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Bucket List for Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Bucket List for Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Happy New Year! If you’ve included travel, adventure, and experiences among your resolutions, you’re in the right place. We’re honored to present to you a bucket list for Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Our bucket list is loaded with “cream of the crop” must-sees, dos, and savors for an indisputable, quintessential Virginia’s Blue Ridge escape. Check off as many as you can in one trip or spread these experiences across multiple VBR getaways in 2018.

We promise you will love every second in these mountains. Cheers!

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

At the top of any list that involves Virginia’s best experiences is the Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s Favorite Drive. It’s a slow pace with incredible views and opportunities to hike, dine, and stay the night. Travel just a segment, all of Virginia, or the BRP in its entirety. Any stretch of this road is memorable.

>> 7 Iconic Overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Hike the Triple Crown

You’ll feel like you deserve a crown of your own after you hike Virginia’s Triple Crown. These three peaks – Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs (pictured above) – create a 32-mile loop trail and include shelters along the way for an overnight.

>> 10 Epic Outdoor Adventures in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

See the Steam Locomotives at the Virginia Museum of Transportation

The Norfolk & Western Class A 1218 steam locomotive is a big draw for train enthusiasts as it’s one of the most advanced steam locomotives ever built and was the one-time strongest pulling locomotives in existence. It’s the last 2-6-6-4 steam locomotive in the world and the last Class A.

>> Bucket List Museums in Virginia’s Blue Ridge for Rail Fans

Roanoke Star

Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Selfie at the Roanoke Star

The largest neon star of its kind in the world, a visit to the Roanoke Star is nearly mandatory for anyone spending time in Roanoke. From its perch you can see for miles and miles, but it’s the lights of downtown Roanoke that steal the show and mesmerize those who take them in.

>> 10 Spots in Virginia’s Blue Ridge to Share on Your Instagram Feed

Check out Black Dog Salvage

If you’re like me and get hung up on a favorite TV show, you might have a strong desire to visit a location associated with it. Your wish is granted in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, as DIY’s Salvage Dawgs is filmed in Roanoke at Black Dog Salvage. Come meet the stars of the show and peruse their warehouse to find the perfect upcycle, repurpose, or found piece to make your own.

>> Where to Find Local Souvenirs in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Moonshine in Franklin County at Twin Creeks Distillery

“The wettest county in the world” is in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Come wet your whistle with legal moonshine distilled and bottled in Franklin County, Virginia at Twin Creeks Distillery.

 Franklin County Loop Tour

Cheesy Western at Texas Tavern

Our favorite hole-in-the-wall is true vintage, nostalgic, and so, so good. The tiny 10-seat Texas Tavern is open 24/7 and serves up some of our favorite cravings, including a Cheesy Western, a hamburger patty topped with a fried egg, homemade relish, cheese, pickles, and onions.

>> Best Burgers in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Walk across a Swinging Bridge

Swinging bridges are few and far between these days, but we happen to know of one that is still prominently front and center, begging for brave souls to stroll across its wooden planks. The James River Swinging Bridge in Buchanan just about parallels Route 11 and offers an excellent vantage point from which to watch tubers and boaters shove off the bank from Twin River Outfitters.

>> 10 Breathtaking Views without Having to Catch Your Breath

National D-Day Memorial

Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

National D-Day Memorial

To the community who lost the most soldiers per capita on June 6, 1944, aka D-Day, a nine-acre memorial was given. That community was Bedford, Virginia, and a visit to the National D-Day Memorial is one you will never forget.

>> 15 Spots for a History Buff to Visit in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Have a Beer at a Local Craft Brewery

When you adventure to taste the local goodness, craft beer shouldn’t be overlooked. There are numerous breweries to taste on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Beerway, but three we recommend right off the bat are Parkway Brewing Company in Salem, Deschutes Brewery in Roanoke, and Ballast Point Brewing Company in Daleville. Be sure to designate a driver.

>> A Beer Lover’s Weekend Itinerary in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Float the James River

In 2017 the Travel Channel named the James River as one of the 21 best lazy rivers to float in summer. Who are we to argue with the Travel Channel? The appeal to floating the James is that 59 miles of the Upper James River Water Trail is designated as a Virginia Scenic River. Our outfitters have the gear, so just suit up and show up for a lazy day of summer fun.

>> A Paddling Guide to Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Taubman Museum of Art**

Ten galleries featuring a variety of art welcome guests for free at the Taubman Museum of Art in downtown Roanoke. Even children will love a stop here, as they’re welcome to get their hands busy at Art Venture, an exploratory space for ages 2 to 12.

>> Art Itinerary for Virginia’s Blue Ridge

A post shared by Amy Hunter (@achunter78) on Jul 16, 2017 at 6:34am PDT

Take a Boat Ride on Smith Mountain Lake

Our favorite glistening body of water for a sunset boat ride is Smith Mountain Lake. With 500 miles of shoreline, the lake takes up 32 square miles of area and averages 55 feet in depth. Oh, and three counties claim a chunk of it. You’re going to want to ride, swim, wake board, and fish your heart out.

>> Guide to Boat Rentals at Smith Mountain Lake

Center in the Square

Spend the better portion of the day exploring a variety of museums all under one roof. Center in the Square is one of the coolest destinations in Virginia’s Blue Ridge for that reason alone. Where else can you explore African American history, play vintage pinball to your heart’s content, observe a day in the life of the mid-Atlantic’s largest coral reef aquarium, and turn your kids loose into a children’s museum? Nowhere. And that’s not even all of it.

>> Must See Main Street: Downtown Roanoke

Visit a Local Farmers Market

Not every farmers market is the same. Sure, most (if not all) have farm-fresh yields of produce and maybe meat, eggs, and honey, but the artisans are never the same. Be sure to visit one of ours in whichever community you happen to be in to further explore some of the best flavors and careful craftsmanship our area has to offer.

>> 8 Tips for Farmers Market Newbies

Friday Night Jamboree at the Floyd Country Store

There are many things to do on a Friday night in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, but for bucket list purposes, there’s no other place to be than the Floyd Country Store for the Friday Night Jamboree. You don’t have to pick, sing, or dance, but you can if you want to. We’re all family in Floyd.

>> Floyd is one of the South’s Best Small Towns

Sample Wine at a Local Winery

Continuing the quest for savory flavors, local wineries are an excellent treat for your palate and great opportunities to unwind. We love the wineries of the Wine Trail of Botetourt County and the beautiful grounds, food, and wine of Chateau Morrisette in Floyd.

>> How To: A Wine Weekend in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Attend a Virginia Tech Football Game

Most Americans known Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” but have most Americans experienced Lane Stadium while “Enter Sandman” plays loud over the speakers as fans jump up and down and the Virginia Tech Hokies take the field? No. Those few minutes of music, yelling and jumping have registered on a seismograph four times. That is, Metallica and the Hokie faithful occasionally cause earthquakes in Blacksburg.

>> Sports in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Hike to Roaring Run Falls

A 19th century iron ore is on the National Register of Historic Places, and you’ll pass it as you make your way along Roaring Run Trail to seek out Roaring Run Falls in Eagle Rock. The trail winds back and forth across the run, which tends to be mostly shallow and excellent for family adventure.

>> Waterfall Hikes in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Stand beneath the Iconic Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge is one of those geologic wonders you have to see to believe. As you approach it at Natural Bridge State Park, you’re immediately amazed (trust me), but when you stand below it and look up 215 feet, you’re left nearly breathless. Take your time looking it over; you’ll find a few surprises with a keen eye.

>> Visit the 7 Natural Wonders of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Catch a Concert at The Harvester Performance Center

An intimate venue that seats no more than 475 people (700 standing), The Harvester is a premier concert venue in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. It’s not unusual to catch up-and-coming artists or solid gold mainstays still working the circuit for dedicated fans.

>> 20 Experiences for Music Lovers in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Have a Scoop of Ice Cream at Homestead Creamery

Farm-fresh homemade ice cream is a treasure and we know where to find it. Take the beautiful drive to Burnt Chimney for hormone- and antibiotic-free sweet treats in 18 delightful flavors.

>> 15 Chocolate Treats You Will Love in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Mountain Biking at Carvins Cove

One of the nation’s premier mountain biking destinations is Carvins Cove, boasting 60 miles of singletrack, trails, and fire roads on more than 12,500 acres. The glistening gem that makes this Natural Reserve a draw for more than those on two wheels is the 630-acre reservoir.

>> Mountain Biking in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Map of Locations

You have much to see and much to do. It reminds us of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.

Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way! 

Happy trails and be sure to document your #BlueRidgeDay!

Originally written by Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Featured image provided by Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

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Why You Should be Crushing Your Fridays in Virginia This Year

Why You Should be Crushing Your Fridays in Virginia This Year


You know those headlines for online articles that claim, “SLEEP BETTER, GET A RAISE, AND BE HAPPIER, ALL WITH THIS ONE SIMPLE TRICK”? Yep, this is one of those, but we can actually back up our claims with proof! Okay, are you ready? Here’s the secret:

TAKE A DAY OFF. Seriously. Start with a Friday.

Hiking at Wintergreen Resort

Hiking at Wintergreen Resort



American employees leave a total of 662 million vacation days on the table, which equates to about $66.4 billion in benefits not taken. That’s a big number, but what does that mean for you? If you break that down to a single person, not taking your paid vacation time is basically like paying your boss $604 to come to work. And no one likes their job that much.

Why do all of these paid vacation days in America remain untaken? There are many different reasons; some employees think that no one else can “do what they do”, and fear that taking time off will just mean more work piled up when they return. No matter what the reason, the problem is genuine: Americans have become “Work Martyrs”, choosing to see vacation as a dirty word rather than a healthy and integral part of a successful career.

So how do you solve this problem? If you don’t make the decision ahead of time to leave the office, it probably won’t happen; you are much more likely to take all your time off when you plan your vacations.




You may be thinking that there is no way that getting out of the office for just one Friday will make you a better employee. But before you totally disregard our advice, bear with us and consider the facts regarding the benefits of using your vacation time.

1. Time off keeps you healthy, both physically and mentally.

Blue Mountain Brewery and Restaurant

Blue Mountain Brewery

It seems to be all too common to hear about someone getting “burned out” in their industry, and the level of stress in the workplace is at an all-time high. Where does this problem stem from? Employees no longer unplug from the office when they are on vacation. Today’s workers use Smartphones to stay connected, monitoring and responding to emails everywhere they go. This needs to stop. When you take a vacation, make it a part of your plan to leave behind everything work-related. Logging out completely will reduce stress and allow you to completely relax, letting your body and mind recharge during vacation.

2. Employees that use their paid time off are actually more productive than those who don’t.

Spending every minute in the office leads to a quick burn-out, so while you think you are more productive when you skip the vacations, you’re actually slowly declining in productivity. If you take your time off, you’ll come back more rested and energized, ready to take on the workplace.

3. Vacations improve creativity, leading to better ideas.

Immersing yourself in new experiences gives you more to draw from, providing a new array of ideas to bring back to the workplace. For example, when you step away from work to hit the beach or go on a hike, you’re creating new mental associations from your surrounding environment that lead to creative breakthroughs back at work. These breakthroughs make you a more valuable employee, which will lead to promotions and raises in the future.

4. A relaxed mind can actually solve more difficult problems.

Richmond Kayaking

Kayak Richmond

It has been scientifically proven that daydreaming can help you find solutions to difficult problems. When your mind is relaxed, it subconsciously begins to work on problem-solving those essential but boring tasks. So while you might be sipping on a glass of wine and taking in the stunning backdrop of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, your mind is in “daydream” mode, allowing you to make creative connections that you would never put together in your poorly-lit cubicle.

5. Taking paid vacations has been linked to higher performance reviews, which in turn can result in promotions.

As mentioned previously, you come back from vacation more rested and ready to work, which your boss will definitely notice. A study done by Ernst & Young in 2006 found that for each additional 10 hours of paid time off you take, your performance review is 8% higher in the following year. (You’re also less likely to leave and look for a new job due to burn-out).

Summed up: Use those vacations days, people!



You may feel like taking a few days or a whole week out of the office is too long, so to ease you into “vacation mode”, start with asking for just a Friday off work. This is generally the easiest day to take off, as there are less people in the office, fewer meetings, and your workload is winding down for the week. Plus, you just turned your two-day weekend into a three-day vacation while only using one day of paid time off. By taking a Friday rather than an entire week, you’re conserving your vacation days, which lets you spread the rest out periodically over your calendar. Imagine planning six or more mini-vacations throughout the year rather than one week-long getaway annually. Gives you something to look forward to, doesn’t it?

If you’re still feeling a bit nervous about asking for an upcoming Friday off, here is something else to consider: Despite what you think, your boss is probably not actually trying to make your life miserable. In fact, he or she most likely wants you to succeed at being the best employee possible. And a day off here and there achieves that goal, making you more productive and refreshed when you return.

Bay Creek Resort Rentals

Bay Creek Resort Rentals

Followed the facts this far? Let’s help you plan that vacation. Social media may have you convinced that everyone you know can afford an exotic, expensive trip to some tropical destination, but you might feel like spending the day at home ordering pizza is about all you can swing. The good news is that Virginia has plenty of options for an approachable, budget-friendly vacation, allowing you to create a memorable experience without going into massive credit card debt. So forget the fluorescent lighting and microwaveable lunches of your workplace for one day; you should be going to a music festival, carving up the slopes at a mountain resort, or enjoying the great outdoors while paddling the Chesapeake Bay (just to name a few Virginia vacation options).


Need a few more suggestions? Stay tuned each month for our Crush Friday blog series, where we will provide you with simple and affordable guides to the different regions of Virginia, or see below for a few broad suggestions for your next Friday out and about!

Pollak Vineyards

Pollak Vineyards
  • Visit a Virginia winery (tastings are usually around $10), where you’ll get to sample some world-class vino without the snobbery that typically goes with great wines.
  • Exploring the beaches and Bay shorelines, where you can lie out on the sand soaking up some sun.
  • Taste oysters and take a tour to learn about these environmentally sustainable bivalves on the Virginia Oyster Trail, which runs from the Northern Neck to the Eastern Shore. Learn how to shuck your own oyster, discover the eight different Virginia oyster regions and how they are all vastly different from one another.
  • Take a hike. The Blue Ridge Mountains offer some of the best hiking on the East Coast, featuring waterfalls, wildlife, and epic views. Plus you can finish your hike with a cold beer at a local brewery.
  • Speaking of brewery, Virginia’s Craft breweries are great for inexpensive trips. Many are in brew trails, where you can hit several in a day without traveling too far (Please make sure a designated driver or Ubers are available). Some areas like Charlottesville even have Hop On tours where a bus will take you around to the breweries.




