Middleburg, VA and Apple Picking (again!)

Stribling Orchard

Emily and I continued our annual tradition of fall apple picking this weekend, heading with our dogs to Stribling Orchard in northern Virginia.

Our newest, Annie, is a 1 year old whippet or italian greyhound mix–we think. We actually have no idea. She had a broken leg when we adopted her (from Capitol Canines), having been hit by a car in North Carolina. Poor thing, the pin the vet had placed in her leg was too long and it was protruding from her skin when we got her. She’s all better now, and enjoying life in her new home.

I think Stribling Orchard is the best place to go apple picking in the Washington DC area. It’s about an hour and fifteen minute drive from DC, straight down I-66. It has rows upon rows of trees laden with apples–tens of thousands of them. The orchard has about ten different types of apples, and the map they hand to drivers entering the orchard tells you where to find them and which types are best for baking or eating (or both). My one suggestion is that they either improve the map or put markers next to the trees to identify the type of apple.

Stribling apple picking virginia

Ollie in the apple field

We like Stribling not only because of the quality and quantity of delicious apples, but because it’s dog friendly. The prices are fair and the market store where you pay for your apples is well stocked with all sorts of fruit butters, jams, syrups, honeys, and pies. We picked about 15lbs of apples, enough to last us until the next century. I even picked a pumpkin out of the pumpkin patch–first time I’ve done that (that I can remember).

Stribling apple picking in Virginia

Emily with our new pup Annie; Stribling Orchard

Middleburg, VA

Afterwards, we drove to Middleburg, a small town in the middle of Loudoun County in northern Virginia horse country about one hour west of DC.  It’s billed as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital” and draws in visitors from all over the U.S.

We ate lunch at Market Salamander, an eatery and market on the historic main street. You order at the counter and the food is brought out to you, either on the nice back porch or inside in a cozy dining room that is decorated to look like an outdoor courtyard. The food was really good and surprisingly cheap. I had a pulled pork sandwich ($7.50) and Emily had a veggie wrap ($6.50). There was even another dog inside the market, quietly sitting next to its owner as she drank her coffee. A place that serves food and allows dogs inside?  That’s almost unheard of in the USA.


Mount Defiance Middleburg distillery

Exterior of Mount Defiance Distillery, Middleburg

Mount Defiance distillery

Mount Defiance distillery

Emily about to try some absinthe

Emily about to try some absinthe

Across the street from Market Salamander is Mount Defiance Distillery. Opened in 2014, this small distillery makes ciders, rums, and absinthe in small batches. From the look of the exterior, Mount Defiance used to be a car maintenance shop, but the owners did a great job of sprucing the place up inside with lots of wood and a nice bar. We chose the $5 cider tasting menu, which consisted of three different types of ciders. I liked the fall-inspired cider the best and bought a big bottle to bring home. We also tried their absinthe, which tastes too much like Sambuca for me. Emily loved it though.

And Mount Defiance allows dogs!

They allow dogs

They allow dogs


At the suggestion of a friend we ran into near the distillery, we went to the Home Farm Store to buy some groceries before heading back. I think the building used to be a bank back in the day; its neoclassical portico welcomes you into a main room with a deli/butcher, a cheese counter, wine section, and a section for fresh produce. I bought a bottle of Virginia wine made from the Norton grape, a red variety that Thomas Jefferson tinkered with.  And the best part about Home Farm Store…it’s dog friendly!

Home Farm Store

Home Farm Store


Middleburg Virginia

Emily in front of The Upper Crust, Middleburg

The Upper Crust, Middleburg

Interior of The Upper Crust, Middleburg

I already had a couple of apple cider donuts (before lunch) at Stribling Orchard but was in the mood for more dessert before heading back to DC. So we headed to The Upper Crust, located in a small historic home right off the main street. We didn’t know if the bakery would allow our dogs inside, so we took turns going in. I bought one of those cookies with a Hershey Kiss in the middle, for a whopping 85 cents.

Another great day trip from DC. Dog friendly and all. We will be back to Middleburg now that we know dogs are so welcome there!



Kevin is based in Washington, DC and writes about his travel adventures in the Mid-Atlantic region and around the world. Through entertaining writing and eye-catching photography, he aims to provide readers with useful information as they plan their next trips.

  • Laurie Tisch

    You are all adorable Especially Esquire Emily

    Sent from my iPad


  • Donald@donaldsussman.com

    Emily has always loved absinthe. Thanks for taking me along. You are such a great writer.


  • Joanne Craw

    Sounds and looks like a great little day trip; my favorite!!! Ollie and Annie looked like they enjoyed also!
    I know we went to pick out pumpkins back in the day but certain never picked one from a vine, so this may have been a first for you!
    As the Pope just said “parents and grandparents are a living history of the family!!”Enjoy your apples and make some nice “Apple Betty” yum and I can smell the cooking already!!!
    OX mom

    Sent from my iPhone


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