Capital Weather Gang recently did us all a solid and declared winter OVER! Zero chance of snow on the horizon, a 10% chance of temperatures dipping back to freezing, and a very mild March signal the early arrival of spring this year. We had a stretch of glorious warmth this week, but the early spring does mean that National Park Service revised their Peak Bloom dates for the Cherry Blossoms to occur from March 18-23 instead of the original March 31-April 4. Unfortunately, that means they’ll likely be on their way out by the time the National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off. It also means they’ll be blooming the week we are out of town for spring break, which means as we head down to Georgia next week, we’ll be making a pit stop at the Tidal Basin to take a peek.
The arrival of warm weather and an extra hour of daylight means more and more outdoor adventures are on the horizon. If you’re looking from some ideas to carry you into spring, here’s some of my favorites:
Walkersville Southern Railroad provides visitors the chance to ride on a (beautifully) restored 1920s railroad coach car through Maryland countryside. The ride is about an hour long round trip, and in the spring, the Easter Bunny visits the kids during the train ride and passes out small surprises. If your kids are mildly terrified of mall Santas and Easter Bunnies like mine are, this is a great way to make that experience a bit more enjoyable- mine loved seeing the Easter Bunny enter the car and by the time s(he) made his way to our seat, they were well-acclimated and excited to see him. My oldest was in charge of our tickets and responsible for handing them to the conductor for validation and punching, a task she was very pleased to have.
Due to the popularity of the Bunny Train and the limited number of days the Bunny Train runs, reservations are required, so pick a weekend and purchase tickets in advance.
The Marshmallow Peep Harvest and Egg Hunt at Great Country Farms
When: April 2-3, egg hunt times vary based on age
Where: 18780 Foggy Bottom Rd., Bluemont, VA
I’ve waxed poetic about Great Country Farms in the past- it’s just one of my favorite places of all time. Though they officially open for the season on March 19th, if you’re planning a special trip, you may want to wait until April 2nd to catch their Easter egg hunt with nearly 20,000 eggs and trees “blooming” with Marshmallow Peeps. (They also have fire pits set up so you roast your Peeps, which is a very unique way to eat them that is also not at all terrible.) Stay for the day and play- there’s so much to do at Great Country Farms you could stay the whole day and still not see everything. This may be the year my family buys the season membership because we love it that much and go that often. We will be there for the Easter Egg hunt (to act as bodyguards for our children in the melee and Peep Roasters) and countless other festivals throughout the season, including my personal favorite, August’s Peach Fuzztival. The rest of Bluemont is a treat to visit while you’re out there as well, with Bluemont Vineyards and Dirt Farm Brewing being right across the street and the adorable Bluemont General store serving as a great place to pick up lunch.
National Cherry Blossom Festival
When: March 20-April 17, 2016
Where: Locations throughout DC
SO many events! Pick and choose which ones suit your whims or schedule and have at it- kite flying on the Mall is a mainstay of the festival (this is the 50th year!) as well as the Parade and fireworks on the waterfront. A celebration of Japanese culture (our Japanese friends gifted us with the cherry blossom trees in 1912) takes place this year on April 16
Holland in Haymarket, Burnside Farms
When: Dates announced soon- typically opens in mid-April but may be sooner this year thanks to early spring! Website says “Opening in 3-4 weeks” as of March 9th – check back often
Where: 2570 Logmill Rd., Haymarket, VA
This is the U-Pick Flower event to crush all other U-Pick flowers. In the summer, Burnside Farms runs their field of sunflowers and gladiola but the true star of their operation is the spring field which bursts forth with daffodils and then tulips in the spring. Coming down James Madison Highway you first see the field of tulips come into view- happy little heads bobbing in the breeze, an injection of color after a drab winter. The sheer expanse of them, covering an entire field, takes you by surprise. Walking among them is no less impressive. Burnside Farms provides baskets and scissors and you clip to heart’s content, paying $1 stem for tulips and .50 cents a stem for daffodils. This one is an absolute must. I’m actually going to be pretty mad at you guys if you don’t go. Decorate your whole house in fresh cut tulips! Give some to your teachers!
Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival
When: April 16 and 17, 2016 10 am-6 pm
Where: Downtown Leesburg
Another floral feast for the eyes! The streets of downtown Leesburg are overrun with flowers, topiaries, heirloom vegetables and herbs, and craft and garden exhibits. Live music is playing on the steps of the Loudoun County courthouse and there’s kids activities spread throughout the festival boundaries. We had a great time last year, checking out the trophies these gardeners had brought to market, and relaxing in the sun listening to the band. Parking garages nearby make accessibility a breeze. If you’re interested in grabbing a meal nearby, local favorites Fireworks Pizza and MacDowell Brew Kitchen are right up the street. (MacDowell has a fenced in outdoor seating area covered in sand and stocked with sand toys and trucks, which means it is the most family-friendly restaurant I’ve ever been to that is not Chuck E. Cheese. In fact, it’s even more family friendly than The Chuck because it isn’t hell for parents. There’s even an outdoor bar!)
Frying Pan Farm Park
When: Open daily, dawn to dusk
Where: 2739 West Ox Rd., Herndon, VA
Spring means BABY ANIMALS. On a nice warm day, my kids love to walk around the farm, check in at Kidwell Farm and see if any piglets or baby goats are running around, and play on the nearby playground. There’s also an antique carousel you can hitch a ride on if you’re there between 10 am and 4 pm. Pack a picnic lunch and spend a day on the farm.
On a recent warm weekend we met up with friends at Tarara Winery, a few miles down the road from the (one) stoplight in Lucketts (just outside of Leesburg). Tarara has a huge deck to sit on and enjoy wine and snacks (their warm-baked ciabatta was delicious, as was the bottle of 2013 Charval my husband and I split). Local products made in Virginia are sold in the tasting room, including these craft sodas made by Mad Hollow (which recently rebranded from Gray Ghost Beverage, so it looks like I got one of the last craft sodas under the old label, one which I admit to preferring given its nod to John Mosby).
On your way home from Tarara, stop in at the Lucketts Community Center playground and The Old Lucketts store, right across the street. One of my favorite IG accounts, @smalltownstripes, works at the store and is constantly posting treasures that pop up there -including many she takes and puts in her own home, a house which used to be the town Millinery- it’s all very aspirational and perfect. Actually, don’t even go look unless you want to feel pretty grim about your own house.
If you go a bit deeper into spring, Brossman’s Farm Stand will be open, and you must stop in. There’s usually a BBQ truck smoking in the parking lot, and Farmer Rick very often takes kids out into the field with him to let them pick some produce and to show them the lay of the land. He once let my toddler unload a pallet of tomatoes onto the shelf; she was very slow and he was very patent and kind. We often stop in on a summer weekend to grab fresh fruits and veggies for the week.
We’ll be heading down to Georgia for Spring Break soon and I can’t wait to show you Savannah and the Lowcountry. Follow along on Instagram if you like! I’m excited to head into full-blown spring once we get home – nothing like spring in Virginia!