The post Why You Should be Crushing Your Fridays in Virginia This Year appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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Come Home to Virginia: African American Historic Sites Part II

Come Home to Virginia: African American Historic Sites Part II

Welcome back to my blog post series, Come Home to Virginia – African American Historic Sites. I am a native and a resident of Virginia; my work as a historian explores public spaces with attention to visitor education and community engagement. This blog explores African American history across time and space. I look forward to, sharing my experiences as a visitor to museums and historic sites. I hope you will also read my first post Come Home to Virginia – African American Historic Sites Part I.

For this post I visited two National Park Service Sites:  Booker T. Washington and Maggie L. Walker; a community museum, the Alexandria Black History Museum and a new museum, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. I hope you will enjoy reading it and I hope you will visit.  Come Home to Virginia….!

The National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary on August 25, 2016.  Across the nation the National Park Service oversees 417 official units including parks, monuments, preserves, historic sites, trails, and more. A national monument and national historic site in Virginia tell the stories of two black presidents:  Booker Taliferro Washington (1856-1915), founding president of Tuskegee Institute, and Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934), first black female president of a chartered bank in the United States. Both are Virginians; both encouraged education and economic empowerment and they both embody the drive to succeed and to lift up individuals and communities.


Booker T. Washington National Monument

The Booker T. Washington National Monument commemorates the life of a leader, college president, orator and statesman who was born enslaved. Some people may be familiar with his book, Up from Slavery. When you visit the 200+ acre farm and park, you’ll appreciate rural life from a different perspective. An 1850 tobacco farm has been reconstructed with demonstrations of farm life occurring regularly. Washington’s early life was centered on work and more work. He walked to Hampton Institute with the hopes of being admitted, his perseverance and strong work habits were noted, and he entered and completed the course of study to become an educator. When he was asked to direct a new institution, Tuskegee Institute, he became a leader in the larger American narrative.

When I visited, Carla Whitfield, Superintendent of the Booker T. Washington National Monument expressed the significance of learning about Booker T. Washington and the historic site. “There is truth in the axiom, ‘those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it (said by George Santayana).’ The reality is that too few schools are educating American youth on the realities of slavery, and even more so on the Reconstruction Era, which is one of the most influential and fascinating times of United States history. Furthermore, Booker T. Washington, the most prominent leader of philosophy and education during this important period is at times being left out of entire curricula. This has led to a gap in understanding the progression of Reconstruction and what bridged the period of slavery to the civil rights era of the 20th century.”

Booker T. Washington National Monument offers a wide breadth of information pertinent to the plantation Washington was enslaved to, as the site includes several reconstructed 19th century buildings from the original property, including a tobacco barn which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors also receive a concise exposure to the accomplishments of Dr. Washington, as well as a deep knowledge of his philosophies and other civil rights-related information. Anyone can benefit from their experiences at this park, which is the only federally-recognized emancipation site in Virginia.

Visitors begin at the visitor center by viewing an award-winning video introduction to the life of Booker T. Washington. They then continue to solidify their education by participating in interactive modules, listening to audio recordings, and viewing quotations and visuals all located within the exhibit area. Passionate and knowledgeable volunteers and park rangers are available to answer any questions or assist with additional accommodations. The staff is also happy to engage in discussions regarding Booker T. Washington to help further the visitors’ understanding of Washington’s significance in American History. The bookstore offers numerous books and items related to the visit, and resources and reference materials are also available at the front desk. These include articles, charts, albums, pamphlets, and information regarding upcoming events and programs.

The park hosts three annual events, all involving living history experiences. July is Junior Ranger Month, a time when the park holds special programs for children, ages six through twelve, relating to the farm, civil rights, slavery, plantation life, and more. Visit for Harvest Time on Saturday, September 15 from 10-4 p.m. This free event includes re-enactors, farm demonstrations, crafts, children’s activities and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Booker T. Washington National Monument encourages anyone to attend and decide what their personal experience will be. The park has no admission or parking fees and the plantation area is handicap accessible. There is also a popular mile and a half walking trail through the original plantation property, along two streams. This park is an important part of the present community and the historical past of America.

The park is located 25 miles southeast of Roanoke near Smith Mountain Lake and 45 miles southwest of Lynchburg and is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission, parking, and all programs are free.


Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is located in the historic neighborhood of Jackson Ward in Richmond, Va. The site commemorates the life of a progressive and talented African American woman and consists of her home of thirty years and adjacent buildings where the visitor’s center and exhibit hall are housed.

Maggie Lena Walker’s early years include helping her mother with her laundry business.  This experience enabled her to appreciate the value of hard work and the earnest desire of working people to lift themselves up through education, economic empowerment, and employment.  Her accomplishments include: taking over and leading the Independent Order of St. Luke, a beneficial organization, into a profitable and prosperous business; and founding the St. Luke Herald Newspaper, the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, and the Emporium Department Store. She served in a variety of community and civic organizations; ran successful businesses and left a history that is evidenced in a beautifully appointed and maintained home.

The Chief of Interpretation at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Dr. Andrea DeKoter believes, “Maggie Walker is someone whose story resonates with people from every walk of life, and I think one reason is because she faced obstacle after obstacle and never gave up.  So often historic figures are un-relatable:  they inherited wealth or a title or had access to resources that 99% of us will never have.  Mrs. Walker, on the other hand, made her own success, experienced setbacks – with family, with her health – and still never flagged in her dedication to equal rights and justice.  She was a visionary civil rights leader, a powerful businesswoman with incredible financial acumen, and she was also a colleague, a wife, a mother.

(Insert Maggie Walker statue pic)

The addition of her beautiful statue on Broad Street in downtown Richmond has raised awareness about the work she did not only locally but also nationally, and we have seen increased visitation at Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site this past year.  A tour through her home provides an intimate look at the challenges and successes she experienced, and we encourage visitors to stop by and visit us Tuesday-Saturday, 9-5.  The site is completely free of charge.  Also, in 2017 we introduced a new 20-minute film in our visitor center that incorporates new scholarship and images and illustrates an often overlooked period in American history.”  The film is also available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QR3CexPZXEk.

When you visit the Maggie Walker House:

  • Take an easy walk to Adams and Broad Street to view and enjoy the most recent addition to Richmond’s public art – the Maggie Walker monument and plaza.
  • Visit the Black History Museum (122 W. Leigh Street), located at the site of the Leigh Street Armory, built in 1895.
  • Visit Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church (14 West Duval St.), where the John Jasper Memorial Room is housed. The Reverend John Jasper became well-known for his sermon, “The Sun Do Move” which he delivered more than 200 times.
  • Visit The Bill “Bojangles” Robinson statue (at the intersection of Brook Road, West Leigh and Price streets), the first statue to memorialize a black man in Richmond. Robinson was known as “The King of Tap Dancers” his films with Shirley Temple are classics.  He also donated the first traffic light north of Broad Street on Adams and Leigh Streets.  The sponsors, The Astoria Beneficial Club, Inc., proposed a statue honoring Robinson in 1972 “to serve as an inspiration to coming generations of young Richmonders that they too may make a meaningful contribution.”  Each year, the Astorians host a commemorative service on the fourth Saturday in June.   All sites are within walking distance to each other and located in the historic Jackson Ward District, itself on the National Register of Historic Places.


Alexandria Black History Museum

The Alexandria Black History Museum (ABHM) is comprised of three sites – the museum, the Watson Reading Room and the Alexandria African American Heritage Park. The Watson Reading Room is a wonderful site for research (open by appointment) and has over 4000 books on African and African American History. The museum hosts changing exhibitions on Alexandria’s African American history and a wide variety of programs from concerts to film screenings and lectures.

When I spoke with Audrey Davis, Director of the ABHM I asked her what were the two big stories that visitors would most remember. “Visitors will also learn about two early actions for African American Civil Rights that occurred in Alexandria. One in 1864 through a petition written by over 400 United States Colored Troops (USCT) to the US Army for burial rights for the fallen compatriots. The other event was a 1939 sit-in strike so that African Americans could have access to the city’s public library. Led by pioneering attorney Samuel Wilbert Tucker, the actions of five young men led to the creation of the Robert Robinson Library which is the historic anchor of the Alexandria Black History Museum.”

The museum is committed to highlighting the history and culture of the local community within a national context.  Public programming as well as changing, travelling and permanent exhibits serve to enlighten and engage visitors about the variety of African American experiences. When visiting the ABHM I found a friendly and engaging staff and a great gift shop with a variety of gifts, books, games and toys related to African American history. Celebrating 35 years of preserving Alexandria’s African American history and culture in 2018, the City of Alexandria welcomes guests to explore the rich black history the city has to offer.  And The Alexandria Black History Museum is an engaging starting point. The museum is open Tuesday- Saturday 10 am – 4 pm.

Other nearby African American History attractions include:

  • The Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library, is the site where the 1939 sit-in occurred. It is now a treasured resource for genealogists. Local histories, genealogy collections and knowledgeable staff make for a wonderful experience.
  • The Northern Virginia Urban League is the headquarters of the Freedom House Museum. Located at 1315 Duke Street, the museum was once headquarters of Franklin, Armfield & Co, a large slave-trading business.
  • For genealogists and cemeterians the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial is located at 1001 S. Washington Street. Here, during the Civil War nearly 1800 African Americans found freedom in Alexandria and in their final resting place.
  • The Alexandria National Cemetery located at 1450 Wilkes Street also includes the final resting place of U.S. Colored Troops. Both guided and self-guided tours are available; call for appointment (703) 836-2858.
  • In the Alexandria African American Heritage Park you come upon bronze sculptures in the form of trees. The installation called “Truths that Rise from the Roots Remembered” was created by Washington, D.C. sculptor, Jerome Meadows. Additional sculptures commemorate neighborhoods and individuals associated with the site and surrounding area. This one-acre cemetery resides in the larger 7.6 acre heritage park.  Of the 21 burials there are six identified headstones. This satellite site for the Alexandria Black History Museum is located at 500 Holland Lane.


American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

Formerly known as the Yorktown Victory Center, the new museum has been re-imagined and is filled with lots of hands-on experiences for children and families.  Please take the time to watch the orientation film, “Liberty Fever”. Through the use of stationary silhouettes and moving shadow puppets visitors will enter into the lives of five people. It is so well done, that it was recognized by the American Alliance of Museums and received the Gold Award for museum films.

I really appreciated the personal stories included throughout the sprawling yet well-defined exhibition. On a recent visit to the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, I learned about Billy Flora, an African American soldier who became a hero at the Battle of Great Bridge in 1775, and another subject often omitted in the history books found in schools. James Lafayette, an enslaved man from nearby New Kent County, successfully spied on the British for the American forces, yet spent much of his life after the war seeking his own freedom from slavery. Artifacts, such as a Wedgwood antislavery medallion attest to the growing public opposition to slavery. A rare portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo is on view; it is one of two known portraits done from the life of an African enslaved in the colonies.

The Story of Edward Moss and his family provide historical interpreters a frame of reference for discussing farm and domestic life. He owned six enslaved men, women and children. His story and connection with the enslaved people he owned tell a different story than what we have come to know about southern history. A newly constructed 12×10 foot building represents quarters for enslaved people. The log walls and wood clapboard eaves and roof, the fireplace and stick and mud chimney, the storage pit and adjacent yard and garden all provide historical context to reference the lived experience of enslaved people during the American Revolutionary period. Costumed interpreters depict life and teach visitors about life in the Revolutionary period through hands-on demonstrations and experiences.

I hope this post has also whetted your appetite and enticed you to come home to Virginia…!



Dr. Lauranett Lee is a historian, consultant and engaged citizen. She teaches at the University Of Richmond in two schools: the School of Professional and Continuing Studies and the Jepsôn School of Leadership Studies. From 2001-2016 she was the founding Curator of African American History at the Virginia Historical Society. In 2017 she became a fellow in the Community Trustbuilding program through Initiatives of Change/Hope in the Cities.


The 2019 Commemoration, AMERICAN EVOLUTION™, is a three-year tribute to Virginia’s history and heritage. Featuring events and activities that inspire travelers from around the country and the world to engage in the themes of democracy, diversity and opportunity. AMERICAN EVOLUTION™ positions Virginia as a global leader in education, economic development and tourism.
Visit www.virginia.org/history to plan your next vacation, and discover why Virginia is for History Lovers.
For more information on AMERICAN EVOLUTION™, visit www.AmericanEvolution2019.com.

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Winter Fun at Four Virginia Ski Resorts

Winter Fun at Four Virginia Ski Resorts

Massanutten Resort Skiing

When it comes to winter in Virginia, most people want to hunker down by a warm fireplace and avoid the chilly weather at all costs. But we have an even better idea; head to a Virginia winter sports resort to embrace the cold! These four resorts offer several winter sport options for every skill level, including skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, as well as spas, cozy luxury lodgings, and multiple on-site dining options. Ready to hit the slopes? Use this guide to each destination to help you decide which Virginia winter resort is right for you.



Massanutten Resort Skiing

Current Slope Conditions: 40 inch base of snow. 13 trails open—four beginner trails, five intermediate trails, three advanced trails, and one freestyle terrain trail.

About the Resort

Massanutten Resort is just west of Shenandoah National Park, about 30 minutes from Harrisonburg, 45 minutes from Staunton, and an hour from Charlottesville. In addition to slopes open for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, the resort has an indoor water park, a speakeasy-themed escape room, hiking trails on the property, and daily classes and activities like yoga, tie dye, soap making, and basket weaving. The ski and snowboard lessons taught in the Pathway Program cater to beginners and include two one-hour group lessons for ages 7 and up, a lift ticket, and equipment rentals. The Advanced Beginner and Intermediate Clinics are for skiers and snowboarders looking to improve technique and ability during the two-hour clinic. These classes are for ages 7 and up, and include a lift ticket, equipment rentals, and a 90-minute group coaching session. Private lessons are available at Massanutten, with ages 6 and under needing their own instructor separate from adult riders. A new program called Mini Riders is for snowboarders aged 4-6, and includes a lift ticket valid for four hours, equipment rentals and helmets, and supervised instruction.

Dining & Lodging: Hotel rooms, condos, and rental homes suited for every group or family size are available at the resort, and there are four restaurants on the resort grounds.

More Things to Do Near the Resort:



Bryce Resort

Current Slope Conditions: 60 inch snow base. Currently 8 trails open—four beginner trails, three intermediate trails, and one advanced trail.

