592-7116
www.dcr.virginia.gov

Mazes, fall activities
Corn Maze in the Plains
540-456-7339
www.cornmazeintheplains.com

The Maize at Temple Hall Farm Regional Park, Leesburg
703-779-9372
www.nvrpa.org/parks/themaize

Additional resources
www.virginia.org/fall

www.dcr.virginia.gov

www.nps.gov/shen

www.virginiaapples.org/pickyourown

www.pickyourown.org/VAnorthern

www.vdacs.virginia.gov/vagrown/loudoun

www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/VApnorthern

www.nvrpa.org

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