Right now, I’m seeing a lot of debate on Facebook between “I don’t want summer to end!” people and the “Bring on the pumpkin spice!” crowd. For the record, I’m firmly in the fall camp - structured days and cooler weather are my jam. But wherever you stand, fall is coming and fall is a great time to live in the Shenandoah Valley. Being in apple country means we are surrounded by orchards and pumpkin patches, bringing fall festivals! Corn mazes, wagon rides, pig races….fall festivals are great family outings. If we’re honest, we also go because they make great photo ops for our kiddos :) However, there are so many to choose from! It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out where to go. But never fear, WinchesterMoms is here to help! I’ve rounded up experiences and opinions from real local moms (with a healthy dose of help from the internet) to help you choose the best option for your family. Please remember that I’ve done my best to give you a quick overview, but I’ve been known to get things wrong, so double-check details before you go.
Shenandoah Valley Apple Harvest Festival
More of a carnival than a traditional farm festival, this one-weekend-only community event kicks off apple season in the Valley at the Frederick County Fairgrounds. It’s being held September 15-16 this year. There are plenty of apples to go around with an apple pie eating contest, free apples, apple butter made on site, and all kinds of concession vendors, as well as inflatables for the kids, an antique car show, live entertainment, and a hard cider/beer tasting. Admission is $8 or less for everyone 6 and up - look for $1 off coupons around town!
“We went one year and my kids enjoyed jumping on the inflatables, getting their faces painted, and watching the dogs on the obstacle course. There wasn’t a lot to do - I wouldn’t pick this as my ‘fall festival experience”, but it’s a fun family activity to get you out of the house” - Sarah
Marker Miller, with its pirate ship playground and pick-your-own produce, is a local favorite for playdates and getting out of the house every summer. If you’re looking for low-key, simple fall fun this is the place for you! Their playground and pick-your-own fruit are open all week long (free admission), and on weekends they have a cow train and you can pay $2 for a wagon ride around the farm.
“ I like marker miller. They have a good playground. Pick your own is easy. It’s close. Prices are reasonable. Staff are very nice. Free cow train on weekends. They have a few different festivals throughout the year. I actually prefer to not go on a festival weekend when it’s more crowded. It’s one of our favorites” - Katelyn
Just a bit farther down the road from Marker Miller, Hill High is another local favorite that offers free admission which includes a petting zoo, playground, and hay bale maze. For $6 you can take a hayride (daytime or moonlight) or go through a corn maze, and in the evenings they offer a haunted house.
“Hill high always seems very unorganized and I always feel out of place when I go whether on a field trip or on the weekend. I do like to go once in October for the free ‘mini farm’ “ - Katelyn
If you want to stick close to Winchester, but get the full “fall festival” experience with pig races, a corn maze, a pumpkin drop, and enough activities to keep your kids entertained for a good part of the day, check out Wayside Farm in Berryville. Only open on the weekends, admission is $10/person, but they often have deals available on sites such as Groupon or CertifiKid. The you-pick pumpkin patch is a short walk from the festival site. This is the one my family always hits - my kids talk about the rubber duck races allllll year long!
“Wayside Farm! We go every year. Certifikid offers coupons. They have a corn maze just for families and a big maze, corn crib, several play areas including a combine turned into a slide. Also, pig races, feeding goats, small tractors for kids to drive, pumpkin shooting and more. It’s great!” - Jennifer
Wilson’s Wild Animal Park
If you have animal lovers in your family, you’re going to want to check out the pumpkin patch at Wilson’s Wild Animal Park just a few minutes south of Winchester. The large park has a mile-long path you can wander through and view all types of animals - some of them you can even feed! For the fall, they add pumpkins, free weekend hay rides, and huge fiberglass sculptures. Admission is $9.
“Wilson’s Wild Animal Park is our go-to in the fall. We absolutely love that place year round, but the joy of feeding all the animals combined with hearing the kids giggle through the hay maze, pumpkin picking, mums, tractor rides, etc.. 👍🏼😊” - Jamie
“They let my 12 yr old daughter feed a baby Brahman calf a bottle. So cool. The only downside is that stroller pushing isn't happening unless you have an off roader. Also, there's no map, so there a sadness of missing some creature since it's really easy to get off path.” - Jenny
Great Country Farms
Another all-day adventure option, but one that is open all week long, is Great Country Farms, located in Bluemont in Loudoun County just a few minutes past the Clarke County line on Rt. 7. The $8 child/$10 adult admission price goes up by $2 on the weekend, but military are free and CertifiKid deals are often available. Admission includes wagon rides to the current pick-your-own fields and lots of playgrounds and activities. My kids especially love the giant jumping pillow and American Ninja Warrior course! Weekends in September and October have added festival activities - September features apples while October features pumpkins.