About the Resort

Located in the Allegheny Mountains two hours west of Washington, D.C., Bryce Resort is great for both skiers and snowboarders. For first-time skiers ages 4.5-7 and snowboarders ages 6-7, they have a Kinder School, a package which includes rental equipment, a lift ticket, helmet, additional indoor activities, hot chocolate, and snack breaks. Older riders can book lessons at the Snowsports School, ideal for beginners ages 8 and up. These classes include equipment rental, lift pass, and a 75-minute group lesson. Skiers and snowboards of every level ages 3 and up also have the option of private lessons, which are tailored to meet the needs of the individual.

Dining & Lodging: Two on-site restaurants are open for guests and visitors of the resort, and while Bryce does not have their own hotel, there are several local lodging options available.

More Things to Do Near the Resort:



Wintergreen Resort

Current Slope Conditions: 38+ inch snow base. Currently 17 slopes open—five beginner trails, four intermediate trails, seven advanced trails, and one expert trail.

About the Resort

About an hour and a half west of Richmond, 40 minutes southwest from Charlottesville, and 40 minutes southeast of Staunton in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Wintergreen Resort offers ski and snowboard lessons for every skill level. For first-time skiers or snowboards ages 8 and up, the Discover Skiing and Riding class includes a lift ticket, equipment rentals for up to eight hours, and a 75-minute lesson. This package also gives a discount for second and third visits to the resort. Kids younger than 8 can try the Kids Ski Programs, available to children 3 and older. These classes groups children according to age and skill, and includes breaks for lunch, snacks, and hot chocolate. In addition to these beginner’s classes, Wintergreen offer group lessons, women’s skiing clinics, private lessons, and family lessons that allow you and your kids to stick together on the slopes. For family members not interested in winter sports, the resort has a full spa and salon, indoor tennis courts, and hiking trails around the mountain.

Dining & Lodging: There are four on-site restaurants at Wintergreen. Guest rooms, condos, homes, and exclusive properties are available on the resort property to rent.

More Things to Do Near the Resort:



The Omni Homestead Resort

Current Slope Conditions: Average snow base of 40 inches. Eight trails open—Three beginner trails, four intermediate trails, and one advanced trail.

About the Resort

The Omni Homestead Resort is a winter sports wonderland, complete with tubing, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and even mini snowmobiles for kids ages 6-12 to ride around the property. On the slopes, kids ages 5-11 can sign up for the Little Penguins Program, and at the Sepp Kober Ski School, skiers and snowboards ages 4 and up can find specialty clinics suited to their needs. Private and group lessons are available, and advanced reservations are required for both Sepp Kober Ski School and the Little Penguins Program. During the evenings, the family fun continues inside the resort, which features a full spa, on-site movie theater, and a game room with mini bowling, pool tables, shuffleboard, air hockey, and arcade games.

Dining & Lodging: The Omni Homestead’s luxury hotel rooms and suites feature premium king or double feather beds, and there are seven on-site dining options from casual and takeout to formal.

More Things to Do Near the Resort:


The post Winter Fun at Four Virginia Ski Resorts appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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Four Epic Virginia Experiences for 2018

Four Epic Virginia Experiences for 2018


If a picture is worth a thousand words, seeing any of the four destinations featured on the covers of the Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guides is a priceless experience. Make 2018 unforgettable and visit all four of these notable sites located around the Commonwealth, creating your very own Virginia travel checklist for the New Year.


—Virginia’s Beautiful Beaches—

Paddle Your Glass Off Kayak Tour

The Destination: “Paddle Your Glass Off Tour” with SouthEast Expeditions, Bayford

SouthEast Expeditions offers several guided tours for visitors looking to pair the beauty of Virginia’s Eastern Shore with a hands-on educational activity, such as learning about clam aquaculture as you gather a dozen or so straight out of the water to take back and enjoy for dinner. One of the most popular tours, however, is the “Paddle Your Glass Off Tour”, which begins in the small town of Bayford on the Eastern Shore. You’ll start with a short paddling clinic on land to get a feel for the equipment, and then head south on a short 45-minute paddle where you’ll spot plenty of wildlife, especially as you pass by Rabbit Island, a popular spot for nesting birds. Next, stop on the shores of Chatham Vineyards and walk through the property, where you’ll pass the Federalist-era Chatham home and 20 acres of vineyards. Sample some of the wines available at Chatham’s tasting room, followed by a tour of the facilities to learn about the winemaking process and the history of the vineyard. After the tour, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a glass of wine, which you can pair with a selection of cheeses available for purchase, before kayaking back to the Bayford base. The “Paddle Your Glass Off Tour” costs $89 per person and includes kayak rentals, the tour guide, the winery tour and tasting, and a complimentary bottle of wine for every two paddlers.


—The Rich History of the Commonwealth—

montpelier travel guide cover

The Destination: James Madison’s Montpelier, Orange

How much do you really know about James Madison? You’re probably aware that he was the fourth President of the United States and may also know that he was a Father of the Constitution, but did you know his wife Dolley is known as the first “First Lady” of the United States? Or that he was also an Architect of the Bill of Rights? A visit to James Madison’s lifelong home, Montpelier, will help you learn all that and more about the famous Virginian. Restored to its former glory, the home is shown through guided tours with historians well-versed on both the man and the time period he lived in. After walking through the home, tour the reconstructed enslaved community sites next door to learn about the African Americans that lived and served the Madison family, then check out the newest exhibit, The Mere Distinction of Colour, a moving display that covers the overall stories of slavery as well as personal stories of the slaves that lived at Montpelier. More than eight miles of wooded walking trails wind through the 2,650-acre historic property, providing scenic views of the surrounding landscapes, and after you’ve worked up an appetite wandering the estate, head to the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center’s Exchange Café for some award-winning barbecue.


—Discovering Virginia’s Mountains—

beartown mountain travel guide cover

The Destination: Beartown Mountain, Lebanon

Located in the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area in eastern Russell County, Beartown Mountain sits 4,689 feet above sea level, making it the seventh highest summit in Virginia. The scenery of Beartown Mountain is best seen from another peak, however, as it is known as one of the toughest hikes on the Eastern seaboard. There is no clear trail pathway leading to the plateaued summit of Beartown Mountain, and during the summer months much of the land is overgrown with rhododendron, briars, and thick brush not easily conquered. However, the mountain can be admired from several scenic vantage points in the area, including Flattop Mountain, Morris Knob, and Chimney Rock Peak. All three of these peaks are located within the Clinch Mountain Range, have summits reaching above 4,000 feet, and most importantly, have walking trails much more easily accessed than the sparsely marked trails of Beartown Mountain. If you’re looking for even more scenery, check out nearby Burke’s Garden, a spectacular topographical feature known as “God’s Thumbprint” for its unusual shape, and the Channels Natural Area Preserve, a collection of sandstone outcroppings formed over 400 million years.


—The Greatest Outdoors—

Spearhead Trails

The Destination: Spearhead Trails, St. Paul

Head to Spearhead Trails in Southwest Virginia for breathtaking scenery, extreme adventure, and endless fun all rolled into one trip. The five multi-use trail systems cater to ATV*, dirt bike, and mountain bike riders, as well as hikers looking to take in the surrounding landscape at a more leisurely pace. Featured on the Special Edition cover of the Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide, the Mountain View Trail is comprised of almost 100 miles of trails and begins in the ATV-friendly town of St. Paul, with a second trailhead through Coeburn. There are several trail options for beginner and intermediate-level riders, but this trail system is heavily geared toward expert-level riders. In addition to ATVs, the Mountain View Trail is open to dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and hikers, with 17 miles of single track specifically designated for dirt bike riders. After taking on the Mountain View Trail System, explore a few of the other Spearhead Trail Systems:


*If you’re looking to tackle the trails but don’t have your own ATV, rent one from Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure in nearby Grundy.


Want more inspiration and information for planning your next Virginia vacation?  Order the 2018 Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide today!

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Seven Experiences for a New Perspective in 2018

Seven Experiences for a New Perspective in 2018

Perspective is what we get when we view something from a particular angle. It’s easily obtained, but often goes unnoticed until we encounter a problem that beseeches us to shift our routines or thoughts. This adjustment can be enlightening, inspiring, life-changing and sometimes a little scary. But gaining a new perspective helps show us what is important to us and rekindles faded appreciations.

So we’ve put together a list of some truly unique experiences throughout Virginia that will uplift, excite, impress and challenge you. If you’re looking for a little change in perspective, these are our 2018 #VAtravel recommendations.



Humans in flight- What was once thought to be a dream is now a reality we experience every day.  The Udvar-Hazy Center displays thousands of aviation and space artifacts that tell the story of humanity’s history of flight, including the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Lockheed SR-71 (the world’s fastest plane), two IMAX theaters and a planetarium.

Add ons:

-Grab a pint and some grub from the rotating food trucks at Mustang Sally Brewing Co.

-Walk through Old Town Alexandria and catch the sunset over dinner on the waterfront.

-Head west into Virginia Wine Country! Loudoun County alone has over 40 wineries ready to pour you a glass.



Once one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the Modern World, Natural Bridge is thought to have been carved out by an underground river over millions of years. It stands 215 feet above Cedar Creek and was once the sacred site of the Native American Monacan tribe. Passing through this historic gateway is an awe-inspiring experience you won’t soon forget.

Add ons:

-Descend more than 34 stories into nearby Caverns at Natural Bridge. Bring a sweater because the cave has a constant temperature of 54 degrees.

-Get wacky at Mark Cline’s Dinosaur Kingdom II; you’ve never experienced history like this!

-Head into downtown Lexington for an award winning farm-to-table dinner at The Red Hen.



Ever hiked the Triple Crown in Virginia during the beautiful autumn colors? Tim here has. I had this spot all to myself till Tim walked up from his hike from the first stop of the Triple Crown. Huffing and puffing he came up and stood at the overlook and took it all in. Inspired yet? It’s an amazing and tiring hike but worth it.. . . . . #womenwhoexplore #sheexplores #virginia #love #blueridgemoments #outside #thecreatorclass #igersusa #igaddicts #igaddict #hikingadventures #backpacking #earthpix #modernoutdoors #exploretocreate #nationalparkservice #mountainlife #comegetlost #lonelyplanet #roamtheplanet #ourplanetdaily #ourlonelyplanet #yourshotphotographer #hikingculture #goatworthy #ourwild #wearethewild #discoverearth #welivetoexplore

A post shared by Katie (@katiey22) on Oct 19, 2017 at 10:31am PDT

McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail, offering those who summit her ridgeline a panoramic view of Catawba Valley (3,400 feet below). Not for the faint of heart, the hike is moderately difficult with a gradual incline over 4.4 miles from the VA-311 parking area. If you make it to the top, your reward will take your breath away. Don’t forget to snap a new Facebook profile pic.

Add ons:

-Hike back down for a celebratory beer at Big Lick or Parkway Brewing in Roanoke.

-Hike nearby Dragon’s Tooth and Tinker Cliffs to add Virginia’s Triple Crown to your backpacking resume.

-With 90,000 visitors every year, it’s important to practice #LeaveNoTrace here (and everywhere). Keep Virginia beautiful for the next visitor.



“Half the Park is After Dark,” says the National Park Service. And they’re right! The crisp, clear air of the Blue Ridge Mountains makes everything in the sky sparkle with a little more intensity. The best seats in the house are in Big Meadows, and with programs throughout the year you can join NASA ambassadors and amateur astronomers for a guided glimpse of the Milky Way (and more). There’s no better place to consider the cosmos both within and without than on a mountain top sprinkled with stars.

Add ons:

-Make reservations to stay at Skyland Resort and take a guided horseback ride through the park.

-The Big Meadows Campground is open spring, summer and fall and has three waterfalls within walking distance.

-Hike the tallest peak in the park, Hawksbill Mountain. The trailhead is at milepost 45.6.



Travel back in time to 18th century America at the largest living history project in the nation. The Historic Area is an interpretation of a Colonial American city with buildings, traditions, food and reenactors who even speak with colonial grammar. Meet George Washington, watch the Fife and Drums march, fire a flintlock musket, and take a carriage ride for a truly immersive experience. We ask that you mind your way back to present day when exiting the city.

Add ons:

-Eat lunch at the Cheese Shop in Merchants Square. You won’t be disappointed!

-Shop at the Williamsburg Prime Outlets and Williamsburg Pottery.

-Visit nearby Williamsburg Winery and learn about the birthplace of American wine over a bottle of their Acte 12 Chardonnay.



“I don’t think we’re in Virginia anymore.” With an altitude of nearly 5,000 feet, Grayson Highland’s rocky outcrops and open vistas feel like Montana. Rhododendron paint the lower elevations pink in mid-June and wild ponies greet hikers as the trails open to the balds. During the warmer months, Texas Longhorn join in maintaining the brush, and neither are shy of visitors. This is truly one of the most unique natural environments in all of the state.

Add ons:

-Your four-legged companions are permitted on a leash! Please practice #leavenotrace.

-For a nice change in pace, zip through the trees in Whitetop on the Creeper Trail Zipline. Afterwards, rent bicycles and ride 18 downhill miles on the Creeper Trail to Damascus.

*As cute as they may be, please resist feeding the ponies! Human food is often not beneficial to their diet, and can lead to health problems and a pattern of dependency. Help us keep these ponies wild and beautiful for everyone to enjoy now and in the future!



Walking in a canyon wonderland 👣

A post shared by Niall Goard (@niallgo) on Apr 30, 2016 at 2:18pm PDT

Weave your way through a maze of 400-million-year-old sandstone outcroppings covered in moss. These Channels were likely formed while the high-elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age. You can imagine the force it would have taken to shatter the joints in this giant caprock, forming the very trail you’re now walking on.

Add ons:

-Your four-legged companions are permitted on a leash! Please practice #leavenotrace.

-Stop by White’s Mill for a history lesson and some stoneground flour. Established in 1790, this is one of the only water-powered flour mills still operating in Virginia.

-Catch a show at the Barter Theater in Abingdon and go out for an old-fashioned ice cream float at Pop Ellis Soda Shoppe.



What would you like to see make the 2019 list and why? Let us know in the comments!

The post Seven Experiences for a New Perspective in 2018 appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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Big Concerts Coming to Virginia in January 2018

Big Concerts Coming to Virginia in January 2018

It’s a new year and there’s lots of new music coming to Virginia in January 2018. From major country acts to the biggest names in rock and pop, celebrate the season with your favorite artists and discover new ones all over the Commonwealth.

