West End Best Sept/Oct 2015

Page 72


fall in the mountains





LTHOUGH THE BEAUTY OF FALL in the commonwealth stretches from the Atlantic coastline to the Cumberland Gap, the mountains provide perhaps the best views of changing fall foliage. Virginia’s Department of Forestry (DOF) provides a fall foliage web page each year, providing weekly updates, anticipated peak bloom dates, regional tours, informative scientific insights and more. “Unlike most of forestry, fall foliage isn’t as scientifically accurate due to the many, many variables involved,” John Campbell of the DOF explains. “Once fall foliage ‘season’ gets ready to start, we actually provide Virginia Tourism’s foliage hotline with a weekly update on what the foresters are actually seeing in their areas across the Commonwealth.” DOF.Virginia.gov/fall or Virginia.org/fall/foliagereport But since you’ll want to sprinkle some activities in with your leaf-sightings, we’re recommending two of our favorite Virginia mountain destinations.


sights at eye level. I didn’t want to miss the colorful shops and restaurants along this historic main street – a chocolatier, antiques, books and music, boutiques, restaurants and cafés. But when I looked up, I saw architectural gems from many decades and styles: Victorian; Renaissance, Colonial, and Romanesque Revival; Beaux-Arts; Italianate; and more. The stylish diversity hints at the culture that infuses the town. Beverley Street in downtown Staunton, Virginia, possesses this mix of creative businesses and architectural styling. Other parts of the city are equally remarkable, most notably the historic neighborhoods of Stuart Addition, Newtown and Gospel Hill. You too can look up to the Staunton architec-

ture in one of the free weekly Saturday walking tours, May through October, sponsored by the Historic Staunton Foundation. Stroll through four of the town’s six historic districts, learning about its history, from frontier settlement to booming 19th century commercial center, and the resulting architecture. The foundation and visitors’ center also provide self-guided tour brochures. As if inspired by the architecture – methinks Staunton residents look up when they walk, too – the town has become a mini-mecca of arts and culture: a Shakespearean venue; nine downtown fine arts galleries; CenterStage! concert series of international performing artists; Heifetz International Music Institute for advanced students of violin, viola and cello, presenting summertime concerts; the annual Staunton Music Festival; and more. From deep roots in England through the founding of the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express

in 1988 to today – the American Shakespeare Center offers performances that would make Elizabethan audiences green with envy. The stage and seating re-create Shakespeare’s original Blackfriars Theatre, but with central air and heat as well as a superb professional acting company. I chose to catch A Midsummer Night’s Dream on my visit, preferring comedies over tragedies. The performance was so engaging, I forgot that the language is anything but contemporary – perhaps the mix of traditional and modern costume helped achieve the effect, though the actors’ articulation and deeply expressive movement and dialogue are more likely the cause. Even the intermission provided entertainment par excellence. My creative fix came from Sunspots Studios down by “the wharf ” (i.e., the train depots – don’t go looking for any boats). RichmondNavigator.com 72

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