It’s A New Year’s Celebration in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

It’s A New Year’s Celebration in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Ring in the New Year with a bang at Roots At Grayson Bistro & Tavern 203 N. Independence Ave, Independence VA!  Dinner will be served from 4:00 to 9:00 PM.  A sneak peak of the some of the menu choices include:  prime rib, bourbon glazed salmon, lobster bisque and scallops.  Live music will be provided from 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM by the band–Black Market Ammo.  A complimentary glass of champagne will be served at midnight.  Reservations are recommended, but not required.  1-(276) 768-1766

 

First Day Hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

First Day Hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Start 2020 off on a healthy track with a hike on New Year’s Day. An interpretive ranger will be your guide on the Rhododendron Trail as it meanders along the rocks and mountain meadows, or balds, of Wilburn Ridge. The views along the trail are breathtaking with snowcapped mountains, and you may even see the local residents, the wild ponies, of Grayson Highlands. This moderate hike will be a total of 2 miles, so be sure to dress warmly, as the highlands experience particularly cold, windy, and sometimes snowy weather during the winter months. You may want to bring a water bottle, snacks, binoculars, a camera, your family, and/or your dog. Parking fees are waived for the day.  As an added enticement, you can participate in the “New Year Challenge” contest. Find out about the photo contest and New Year Challenge here: https://vasp.fun/2020firsthike

Date: 01/01/20

Time: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Parking: Massie Gap Parking Area

About Grayson Highlands

Located near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks more than 5,000 feet high. Facilities include a visitor center, campgrounds, and hiking trails leading to waterfalls and overlooks. The park hosts a number of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, and backpacking. Scenic horse trails and a horse camping area with electric and water hookups, stables and parking for trailers are available. The park provides year-round access to the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.

Park Hours

8 a.m. – 10 p.m

Location

The park is on U.S. 58 midway between Independence and Damascus and is reached from I-81 at Exit 45 in Marion; turn south on Route 16 and travel 24 miles to US 58 in the community of Volney. Turn right onto US 58. Travel eight miles to the park’s entrance. Latitude, 26.628322. Longitude, -81.496889.

From I-77, take Hillsville Exit 14 to U.S. 58. Travel west on U.S. 58, 40 miles to Volney. Turn left to stay on U.S. 58 and go eight miles to the park entrance.

The address of the park is 829 Grayson Highland Lane, Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363; Latitude, 36.628322. Longitude, -81.496889.

Drive time: Northern VA, 6.5 hours; Richmond, 5.5 hours; Tidewater, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, 7.5 hours; Roanoke, 2.5 hours; Winston-Salem, NC, 1.5 hours; Charlotte, 1.5 hours; Raleigh, 4 hours

Park Size

4,502 acres. Various elevation: Entrance – 3,698 feet; Visitor Center – 4,953 feet; Little Pinacle – 5,089 feet.

 

Looking for that special family Christmas gift?

Looking for that special family Christmas gift?

5 reasons to give the gift of time with a family vacation (plus booking tips)

Choosing the right Christmas presents for family members can be challenging. We look for gift ideas that are meaningful, create joy, build lasting memories, build us to be better people, and make us stronger as a family. To cover all these bases, consider giving the gift of a family vacation this year.

There are significant advantages to choosing a vacation as a Christmas gift, and while this is not an exhaustive list, here are five reasons to give the gift of a family vacation (plus travel planning tips).

1. VACATIONS PROVIDE QUALITY TIME WITH FAMILY

If one of your 2020 New Year resolutions is to spend more quality time with family, giving the gift of a vacation is a great way to force yourself to do it.

A study of 2,000 parents with school-aged children across the country found the extent to which hectic routines take a toll during the work week with the families polled managing less than 45 minutes all together on a typical weekday (“American families barely spend quality time together,” New York Post).

A family vacation provides dedicated, quality time with the family that builds relationships and creates stronger family units.