Over at Virginia’s many live music venues:

The National in Richmond will be bringing a number of big name artists throughout the month. The venue will be hosting Neko Case (Jan. 18), Rebelution (Jan. 21), Anthrax & Killswitch Engage (Jan. 28), Big Head Todd and the Monsters (Jan. 31) and others.

The Beacon Theatre in Hopewell will host Travis Tritt on Jan. 16, Tracey Lawrence on Jan. 20 and The Nighthawks on Jan. 26.

In Charlottesville, the Jefferson Theater will hosts artists like Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven (Jan. 15), Yonder Mountain String Band (Jan. 16), They Might Be Giants (Jan. 17), The Infamous Stringdusters (Jan. 19), Donna the Buffalo (Jan. 20), The Wood Brothers (Jan. 25) and Cole Swindell (Jan. 27).

The NorVa in Norfolk will be bringing in Collie Buddz (Jan. 12), Badfish – A Tribute to Sublime (Jan. 14), The Legwarmers (Jan. 19) and many others.

The Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount will host An Evening With Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder on Jan. 25. Also performing in January are Charles Esten & Clare Bowen (Jan. 6), Jacob Jollif Band (Jan. 7) and Henry Rollins (Jan. 13).

The Tally Ho Theatre in Leesburg will be hosting Cowboy Mouth on Jan. 19 and Blue Öyster Cult on Jan. 20 among other shows.

At Wolf Trap National Park for Performing Arts in Vienna, shows will include The Verve Pipe (Jan. 19), Lucy Kaplansky (Jan. 20), Aaron Tveit (Jan. 26 & 27) and more.

Alexandria music hall The Birchmere will host the Rock of Ages Music ROAMFEST 2018 on Jan. 5 & 6. The event will feature 21 bands over two nights. Also on the Birchmere’s schedule are Eddie From Ohio (Jan. 12-14), Angie Stone (Jan. 15), Eric Benet (Jan. 17 & 18), Rufus Wainwright (Jan. 20), Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder (Jan. 26) and many more.

For more big names coming to Virginia this month, go to virginia.org/music. At a Virginia concert this month? Share your photos with @VisitVirginia on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #vamusic and #vaisformusiclovers.

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Discover Your Holiday Cheer at These Decorated Virginia Restaurants

Discover Your Holiday Cheer at These Decorated Virginia Restaurants


The spirit of the season is in full swing everywhere you go in Virginia, from main streets in small towns to hotel lobbies welcoming visitors to experience the festivities in the Commonwealth. Many of Virginia’s restaurants are going all out for the holidays, combining incredible decorations with seasonally-inspired cuisine, cocktails, and events. The following restaurants are just a few foodie destinations in Virginia that add holiday cheer to every aspect of the meal.


Old Mill Room Restaurant at Boar’s Head Resort—Charlottesville

old mill room at boars head holiday decorations

Boar’s Head Resort in Charlottesville offers several holiday themed events during the month, including gingerbread workshops, horse-drawn carriage rides, and a Breakfast with Santa series, but their holiday spirit is always on display in the resort’s Old Mill Room Restaurant. Holiday garland, bright bows, and twinkling lights drape elegantly from the ceilings and along the walls. For seasonal flavors, the restaurant menu includes dishes like a Warm Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart made with thyme-infused local honey and 25-year old balsamic or the Grilled Filet of Beef with spoon truffle potato, winter vegetables, and a roasted shallot au jus.


Pomegranate Restaurant—Troutville

pomegranate restaurant holiday decorations

A farm-to-table restaurant in Troutville, Pomegranate Restaurant has four separate dining areas that make it ideal for large family gatherings. Each area is uniquely decorated with Christmas trees, strands of lights and garland, and various other decorations, creating a distinct holiday ambiance in every room. Since they source many ingredients from local farms, you’ll find fresh winter flavors throughout the menu. Finish the meal with one of their seasonal desserts, like the Cranberry Fig Compote Cheesecake.


The Tavern Café at Rice’s Hotel—Heathsville

the tavern at rice's hotel

The Tavern Cafe, located inside Rice’s Hotel in Heathsville’s Historic District, dates to the late 1700’s. While the historic elements of the building are seen year-round, the hotel and tavern recognize their over 200 years of history during the holidays with fresh pine roping, boxwood arrangements, and other natural greenery— all decorations that would have been seen in the tavern’s early days. These authentic touches make visitors feel as if they have stepped back in time to dine in 18th-century Virginia, but the ever-changing menu brings you into the modern era, featuring seasonal items like the Curried Pumpkin Soup and the Almond Joy Cheesecake. After eating lunch, stop by the Heritage Arts Center Gift Shoppe to find gifts made by local artisans for everyone on your Christmas shopping list.


Rapp Session—Richmond
rapp session holiday decorations

Oysters are one of Virginia’s world-famous contributions to the culinary scene, and Rappahannock River Company’s Rapp Session restaurant is one of the best places within the Commonwealth to sample the delicacy. Located next to its upscale sister restaurant, Rappahannock Restaurant, this casual eatery has transformed for the holidays into a winter wonderland. The pop-up, titled Christmas Session, has a Santa Photo Booth, snowflake decorations, thousands of glittering lights, candy canes, giant toy soldiers, and a fireplace (okay, a fireplace playing on a television screen, but it still adds to the holiday magic). For the rest of December, the restaurant will be serving up themed cocktails to pair with their small plate offerings, including egg nog and hot cider, and dessert specials like spiced cake with butterscotch. Additionally, the restaurant is spreading a little of that holiday cheer to the less fortunate, as they collect canned goods for FeedMore and host a holiday raffle with Rappahannock oysters, gift cards, and goods to benefits the Central Virginia nonprofit.


Smithfield Station Restaurant—Smithfield

smithfield station restaurant

Smithfield Station Restaurant adds holiday cheer both inside and outside their restaurant, in addition to decorating their Lighthouse with thousands of lights. Their winter menu features mostly seafood dishes with classic seasonal ingredients, making Smithfield Station a go-to choice for local groups and families throwing holiday parties and get-togethers. The restaurant hosts special holiday events during the month of December, including an annual lighted boat parade, two Breakfast with Santa mornings, and even a Gift Wrapping dinner, where patrons can bring their presents to be wrapped while dining.


Beale’s Brewery & BBQ—Bedford

Beales Brewery and Barbecue Christmas Tree

While beer and barbecue may not seem like the most traditional options during the holidays, Beale’s Brewery & BBQ knows how to make it work. They have crafted a holiday tree made from their kegs and released a limited edition holiday beer, called Winter Warmer. On the food side, holiday hams and turkeys are available to order through December 18th, which can be picked up Christmas Eve to save you the trouble of making your own holiday feast. Visit Beale’s on December 22nd for their “Ugly Christmas Sweater Party”, featuring live holiday music and a seasonally-inspired dinner.


Clifton Inn Restaurant—Charlottesville

clifton inn restaurant holidays

The Clifton Inn decorates their lodgings with festive trimmings and traditional greenery, but the holiday magic is most evident in their restaurant, where the menu uses organic produce from their on-site vegetable and herb gardens to showcase the season’s best. Winter dishes include a Risotto with butternut squash, chestnuts, ricotta, and sage, followed by delicious dessert options like the Sticky Toffee Pudding with spiced candied pecan, date puree, and an earl grey ice cream. They also offer a special prix fixe Christmas dinner menu for $75 per person.


The Speakeasy at the Mimslyn Inn—Luray

speakeasy at the mimslyn inn

Like many of the restaurants within Virginia’s hotels, resorts, and inns, the Speakeasy at Mimslyn Inn has got the holidays on full display. This Prohibition-themed restaurant puts festive finishes on their year-round Art Deco-décor, but to get even more holiday cheer, dine on December 16th for their Christmas & Cabaret Show, which includes live holiday music, Swing-era dancing, and a holiday buffet complete with turkey and all the trimmings. After eating, walk around the Mimslyn to see the rest of the inn’s impressive holiday decorations.


These are just a few of the countless decorated restaurants around Virginia. Find an extended list below that includes the mentions from last year’s roundup. Tell us, where do you go to see, taste, and experience the flavors of the holiday season?


  • Serendipity Coffee House & Bistro—Martinsville
  • Moonshadows Restaurant—Luray
  • Rocktown Kitchen—Harrisonburg
  • The Savory Grain—Richmond
  • Waterman’s Surfside Grill—Virginia Beach
  • Trummer’s on Main—Clifton
  • The Tides Inn—Kilmarnock
  • The Boat House—Various Locations in Downtown Richmond, Midlothian, Short Pump, and Hopewell
  • Bill’s Seafood—Chincoteague
  • Clifton Inn—Charlottesville
  • Amuse at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts—Richmond
  • Field & Main—Marshall
  • Food for Thought—Williamsburg
  • Continental—Richmond
  • Court House Café—Chesapeake
  • White Dog Bistro—Mathews
  • Claire’s at the Depot—Warrenton
  • The Wine Kitchen—Purcellville
  • Craft 31—Williamsburg
  • Doc Taylor’s—Virginia Beach
  • The Regency Room at Hotel Roanoke—Roanoke
  • L’Auberge Chez Francois—Great Falls
  • Tobacco Company—Richmond
  • Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm—Ashburn
  • 2941 Restaurant—Falls Church
  • Macado’s—Various locations in Radford, Marion, Galax, Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Farmville, Salem
  • Liberty Station—Bedford
  • Mill Street Grill—Staunton
  • Blue Talon Bistro—Williamsburg
  • Lemaire at the Jefferson Hotel—Richmond
  • Swan Terrace at the Founders Inn—Virginia Beach
  • Island House—Wachapreague
  • Fat Canary—Williamsburg
  • Swinging Bridge Restaurant—Paint Bank
  • Café Provencal—Williamsburg
  • J.T.’s at the Lavalette—Gretna
  • Creek Bottom Brews—Galax
  • Fossett’s at Keswick Hall—Keswick
  • Kybecca—Fredericksburg
  • Traveler’s Tavern at Cooper’s Landing Inn—Clarksville
  • Hunter’s Head—Upperville
  • Steinhilber’s Restaurant—Virginia Beach
  • Cedar Knoll—Alexandria
  • Tanglewood Ordinary—Maidens
  • Aioli—Staunton
  • Magnolia’s at the Mill—Purcellville
  • Jimmy Madison’s—Harrisonburg
  • Victoria’s Restaurant—Williamsburg
  • Postbellum—Richmond
  • Eat: An American Bistro—Virginia Beach
  • Denson’s—Colonial Beach
  • Red Fox Tavern—Middleburg


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Find the Ideal Diamond in Virginia

Find the Ideal Diamond in Virginia

Virginia’s diamonds have played host to the Annual ISSA World Championships, USSSA Baseball Global World Series, ISF Senior World Cup Adult Slow-Pitch Softball Championship, Triple Crown U.S. Baseball Championship, and NSA Girls’ Fast-pitch World Series just to name a few. It doesn’t matter if you prefer slow pitch, fast pitch or curve balls: you’ll feel at home in Virginia at one of our many parks and sports complexes.


Phillip A. Bolen Memorial Park—Leesburg

Located in Loudoun County, this 405 acre regional park features four 300-foot softball fields, two 90-foot baseball diamonds with 300-foot fences, three multi-use skinned baseball diamonds with 200 foot fences, six large soccer fields and two football/lacrosse fields. The park site also houses picnic areas, trails and approximately 200 acres of natural woodlands. Read more.


Botetourt Sports Complex—Botetourt

The Botetourt Sports Complex is a state-of-the-art facility located only 25 minutes from downtown Roanoke and features four 300-foot championship level softball and youth baseball fields, all with beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The fields are arranged around a central, three-story tower with space for tournament operations, scorekeeping, concessions and restrooms. Read more.

– Botetourt Sports Complex, Photo Credit – Botetourt County –

Harbor Park Stadium—Norfolk

Located on the Elizabeth River and Home of the Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, Harbor Park has one baseball field and can hold up to 11,856 people. The playing field is quality Bermuda grass with adequate drainage and an all dirt infield. Read more.


James I. Moyer Sports Complex—Salem

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this four diamond sports complex hosts many events which draw state and national athletes. Special amenities include dugouts with restrooms, concessions, lighting, sound system, portable fencing and much more. Read more.


RF&P Park—Glen Allen

This complex features seven Bermuda grass fields in which five are youth fields, convertible for baseball or softball, each with 200-ft fences. One dedicated youth baseball field with grass infield and one 60/90 grass infield baseball stadium that can hold over 850 people. Amenities include lights, concessions, restrooms, scoreboards, press box and shelters. Access to tents/tables/chairs is available for tournaments. Read more.

– RF&P Park, Photo Credit – Henrico County Parks and Recreation –


Deep Creek Park—Chesapeake

The park offers four multi-purpose fields as well as four tournament quality lighted baseball fields. Three are bronco league fields and one is a pony league field. Other amenities offered include a dog park, ADA-accessible play area, picnic shelters and a trail for walking/hiking. Read more.


Potomack Lakes Sportsplex—Sterling

This complex located in Northern Virginia contains four lighted, irrigated softball fields with 300 foot permanent fences and 200 foot temporary fences, skinned infields and bases from 60/70 feet. Six adult-sized soccer fields are also available as well as a multi-function building with umpire and staff areas, large concession area with outdoor seating, restrooms and sound system. Read more.


Princess Anne Athletic Complex—Virginia Beach

This facility contains eight lighted tournament-quality softball fields with hybrid Bermuda outfields and seven multi-purpose playing fields. Base paths can be set up to 70’ and pitching rubbers can be set up to 53’. The complex also features two full-service concession stands which are open during league play and tournaments. Read more.

– Princess Anne Athletic Complex, Photo Credit – Virginia Beach CVB –

Dorey Park—Varina

Located about 10 minutes from Richmond International Airport, this complex features 15 Bermuda grass fields; six are softball compatible and eight are baseball compatible. Amenities include lights, concessions, restrooms, scoreboards, press box and shelters. Access to tents/tables/chairs for tournaments is also available. Read more.


Stoney Run Athletic Complex—Newport News

This baseball/softball facility contains five fields with skinned infields and can accommodate up to 70’ base paths. Although primarily used for softball, this great facility also host youth baseball, youth soccer, and field hockey.  Amenities include lights, restrooms and concessions. Read more.


See more…

Softball/Baseball Venues

Virginia Sports Experiences

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18 Virginia Bakeries for That Perfect Slice of Pie

18 Virginia Bakeries for That Perfect Slice of Pie


Close your eyes and picture your perfect slice of pie…is it a southern-style favorite like bourbon pecan, or a classic like apple? Now that we’ve got your appetite’s attention, we’ll share a few top picks for bakeries around Virginia that know their way around a pie. Find a nearby shop, make a detour during a road trip, or even plan a special outing to sample some of the most mouthwatering pies in Virginia…trust us, it’s worth it.


