The best of the fests: 21 events to kick off your fall fantastic


Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival
Through September 23
Various locations and times

There’s still six concerts to take in at this annual music event, which began on September 9. Now in its 13th year, the Chamber Music Fest features new work from Georg Friedrich Haas, Missy Mazzoli, and Jeffrey Cotton to Stephen Hartke, Steve Mackey, Ljova, and György Kürtàg. Single tickets range in price from $16-22. Be sure to catch the free mid-day concert at The Paramount on September 14: Four pieces, including Mozart and Beethoven, performed in partnership with the city’s Celebrate!250 campaign.

Mountain Cove Music Festival
Saturday, September 29 10am-dark Mountain Cove Vineyards (1362 Fortunes Cove Ln., Lovingston)

Beats abound at this treasure trove of local music acts, with a lineup that includes Jim Waive, Kings of Belmont, We Are Star Children, Mariana Bell, and more. For one day only, Mountain Cove Vineyards (“Virginia’s oldest winery,” says its website) transforms into a giant jam sesh filled with local talent. Tickets are available at Sidetracks, online, or by phone for $20 in advance and $30 at the gate. Parking’s free. Go to for more info.

Fall Fiber Festival and Montpelier Sheepdog Trials
Saturday, October 6 (10am-5pm) to Sunday, October 7 (10am-4pm)
Montpelier (11407 Constitution Hwy., Montpelier Station)

Now in its 25th year, the Fall Fiber Festival and Sheepdog Trials won’t pull the wool over your eyes. Think you can needle your way to a blue ribbon? Enter the skein, garment, and fiber arts competition. The main event is the sheepdog trials—four classes of Border Collies (and their handlers) competing for a spot at the national trials—which run continuously through both days of the fest. Admission is $5 for adults and free for kids 16 and under. Visit for more info.

Virginia Fall Foliage Festival Art Show
Saturday, October 13 (10am-5pm) to Sunday, October 14 (noon-5pm)
Downtown Waynesboro

An outdoor art gallery—that’s the best way to describe Waynesboro’s annual art fest, which Virginia Living named one of the best in the area this year. More than 200 booths line the streets of the town’s downtown area to show off fine arts and crafts—jewelry, pottery, and sculpture, to name a few—from artisans all over the country. Admission and parking are free. Head to for more information.

Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival
Saturday, October 13 (10am-5:30pm) to Sunday, October 14 (10am-5pm)
Claudius Crozet Park

One of the area’s most anticipated annual events, the Crozet Arts & Crafts Fest is a veritable mecca for local (and national) artisans. A juried event, the festival features everything from pottery and textiles to photography and painting. There’s also food (read: no need to pack a lunch), activities for kids, and a wine-tasting tent. Plus, it’s cheap! Admission is only $6, and that price drops by a dollar if you’re 65 or older. Kids 12 and under get in free.

The Chocolate Festival
Saturday, October 20 from 8am-3pm
Lee Park

If you’ve ever seen Chocolat (with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche), you’ll remember the scene in which members of a dinner party drizzle chocolate on everything from a chicken leg to pork tenderloin. This event isn’t exactly like that, but we can promise there will be plenty of the sweet stuff. The event kicks off with the Chocolate Chase 5K run/walk and ends after a fairly intense cupcake throwdown. Visit to register for the race and get more information.

Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival
Saturday, October 20 (8am-3pm) to Sunday, October 21 (8am-2:30pm)
Staunton (Various locations)

Cyclists of all skill levels will find something enjoyable at this two-day event, which features 11 different routes for everyone from family groups to experienced bikers interested in a century ride. Adult tickets cost $85 (and kids’ $15), but local riders (read: residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle, and Nelson) get a discount. Register at

Nelson County Fall Festival
Saturday, October 20 from 8am-5pm
8301 Irish Rd., Faber

Kick off the season with a scenic but hilly 5K and one mile fun run/walk. Then, participate in classic festival activities: pumpkin bowling, sack races, hula hoop contests, pumpkin decorating, and more. If you’re running, it’ll cost ya $10-15 to enter the Monster 5K. Otherwise, this one’s a freebie.

Virginia Film Festival
Thursday, November 1 to Sunday, November 4
Various locations and times

For its 25th anniversary this year, the Virginia Film Fest—a four-day event celebrating all things cinematic—has launched a special “Presidency in Film” series, which will feature a screening of All the President’s Men (to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Watergate) with a guest appearance by Bob Woodward himself. The rest of the program is yet to be unveiled, but trust us: This is a can’t-miss event. Tickets range in price from $50-140 for festival passes and $8-15 for matinee screenings, with discounts for students and seniors.

Lynchburg Beer & Wine Festival
Saturday, September 15 from 11am-7pm
Riverfront Festival Park (downtown Lynchburg)

More than 20 wineries and breweries will be on hand at this L’burg event, where you can sample each one, nosh on everything from crab cakes to Wild Wings, and take in some kickin’ tunes from the likes of The Jangling Reinharts, Love Canon, and Dragonfly. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate if you want to sample, but only $5 if you’re just there to get lost in a crowd. Kids 5 and under get in free.

Sorghum Festival and Virginia Jousting Championship
Saturday, October 6 to Sunday, October 7 from 9am-5pm
The Clifford Ruritan Club (755 Fletcher Level Rd., Clifford)

When the weather turns cold, nothing warms you quite like molasses and Brunswick stew. Watch the Ruritans cook both, then take in the Virginia Championship Jousting Tournament, chat with Civil War re-enactors, or browse the crafts, antiques, and collectibles on offer. If you’ve got one, ride your hog to the event—it’s a beautiful one-hour drive from Charlottesville and motorcycle parking is only $1. (Parking’s $5 for cars.) Free admission. Call 826-1163 for more information.

Virginia Wine and Garlic Festival
Saturday, October 13 to Sunday, October 14 from 10am-5pm
Rebec Vineyards (2229 North Amherst Hwy., Amherst)

We like an event that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Amherst’s 22nd annual garlic festival is just that. Five stages with constant music provide the backdrop for this funky fest, where “it’s chic to reek.” Enter your best garlicky recipe in the cook-off, or enter yourself in the Garlic King, Queen, or Jr. Queen contest. Winners get enough dough to nab some arts and crafts or specialty garlic-filled foods at the event. General admission is $20 (and $25 more if you want to partake of the wine tastings), but kids under 12 get in free. Visit for more info.

Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival
Saturday, November 17 from 11am-5pm
Poplar Forest (1542 Bateman Bridge Rd., Forest)

Pay homage to the father of Virginia wine at his personal retreat. Taste vino from 14 area wineries, from Jefferson and Veritas to Barboursville and Gabriele Rausse, who will also discuss his love of wine at the event. Admission is $20 in advance and $25 at door. Not tasting? Tickets are $10. Kids age 11 and under are free, and tours of the house will be offered at a reduced rate.

Nothing says “fall in Virginia” like apple picking, apple cider, or apple pie. If you’re craving a red delicious treat, take a bite out of one of these free events, which feature hay rides, apple butter, cider pressing, and more.

Apple Harvest Festival
Saturday, November 3 from 10am-5pm
Rural Ridge Farm (2545 Rural Ridge Rd., North Garden)

Drumheller’s Orchard Festival
September 29-30 and October 20-21 from 9am-5pm
Drumheller’s Orchard (1130 Drumheller Orchard Ln., Lovingston)

Carter Mountain Apple Harvest Festival
Every weekend in October from 8am-7pm
Carter Mountain Orchard (1435 Carters Mountain Trail)