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 Walkable Town Outside Of Washington, D.C. Is The Ultimate Weekend Escape

There’s a lot to love about Reston, Virginia. Just 30 minutes from Washington, D.C., this vibrant town can feel both urban and suburban. Reston was one of the first planned communities in the country and was designed as a place to work, play, learn, shop, and get involved. Today, it’s noted for its open-air town center, green spaces, arts and culture, and walking and biking trails that make it easy to get around Reston. Book a room at the Hyatt Regency Reston to be at the center of the action wh

How to Find Great Food When You Travel

For many of us, food is a big part of the travel experience. Food can reveal so much about a destination. It has the power to articulate the vibe and, yes, the flavor of a city or region. We checked in with chefs for the scoop on what they do to find great food when they travel. When you’re ready to sink your teeth into something delicious, here’s how to find your next favorite dish while on vacation. Many travelers default to Tripadvisor and Yelp when searching for a good meal. You may want

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

From Lively Cities to Lush Vineyards, Where to Travel in September for Every Type of Traveler

September can mark the start of fall or the start of spring, depending on which hemisphere you call home. It’s also one of the best months to travel, with fewer crowds, lower prices and moderate temperatures. Whether you’re all about spa and wellness, arts and culture, or something else, here are the destinations that are calling your name for a well-deserved getaway in September.

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
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