Red Truck Bakery—Warrenton and Marshall

red truck bakery

Red Truck Bakery has been a longstanding favorite in Northern Virginia, with two locations serving Warrenton and Marshall. But it is not just the locals that can’t get enough of this bakery’s creations; former President Obama was a repeat customer, even sending a handwritten “Thank You” note to owner and head baker Brian Noyes for his Sweet Potato Pecan and Bourbon Pie. Oprah Winfrey has also expressed her love of Red Truck in writing, saying, “I looove me some Red Truck sweet potato pie!” In addition to gaining the recognition of several celebrities, the bakery has been honored in publications like Southern Living, Bon Appetit, Garden & Gun, and Conde Nast Traveler. While the pies are a must, don’t miss out on sampling some of their cakes, donuts, and other goodies (like their homemade granola, praised as the best in the world). A visit to the bakeries would be best, but if you get a hankering for their desserts and just can’t wait, Red Truck ships several of their desserts nationwide.


Proper Pie Co.—Richmond

proper pie co.

Pies are revered in the South, with recipes tied closely to bloodlines and kept secret from all but the most trusted friends. But the owners of Proper Pie Co. in Richmond have proved that you don’t need to hail from the southern states to know how to make a truly perfect pie. The New Zealand-born bakers serve up a variety of sweet and savory pies that often leads to lines around the block before they even open. Acclaimed Chef Alton Brown stopped by while visiting the River City, and shared his glowing praise for the bakery: “Their pumpkin pie is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had in my life. That’s right, best ever. Not only is the consistency creamy and not too sweet, but they top it with a salted caramel. If you’re in the area, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not trying a slice of this pie. I will also go on to say you should probably try the coconut cream pie too. Yes. Get both.” If you find yourself near this Richmond staple, take his advice, with one caveat: Order even more.


Blackbird Bakery—Bristol

blackbird bakery

Nestled in the Southwest corner of Virginia, Bristol’s Blackbird Bakery serves everything from pies and cakes to pastries, cookies, and their famous homemade donuts. The wide array of treats are laid out in old-fashioned glass display cases that, coupled with wood cabinet accents and simple hanging lamps, create a nostalgic small-town atmosphere that makes you want to cozy up in one of the overstuffed couches and stay a while. Top your pie with a heaping mound of locally made ice cream and a cup of piping hot cocoa or coffee to get the full Blackbird Bakery experience.


Livin’ the Pie Life—Arlington

livin the pie life

Some bakeries specialize in a certain type of pie, but Arlington’s Livin’ the Pie Life tackles every type of pie, from cream pies and fruit pies to pies you may have never even heard of before. These include a Bailey’s Irish Cream Pie, Mississippi Mud Pie made with malt chocolate, and the rarely-seen Southern Grasshopper Pie made with crème de menthe. Owner Heather Sheire also bakes an impressive assortment of savory and seasonal pies, creating a menu filled with so many star players it is hard to narrow it down to just one favorite.


The Horseshoe—South Hill

horseshoe restaurant

The Horseshoe has been in operation as a restaurant since the 1930s, bringing the finest southern flavors to the table for both residents and visitors just stopping for a bite as they travel through the charming town of South Hill. Their chocolate meringue pie is legendary, but the menu features many sweet staples, from lemon chess and old-fashioned buttermilk pies to a southern Virginia favorite—peanut butter pie. Located close to the exit just off I-85 near the North Carolina border, the restaurant welcomes guests to try why Virginia’s pies beat out any other.


Mom’s Apple Pie—Leesburg and Occoquan

Mom's Apple Pie

Mom’s Apple Pie has locations in both Leesburg and Occoquan, and one taste of their exceptional pies will have you marking both spots on your map for future visits. Defining the farm-to-table movement for bakeries, Mom’s grows all their own fruits and vegetables at their family-run farm, located just 15 minutes away from the Leesburg shop. Sugar is used sparingly in the pies, allowing for fresh Virginia flavors to truly shine, like the crisp apples that the Shenandoah Valley is known for. Pies are baked fresh each morning, giving you an authentic taste of Virginia.


Yummarie’s Bakery—Smithfield


For folks in the southern coastal regions of Virginia, you can’t get any better than Yummarie’s Bakery in Smithfield. Run by the dynamic mother/daughter duo of Kelly and Marie Payne, the bakery utilizes ingredients from their own garden and orchard to craft delicious pies, cobblers, cakes, breads, and more. Pie flavors include apple, sweet potato, and chocolate chess, as well as more unique offerings like the Pineapple Pie. Haven’t gotten your sugar fix after all that? Order some of the fudge and homemade candies to take home with you.


Woodruff’s Café and Pie Shop—Monroe

Woodruff’s Café & Pie Shop has been in business for over 60 years, with a following so loyal they wouldn’t dream of purchasing pie anywhere else. The bakery serves Southern-style favorites like Old Fashioned Pecan Pie, Buttermilk Pie, and Sweet Potato Pie, but their signature dessert, “Angie’s Famous Apple Pie”, stands out as a clear winner for the bakery. If you’re looking to skip the staples and try something new, ask about the daily special pie.


Jamestown Pie Company—Williamsburg

jamestown pie company

Well-known for their southern classics like the sweet potato pie, Virginia Peanut pie, and the strawberry rhubarb pie, Jamestown Pie Company has been wowing pie fans in the Williamsburg region since 2004. Grab a slice of their “World Famous Pecan Pie”, finished with a signature lattice crust that shows the bakery’s dedication to homemade perfection. And for those pie lovers outside of Virginia not planning to stop through anytime soon, the bakery ships nationally (and with very affordable shipping rates!)


More of the most beloved Virginia pie shops to try:



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Take the Train to Virginia’s Incredible Shopping Districts

Take the Train to Virginia’s Incredible Shopping Districts

**This post is written in partnership with Amtrak Virginia and Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation.**


amtrak train

The holidays are officially here, and that means many are planning gift-buying trips to the Commonwealth’s best shopping destinations.

The good news: there are a variety of unique shopping options in Virginia. The better news: you don’t have to hit holiday highway traffic to get to many of them. Amtrak’s passenger train service has stations near many of Virginia’s favorite shopping destinations, which means holiday shoppers can travel in comfort (and never worry about crowded parking lots).

This mini-guide covers train-accessible historic shopping districts, outlet malls and shopping centers in Virginia loved by locals and visitors alike. You’ll also find information for each city and its Amtrak station to make planning a breeze. We hope it offers fresh inspiration!




When you just want to enjoy a little local charm and historic flair as you shop, Virginia is the place to be. The Commonwealth offers quaint and quirky shopping districts that feature small shops and restaurants. And, they tend to go all out for the holidays, with festive décor and special events that make the experience even more special.


Old Town Alexandria

Holiday Shopping in Old Town

Just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., Old Town Alexandria is known for its colonial-era architecture, cobblestone streets – and thoroughly modern places to shop and dine. Enjoy local boutiques nestled in a thriving arts and culture scene.

Station: Alexandria (ALX)

Proximity: 1.4 miles



Carytown Shopping

Richmond’s Carytown is walkable – just one street and nine blocks – and packed with personality. You’ll find shops and boutiques for a wide variety of tastes and interests. When you’re ready for a break, the people-watching can’t be beat.

Station: Richmond – Main Street (RVM) or Richmond – Staples Mill (RVR)

Proximity: Main Street – 3.6 miles or Staples Mill – 3.7 miles


Historic Downtown Fredericksburg

Downtown Fredericksburg

The National Historic District in Fredericksburg features more than 100 shops and restaurants, including a four-block “antique row” set by the Rappahannock River. It’s a great place to tackle your gift list, take in the sights and enjoy a good meal.

Station: Fredericksburg (FBG)

Proximity: .5 miles


Historic Ghent

Perfect for the antique lovers, Historic Ghent is a lovely area to explore, with street-level boutiques and specialty stores made for browsing in boutiques. Take your time and enjoy the leisurely pace in these three blocks of retail and dining locations.

Station: Norfolk (NFK)

Proximity: 2.5 miles


Merchant’s Square and Colonial Williamsburg

merchant's square williamsburg

Step back in time and enjoy a day out on the town, 18-century style. Located right next to Colonial Williamsburg, Merchant’s Square offers one of Virginia’s most unique shopping settings. Modern and historic shops and restaurants are just steps away.

Station: Williamsburg (WBG)

Proximity: .4 miles




If you’re seeking just the right combination of brand names and bargains, you’ll love Virginia’s outlet centers. They offer great variety at great prices, every day – no need to wait for the major sale days.


Potomac Mills

Potomac Mills Mall

Virginia’s largest outlet mall, Potomac Mills is legendary. Shop more than 200 stores in a completely indoor experience. And, if you need to take a rest, you can take in a show at the AMC Potomac Mills 18 Theatres (with IMAX).

Station: Woodbridge (WBD)

Proximity: 4.5 miles


Norfolk Premium Outlets

Located in the heart of Coastal Virginia, Norfolk Premium Outlets offers a relaxing, family-friendly shopping experience with a vast selection of retail stores and food options, plus scenery and entertainment that amplify the holiday spirit.

Station: Norfolk (NFK)

Proximity: 8 miles


Williamsburg Premium Outlets

Williamsburg Premium Outlets

While you’ll feel a little of the region’s colonial heritage shining through, don’t be fooled – the 135 outlet stores at Williamsburg Premium Outlets are thoroughly modern. Enjoy the boutique touch while uncovering incredible deals.

Station: Williamsburg (WBG)

Proximity: 3.5 miles




You can’t go wrong at the traditional shopping mall – especially with a long gift list for loved ones. There’s something for everyone, all under one roof. Virginia’s malls all have a little something special to offer.


Central Park

A destination shopping experience, Central Park offers 200 shops, restaurants and businesses – and more than 50 are restaurants. No matter your tastes, you’ll find somewhere delicious to refuel as you tackle your shopping list.

Station: Fredricksburg (FBG)

Proximity: 3.6 miles


The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

This dynamic shopping experience promises “avenues of fashion and boulevards of style,” with more than 170 stores and restaurants. Shop all day and stay energized with a stop to the skylit food court, which features a number of international specialties.

Station: Alexandria (ALX)

Proximity: 5.7 miles


MacArthur Center

Downtown Norfolk

Get ready to enter a one-million-square-foot retail wonderland. The MacArthur Center is part of Norfolk’s historic downtown, with a decidedly modern, metropolitan feel. With more than 70 new-to-the-market retailers, you’ll always find fresh options.

Station: Norfolk (NFK)

Proximity: 1.5 miles


Short Pump Town Center

Short Pump Towne Center

A beautiful, open-air “lifestyle center,” Short Pump Town Center features more than 140 shops, restaurants and entertainment, including the Children’s Museum of Richmond, where you can educate and entertain the little (and not-so-little).

Station: Richmond – Main Street (RVM) or Richmond – Staples Mill (RVR)

Proximity: Main Street – 15.5 miles or Staples Mill – 10 miles


Stony Point Fashion Park

For a relaxed but upscale outdoor shopping experience, you might like to take a stroll around this uniquely park-like, open-air mall in Richmond. Stony Point Fashion Park offers an exciting mix of exclusive brands and local treasures.

Station: Richmond – Main Street (RVM) or Richmond – Staples Mill (RVR)

Proximity: Main Street – 10 miles or Staples Mill – 8 miles


Tyson’s Corner Center

Tyson Corner Mall

Bring a comfortable pair of shoes for this one – Tyson’s Corner Center is the fifth-largest mall in the nation, with a reputation as a “retail monument.” You’ll find the newest concepts and the latest names, with a mix of shopping, dining and entertainment.

Station: Alexandria (ALX)

Proximity: 17 miles




This guide is intended to get you started on your next shopping adventure – it’s just a sample of the many unique shopping options Virginia has to offer. Visit virginia.org/directory/shopping/ to explore and search based on your interests and your destination.

Then, head to Amtrak.Virginia.com to book your tickets for a comfortable, convenient travel experience. On the day of your excursion, you can use the Amtrak mobile app to access the Lyft app and request a ride. New users of Lyft will receive $5 off each of their first four Lyft rides by using the promo code AMTRAKLYFT.



Amtrak’s Williamsburg station is just blocks away from Colonial Williamsburg. It features a steep gabled roof and classical portico along with its comfortable waiting room.

Shopping Destinations: Merchant’s Square, Williamsburg Premium Outlets



Amtrak in Virginia Alexandria Train Station

Conveniently located right in the heart of Alexandria, this Amtrak station offers a waiting room and is close to Old Town with convenient Metro access.

Shopping Destinations: Old Town Alexandria, The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, Tyson’s Corner Center



Nestled in the historic district, Amtrak offers a platform and a covered shelter at this location. You also can enjoy a meal at The Bavarian Chef, located in the original depot, which dates back to 1910.

Shopping Destinations: Historic Downtown Fredericksburg, Central Park



With the return of passenger rail in 2012, Norfolk constructed a depot near the waterfront that’s both classic and thoroughly modern. The station building includes a waiting room.

Shopping Destinations: Historic Ghent, Norfolk Premium Outlets, MacArthur Center



The two Amtrak stations in Richmond have very different looks and feels – but both feature a waiting room and are only a quick Lyft ride away from the city’s many shopping options.

Shopping Destinations: Carytown, Short Pump Town Center, Stony Point Fashion Park



This quiet suburban stop is close to the beautiful Occoquan River and the outlets at Potomac Mills, offering a platform with a covered shelter. All the convenience with a little less hustle and bustle.

Shopping Destinations: Potomac Mills



Amtrak trains offer wide, comfortable reclining seats and ample legroom – perfect for stretching out after a successful day of shopping. No middle seats, no baggage fees for your purchases. In the café car, you can fuel or refuel with the sandwiches, salads, snacks and hot and cold beverages available for purchase. And, Amtrak’s complimentary Wi-Fi service and in-seat power outlets keep you charged up and ready to hit the stores.


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5 Reasons for a Holiday Getaway to Virginia’s Blue Ridge

5 Reasons for a Holiday Getaway to Virginia’s Blue Ridge

November launches us into the holiday season and Virginia’s Blue Ridge is a prime destination to soak in the festivities and flavors. From elaborately decorated trees to performance traditions like “The Nutcracker,” you will be treated to an unforgettable season.

