Erin Gifford

I am a Washington, DC-based travel & outdoor writer. My writing has appeared in USA Today's GoEscape, The Wall Street Journal,,, The Washington Post,, Parents, Family Circle,,, AAA Traveler Worldwise, Northern Virginia Magazine, and AAA World. I also write about hiking in Virginia at and have written three hiking guidebooks for Falcon Guides. When not seeking out new adventures, I'm crossing off the next state in my quest to run a half-marathon in all 50 states (so far, I've run in 37 states).

This Small Virginia Town Attracts Mountain Music Enthusiasts From Around The World

In Southwest Virginia, you’ll find dozens of small mountain towns, but for old-time mountain music, the place to go is Galax, a quaint town of fewer than 7,000 residents. It’s been called the “World Capital of Old-Time Mountain Music,” and for good reason, attracting world-class fiddlers, banjo players, cloggers, and bluegrass musicians. The Old Fiddlers’ Convention has been held in Galax every August since 1935. Some of the earliest musicians to record country music hail from the Galax area, i

Your Guide to Hiking Shenandoah National Park

There’s something for everyone across the national park’s miles of wooded trails. Fall is the ideal time to visit the mountains and valley to our west. In our September 2023 issue, we reveal where to go for great hikes and how to see the area by plane or by car. Plus, we’ve found the best places to eat, drink, and shop — and where to kick back and stay awhile. Thanks to more than 500 miles of hiking trails that crisscross Shenandoah National Park, there are scenic hikes for all ages, interests

25 Best Hiking Cities in the US

We all know that nature and hiking are good for mental and physical health. There’s just something about breathing in fresh air, scrambling to summit views and basking in the warm sunshine. When you’re ready for a good hike, or maybe a new travel destination that’s chock-full of beautiful trails and natural beauty, we’ve got you covered. We researched and put together a list of 25 US cities that are absolutely tops for these who love hiking, or at least, love to get outside from time to time. T

A Road Trip Along Nevada's Alien Highway

The Extraterrestrial Highway begins at a rest area in Crystal Springs, Nevada, but you’d be wise to first take a quick detour to E.T. Fresh Jerky, where State Route 318 bisects U.S. Route 93. It’s less than one mile east, and it’s worth a stop for beef jerky in more than a dozen flavors, including hickory, lemon pepper, and honey teriyaki. The proprietors boast that it’s “out of this world delicious.” You’ll also find creative types such as ahi tuna and wild boar jerky.

This Coastal Virginia Town Is The Ultimate Golf Cart Community

Once called the “Playground on the Potomac,” Colonial Beach is an eclectic small town of fewer than 4,000 residents that is known for its sandy beaches, osprey, murals, and palm trees. Yes, palm trees, which are donated each year and are the calling card of Colonial Beach. It’s also the birthplace of two U.S. presidents: George Washington and James Monroe. You’ll even find Bell House, a summer residence of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. This one-time resort town sits quie

Take a Foodie Road Trip on Route 11

Buckle up for a delicious drive across the Shenandoah Valley. Here are some must-try food options. Fall is the ideal time to visit the mountains and valley to our west. In our September 2023 issue, we reveal where to go for great hikes and how to see the area by plane or by car. Plus, we’ve found the best places to eat, drink, and shop — and where to kick back and stay awhile. Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley spans some 140 miles end to end, from Winchester to Natural Bridge. For many, it’s a spee

This Virginia Town Is Home To One Of The Shenandoah Valley's Most Scenic Train Rides

Staunton (pronounced Stan-ten) is a vibrant small town with a well-preserved historic district—actually, six historic districts—that features beautifully restored buildings and an abundance of Victorian-style architecture. While Staunton is not typically known as a college town, it is home to Mary Baldwin University, which has more than 2,100 students. The walkable historic downtown area boasts plenty of curious and eclectic boutiques and cafes. However, there’s so much more, including a quirky

Discover the Beauty of Blacksburg, Virginia Tech's College Town

This Blue Ridge Highlands town boasts outdoor adventure, a historic theater, and some of the best doughnuts in the country. Blacksburg is a favorite college town, ranking among the best in the U.S. It’s beloved for such Virginia Tech landmarks as the Drillfield, a grassy 22-acre on-campus lawn, and the Pylons, eight war memorial sculptures engraved with university values. It’s also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, thanks to nearby Appalachian Trail hikes like Dragon’s Tooth, which leads to a 35

Explore Charlottesville, the Charming Area Surrounding UVA

The city is changing, but the welcoming vibes remain the same. The Corner, a seven-block merchant district on University Avenue across the street from the University of Virginia, has long been at the heart of student life in Charlottesville. It’s the perfect first stop on a visit to this college town. The walkable brick-lined district has bars, coffee shops, boutiques, and of course, Mincer’s, every UVA fan’s go-to stop for university-branded T-shirts, coffee mugs, and garden flags. Over the y

Cycling the Mid-Atlantic’s 150-Mile Great Allegheny Passage

The Great Allegheny Passage, which meanders between Cumberland, Maryland, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, consistently ranks among the top rail trails in the US, earning accolades from such magazines as Bicycling and Outside. It took 35 years to complete the entire trail, but the wait was well worth it. Today’s riders enjoy nearly 150 uninterrupted miles of bucolic landscapes, tumbling waterfalls, river vi

This Tiny Virginia Town Is Home To The State's Longest Rail-Trail

A stone’s throw from Interstate 81, a major thoroughfare that runs north to south across Virginia, the tiny hamlet of Draper is well worth your time. This former rail town with a population of less than 700 is an unexpected delight that surprises with a formal tea room, a vista-laden vineyard, and easy access to the New River Trail, the longest rail-trail in Virginia. Draper is an ideal stopover, particularly for motorists who’ve had their fill of fast food and chain restaurants. Pull off at Ex

The Best Things to Do in Farmville, Virginia

Farmville is a postcard-perfect small town with Main Street charm that captivates visitors and students alike. Farmville is home to the High Bridge Trail and Longwood University, which educates some 5,000 students, but there's so much more to see and do in this Virginia town. Stroll Main Street for an eclectic mix of boutiques, coffee shops, art museums, breweries, and taco shacks. There’s a little something for everyone in Farmville, even outdoor adventurers, thanks to Farmville’s close proxim

There's A New Way To See Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley–By Rail

Scenic train rides are crowd-pleasers, at least according to Pinterest, which predicted that train travel would be all the rage in 2023. In Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the Virginia Scenic Railway was ahead of schedule, chugging into the station in historic Staunton in August 2022 to offer the first sightseeing train rides across the area’s bucolic farmland and verdant national forests. The addition of a relaxing rail excursion has been a boon for the region, enabling new access to the Shenand
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