“We were really surprised by how much fun we had Great Country Farms last fall. Tons of playgrounds ... one after another after another ... a jumping pillow, hot-from-the-oven donuts, places to picnic ... we got a voucher online that covered the cost of our admission and included a pumpkin for each child. My kids keep asking to go back.” - Lisa
Temple Hall Farm
While you’re headed east to Loudoun, you can keep going and check out Temple Hall just north of Leesburg on Rt. 15. Temple Hall is a county park that is open to the public free of charge during the summer with lots of animals to visit, a playground, and a jumping pillow. On weekends in the fall, it transforms into a fabulous fall festival with pig races, paintball, pumpkin blasters, and a big corn maze! Admission ranges from $8-$14, depending on when you go - daytime and evening rates available.
“We had so much fun going to Temple Hall! We went early on a Friday so it wasn’t as crowded. My boys were 1 & 2 when we went, and they spent most of their time digging in the corn house and playing in the hay castle. There were tunnels to go into and bales to climb on that were a great size for the younger set who aren’t ready for the big corn maze yet!” - Sarah
Leesburg Animal Park
If you’re in the Leesburg area and you have animal lovers, Pumpkin Village at Leesburg Animal Park is a must-visit. A mini-zoo that’s open year-round, for the fall season they add fun seasonal activities, with special extras on the weekends. They even offer pony and camel rides! (additional fee) Admission ranges from $10-$16, depending on when you go, and includes a small pumpkin and apple and juice snack.
“ Leesburg Animal park,my kids like it, the have camel rides, moon bounce, a lot of slides, a kids’ zip line, pedal carts, also the petting zoo” - Ivette
For the most extensive, jam-packed fall festival around, travel about an hour east of Winchester to Centreville, Va and visit Cox Farms. There is plenty to do for the whole family, from activities for the smaller kids (like the “cornundrum” which is a more of a winding path than a corn maze) to “Fields of Fear” nighttime scary activities for those 12 and over. Check out their website for all of the details, including lots of tips for your visit. Be sure and look at the calendar because admission ranges from $6-$20 depending on when you go, and includes a small pumpkin and an apple and cider snack.
“Cox Farms that's one of their favorites, they hayride is a must here, you can spot aliens, superheroes and many other things that interact with the hayriders, the cornodrum is like a maze with crazy things, lot of slides, an enchanted forest, many many to other things.” - Ivette
About 20 minutes east of Front Royal on Rt. 66, you’ll find Hartland Farms. The fall festival, held on weekends, is highlighted by lots of great food and plenty of fun activities - hay rides, a jumping pillow, pig races, and a corn maze. Admission is $10 - there is a separate orchard for picking your own apples on the property.
“We have been to Hartland Farm in Markham, VA the last two years. They have most standard things like a corn maze, hay ride, pig races, big slide, some games and a jumping pillow and one thing that we really like is they have an apple cannon and you can shoot it at an old car in a field. ...After we ate at The Apple House in Linden, VA which is close by and on the way back from Winchester. Excellent food!” - Meghan
Just in case that wasn’t enough for you, there are plenty of other local orchards that offer pick-your-own fruits and vegetables! They often feature wagon rides, on-site food, etc, but without all the extra activities and fees. It’s a great outing for smaller kids with shorter attention spans, or for regular visits throughout the summer and fall. Kids love eating food they’ve picked, and will often surprise you by trying new things when they get to see them grown and harvested! A few more options:
West Oak Farm Market
Mackintosh Fruit Farm
(From the festival list above, Marker-Miller, Hill High, Great Country Farms, and Hartland Farm also have pick-your-own)
Sarah O’Dell spends her days taking care of her four small people (3 boys and 1 spoiled rotten baby girl) and trying to come up with creative responses to “You sure have your hands full!” As an extrovert who spends most of her time at home with little people, she is frequently found on Facebook sharing the details of her less-than-Pinterest-worthy days to make other moms feel a little more normal.