2. VACATIONS CREATE LASTING MEMORIES THAT CHILDREN CHERISH THROUGHOUT THEIR LIVES

Think about your own favorite childhood memories. If any of these include vacations with your own family, it is easy to see anecdotally why family vacations build memories children will take with them throughout their lives, but research proves it. Multiple studies affirm the power that family vacations have in creating lasting, positive memories.

“Family holidays are valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterward in their memory,” psychologist and best-selling author Oliver James explained to The Telegraph. “It’s all about talking nonsense with your parents, sharing an ice cream and moments of time in which your interests are genuinely taken into account.”

What kind of memories with you are your family members taking into the future?

3. VACATIONS IMPROVE CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT

Traveling with children is also beneficial to brain development. “An enriched environment offers new experiences that are strong in combined social, physical, cognitive, and sensory interaction,” says child psychotherapist Dr. Margot Sunderland. “Think: family together in the pool, walking together through the forest, touching long tall grasses waving in the wind, toasting marshmallows on campfire, hanging out together under warm sun, feeling sand between the toes.”

4. CONNECTING ACROSS GENERATIONS AND MILES

Christmas gift ideas for familyThe advantages of giving vacations as gifts are not just limited to parents. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins find vacations to be extremely valuable in deepening connections with family members across generations and across geographical distances. As difficult as it is to build in quality time with our nuclear families, it is even more difficult to plan for time with extended family members; and maintaining these connections is critical in building strong families. According to AARP, “With so many grandparents living hundreds of miles from their grandchildren, some are turning to a fun way to bridge the distance: vacationing together. About 40 percent of grandparents say they travel with their grandchildren, according to a new ‘Grandparents Today’ survey from AARP Research.”

The survey also found that 75 percent of grandparents had traveled with three or more generations in the past year, while others chose “skip-gen” travel—vacationing with the grandkids alone, minus the middle generation. About one-third of grandparents have taken their grandchildren on skip-gen trips.

5. THE JOY IN ANTICIPATION

The upside of a giving the gift of a vacation is that the happiness it brings starts well before packing. According to Healthy Set Go, “Research shows the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation. A person can feel the effects up to eight weeks before the trip.”

Having something to look forward to with the family provides weeks of fun before the trip actually starts. “Those who are waiting to go on a holiday are much happier with their life as a whole, experience less negative or unpleasant feelings, and thus enjoy an overall net positive effect or pleasant feelings,” according to David Gilbert and Junaida Abdullah of University of Surrey.

“The holiday-taking group are also happier with their family, economic situation, and health.”

TIPS FOR PLANNING A CHRISTMAS VACATION GIFT

When considering giving a family vacation as a Christmas gift, here are some tips for getting the most bang for your buck.

1. LEISURE DESTINATIONS CAN OFFER MAXIMUM CONNECTION FOR LESS MONEY

While planning a trip to a major city has a lot to offer in sightseeing, staying in vacation rentals in beach, mountain, lake, and recreational areas provides more space and time for family groups. Hotels are great, but in vacation homes—with living rooms, kitchens, outdoor spaces, and everyone under one roof—families have more space to gather for family time while still having separate bedrooms. Plus, the full kitchens provide additional savings by not having to eat each meal out, and not having the big sightseeing admission costs lowers the overall expense of the vacation.

2. VISUALIZE WHERE YOUR FAMILY CAN CONNECT, AND THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY LIKE TO DO

Can you see your family splashing around the ocean and spending evenings relaxing on a beachfront deck listening to the waves crash? Or skiing, snowboarding and sitting in front of the fire at night? Or boating, kayaking around the lake, and singing and telling stories around the fire pit at night? Visualizing where your family will be most relaxed can help you decide where to go.

3. SAVE BY CHOOSING DESTINATIONS WITHIN A DAY’S DRIVE OR LOOK FOR DIRECT FLIGHT SPECIALS

Flying can be expensive for large groups, and when adding in the cost of a rental car, the total bill starts to quickly rise. By driving, you can save money and plan in some quirky side stops along the way.