Join us to get into the spirit. We have five reasons you should book a holiday getaway to Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

1. Holiday Lights & Decorations

a beautiful morning in #Virginia’s Blue Ridge. #historichotel #christmastree at #hotel #roanoke

A post shared by The Hotel Roanoke & Conference center (@hotelroanoke) on Dec 22, 2016 at 5:59am PST

All around Virginia’s Blue Ridge there are communities hosting annual tree lighting celebrations. Find a perfect cup of hot chocolate and join in the merriment of carols and illumination.

Be inspired by the incredible tree display at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, Curio – A Collection by Hilton during Fashions for Evergreens. An annual event, Fashions for Evergreens is a fundraiser for the United Way of the Roanoke Valley and features more than 35 professionally decorated evergreens. You’re invited to vote monetarily for your favorite, and that “vote” will be a direct contribution to United Way. It’s a fun way to get excited about the holidays and do good for others, too. Fashions for Evergreens is Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day.

2. Holiday Events & Festivals

If lights and glamorous trees don’t set your heart on fire for the holidays, the events and festivals of Virginia’s Blue Ridge are sure to spark a flame. Tour Old Southwest, one of Virginia’s largest historic districts, for the Old Southwest Parlor Tour of Homes. Indeed, this is an annual opportunity to tour historic homes decorated for the season. Plan your visit for December 2 or 3 to join the tour.

The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas is a Roanoke holiday mainstay that stretches across three Fridays in December. Now in its 35th year, Dickens will kick off with the Roanoke Christmas Tree Lighting on December 1. Families will especially enjoy the activities the following Friday, however, as a Winter Carnival is coming to town! On December 15, a pet costume contest and the Coca-Cola Snow Zone are key attractions. Throughout it all are those Dickens-esque traditions, like roasted chestnuts, carriage rides, and gleeful street performers.

If you love a parade, ‘tis the season! Communities across Virginia’s Blue Ridge are ushering in Christmas with floats, jingle bells, and Santa Claus bringing up the rear.

3. Holiday Concerts & Performances

Song and dance bring the season to life, and Virginia’s Blue Ridge is a creative destination to witness some of the best holiday performances Virginia has to offer. For example, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra presents Holiday Pops! each year to sell-out crowds while Southwest Virginia Ballet dances The Nutcracker to the same.

While the aforementioned events are best suited for adults, Roanoke Children’s Theatre is geared toward for families with young ladies and gentlemen. If this is you, be sure to catch The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical. It will be offered December 20-23 at the Roanoke Children’s Theatre at 541 Luck Avenue.

4. Holiday Shopping

Shopping may or may not be your favorite pastime. If it’s not, perhaps we can change that. In fact, once you window shop the independently-owned stores of downtown Roanoke, we’re confident you’ll want to actually shop them. Expect to find everything from apparel and jewelry to outdoor gear and gifts to please a palate.

5. Kid-Friendly Holiday Fun

Ice Skating in Elmwood Park

Courtesy of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

The magic of Christmas is most often found in the eyes of a child. Their wonder and delight is infectious! Claim the same when you join them in festive ways to celebrate the holidays. Some of our favorite options include the ice skating rink (Elmwood on Ice) and the Virginia Museum of Transportation where Santa is known to make an appearance by way of the Candy Cane Express.

>> 10 Things to Do With the Kids During the Holidays

Make your holiday the happiest ever and share your experiences with us on social media. Just tag _ #BlueRidgeDay _ to add your photo(s) to an ever-growing showcase of area photos.

Originally written by Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

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About FunRVA

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Experience a Colonial Christmas in Virginia

Experience a Colonial Christmas in Virginia


Everyone knows that Virginia has no shortage of historic sites, from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate to the Jamestown Settlement that explores the history of America’s earliest Colonial founders. But you may not know that these significant sites host period-themed holiday events. Learn about the seasonal traditions of America’s forefathers at one of these historic holiday celebrations.


Colonial Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination & Christmastide

Colonial Williamsburg Grand Illumination

Dates: Grand Illumination on December 3, 2017 and Christmastide through January 1, 2018

Colonial Williamsburg kicks off their holiday festivities with their Grand Illumination the first weekend of December. During the Colonial period, illuminations included large-scale fireworks and the firing of guns to commemorate major military victories, anniversaries of the reigning English monarch’s birth, and the instatement of new Colonial governors. Visit during Colonial Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination for musical performances, unique decorations, and of course, impressive fireworks displays. If you can’t make it during this special event, you can still get a feel for the Colonial Christmas celebration during the entire month of December, when 18th century village reenactors will guide you through the historic city streets decorated for the Christmastide season.


Centuries of Christmas at Berkeley Plantation—Charles City

Holidays at Berkeley Plantation

Dates: December 2, 2017 -January 1, 2018

Tour Berkeley Plantation, an elegant mansion that dates to 1726, during the holiday season to experience their special Centuries of Christmas tours. Fresh greenery from the plantation’s gardens are used throughout the house as decorations, and costumed guides tell true stories that occurred over the more than 400 years of holiday gatherings at Berkeley Plantation.


Candlelight Christmas at Shirley, Edgewood, & Berkeley Plantations—Charles City

Holidays at Shirley Plantation

Dates: Select Dates December 2-28, 2017

Berkeley Plantation teams up with nearby Shirley and Edgewood Plantations for Candlelight Christmas tours of the historic Charles City homes. You’ll discover the history of holiday hospitality and how the Christmas season brought together these Colonial neighbors, a tradition that continued for over four centuries.


Monticello Holiday Evening Tours—Charlottesville


Dates: Select Dates December 8-30, 2017

Experience Thomas Jefferson’s estate as it is rarely seen when you attend the Monticello Holiday Evening Tours. The Founding Father’s home is richly decorated for the season, and guests will enjoy festive refreshments before embarking on a tour with their knowledgeable guide. The tours share the stories of how the residents of Monticello, both enslaved and free, celebrated the holidays during Jefferson’s era. You’ll get to see public and private spaces throughout the home, including the iconic Dome Room, followed by a live music performance held in the Parlor.


A Colonial Christmas at Jamestown Settlement—Williamsburg

holiday candle dipping at jamestown settlement

Dates: December 1-30, 2017

Jamestown Settlement’s Colonial Christmas event compares how the holidays were acknowledged in the new colonies versus the English origins of the traditions. Following Christmas Day, the museum will also host period musical entertainment and special appearances from the Lord of Misrule, an officer appointed during Christmastide to preside over the Feast of Fools, an English custom that was popular in the days of early Colonial America.


A Colonial Christmas at the American Revolution Museum—Yorktown

Holidays at the American Revolution Museum

Dates: December 1-31, 2017

Just a few miles from the Jamestown Settlement, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown holds a Colonial Christmas event, as well. This special seasonal exhibit picks up shortly after the Jamestown story left off, giving accounts of how soldiers of the American Revolution celebrated the holidays in the Continental encampments, on the Revolution-era farms, and in the kitchens of these patriots. Historical interpreters demonstrate 18th century techniques inside the museum’s seasonally decorated living history farmhouse, including candle-dipping and how to cook over an open hearth. Visit both Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown for a discounted combination ticket.


Christmas at Mount Vernon—Mount Vernon

Candlelight tours at historic Mount Vernon.

Dates: Now through January 6, 2018 for Christmas at Mount Vernon and December 1-17, 2017 for Mount Vernon by Candlelight

Visit George Washington’s historic home for Christmas at Mount Vernon, a delightful holiday affair filled with fun for the whole family, from a historic chocolate-making demonstration to 18th century dancing set to holiday tunes played by the resident fifer. The decorated estate is open for special seasonal tours throughout the holidays (including Christmas Day and New Years!) and the grounds are pet-friendly. Plan an evening visit for Mount Vernon by Candlelight, a character-guided tour where you will learn about the holiday traditions of 18th century Virginia. You’ll even get a glimpse of Martha and George Washington as they prepare their home for a festive seasonal visit from friends and family.


Can’t get enough of these historic holiday festivities? Here are a few more seasonal events happening around the Commonwealth:




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The Best Places in Virginia to Take Your Holiday Photos

The Best Places in Virginia to Take Your Holiday Photos

Rather than taking the standard Christmas card photo in front of the tree at home, mix it up this year and plan a trip to a Virginia destination to take your holiday pictures. You’ll get awe-inspiring snapshots while also having the unforgettable experiences that come with the magic of the holiday season in Virginia!


1. A Mountain Resort

The Omni Homestead Resort

Pictured: The Omni Homestead

Plan to take your holiday photos at a Virginia Mountain Resort, then stay for an entire weekend for a getaway absolutely filled with fun. With on-site luxury spas, excellent restaurants within the grounds, and endless activities, including ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, you’ll find that two or three days aren’t close to long enough to explore a mountain resort in Virginia.

A Few Suggestions:


2. A Decorated Main Street

Holiday Shopping in Old Town

Pictured: Old Town Alexandria

Virginia’s towns and cities all decorate their Main Streets for the holidays to some extent, with some going simple and sticking to lights and a few strands of garlands while others cover practically every square inch with tinsel, wreaths, and ornaments. Many Main Streets have a centerpiece tree, illuminated with thousands of lights and covered in ornaments with themes tied to the local area.

A Few Suggestions:

  • Lexington
  • Kilmarnock
  • Cape Charles
  • Alexandria
  • Charlottesville
  • Front Royal
  • Richmond
  • Fredericksburg


3. At a Scenic Mountain Vista

Mount Rogers

Pictured: Mount Rogers

The storied rolling landscapes of the Blue Ridge Mountains make for an awe-inspiring backdrop. Pro-tip: Although you’ll have to plan carefully to get the timing right, the pictures will come out best if taken around sunrise or sunset.

A Few Suggestions:


4. A Hotel Lobby Decked Out for the Holidays

The Jefferson Hotel

Pictured: The Jefferson

Hotels anticipate lots of travel around the holidays, so it comes as no surprise that they take their lobby and grounds decorations seriously. Giant illuminated trees, countless wreathes, and unique holiday surprises are a few of the decorative touches you can expect with a visit to Virginia’s hotels.

A Few Suggestions:


5. An Elegant Virginia Winery

Pollak Vineyards

Pictured: Pollak Vineyards

In addition to splendid holiday décor and world-class Virginia wine, you’ll find tons of seasonal events happening at wineries around the Commonwealth. Take your photo inside the tasting room in front of a roaring fireplace, or brave the cold for a few minutes to get a breathtaking background for your Christmas cards.

A Few Suggestions:


6. In Front of a Decorated LOVEwork

Mansassas Holiday LOVEworks

Pictured: Manassas LOVEwork

There are now almost 100 LOVEworks located in every corner of Virginia and some of these are decorated for the holidays. If you’re road tripping through the Commonwealth in the upcoming month, take a look at the LOVEwork map and add a short detour to take your holiday photos!

A Few Suggestions:


7. At Your Local Christmas Tree Farm

Enjoy the holiday season by choosing and cutting the perfect Christmas tree at Claybrooke Farm.

Pictured: Claybrook Farm

Get two items checked off your holiday checklist when you head to a Virginia Christmas tree farm this season. First, pick out the perfect tree for you and your family, and then take a picture in front of it to make a fun holiday memory last forever. Many tree farms even offer free hot chocolate, cider, visits with Santa, or other extra perks for the kids.

A Few Suggestions:


8. An Impressive Holiday Lights Display

lewis ginter gardenfest

Pictured: Lewis Ginter Gardenfest of Lights

Something about the twinkle of lights makes a holiday photo absolutely beautiful, and there are plenty of places around Virginia that offer this luminous addition. You’ll discover endless lights at tacky lights tours around the state, streetside setups at local businesses, historic sites, and even botanical gardens. For a family-friendly light display, visit Busch Gardens Christmas Town, which is the biggest holiday light display in all of North America!

A Few Suggestions:


9. At a Historic Virginia Destination

Holidays at Shirley Plantation

Pictured: Shirley Plantation

You can’t go a few miles in Virginia without coming across a notable historic site, and most go all out for the holidays, with classic (and often historically relevant) traditions and decorations. Stop by a historic site, plantation, or presidential home for a blend of history and holiday.

A Few Suggestions:


10. A Holiday Performance
barter theatre christmas

Pictured: Barter Theatre

If you plan on taking the family to a theater or music performance during the holidays, use the opportunity to take your holiday photos as well; the kids will already be dressed up in their holiday best, and that is not always an easy feat! Plus, the decorations add a festive backdrop that will make a gorgeous Christmas card.

A Few Suggestions:






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Big Concerts Coming to Virginia in December

Big Concerts Coming to Virginia in December


The holidays are here and there’s a great amount of music coming to Virginia in December. From major country acts to the biggest names in rock and pop, celebrate the season with your favorite artists and discover new ones all over the Commonwealth.



Over at Virginia’s many live music venues:

The National in Richmond will be bringing a number of big name artists throughout the month. The venue will be hosting Bon Iver (Dec. 3), The Mountain Goats (Dec. 5), Dave Rawlings (Dec. 8), Steve Earle and the Dukes (Dec. 9), The Front Bottoms (Dec. 13), The War on Drugs (Dec. 14), Carbon Leaf (Dec. 16), Fighting Gravity (Dec. 26) and others.

The Broadberry will be hosting acts like Patterson Hood on Dec. 4, Reverend Horton Heat on Dec. 16 and Agents of Good Roots on Dec. 29.

Just outside Richmond, the Church Sisters will perform at the Tin Pan on Dec. 7.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra will ring in the holiday season at the Richmond Coliseum on Dec. 6. Over at the Altria Theater, Kirk Franklin & Ledisi will perform on Dec. 2.


The Beacon Theatre in Hopewell will host Dokken on Dec. 8 and Delbert McClinton on Dec. 29.

In Charlottesville, the Jefferson Theater will hosts artists like Steep Canyon Rangers (Dec. 2), Steve Earle and the Dukes (Dec. 8), Dave Rawlings (Dec. 9), Eddie from Ohio (Dec. 16), The Wailin’ Jennys (Dec. 17), The Steel Wheels (Dec. 30 & 31) and more. At the Paramount Theater, Phil Vassar and Kellie Pickler will be performing a Christmas concert on Dec. 23.

The Paramount Theater

In Lynchburg, Juicy J will be performing at the Phase 2 Club on Dec. 1 and Tracy Lawrence will be there on Dec. 2.

The NorVa in Norfolk will be bringing in Bon Iver (Dec. 4), SZA (Dec. 8), KRS-One (Dec. 9) and many others.


Kirk Franklin & Ledisi will be at Old Dominion University’s Constant Center on Dec. 1, while Old Dominion and Paramore will be there on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, respectively.

In Williamsburg, Andy Grammer will perform at Williamsburg Winery on Dec. 10.

