Where: 414 Kidwiler Rd., Harpers Ferry, WV
When: Thursday- Sunday, 10 am- 5 pm
I remember once in high school chatting with a classmate who said he had never left the state of Georgia. “Not even to go to Florida?” I asked, because every Georgia kid I ever grew up with had taken at least one trip to Florida at some point in their life. He confirmed: not even to Florida. This kid was 18 years old and had been confined to one state his entire life. It was an utterly foreign concept to me.
I thought of this today as my car breezed over the dividing line between Virginia and West Virginia and I crowed “We’re in a new state, kids!” and my friend yelled “Woohoo!” and the kids didn’t even stop watching their movie to acknowledge it. Well, and why should they I suppose. Maryland is under 30 miles away, as is West Virginia and Washington, D.C. I can drive to a new state faster than I can get through Tyson’s Corner in rush hour traffic.
Still, taking a weekday trip to another state retains a sense of special-ness to me. We are ON THE ROAD, exploring our world. We’re gonna see new things! We are officially tourists!
Our reason for traveling to West Virginia was a trip to Ridgefield Farm and Orchard in Harpers Ferry, WV and here’s where I’m going to remind you yet again to sign up for Certifikid, which is how I discovered this place. Certifikid is an amazing resource because not only does it enable you to go places you love at a discounted price, it introduces you to places you’ve never heard of before. I was checking my email one day last week and saw that the deal of the day was $10 for a voucher good toward two bouquets of flowers that you pick and cut at Ridgefield Farm and Orchard. Sold. Then I texted my friend and told her to go buy one as well. Two sold. Peer pressure is awesome.
As we were driving out to Harpers Ferry along route 9 I kept saying “This is so pretty! Look at this, it’s so beautiful!” I know I say this in pretty much every single one of my posts, but it’s true: yes it’s a bit of a drive. BUT THE DRIVE IS SUCH A TREAT. Rolling green Virginia hills, stone houses in Hillsboro, the Shenandoah River, vineyards everywhere. How can you possibly dislike driving in Virginia?
We arrived at Ridgefield Farm around 11:30 and were greeted in the yard by the owner, who welcomed us and explained the process of cutting flowers. It goes like this:
Step 1: Pick up scissors.
Step 2: Cut flowers.
I’m here to answer the hard questions, folks.
Ridgefield Farm provides scissors and baskets for you to take into the flower fields and cut to your heart’s content, but you’re also welcome to bring your own if you’re the sort of person who owns things like special flower baskets. Our voucher was good for “two bouquets of flowers” and we asked to have that specifically defined because I mean, I can make “a bouquet” that’s the size of my Nissan Armada if there’s no restrictions placed on me. We were told a bouquet is roughly 20 stems and assorted greenery, so our voucher could be redeemed for approximately 40 stems and and any green stuff we wanted to cut to fluff it out.
And then we were free to go!
The garden is filled with zinnias and sunflowers- not just regular yellow sunflowers, but a deep reddish black sunflower that I googled and have determined is most likely a Moulin Rouge sunflower.
Aren’t zinnias just the best? If I were gutsier my daughters would have been given flower names and would be walking around the world right now as Magnolia and Zinnia.
As a natural result of there being a garden full of flowers, Ridgefield is swarmed with butterflies! The farm very considerately provides butterfly nets for kids to use to “catch” butterflies. I put “catch” in quotations because although I happily let my kids tote the nets around, when I saw my oldest plop her net down and snare a large Monarch, I immediately told her to take it off and let the Monarch go. Something about seeing that butterfly in a net made me feel an immediate sadness about the human desire, upon witnessing something beautiful in nature, to take possession of it. Kind of like cutting flowers from the ground in which they grow to stuff into a vase in which they will inevitably die. I didn’t claim to be a creature of consistency.
So, rather than “catching” butterflies, the kids settled for “ineffectually chasing” butterflies, which was just as entertaining.
My friend and I meandered around the garden for a good 30 minutes, selecting the perfect stems for our bouquets and clipping peacefully. We rarely even spoke, but just enjoyed the simple pleasure of partaking in relaxing work side by side. If I were a certain type of person, I suppose I could claim it was calming and meditative.