4. BOOK DIRECTLY WITH THE VACATION HOME MANAGER OR OWNER

The big sites like Vrbo and Airbnb have additional traveler fees, so you can often get a better deal when you book directly. Plus, you have a one-on-one contact that will make sure that everything goes smoothly. In addition, the managers/owners can help with any individual needs you have, things you want to do, or gifts you want to add in the home to make things even more special. Vrbo and Airbnb are great sites to explore to get ideas, but booking directly has a ton of advantages.

5. IF POSSIBLE, BOOK IN OFF-PEAK TIMES

If the children in your family are not in the 10-18 range, you may have a ton of flexibility in when you go on vacation. Avoiding the major peak seasons can help save money and avoid traffic and big crowds. Each destination is different. For example, in US beach vacations, avoiding the three weeks before and after July 4th can significantly decrease the cost of the vacation.

In today’s environment, for many of us, giving more devices, video games, and more ways to disconnect from each other can feel a little shallow. So if you’re struggling to find the right gift, a family vacation may be the perfect present for your family this year. It sounds cliché to say that you will “build memories that last a lifetime,” but it is cliché for a reason. Your future family will thank you.

*Post shared with permission from Amy Hinote of VRMintel.

Dust off your dancing shoes! The 84th Annual Galax Fiddler’s Convention begins 08-05-19!

Local Events

The 84th Annual Fiddler’s Convention is being held August 5 – 10, 2019 in Galax, VA.

During the 2nd week of August of each year the City of Galax has the world tapping its feet as the Old Fiddlers’ Convention takes place in Felts Park. The convention is presented by the Galax Moose Lodge #733.

Musicians and fans from around the world travel to Galax to perform and hear the music that defines the sound of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Galax has been designated the Worlds Capital of Old time Mountain Music and is proud to be identified as hosting the worlds oldest and largest fiddlers convention which has taken place consistently since 1935.

Event Details

Grayson Landcare Rocks The River — July 28, 2019 — Fries, VA

Grayson Landcare Rocks The River — July 28, 2019 — Fries, VA

LandCare Rocks the River, held on the banks of the New River in Fries, features rock, soul, and folk music, craft brews, great food, a festival atmosphere with craft vendors and kid’s fun activities, the event has something for everyone! 

Bands for 2019: Urban Soil, Kind Theives, & FutureNature.
Food by Creek Bottom Brews, Taco Trolley, and Grayson Natural Beef.

Grayson LandCare is a community of farmers, landowners, and residents working together to advocate solutions for the community of Grayson County, practice sustainable management of our natural resources and the environment, and increase the productivity and expand economic opportunities for local farmers, forest owners, and other citizens.

Bring a Blanket or Chair & JOIN US @THE RIVER!
Sunday, July 28, 2019 from 1:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Firehouse Drive
Fries, VA

Grand Opening of the Fries, VA Farmer’s Market — June 23, 2019

Grand Opening of the Fries, VA Farmer’s Market — June 23, 2019

The opening day of the Fries Farmer’s Market is taking place this Sunday, June 23rd from 1 until 4 PM at the Fries Town Park, 336 Firehouse Drive, Fries, VA.  Activities are scheduled throughout the afternoon for the entire family!  There will be live music, face painting for the kids, a bouncy house, adoption animals from Fur-Get Me Not Rescue and a barbecue lunch fundraiser consisting of a pulled pork sandwich, chips and a drink for $5.  All funds raised will go to support the farmer’s market. 

The Fries Farmer’s Market carries local meats and produce, baked goods, herbs, arts and crafts in an open air market setting by the scenic New River.  The market will be held every Sunday through October 27th from 1 – 4 pm.  Special events are scheduled throughout the season. 

This Sunday’s entertainment is provided by a very talented duo — Luke Morris & Madison Elmore.

 

Celebrate National Trails Day in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains – June 1, 2019

Celebrate National Trails Day in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains – June 1, 2019

One of these stunning parks is the perfect destination for National Trails Day this Saturday, June 1, 2019!

Grayson Highlands State Park

Located near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks more than 5,000 feet high. Facilities include a visitor center, campgrounds, and hiking trails leading to waterfalls and overlooks. 

