The Washington Times - October 8, 2008, 07:24PM

At this time of the year many folks are heading off to ‘far away places with strange sounding names’ to do what? To “watch the fall foliage.”  I run into people daily who are going to the Homestead or the Greenbrier, or other unique and high priced places, simply to watch the fall leaves which, soon, will be in all their glory. I know people who even spend an entire time share week just going somewhere to watch trees. [ I guess they live in a desert.]

I have a different suggestion in these times of economic hardship — pile the kids into the car and go visit a battlefield!  There can be no lovelier place to walk around, breathe in the fall fresh air (depending on allergies) than walking a battlefield, and we have many sites within an hour or two.  Gettysburg comes readily to mind, and you’ve not seen a sunset in all of its glory til you have watched it over Little Round Top.  The places for viewing the changing trees are boundless, and the walk in the fresh air, together with climbing over the rocks and up and down them is great exercise. A definite fringe benefit is to learn the history of what happened there….let the kids follow Pickett’s Charge across that open field, and imagine that they are being shot at.

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Once you tire of that, grab something to eat in one of the charming town dining places like the Dobbins House or Farnsworth House, and then - assuming the kids are still awake — check out Bear Country, only a few miles down he road, where no one leaves without a smile on his or her face, and a paw print bag under the arm. There are usually performing groups there on the weekends, and trust me, it’s a grandparent’s delight.

Closer to the immediate DC area is Manassas Battlefield Park in Manassas, VA, where you can climb up and down hills, see where the troops fought and moved about, and again, trees abound. Talk to the park guides, and tours are even available.

Come into DC and check out Fort Stevens, where the very city of Washington was defended.  Go a few miles down the road and check out Monocacy Battlefield.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the Battle of Balls Bluff is another interesting place to walk around, through and under trees, and it’s just down the road at Leesburg, VA. Scenic to the utmost, and now with marvelous signage (and even a porta potty) it is a  unique little spot, holding one of the smallest national battlegrounds in the country. You can’t find a lovelier  place to watch or to sit and think.

A few miles further down the road to the south, below Fredericksburg, visit the most marvelous battlefield park that the NPS has never gotten its hands on — Pamplin Park Museum of the Civil War Soldier. Spend an hour or two checking out the museum which is outstanding, see the outdoor exhibits.  Watch the musket loaders being shot. Ever seen an abati up close? This is the place to do all of that, for a minimal admission fee.  Believe me, you won’t regret this walking tour of history, which is one of the finest sites in Virginia, or anywhere.  And then you can go back outdoors and be in the trees.

You want trees?  You got trees.  You want history? You got history.   You want an economical way to spend a fall day?  You’ve got it.

Fall foliage is fall foliage, and it’s all beautiful. And you don’t have to spend $400.00 a night to see it!

Just a thought.