Highlights from a Virginia town and country tour:
Shenandoah National Park
Skyline Drive is a big attraction, especially in fall. The 105-mile scenic byway offers some 75 overlooks with majestic views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Piedmont. Stop for a picnic or go for a hike on one of the 500 miles of trails in the park, including portions of the Appalachian Trail. Take the Stony Man Trail, a moderate 1.6-mile round-trip jaunt, to see one of the best vistas in the park. Be aware that while the park welcomes pets, a few of the trails — like Stony Man — are off-limits to four-legged friends.
Distance from Baltimore: 110 miles
When to go: Spring, summer or fall. While the park is technically open all year, many of the facilities and campgrounds close in the winter, and ice or snow can close Skyline Drive.
Where to stay: Skyland Resort, one of two lodges in the park, recently renovated some of its rooms with new flooring, baths and more. The resort offers dining and activities. Rates start at around $117 per night. Go to goshenandoah.com/lodging or call 877-847-1919.
Don't miss: The sky. Look up on crisp, clear evenings to get an amazing view of the stars. Also, on Nov. 6, astronaut Tom Jones will talk about his experience at NASA, where he worked on space shuttle missions.
Information: visitskylinedrive.org, goshenandoah.com
The home of the University of Virginia and just about everything else that Thomas Jefferson built, Charlottesville is a town where tradition meets culture and history is never more than a few steps away. Start with Jefferson's Monticello, the home built and designed by the man who also wrote the Declaration of Independence. Take the house tour, wander among the stone tunnels and walkways, or visit a re-created slave cabin. In downtown Charlottesville, explore the Downtown Mall, a brick-paved, pedestrian-only walkway lined with shops. Stop in at Revolutionary Soup (revolutionarysoup.com) for a quick lunch. With so much abundant farmland nearby, the farm-to-table movement is strong here at places like Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria (lampopizza.com).
Distance from Baltimore: 150 miles
When to go: Summers are quiet, but fall is lovely here. Be aware of University of Virginia events that might limit lodging availability. If you're a movie buff, the well-regarded Virginia Film Festival is Nov. 5-8.
Where to stay: The impeccable and luxurious Keswick Hall, a 600-acre estate and golf club with 48 rooms, is a short drive from Charlottesville. Rates start at $359 per night. (keswick.com)
Don't miss: Several Virginia wineries are nearby, including the historic Barboursville Vineyard (bbvwine.com) and the Trump Winery (trumpwinery.com), which is the former Kluge Estate Vineyard purchased by Donald Trump in 2011.
Information: monticello.org, visitcharlottesville.org
The first thing you need to know before visiting this town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains is that the "u" is silent. The locals pronounce it "Stan-ton." The next thing to know is that although it's a small town, Staunton is really big on history, culture and the arts. Stroll along the Victorian downtown along Beverley Street, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The town also boasts the American Shakespeare Center, known for its Renaissance productions and its re-creation of London's original indoor theater, the Blackfriars' Playhouse. And if that's not enough history for visitors, Staunton is home to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, paying tribute to the nation's 28th president, who was born here but moved to Georgia by the time he was a year old.
Distance from Baltimore: 195 miles
When to go: Any time. The production of 'A Christmas Carol" by the American Shakespeare Center is a holiday treat (americanshakespearecenter.com). Also, the annual Holiday House Tour, in its 43rd year, takes place Dec. 5-6 (historicstaunton.org).
Where to stay: Berkeley House Bed and Breakfast (bhbandb.us) is situated in a lovingly restored historic Queen Anne-style man that dates to the 1890s. Rates start at $149 per night.
Don't miss: Trinity Episcopal Church, the town's oldest church, which showcases a dozen stained-glass windows designed by Tiffany Studios in the early 1900s.