Virginia is for Lovers – the Shenandoah Valley & Blue Ridge Mountains

Photograph from Mountainside Villas. The word love is spelled out in large wooded letters

Leaving Buffalo, New York

We knew we had to get out of Buffalo. We moved to Buffalo, NY in 2010 from Niagara Falls, NY. Our son had been accepted into the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and it made sense to live closer to the school. Initially, we embraced Buffalo. The food culture, history, architecture, and art scenes are incredible. It is a fantastic place to visit.

We embraced the funky, D.I.Y rust-belt vibe. We got involved in the community. We volunteered with four different area non-profits and events. we started an arts-based non-profit and held classes in podcasting, recording, and acting. We planted community trees and urban gardens. We attended community events and raised money for the under-funded music programs in the city school district. We supported the richly diverse immigrant and refugee neighborhood we lived in.

But after a few years, the stress of living on a major road in the middle of a city wore out our souls. It’s loud and dirty and the personality is best described as a low-key, self-serving hostility, especially on the road, and that’s before the lake effect snow smothers you.

Anywhere But New York

We didn’t just want to get out of Buffalo. We wanted to get out of New York State completely. We had already spent a few years trying to figure out where we wanted to go but nothing was truly grabbing us. We’ve traveled to Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island and even though we enjoyed our trips, we didn’t think we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in any of these places.
We had considered Pennsylvania. We would be closer to our friends and colleagues there and within a convenient distance from JFK for those adventurous international flights.

We spent a week in July 2021 checking out the area around Philadelphia and again in December staying in Indiana, Pennsylvania. But honestly, it just felt like more New York.
We’d taken a few trips to New Jersey in July and October 2021 to meet with friends and work on a production. We stayed in a rural area near the Pine Barrens. It was pretty and we liked the idea of being closer to our friends in New Jersey, but the feeling just didn’t take hold.

Not being able to come up with a place we actually wanted to move to was becoming stressful. We needed to get started- but where?

Matthew was the first one to mention Virginia. We had been to Washington, D.C., and Fairfax a couple of times and enjoyed it. But we had never seriously entertained the idea of living south of the Mason-Dixon line.
But, in May 2022 we found ourselves winding through the Allegheny Mountains and then the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains headed through the Shenandoah Valley for a long weekend in the Charlottesville, Virginia area.

I’ve always loved driving through the mountains and the Alleghenies were as beautiful as ever. But when we crossed the state line into Virginia the landscape transformed into something from a fairy tale. The sunlight and blue sky filtered by the spring-green leaves, wildflowers, and flowering vines were magical. We were excited to be heading South.

Charlottesville, Virginia & the River that Runs Through It

Rivanna River from Riverview Park in Charlottesville, VA
Rivanna River

We spent a day and a night in Charlottesville, Virginia, and we spent most of that morning in Riverview Park.
Guess what it had in it?

We had intended to do more of an urban tour of Charlottesville. We planned to stroll the Downtown Mall to sip coffee at an outdoor cafe while watching Virginians go by. But when we decided to check out Riverview Park, we couldn’t convince ourselves to leave the fresh air and sunshine for all the coffee Charlottesville had to offer.
So instead of people-watching from a cafe seat and browsing shop windows, we followed the Rivanna Trail alongside the Rivanna River, skipped stones, and encountered some truly friendly folks and their dogs.

Wandering Around Michie Tavern

From there we took a drive to Michie Tavern and Meadow Run Mill And General Store, a little historic site with an old mill turned into a gift shop near Monticello. We sampled the wines, chatted with some locals, did a bit of field recording, and just breathed in the fresh air.

Falling in Love with Staunton, Virginia & The Shenandoah Valley

From there we headed to Staunton, Virginia, and found ourselves in Gypsy Hill Park. Staunton is known as the Queen City of Old Dominion. Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley the city is surrounded by trails, caverns, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Founded in 1747 this small city is known for its historic architecture, museums, ghosts, and parks – the largest of which is Gypsy Hill Park. The park offers fishing in a large pond, a dog area, a skate park, a swimming pool, an amphitheater, a miniature train, and much more.

scenic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia
A View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway

In Buffalo it was gray and raining, the rain had come and washed away the mountains of snow to leave a winter season’s worth of dog crap and garbage behind. In Virginia, the sun was shining and the air smelled green. In Buffalo, the taxi cab drivers and school buses were laying on their horns outside our bedroom window and the trucks and buses were blasting the house with flatulent exhaust.

In Virginia, we were blinded by the blues in the sky. We were two starving people who had wandered into an all-you-can-eat buffet. We couldn’t stay indoors, we smiled, played in the parks, and hung out with ducks. After an afternoon of falling in love with Staunton, we headed to Crozet.

Crozet, Virginia & the Cabin in the Woods

Landscape photo of the cabin set in the woods in Crozet, Virginia

Matthew booked us a small cabin in the woods for the last two nights of our trip. We settled in and set about to transfer and edit everything we had recorded that day. I passed the kitchen window that overlooked a pond on the way to the coffee pot. There was a deer!
“Matt, Matt, Matt!” He looked up from his recorder,
“There’s a deer! Look there’s a deer!”
Yes, I was likely jumping up and down.

An hour later there were five deer, three Turkey Vultures, two Blue Jays, three squirrels, and a very large and funny bumble bee that kept hovering into the screen door in a lazy sort of drunken way. The air had that rich, earthy scent as we sat out on the raised deck drinking coffee and feeling the wound-up springs in our psyches slacken just a bit.

That night we watched the sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Matt looked at me and said, “Virginia?” I closed my eyes, listening to the rising of the night chorus, and said. “Virginia.”

Explore Virginia Yourself

Ultimately we spent the entire summer and month of October in the Shenandoah Valley exploring more locations and recording what we found. As a girl from the snowy north, I can say for certain that the months of May, June, and October were the most enjoyable for my polar blood. But if you love basking in the heat and don’t mind a little humidity then you’ll love July and August as well. There is so much to indulge in and explore in western Virginia that you’ll barely notice the weather.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top