When we assessed our harvest and agreed we each had something close to 40ish stems apiece, we returned to the farmstand and rang the bell, which alerts the farm that you’re ready to pay for your flowers. I had thought ahead and brought a vase from home, so I spent a few minutes at the work table pulling leaves off stems and arranging my flowers in the vase for the ride home. A water cooler is provided to fill your vase with water, so I highly recommend bringing a vase along to keep your flowers as fresh as possible for the ride home.
I am not a particularly talented individual, yet I have an innate hopefulness that reassures me each time I try something new that THIS will be my heretofore untapped hidden talent. I have yet to uncover that hidden talent that my brain is just so sure lies dormant inside me somewhere, but the optimism keeps my life entertaining. That being said, the natural beauty of these flowers makes it impossible to arrange them in way that doesn’t look lush and gorgeous, but you can still tell yourself the end result is a product of some natural ability that you possess for arranging flowers.
This wild and wonderful bunch of West Virginian flowers is currently sitting on my kitchen island, making me smile each time I see them. (The big heavy straggling green on the far right has been moved to the center of the bouquet and now stands tall and erect, pointing straight toward the ceiling, fulfilling its destiny of being a Tall Green Thing.)
Aside from flower picking, Ridgefield Farm has a play area for children with picnic tables (we were told picnic lunches are welcome), a pirate ship, and a choo- choo train.
Before you leave, pop into the small store and get a look at all the jams, jellies, condiments and soy candles made from produce picked on the farm and its orchards. My friend bought a jar of cranberry relish and a jar of bread and butter pickles.
We had a wonderful time at Ridgefield and are already planning on making a return trip in October for the farm’s fall activities, which include pumpkin picking (the pumpkins are already growing!), hayrides, and corn mazes. On weekend nights there’s also a haunted hayride that culminates in a trip through the corn maze in the dark (though this is not recommended for children under 10).
Make a day of it:
The road to Ridgefield is paved with wineries and vineyards. You could spend an entire day simply driving from one winery to another along route 9. I saw at least 7 that have been on my list to try, and a few I had never even heard of. We made spontaneous plans to stop at one on the way home for a glass of wine and lunch, settling on Maggie Malick Wine Caves, located in Purcellville, for two reasons: burning curiosity about WHAT IS A WINE CAVE? and a giant yellow flag by the entrance that said FOOD.
A wine cave is a structure built into a hill that looks like those bunkers Doomsday Preppers build to survive the impending apocalypse, only instead of being filled with guns and canned goods, this bunker-type structure is filled with WINE (and snacks). I’ll meet you at the Maggie Malick Wine Cave in the event of an apocalypse; we likely won’t make it very long, but we’ll have a good time while we can.
Maggie Malick’s has a wonderful covered patio out back with tables, chairs, cornhole, and a beautiful view of the property. We purchased some crackers and cheese (try the Buffalo Feta dip), three glasses of wine, and made our way out back to enjoy a couple hours all to ourselves on the property.
We selected a glass each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Rose, and an Albarino to split because we wanted to cover all our bases while there. It was for research!
All were delicious but I gotta say: the Rose was the best I’ve had all summer. It’s made from the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon and is dry and fruity. Rose can be very hit or miss and this one was the best I’ve tried in a long, long time. I’m kind of kicking myself for not buying a bottle while I was there.
Our kids had a great time at Maggie Malick’s. Two labs reside at Maggie’s and roam the property at their leisure; they realized we were there after an hour or so and came over to play with the kids for awhile. Abby and Moxie are the sweetest dogs you can imagine, and gentle with children, so don’t be afraid of them. (The folks at Maggie’s do ask that you not feed them, so make sure your kids don’t sneak them any snacks.)
Maggie Malick’s also offers wine tastings- an astounding $8 for 10 pours, which is one of the most reasonable tastings I’ve seen. A tasting gets you pours of four whites, five reds, and their rose. Eight of these ten wines have earned medals at competition, and three of them have earned gold medals, so you will probably not find a tasting with a better combination of quality + price than this.
These two destinations combine the best of what this area has to offer- a chance to explore nature and take in the natural beauty of the region, to enjoy delicious wine made from Virginia grapes, and best of all, to support local businesses. I think you’ll find the whole day is enjoyable for everyone in the family.