 

The inhabitants of Grayson Highlands–a herd of wild ponies that roam freely.

The following guided hikes are planned throughout this year’s National Trails Day. 

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Hike on the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Rogers, meet at Massie Gap

10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Trail maintenance on Rhododendron Trail, meet at Massie Gap

4 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Trick Your Stick at the Campground Amphitheater

8 p.m. to 9 p.m. – Salamander Meander at the Visitor Center

https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/grayson-highlands

New River Trail State Park

New River Trail is a 57-mile linear park that follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way. The park parallels the historic New River for 39 miles and the scenery is magnificient. The trail is relatively flat and appropriate for all skill levels. A trail entrance is located in Fries, VA at 323 Firehouse Drive.  From Route 94, go south to town.  Parking is available near the town park.

Untamed beauty along the trail.

https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/new-river-trail

Virginia Creeper Trail

The Virginia Creeper trail is a 34.3-mile rail-to-recreation trail, traversing through two counties from Abingdon, Virginia, through Damascus, and ending just past Whitetop Station in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, at the Virginia-North Carolina border.  Cycling the Creeper Trail is perfect for riders of varying ages and fitness levels due to it’s slight decline.  

To get to the Whitetop Station trailhead, follow US 58 east from Abingdon into Grayson County. Turn right on State Route 726 and head south toward the North Carolina border. You will see the parking area off of 726.

To get to the Abingdon trailhead, head south on Main Street/US 11 in Abingdon and turn left onto Pecan Street. There is a large locomotive engine on display by the trailhead, which you can see to the left of the parking lot.

https://www.vacreepertrail.org/

 

 

HoustonFest – A music festival in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

HoustonFest – A music festival in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

HoustonFest, a music festival that features multiple regional and national bands ranging in style from Bluegrass to Old Time, is being held June 7 & 8, 2019 at Felts Park in Galax, VA.  Artisans from Galax and the surrounding area demonstrate and sell their crafts, while food vendors serve up local dishes.  The festival, which honors local musician Houston Caldwell who passed away in 2010, raises money for scholarships that go to musical training and education for youth.

The Grammy Award winning band, Shenandoah, is performing on June 7th!

One of my favorites, ShadowGrass, is performing on June 8th!

And many more talented artists are performing throughout the two day festival!  You can see the full lineup here:  https://www.houstonfestgalax.com/lineup.html

The Best Ice Cream Place in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

The Best Ice Cream Place in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

The best ice cream in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains can be found in a historic railroad caboose by The New River in Fries, VA. Sweet Lily’s, named in honor of the proprietor’s granddaughter, serves up classic ice cream shop items such as hot fudge sundaes and banana splits. However, their signature sundae, which consists of chocolate ice cream, brownie, nuts, waffle cone, pineapple, caramel, chocolate, blueberry, blackberry, whipped cream, and a cherry, is a customer favorite.

Special features offered by Sweet Lily’s include hosting opportunities for small birthday parties, tasting parties, and a monthly ice cream social offering all-you-can-eat sweet treats for a flat fee. Sweet Lily’s also serves regular and decaf coffee, teas, slushies, and lemonade.

Sweet Lily’s is located at 321 Firehouse Drive, Fries, VA 24330. Their hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

2019 Music Festivals in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

2019 Music Festivals in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

The musical history of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia dates back to the European settlers who brought their music to the new world. The musical legacy continues today and can be enjoyed at the many festivals which are held through the summer months.

1) HoustonFest, June 7 – 8, 2019

HoustonFest, a music festival that features multiple regional and national bands ranging in style from Bluegrass to Old Time, is being held June 8 & 9, 2018 at Felts Park in Galax, VA.  Artisans from Galax and the surrounding area demonstrate and sell their crafts, while food vendors serve up local dishes.  The festival, which honors local musician Houston Caldwell who passed away in 2010, raises money for scholarships that go to musical training and education for youth.

One of my favorite musicians, Presley Barker, will perform again this year.

Visit https://www.houstonfestgalax.com/index.html for additional information.