The Berglund Center in Roanoke will have a number of holiday performances with Keith & Kristyn Getty on Dec. 19, Jim Brickman on Dec. 20 and Martina McBride on Dec. 22.

The Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount will host Delbert McClinton on Dec. 2, The Mountain Goats on Dec. 4, The Wailin’ Jennys on Dec. 16, Scotty McCreery on Dec. 17 and more.


The Tally Ho Theatre in Leesburg will be hosting Edwin McCain on Dec. 1 on Here Come the Mummies on Dec. 7.

Steve Earle and the Dukes will play at Alexandria music hall The Birchmere on Dec. 6. Also on the Birchmere’s schedule are Aaron Neville (Dec. 7), Dar Williams (Dec. 8 & 9), Carbon Leaf (Dec. 14 & 15), The Wailin’ Jennys (Dec. 18 and 19) and many more.


For more big names coming to Virginia this month, go to virginia.org/music. At a Virginia concert this month? Share your photos with @VisitVirginia on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #vamusic and #vaisformusiclovers.


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Made in Virginia: Our Staff Picks for Locally Made Gifts

Made in Virginia: Our Staff Picks for Locally Made Gifts

Are you checking names off of your holiday gift list yet? If you haven’t finished grabbing that perfect hostess gift, friend or relative gift, or holiday cheer present, we have some ideas for you.

Today’s gift guide features all Virginia-made products at every price range to help you celebrate the season. Find some affordable and chic finds for your visitor…or maybe even for yourself! And keep reading to find a special discount code for officially licensed new Virginia is for Lovers merchandise. Happy gifting!



—Virginia is for BEACH Lovers—

beach productsPhoto Credit for 2: Marisa Ann

1. Set up near the waves with the Sandbridge Beach Table, which holds your beach beverages and accessories…$39.95

2. These Plank Eyewear Marshall wood-frame sunglasses are made for men. They are lightweight and easily adaptable to any dress environment – casual or dressy…$75

3. Wave Riding Vehicles makes a surfboard called the Nugget. “This past decade has seen a growing demand for more volume in boards and our Nugget is the answer. Its groundbreaking design continues to redefine how to make small wave riding fun.”…$535+



—Virginia is for CRAFT BEER Lovers—

craft beer virginia products

4. These personalized glass beer mugs are perfect for the beer guy in your life. Handmade and made-to-order from Etsy’s Blue Ridge Mountain Co…$53.99

5. These solid wood custom, rectangular tap handles are made from your choice of wood species and you can even add a logo. Moslow Wood…price varies

6. These growlers come in either 32 or 64 ounces and can be personalized with text or artwork. From Shine Vessels…$39.99 (32 ounce) or $59.99 (64 ounce)



—Virginia is for FOOD Lovers—

Virginia food products

7. Pick up one of these limited edition Virginia-themed tea towels as a holiday gift or a new accent piece in your kitchen decor. Created by printmakers and Richmond residents Meredith and James Hill. Lightbox Print Co…$20

8. These sauces have a unique medley of savory spices and natural ingredients! Try the Original, Sweet & Spicy, Isaac’s Apple, or Brazen Heat Hot, if you dare! Bone Doctors’ BBQ Sauce…$4.99

9. Talk with your family and friends while cooking or grilling in this vintage-inspired leather apron. It features an adjustable leather neck strap, leather straps that tie around the body, and two front pockets. From Moore and Giles…$375



—Virginia is for HISTORY Lovers—

history virginia products

Photo Credit for 12: Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

10. This 1926 colorful Virginia map is an old vintage gift for your history-loving relative or friend. Etsy’s Upcycle Farmer has different options…$9.95

11. “Virginia Women: Their Lives and Time-Volume 2” can be found at the Virginia Shop at the Library of Virginia. Many books relating to Virginia’s history can be found at the store, in Richmond…$34.95

12. This extremely versatile, exquisitely simple, pewter Jefferson Cup can be engraved. It comes in a gift box and holds approximately 7 ounces. Can be found during your trip to Monticello at the shop there or online…$35.00



—Virginia is for MOUNTAIN Lovers—

mountain lovers products

13. Made in Roanoke, Virginia, the Mountain Laurel Designs Hiking Packs are the perfect lightweight bags to carry all your gear during a mountain excursion…$85+

14. Old Virginia Apple Butter has been made in Mount Jackson since 1906, bringing the incredible taste of Virginia’s orchards to your table…Starting at $2.99, available online or in select grocery stores.

15. If you’re looking for an overnight outdoor adventure, consider getting a Yama Mountain Gear Tent or Shelter System. They are crafted and tested to survive the toughest conditions by their Charlottesville creators…$110+


—Virginia is for MUSIC Lovers—

music products

Photo Credit for 18: Todd Wright

16. The Huss & Dalton CM acoustic guitar “is perfect whether you are a songwriter needing an inspirational writing tool or a discerning finger stylist, or perhaps a blend of both.”…Approximately $3389

17. Country music forces join together to pay tribute to the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions. This collection has been described as haunting, timeless, and powerful.  Available at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s store…$19.99

18. This is Fern & Roby’s flagship speaker, the Cube Speakers in Heart Pine. Each cube pair is beautiful and has a superior performance…$1650



—Virginia is for OUTDOOR Lovers—

outdoor products

19. The Standard Deadstock Dungarees from Shockoe Atelier are perfect for your next outdoor adventure. This denim was found in an abandoned factory in Petersburg, Virginia…$95

20. These unisex tees are super soft and lightweight. There are even unisex onesies. Choose from a variety of graphics and colors! From Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine…$16.99

21. This acorn cap necklace has a rainbow of tiny blooms that float gently inside. You also choose the length of your silver plated chain. From Etsy’s BloomSpoons…$36



— Virginia is for OYSTER Lovers—

oyster products 2

22. Add a kick to your oysters with Mad Hatter’s Extra Hot Sauce, in a habanero pineapple flavor. We dare you!…$6.99

23. This novel spirit uses several pounds of local oyster shells and is best enjoyed straight or in cocktails that call for vodka or gin. From JR Distillery…$37.59

24. Order a bushel of oysters for your next holiday meal or party. White Stone Oysters offers free overnight shipping, depending on your location…$70. As a bonus gift, order the Chesapeake Monolith & White Stone Collaboration Oyster Shuckers, pictured…from $125



—Virginia is for WINE lovers—

wine products

25. Made-to-order wine barrel oak wood cufflinks! These have a wine-dyed face of the inside of a wine barrel and are finished with a clear wax and shellac blend. From Etsy’s Dfuss…$35

26. Keep your wine from spilling at your next music or outdoor festival! This table has a handle for easy carrying and comes in your choice of 4 stains. The tables are 11.25 inches wide, 20 inches long, and stand 8 inches high. From Etsy’s LeBlancWoodCreations…$75

27. These finely turned bottle stoppers were created by Doug Dill, master wood crafter in Lanexa, Virginia. The wood for each stopper was sourced from three different trees planted at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. From the Shops at Mount Vernon…$36



—Virginia is for SPIRITS Lovers—

spirits products

28. Keep It Simple Syrup are flavor-infused simple syrups that can be added to your favorite cocktail, savory dish, or dessert. Flavors include cinnamon, ginger, lemon zest, and spearmint…$12.50 each for a 12.7 ounce bottle

29. Gearharts Fine Chocolates spikes their truffles with Virginia Distillery Company’s Highland malt whisky. The truffles won “Best New Product” at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo, 2016. The Virginia Malt Whisky Truffles are packaged in a gift box, includes 9 pieces…$22.00

30. Blanc Creatives has a cocktail muddler that is turned from local hardwoods and available in maple and walnut. Blanc Creatives also carries copper cookware, garden tools, limited items, steel cookware, and wood products…muddlers are $35 each.



—Virginia is for WEDDING Lovers—

wedding virginia products

31. Made from recycled pallet wood, these Virginia signs (measuring appproximately 20” high x  40” wide) are perfect for anyone who needs a reminder of our great Commonwealth. You may choose your paint colors, a city to mark with a heart, and even add personalized initials or a monogram. From Amanda Dover Designs…$100 plus customization

32. Looking for a memorable gift for a Virginia bride and groom? How about a custom illustration of the capital city, drawn by Richmond artist Claire Hill. She offers detailed prints of many famous Richmond landmarks, including Main Street Station and Monument Avenue, as well as custom portraits and commissioned drawings…$50+

33. Hugo Kohl engagement rings and wedding rings are designed to be beautiful and infused with symbolic, allegorical messages about love, promises for the future, acknowledgement of our shared past and how we strive to commit ourselves to one another. Featuring “Harmony & Balance” engagement ring…$3200

34. Ask your bridesmaids to be part of your special day with a customized artisan gift box from Beets & Apples. Owner Ruby Hong makes all the beauty products in her Northern Virginia studio and pairs them with locally made items, like the handmade treats from Cardinal Chocolates.


We hope you love our Virginia products as much as we do! For officially licensed Virginia is for Lovers merchandise, check out our new website. Use code VWC for 10% off your retail purchase. Limited to one-time use only.

virginia is for lovers merch




Find even more Virginia-made products below:

  • Artisans from Heartwood are masters of their media. You may choose from a number of artisans that go through a rigorous jurying process just to be selected. Heartwood showcases the best in craft!…Prices vary
  • Mountain View Farms has amazing Gouda cheese. We like to mix it with a favorite Virginia wine in an awesome gift basket for your friends or favorite host.  This basket is a great option. From the Made In Virginia Store, a “Virginia wine and cheese…please” basket…$42.95
  • Cork to Barrel Melted Wine Bottles can be used for your favorite appetizer, a soap dish, a spoon rest, etc.  This particular one has “Celebrate Family Friends Life” etched on there and would be a perfect gift for the new partners…$24.00
  • The North End Beach Bag is perfect for the short weekend beach trip. The Beach Tote from North End Bag Company…$78.00
  • Add artisanal slow-cured meats from Olli Salumeria to your holiday meal. Pair with a Virginia craft beer or wine and you have the perfect appetizer or hostess gift! Olli Salumeria…price varies
  • Choose from any of the artisans in the Round the Mountain Artisan Network for your unique gift needs. Your family would love a clay or mixed media gift from any of these locals…prices vary
  • Graves’ Mountain Apple Butter, the number one product purchased by guests of Graves’ Mountain Lodge Restaurant in Syria…$15 for three 9-ounce jars
  • Custom menswear for your big day! A shirt, suit, or tuxedo that fits perfectly for the groom and party — you may shop by color, occasion, price range, style, or fabric. From Alton Lane…prices vary

About FunRVA

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Celebrate the Season at Virginia’s Holiday Concerts, Shows, & Performances

Celebrate the Season at Virginia’s Holiday Concerts, Shows, & Performances


Add a little holiday cheer to your calendar when you attend a concert, show, or live performance around Virginia this season. Take the kids to see the story of Rudolph set to seasonal hits, witness pyrotechnics and fireworks choreographed to a live show, or even join your favorite Virginia college orchestras and marching bands as they perform traditional holiday songs. Fill the entire family with the spirit of the holidays and make plans to see these festive performances around the Commonwealth.



Dates: Select dates from November 25 – December 17, 2017

Come and enjoy this retelling of the beloved Christmas movie classic, A Christmas Story. Watch as Ralphie overcomes some hurdles (that darned freezing flagpole) and see if he gets what’s first on his Christmas list. This show is fun for the whole family.



Dates: November 28 – December 20, 2017

barter theatre christmas

Take the kids to the Barter Theatre’s “Rudolph” for a night they won’t forget. With shows starting on November 28th and running until December 20th you’re sure to squeeze in a viewing of this holiday tale.



Dates: December 1 – 31, 2017

colonial christmas jamestown

A Colonial Christmas at Jamestown Settlement gives visitors the chance to experience holiday traditions, period musical entertainment, and 17th and 18th century festivities— like setting a farmhouse table for a holiday feast. Festivities kick off on December 1st and last throughout the month.



Date: December 2, 2017

Hollydazzle Newport News

Held each year in City Center at Oyster Point, Hollydazzle combines synchronized fireworks, theatrical lighting, and impressive pyrotechnics during a live performance choreographed to these dazzling special effects. The kaleidoscope of colors reflected off the surface of the park’s five-acre foundation will bring wonder and awe to visitors of all ages. The event draws over 30,000 people to the area each year and includes free children’s activities and holiday performances throughout.



Date: December 3, 2017

UVa Richmond Football Game

Photo Credit: UVA Office of Communications

Celebrate the Holidays with the Hoos as University of Virginia’s 320-member Cavalier Marching Band teams up with 400 high school student musicians from all around Virginia to perform at John Paul Jones Arena. They’ll play everything from UVA school songs and football halftime favorites to timeless holiday classics, and will be featuring several surprise guests and performances during the show.



Dates: December 15 – 17, 2017

Escape to the beach for the Nutcracker. You won’t want to miss this timeless classic, performed with a live orchestra. After the sugar plum fairies and nutcrackers take a bow, head to The Royal Chocolate in Virginia Beach Town Center for a sweet treat.



Dates: December 2 – 3, 2017


Photo Credit: Bob Adamek

JMU’s choral ensemble and Symphony Orchestra presents Holidayfest: Believe, held at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts in Harrisonburg. The groups perform an array of classic holiday favorites, and the event also includes a special holiday reading and presentation based on the book and film “The Polar Express”. Bring the kids and arrive early for the December 3rd show to enjoy crafts, cookies, and hot cider in the Grand Lobby.



Date: December 8, 2017

American Festival Pops Orchestra

 Photo Credit: Stan Engebretson

Northern Virginia’s very own pops orchestra welcomes the holiday season with their annual family concert, a Pops Orchestra performance filled with joyful carols and the cherished classics, including selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”. The seasonal show concludes with a stirring sing-a-long in which the audience gets a chance to share in the memorable holiday experience.



There’s so much more to see and do this holiday season. Here are a few more shows and performances to add to your calendar:


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The Ultimate Checklist for an Unforgettable Virginia Holiday

The Ultimate Checklist for an Unforgettable Virginia Holiday


Santa isn’t the only one making a list and checking it twice! Everyone has their own holiday traditions that make the season a little brighter, from hanging the stockings to baking holiday cookies with the kids. We have compiled our favorite seasonal Virginia traditions into a simple checklist that will make this year’s Yuletide one you won’t soon forget.


Click on the image below for the full list or print it out here to check off these tinsel-filled to-do’s as you complete this holiday list.




