Graves Mountain Apple Harvest
There are only a handful of places and events around Northern Virginia that make me feel at home and one of those is the Graves Mountain Apple Harvest in Syria, Virginia. Located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s gently rolling hills covered in rows of apples mimic those where I grew up in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. My hometown is famous for their apple harvest and I spent many weekends working at one of the apple orchards during my youth.
During a period of homesickness a few years ago, I started looking for apple festivals within driving distance in an effort to recreate some of my favorite fall memories from back home. It was during this time that Hubs and I first visited the Graves Mountain Farm. We enjoyed our trip so much the first time, that this year we asked another couple to join us for a return visit.
The following pictures are from our visit earlier this month. The crowds look a little sparse, but we purposely planned an early arrival so that we could all get back to NoVa before the end-of-the-weekend traffic got bad. By the time we left shortly after lunch, the place was packed!
Hay Bale Maze
I don’t remember there being a maze on our last visit a few years ago, but it looked like fun and our travel companions were up for the “challenge” it presented. I put challenge in those quotes because the maze, we soon found out, was designed for small children – not for those of us who could easily see over the hay bales! Regardless, it was only $2 a person and allowed us to goof-off in a way we hadn’t in years. If you have children, this and the hay stack (also $2) is worth your time and will give your kids a place to let off some steam.
There are plenty of places to grab some fall pictures of you and your loved ones throughout the Graves Mountain Apple Harvest grounds. My favorite photo locations are the decorated hay bales. The largest we found is the giant hay bale teddy bear (pictured below), which is tucked away behind the hay maze and hay stack. As it is a bit out of the, there aren’t many people in the area, which provides amble time to grab a photograph of you and your family.
One of the biggest draws for the older crowds was the craft fair. We got there early, so some groups were still setting up, but there were people selling everything from jewelry to woodwork. We found these decorative tea kettles and cups, which reminded me of my maternal grandmother – she would have loved them!
The festival grounds have a dedicated section for selecting your own apples (from bins each containing a different variety), pumpkins, and other fall-themed locally produced/grown products. We picked up a couple of pumpkins and apples.
Food and Drink
The lines for the food hall can get quite long, but they move fairly quickly because of the assembly line they have going for food, payment (they take both cash and card), and drinks. There are numerous picnic tables inside the food hall and on the grounds surrounding it. The food in the hall is good (especially for the number of people they feed each day), but don’t expect a culinary feast. The food hall serves burgers, dogs, and pulled pork sandwiches serves with fries, as well as a few other seasonal items.
After finishing our dinner (what us Wisconsinites call the lunchtime meal) in the food hall, we grabbed desert at one of the many food kiosks on the grounds. I had the Apple Dumpling Donut and it was tasty.
The one thing I wish we had spent more time enjoying was the live music. Due to the cold wind, we opted to eat inside the food hall. This meant we could hear the bluegrass band, but could not see them. The outside picnic tables I mentioned previously, all have great views of the music stage if you want to get the full experience.
Summary and Travel Tips
We plan on making our trek to the Graves Mountain Apple Harvest an annual event. If you do venture to the harvest, keep the following in mind:
- The drive to Graves Mountain Farm is about 2 hours from Northern Virginia.
- Cell phone coverage is VERY spotty, so I recommend taking a map (gasp) or taking screen captures of your map/route on your phone before leaving home.
- Arrive early to beat the crowds. We arrived at 10:30 and it was perfect timing.
- The lines for the hay wagon and food hall can be lengthy. To avoid the long lines, do the hay ride first thing upon arrival and then grab an early lunch.
- To save your arms, wait until the end of your time at the festival before you purchase any apples or pumpkins. Otherwise, you will have to carry them around or walk them to your car, which depending on how many people are there, could be a trek.
You can learn more about Graves Mountain and see their full calendar of year-round events on their website.