This is part two of a four – part series, focusing on Virginia.
Saving money and gas due to the rising cost of living and oil prices? Live in the Greater DC Metro area and “been there/done that” everything the travel websites and books recommend to do in the area? Don’t want to go where the tourists slow you down and irritate you with their one-thousand camera snapshots of everything including your shoes?
If you are like my fiancée and I, you’ve said yes to every question and been everywhere in the area – even places you didn’t expect to find yourself in.
But where do you go if you want a weekend trip out of town for your special occasion, or even if you just want to get out of town within a four-hour drive of DC, and at a low cost?
Here are three places I recommend that aren’t on those travel websites, in no particular order:
1) Loudon County, Virginia – this is roughly an hour drive from DC, depending on where you go. (Any season)
How many times have you gone to Dulles Airport and yet never been past that point of Virginia’s northwestern side? Here’s your chance. Visit the Leesburg Premium Outlets which often have sales, walk in Old Town Leesburg and get a glimpse of Civil War history while scavenging for antiques to decorate your home and backyard.
With twenty-two wineries in Loudon County (which is hailed as the top wine county in Virginia), we personally recommend Hillsborough and Tarara. Hillsborough Vineyards is located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains so prepare to be astounded by the view as your taste buds are tantalized by the wide range of red, white, rose and dessert varietals they offer. Sit down and relax on the stone patio in an Adirondack chair, or walk through the grapevines. Tarara Vineyards is located right at the northernmost point of the state bordering Maryland, and is quite a find in its own! Here, you can taste wines, eat on their patio, or host a BBQ event with your friends anywhere on the 475 acres of ponds and pavilions in complete privacy. Prepare to feel completely disconnected from the outside world here.
Love horses? Head over to Middleburg, the unofficial capital of horse country in the nation! Upon entering the town, you will immediately see the horse culture reflected in the names of the many shops and restaurants, such as Cuppa Giddy Up where you can get a fresh cup of coffee and a pastry or breakfast sandwich to start your day. You may see a few locals in riding breeches or in vehicles pulling their horse trailers. And that scream you heard was the voice of my sister’s giddiness!
Reading this post in the fall? Head to Loudon for hayrides, pumpkin picking, and lots of old fashioned fun on the farm activities.
2) Charlottesville, Virginia – Two hours from DC (any season)
The area of Charlottesville is best known as the home of three US Presidents: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. Visit the University of Virginia’s campus and Monticello, which are both UNESCO Sites and designed by Jefferson himself. Buy a t-shirt commemorating the University’s Most Distinguished Dropout, Edgar Allen Poe. Visit his room, which is open to the public, and try to crash either one of the two secret societies’ rooms!
Want the scenic route? Take 95 South then exit to Route 3 west through Fredericksburg, taking Route 20 and 231 down to Charlottesville. You’ll pass more than ten battlefields used in the Civil War, and the headquarters of every Civil War general, including the site of the Flank Attack of Stonewall Jackson. Pass the birthplace of Jefferson and hit Charlottesville in time to try their farmer’s market. Warning: The market closes at 12 PM daily! Missed it? Try the town shopping district during the afternoons.
Try Jefferson Vineyards and the ‘Disneyland’ of all wineries, Barboursville Winery and Ruins. Jefferson Winery is honored every year by the Governor of Virginia and dedicates a wine to that sitting Governor. Why would you want to miss wine made by one of our Founding Fathers? Barboursville has beautiful ruins to explore, plenty of activities and a Ferris wheel selection of wines of every varietal, and is adorned with hundreds of awards. Not to be missed!
3) Virginia Beach, Virginia – 3 hours from DC (warm season)
Virginia Beach is much more than a beach. First, the recommended place to stay, especially if you are pinching pennies, is in First Landing State Park. First Landing is named exactly as it was – the very first landing of Captain John Smith and the English on their way to Jamestown to create history as we know it today. This park is where the story of Captain John and Pocohantas came to be. Visit the Old Cape Henry lighthouse, built in 1792, to see what Captain Smith first sighted of what became the United States.
The cabins come as five rooms, fully furnished and include outdoor decks. They have two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room with a fireplace, and a kitchen with electric appliances such as oven/stove and refrigerator. State Park fees are more affordable than motels, and here, you get to BBQ and make s’mores in complete privacy with the solace of the forest. The walk is less than half a mile to the beach. The beach is preserved and uninterrupted, giving you plenty of relaxation.
Want activities and city life? Head down to the boardwalk part of Virginia Beach. There you’ll find a multitude of activities, transportation rentals (bikes, mopeds, etc), restaurants, bars, haunted houses, boutiques, arcades, amusement rides, piers, and the list goes on! Fireworks happen often, and there is a calendar of evening events.
Where do YOU like to go? Share with us your favorite places to go in Virginia!
And, Stay tuned for blogs on Pennsylvania and Maryland!