1. Enjoy a Breakfast with Santa in Virginia with the whole family

Louisa County Breakfast with SantaPictured: The Louisa County Breakfast with Santa


2. Visit one of the decorated Loveworks around Virginia and snap a picture for your holiday cards.

Mansassas Holiday LOVEworksPictured: Manassas LOVEwork decorated for the holidays


3. Attend a Grand Illumination or parade in Virginia’s favorite Christmas towns.

Christmas in MiddleburgPictured: Middleburg Christmas Parade


4. Pick up the traditional tree at a local Christmas tree farm.

Enjoy the holiday season by choosing and cutting the perfect Christmas tree at Claybrooke Farm.

Pictured: Christmas trees at Claybrooke Farm


5. Get your holiday shopping done in one of Virginia’s many amazing shopping districts.

Holiday Shopping in Old Town

Pictured: Shopping district of Old Town Alexandria


6. Learn about Virginia’s rich history during the holidays when you attend a seasonal celebration at one of Virginia’s historic destinations.

Holidays at Berkeley Plantation

Pictured: Christmas tree at Historic Berkeley Plantation


7. Take the kids to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens.

christmas town at busch gardens

Pictured: Christmas Town at Busch Gardens



8. Experience Virginia’s holiday flavors at a local restaurant.

Holidays at The Boar's Head Inn

Pictured: Holiday meal at Boar’s Head Old Mill Room Restaurant


9. See a seasonal play or show at a nearby theater.

Miracle on 34th Street. Photo courtesy of Barter Theatre.

Pictured: Miracle on 34th Street at Barter Theatre in Abingdon


10. Plan a romantic getaway at a decked-out hotel or resort.

homestead holidays

Pictured: Holiday decorations in the lobby of  the Omni Homestead


11. Break out your favorite over-the-top holiday sweater for a tacky lights tour.

Richmond Tacky Lights Tour

Pictured: Decorated home on the Richmond Tacky Lights Tour


12. Warm up with a steaming cup of hot cocoa in the Commonwealth.

Blackbird Bakery

Pictured: Hot chocolate at Blackbird Bakery in Bristol


13. Hear Virginia choirs and musical groups perform your favorite Christmas Carols.

Downtown Harrisonburg Holiday Tour

Pictured: Carolers sing on a downtown Harrisonburg Holiday Tour


14. Head west to a Virginia mountain resort for some snowy family fun.Massanutten Resort Skiing

Pictured: Wintergreen Resort


15. Pick up some sweet seasonal treats and goodies from a delicious Virginia bakery.

Red Truck Bakery

Pictured: Red Truck Bakery


16. Lace up and hit an ice skating rink with friends or family.

Ice Skating at Reston Town Center

Pictured: Reston Town Center Ice Skating Rink


17. Visit a decorated Virginia winery for some extra holiday cheer.

Gray Ghost Winery

Pictured: Gray Ghost Winery in Amissville decorates with cork reindeer


18. Order oysters, seasonal craft beers, and wines to add classic Virginia touches to your holiday meal.

craft beer with oysters virginia beachesPictured: Oysters and Craft Beer at Rappahannock Oyster Company


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10 Decked-Out Destinations for a Holiday Breakfast with Santa

10 Decked-Out Destinations for a Holiday Breakfast with Santa


Out of all the holiday traditions to fill the season, the chance to meet Santa and share their wish lists is one of the most memorable for kids. Couple this with a delicious breakfast and you have a new favorite Yuletide tradition for the whole family. Attend these holiday breakfasts with Santa, happening around Virginia, to make this a season they won’t soon forget.


Louisa County’s Breakfast with Santa—Louisa

Date: December 2, 2017

Louisa County Breakfast with Santa

Join Santa at the Betty Queen Center in Louisa County for a delightful breakfast, complete with all your favorite foods, including heaping stacks of fluffy pancakes and crisp bacon. Parents can take their own photos of the kids with Santa and his helpers as they tell him what is on their wish list this year. The breakfast costs $8 for one adult and child pair, and $3 for each additional person from that family.


SPCA’s Pictures with Santa—Martinsville

Date: December 2, 2017

spca pictures with santa cat in hat

Although not a holiday breakfast event, the SPCA’s Pictures with Santa in Martinsville is great for those looking to celebrate the season with their four-legged family members. Pets get their picture taken with Santa, with professional services offered by Dawson Photography, and owners have the option to purchase 5×7 prints for $10 each. If you’re interested in adding to your family, you can also visit with the pets up for adoption during the event. While appointments are available ahead of time, walk-ins are also welcome.


Brunch with Santa at Cooper’s Landing Inn

Date: December 2, 2017

Coopers Landing breakfast with santa

The 12th annual Brunch with Santa at Cooper’s Landing Inn is a seasonal event the whole family will love. Even the food is festive, with Reindeer pancakes, eggnog French toast, and peppermint hot chocolate. Enjoy your meal by the toasty 1830’s wood stove or dine next to one of the 14 uniquely decorate Christmas trees. In addition to the $15 entry fee, which includes a picture with Santa in a special holiday memory folder, the Inn asks that each child brings a toy to donate to local families in need. They will match the amount of toys collected to bring even more holiday cheer to those families. Reservations are recommended.


Breakfast with Santa at the Mariners’ Museum and Park—Newport News

Dates: December 2 & 9, 2017

mariners museum breakfast with santa

The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News welcomes guests to their annual Breakfast with Santa, which features a full mouthwatering menu of pancakes, fresh seasonal fruit, bacon, sausage, and much more. After dining and taking photos with Santa, kids have the chance to do a little holiday crafting, with activities like making their own ornaments. The $12 general entry fee includes all of this, plus admission to the museum for the entire day. Children two years old and under are free.


Breakfast with Santa at Eileen’s Bakery—Fredericksburg

Dates: December 3, 10, 17, 19, & 22, 2017

In its 7th annual year, Eileen’s Bakery offers several dates for their Breakfast with Santa celebration, as well as two seating times for each date. The breakfast buffet is an absolute feast, with tasty dishes like pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and home fries. Kids can decorate their own pancakes in holiday-themed edible treats and finish off their meal with a steaming cup of hot cocoa. Get pictures of the kids with Santa as they share their wish list, then capture the excitement as he gives each child a surprise present. Breakfast is $23.99 for adults, $17.99 for kids under 13, and free for kids one and under.


Breakfast with Santa in Yorktown—Yorktown

Date: December 9, 2017

yorktown breakfast with santa

Join Santa and Mrs. Claus for a holiday breakfast and photos at Riverwalk Restaurant in Yorktown. Bring the kids along with their wish lists to meet Santa, enjoy a festive kid-friendly breakfast menu, and get some special holiday treats during this seasonal event. Reservations are required, and tickets are $20 per person, with children two and under free.


Graves’ Mountain Lodge Breakfast with Santa—Syria

Date: December 9, 2017

Graves mountain lodge breakfast with santa

At Graves’ Mountain Lodge Breakfast with Santa, kids will have opportunity to visit with Santa, share their wish list, and take a memorable photo. Virginia breakfast favorites like bacon and sausage links, biscuits and gravy, grits, fried apples, eggs, and pancakes are all on the menu for just $11.95 per adult, with children 17 and under half price.


Breakfast with Historic Santa—Manassas

Date: December 9, 2017

manassas breakfast with historic santa

If you’re looking for a unique take on Santa, make plans to attend the Breakfast with Historic Santa event, held at the Old Manassas Courthouse. This Santa commemorates one of the original depictions of Santa, illustrated by artist Thomas Nast in 1862. Santa’s uniform resembles the American flag, as Nast drew him giving gifts to U.S. soldiers in their camps near Fredericksburg. During the breakfast, children will have the opportunity to take pictures with this historic Santa, share their wish lists, and make authentic 19th century Christmas decorations to take home. Reservations are required, and the event is $20 for ages six and older and $10 for children younger than five.


Breakfast with Santa at the Founders Inn & Spa—Virginia Beach

Dates: December 9, 10, 16, 17, & 23, 2017

The Founders Inn and Spa Illumination

Founders Inn & Spa goes all out with holiday decorations, illuminating the trees outside in twinkling lights. Head inside for the Breakfast with Santa, where children can take pictures with Santa in front of a 32-foot tall, gorgeously decorated Christmas tree. Enjoy breakfast at the Swan Terrace Grill, followed by fun holiday entertainment, including a balloon artist and face painting at no extra fee. The inn also offers a Santa Slumber Party on select dates, complete with a personalized letter from Santa and turndown service with milk and cookies. Reservations are required; breakfast is $29.95 per person.


Salamander Resort & Spa Brunch with Santa—Middleburg

Dates: December 9, 16, & 23, 2017

Salamander Resort & Spa

Visit with Santa and his elves while enjoying a huge brunch spread at Salamander Resort & Spa’s Winter Wonderland. The resort transforms their expansive ballroom into Santa’s Workshop for the season, where you can make your own holiday keepsake at their design station. And of course, there will be photo opportunities with Santa himself for the kids and the whole family.


Where do you take your kids to get pictures with Santa during the holidays? Share a few suggestions in the comments below!

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8 Stress-Free Thanksgiving Getaways (with Turkey!)

8 Stress-Free Thanksgiving Getaways (with Turkey!)


Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and with this family-focused holiday comes a lot of extra responsibilities, from the panic of cooking for more than a dozen people to the seemingly never-ending cleaning to make the house presentable. This year, consider skipping the stress of prepping for Thanksgiving and instead using the long break as a relaxing getaway. Whether you are dreaming of a romantic vacation for two or a full family feast without any of the cooking and cleaning, there is a Virginia Thanksgiving getaway for you!


Cooper’s Landing Inn Decadent Thanksgiving Feast—Clarksville

coopers landing fall thanksgiving

Reserve seats for the Thanksgiving Feast at Cooper’s Landing Inn, or book their special Thanksgiving package for the complete holiday getaway. This seasonal special includes two nights stay at the inn with homemade pumpkin bread and warm apple cider upon arrival, a complimentary bottle of chilled wine in your room, breakfast both mornings, and the four-course Thanksgiving meal for two. The Thanksgiving dinner is only $20 for kids and $45 for adults, while the full Thanksgiving package starts at $440.

Book Now


Thanksgiving Dinner at Belle Grove Plantation—King George

Eat your Thanksgiving dinner at Belle Grove Plantation, a historic plantation home that dates to 1790. The bed and breakfast decorates for the occasion with tasteful table settings and elegant Thanksgiving touches, and the menu includes all your favorite holiday dishes like turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, French green beans, sweet potato soufflé, and several pies for dessert. Tickets for the event are $60 per person and must be purchased before November 11th. While the website does not allow for booking online for a Thanksgiving getaway, rooms may still be available to book for a complete stay; call to check availability.

Get Tickets


Thanksgiving on the Mountain at Wintergreen Resort—Wintergreen

Thanksgiving at Wintergreen resort

Plan a stay at Wintergreen Resort over Thanksgiving for a customizable getaway filled with endless activities. Bring the entire family to stay in one of the resort condos where you can get an entire turkey delivered, as well as all the seasonal sides and desserts you could possibly want. Looking for a smaller, more romantic retreat? Book a room at the Mountain Inn and eat dinner at one of the resort’s on-site restaurants, which will be serving up classic Thanksgiving dishes all day long. Then, spend Black Friday shopping the Wintergreen Ski Swap, where you can get new and used equipment at a fraction of the price while also supporting a good cause; 20% of the proceeds go to supporting the Wintergreen Ski Patrol. Additionally, there are several other events happening at the resort over the course of the weekend, from a Thanksgiving 5K to the annual Wintergreen Grand Illumination.

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Thanksgiving Buffet & Stay at Graves Mountain Lodge—Syria

thanksgiving graves mountain lodge

Stay Wednesday evening at Graves Mountain Lodge and wake up to a wonderful (and effortless!) Thanksgiving meal. The buffet runs most of the day and features delicious seasonal favorites like roast turkey, country ham, fried oysters, and so much more. While the meal is included with an overnight stay, you can also purchase tickets for just the meal at $40 for adults and half price for kids. Schedule horseback rides with the lodge to see the beauty of Graves Mountain and the valley of Syria, or explore on your own with a hike through the mountain trails. Want even more outdoor adventure? Skyline Drive is just 30 minutes away, and the famous Luray Caverns are also within a short drive.

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Traditional Founders Thanksgiving Buffet at the Founders Inn & Spa—Virginia Beach

Virginia’s mountains may be a favorite destination for many during the fall and winter, but the beach offers its own charms during the off-season. Experience the charms of the Virginia coast this Thanksgiving with a trip to Founders Inn & Spa in Virginia Beach. Their award-winning culinary team designs a delicious menu featuring traditional favorites like turkey, stuffing, and Smithfield Ham. Reservations are required for the meal, which runs $49.95 per adult, $24.95 for children five to twelve, and is free for children four and under. Bring the entire family, including your four-legged friends, for an overnight stay as the inn is pet-friendly and even has a fenced dog park on-site. For a truly relaxing Thanksgiving getaway, book a few services in the inn’s luxurious spa.

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Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia at Jamestown Settlement—Williamsburg

jamestown thanksgiving

Savor the Thanksgiving holiday at Yorktown’s “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia”, a special event that explores centuries-old cooking and preservation methods. Held at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum, this food-focused event starts on Thanksgiving Day and runs to November 25th. You’ll learn how food was gathered, preserved, and prepared by both the Indigenous peoples and the early English Colonists at the Jamestown Settlement, then head to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown to discover how Revolutionary War soldiers and civilians prepared their food from the rations supplied by the farms around Virginia.

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Thanksgiving Craft Beer & Wine Festival—Tysons

It may not be on Thanksgiving day, but fans of Virginia’s adult beverages will love the Thanksgiving Craft Beer & Wine Festival in Northern Virginia, held on Saturday, November 25th from 1pm-6pm at the Tysons’ Biergarten. This pet-friendly event brings together a wide array of breweries and wineries, featuring over 50 Virginia craft beers and wines for you to sample, as well as live music performances, seasonal foods, contests, games for the kids, and giveaways.

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Homestyle Thanksgiving Day Lunch at Natural Bridge Historic Hotel—Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge Hotel & Conference Center

Pack up the family and head to the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel for a Homestyle Thanksgiving Day Lunch. The seasonal menu includes an array of both seasonal favorites and unique Virginia dishes, like a Brandy Sugar Pumpkin Bisque with Baby Shrimp, Southern Fried Tom Turkey, Cornbread and Oyster Stuffed Trout Fillet, and Cinnamon Apple Cake. Reservations are required for this event, which costs $29.95 for adults, $14 for children under twelve, and free for children younger than five.

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