2) Mountains of Music Homecoming, June 7 – 15, 2019

The Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming is an annual nine-day, region-wide celebration of all the communities in Southwest Virginia – their traditional music, and all their many cultural and natural assets. The event includes Crooked Road marquee concerts in approximately 20 communities and many dozens of cultural events throughout the region.  You can learn more here:  https://mtnsofmusic.com/

3) Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival & Guitar Competition, June 15, 2019

On the third Saturday of every June at Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, the Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition features some of the region’s best traditional musicians. From time to time, they have shared the stage with bluegrass bands from Europe.

The event takes its name from National Heritage Award recipient Wayne C. Henderson, a musician and instrument maker who lives in nearby Rugby, Virginia. Henderson’s top-notch finger-picking is a source of great pleasure and pride to his friends, family, and neighbors in Grayson County, Virginia. His guitar playing has also been enjoyed at Carnegie Hall, in three national tours of Masters of the Steel-String Guitar and in seven nations of Europe, Asia and Africa.

Wayne and many of his musical friends are featured performers at the festival, with bluegrass and old-time music dominating the program. The Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition was established in 1995 to express appreciation for this living legend. A portion of the proceeds from the festival are placed into a scholarship fund to aid local young musicians in continuing their educations. More than $237,950 has been awarded through the 2018 festival.

Visit  https://www.waynehenderson.org/ for additional information.

4) Grayson County Old-Time & Bluegrass Fiddler’s Convention, June 28 – 29, 2019

 The Grayson County Old Time and Bluegrass Fiddler’s Convention is always held the last full weekend in June. Cash prizes and rosettes in old time and bluegrass individual & band categories. Contestants register on-site. Camping on the grounds is available, and we now offer showers! Food and refreshments available for purchase. Bring your lawn chair or blankets and the whole family for two nights of great music and dancing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Please visit http://www.ecvfd.net/home/grayson-county-fiddler-s-convention for additional information.

 5) Floydfest, Wednesday, July 24 – 28, 2019

 FloydFest features five days of Music, Magic, and Mountains, in a picturesque paradise at Milepost 170.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd, VA. The festival takes place on 80 acres of mountain plateau land and features a “Global Village” area of progressive workshops and demonstrations, including a healing arts area, over 100 artisans, and a wide array of food options from sushi to barbecue.  Visit https://floydfest.com/ for additional information.

6) Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention, August 5 – 10, 2019

 The 84th Annual Fiddler’s Convention is being held August 5 – 10, 2019 in Galax, VA.  During the 2nd week of August of each year the City of Galax has the world tapping its feet as the Old Fiddlers’ Convention takes place in Felts Park. The convention is presented by the Galax Moose Lodge #733.

Musicians and fans from around the world travel to Galax to perform and hear the music that defines the sound of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Galax has been designated the Worlds Capital of Old time Mountain Music and is proud to be identified as hosting the world’s oldest and largest fiddler’s convention which has taken place consistently since 1935.

Learn more here:  http://www.oldfiddlersconvention.com/

7) Fries Fiddler’s Convention: August 16 – 17, 2019

The 53rd Annual Fries Bluegrass and Fiddlers Convention will be held Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17, 2019.  Admission is $10.00 for adults and children 12 and under are free with paying adult. Camping is $15 per spot.

Friday night’s competition will begin at 7:00 p.m. and include: Dulcimer, Old Time Fiddle, Dobro, Old Time Banjo, Mandolin, Autoharp, Flatfoot Dance, Bluegrass Bands, and Old Time Bands

Saturday’s Youth Competition will begin at 3:00 and include all adult categories.

Saturday’s Adult Competition will begin at 5:00 and include: Folk Songs (Vocals), Guitar, Bluegrass Fiddle, Bass Fiddle, Bluegrass Banjo, Flatfoot Dance, Bluegrass Bands, and Old Time Bands.

Flatfoot Dance, Bluegrass and Old Time Bands must compete both nights to be eligible for prizes. Bands typically play one song Friday night and two songs Saturday nights.  You can learn more here:  https://friesfire.com/fries-fiddlers-convention/

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