Entertainment around RVA

Big Concerts Coming to Virginia in June 2018

Big Concerts Coming to Virginia in June 2018

Festival season is in full wing and throughout June, many big name musicians will be coming to Virginia. From major country acts to the biggest names in rock and pop, catch your favorite artists and discover new ones all over the Commonwealth.


—Virginia Music Festivals—

Richmond’s summer concert series, Friday Cheers, brings some of the nation’s hottest touring acts, along with some regional favorites to Brown’s Island every Friday night in June. Thousands of people will come to relax after the work week to meet friends and hear music from Tyler Childers (June 1), Rhiannon Giddens (June 8), Parquet Courts (June 15), Knower (June 22), and Turnpike Troubadours (June 29).

Over in Abingdon, the Howling Craft Beer and Music Festival will take place June 1-3 at Wolf Hills Brewing Company. Catch Southern Culture on the Skids, Annabelle’s Curse, If Birds Could Fly, Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats, and more. The Thursday Jams concert series in Abingdon will feature music from The Steel Wheels (June 7), Cris Jacobs (June 14), Heather Gills Band (June 21), and Acoustic Syndicate (June 28).

The Virginia Beach Patriotic Festival celebrates the military at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront June 1-3 and features performances from Brett Eldredge, Brantley Gilbert, and Cole Swindell.

On June 7-9, it’s three days of beach music with on-site camping for the Hot Fun in the Summertime Beach Festival in Stuart, Virginia.

HoustonFest in Galax is June 8-9 and features the bluegrass music of The Church Sisters, Flatt Lonesome, HogSlop String Band, and many more.

Good Charlotte, Gin Blossoms, and Sugar Ray will headline Celebrate Fairfax!, Northern Virginia’s largest community-wide celebration, on June 8-10 at the Fairfax County Government Center.

Taking place June 9-17, the Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming is an annual nine-day, region-wide celebration of the communities in Southwest Virginia from the traditional music to the many cultural and natural assets. The event includes Crooked Road marquee concerts in over 20 communities and many dozens of cultural events throughout the region.

The Columbia Pike Blues Festival returns to Arlington on June 16 with live music from Three Man Soul Machine, Caz Gardiner, King Soul Band, Niki Hill, and Don Bryant.

Bruce Hornsby hosts Funhouse Fest in Williamsburg June 22-23 along with performances from Alison Krauss, Amos Lee, the Wood Brothers, and Deva Mahal.

The Hampton Jazz Festival will be June 22-24 at the Hampton Coliseum with performances from Charlie Wilson, Maze, Boyz II Men, Kenny G, Xscap3, and many more.

The Chesapeake Bay Reggae Festival takes place June 30 and July 1 in Mill Point Park in Hampton featuring regional reggae artists performing.


—Over at Virginia’s Live Music Venues—

The National in Richmond will be bringing a number of big name artists throughout the month. The venue will be hosting Dirty Heads (June 1), Cold War Kids (June 14), American Aquarium (June 16), and more.

Elsewhere in Richmond, Jason Mraz will be hosting SPARC’s LIVE ART at the Altria Theater on June 11. 200 SPARC students will join Mraz artists Josh Groban, Sara Bareilles, Michael McDonald, Rayvon Owen, René Marie, and more. Trey Songz, Brandy, Trina, and more will perform at the Classic Amphitheater at Richmond Raceway Complex on June 9 and Robert Plant will perform there on June 10.

Just outside Richmond, the Innsbrook After Hours concert series at the Servpro Pavilion in Glen Allen will host X Ambassadors (June 8), Hank Williams Jr. (June 9), XL102 Big Field Day with AWOLNATION, Dashboard Confessional, Manchester Orchestra, J. Roddy Walston and the Business and Moon Taxi (June 23), and Ludacris (June 30).

Paramount Center for The Arts

In Charlottesville, the Paramount Theater will be hosting Smokey Robinson on June 3. Sprint Pavilion will host Blackberry Smoke and JJ Grey & Mofro on June 16 and Alison Krauss on June 21.

The NorVa in Norfolk will be hosting acts like Houndmouth (June 15), Badfish – A Tribute to Sublime (June 21), Bad Wolves (June 22), and more.

The Portsmouth Pavilion in Portsmouth will have performances from Blackberry Smoke and JJ Grey & Mofro (June 15) and Rebelution (June 30).

The Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater at Virginia Beach brings in Slayer on June 12, Kenny Chesney on June 14, and Rascal Flatts on June 28.

Over in Rocky Mount at the Harvester Performance Center will be hosting a number of shows including the Bacon Brothers (June 1), Pure Prairie League (June 8), American Aquarium (June 14), and may more.

The Black Jacket Symphony will perform thew music of the Eagles at the Berglund Center in Roanoke on June 16. Jamey Johnson will be at the Salem Civic Center on June 22.

The Blue Ridge Summer Concert Series at the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax will host Bill and the Belles and Dori Freeman on June 2, Sierra Hull and ShadowGrass on June 23, and The Kruger Brothers and Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones on June 30.

At Wolf Trap Center for Performing Arts in Vienna, shows will include John Prine and Margo Price (June 1), Jake Owen (June 3), Nile Rodgers & CHIC and Chaka Khan (June 5), Alison Krauss (June 6), Fitz and the Tantrums and X Ambassadors (June 7), Barry Manilow (June 8), Roger Daltrey (June 10 & 12), Harry Connick Jr. (June 14), Steven Tyler and the Loving Mary Band (June 21), Dr. Dog and Manchester Orchestra (June 22), Tony Bennett (June 23), Charlie Wilson (June 24) and Bruce Hornsby (June 29).

Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow will host a number of shows including Top Dawg Entertainment: The Championship Tour featuring Kendrick Lamar, SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab Soul, SiR, and Lance Skiiiwalker on June 1, Def Leppard on June 8, Dave Matthews Band on June 9, Slayer on June 10, Kenny Chesney on June 15, Poison and Cheap Trick on June 17, Thirty Seconds to Mars on June 26, Foreigner on June 29, and Rascal Flatts on June 30.

Shows at Alexandria music hall The Birchmere include Three Dog Night on June 10, Matthew Sweet on June 13, Gordon Lightfoot on June 18, Robert Earl Keen on June 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.

The post Big Concerts Coming to Virginia in June 2018 appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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Crush Friday: Your Mini-Vacation Guide to Farmville & Appomattox

Crush Friday: Your Mini-Vacation Guide to Farmville & Appomattox



The work culture in America is getting out of hand, with a total of 662 million paid vacation days going unused in 2016. We are effectively turning into the worst kind of work martyrs, sacrificing our own well-being (and let’s face it, sanity) to seem like more productive employees. However, the tide may finally be turning!

The latest Project Time Off survey performed in 2017 shows that American employees are using more vacation days, trending in a positive direction for the first time in 15 years. We like to think that our monthly treks around Virginia have something to do with those results, but don’t let this good news fool you; you still need to make an effort to plan and implement your paid vacation days.


We’ve heard all the excuses for wasting paid vacation days, and we are here to tell you that they are 100% wrong. Here are the real facts:

Common Excuse: “My boss will think I’m lazy”

Actually, the opposite is true. Employers typically notice that their employees come back well-rested and ready to work, leading to better overall performance. What does that mean for you? A potential raise in your future!

Common Excuse: “No one else can do my job.”

If that’s the case, then how can you ever expect to use your PTO? Plan ahead to ensure that your coworkers and your boss understand that you will be in vacation mode and you won’t be answering emails.

Common Excuse: “I’ll return to a pile of work that I won’t be able to catch up on.”

You know what happens when you take a Friday off? You allow that workplace burn-out to fade, and return on Monday as a more productive worker. Try it out…you’ll notice that when you Crush a Friday in Virginia, you’ll crush that stack of work on your desk Monday, no problem.

farmville mural painting

So now that we are done with the excuses, let’s move on to this month’s solution; hit the road to Farmville and Appomattox, located about an hour and 1.5 hours from Richmond, respectively. Follow the detailed itinerary that our Virginia is for Lovers team traveled for an easy (and of course super fun!) three-day getaway to this charming region in Central Virginia.



Stay at: Weyanoke Hotel, starting at $149 per night

weyanoke hotel farmville

Recently opened across from the Longwood University campus in downtown Farmville, the Weyanoke Hotel is within walking distance of much of the Crush Friday Farmville itinerary. The rooms are upscale and spacious, and many even have their own private balconies with patio furniture. Luxuriously comfortable bath robes, massive walk-in showers, and plush mattresses made exclusively for the Weyanoke are just a few of the small touches that make the hotel an excellent choice for guests staying in Farmville. Additionally, there is a coffee shop, rooftop bar, and two on-site restaurants all located within the hotel. The staff are helpful and friendly, and go above and beyond to make certain that every guest is having the best stay possible.

If you’re looking for an outdoor-focused overnight option, consider staying at the Sandy River Outdoor Adventure Resort for at least one of the nights during your stay. They have a cottage and log cabins available that range from $119 per night to $249 and sleep anywhere from one to eight people, but we recommend checking out the luxury tipis. These unique glamping accommodations look fairly simplistic (albeit large) from the outside, but as soon as you walk through the door, it is safe to say your expectations will be shattered. The tipis each have a different setup, holding up to six people in the largest glamping tipi, and range in price from $169 to $239 per night. Inside, you’ll find separate bedrooms, full bathrooms with showers, kitchens, and even living room areas complete with TVs and couches. While you’ll have a campfire area right outside your tipi, you’re definitely not “roughing it” when staying at these swanky structures.

Suggested Prior Reservations: Lodging at both Weyanoke Hotel and Sandy River Outdoor Adventure Resort, Sandy River Adventure Park



appomattox visitor center

Head into downtown Appomattox early Friday morning (around 9am if possible. Noon is not early, people). We stopped by the Appomattox Visitor’s Center to get some information on the sites we were planning to see in the area, and then headed across the street to Baine’s Books and Coffee at the recommendation of a Visitor’s Center employee.

baine's book store and coffee shop appomattox

A quaint but cute spot on Appomattox’s Main Street, you could spend hours flipping through vintage records, perusing their selection of used books, and just generally soaking in the relaxed atmosphere of the coffee shop. However, bear in mind that you have a pretty full morning, so unless you manage to come the night before (and stay at the Appomattox Inn and Suites just down the road), order an extra-caffeinated beverage, walk through the magnificent shop for a few souvenirs, and be on your way.

Appomattox court house national historic park

Get back on the road and travel to Appomattox Court House and National Historical Park, where you’ll count license plates from a variety of states in the parking lot. During our visit, Alaska, California, Arkansas, Maine, and Iowa were just a few of the plates in attendance. This tranquil park contains the village where Confederate General Robert E. Lee met with Union General Ulysses S. Grant to discuss terms of surrender, eventually leading to the end of the American Civil War. Start your tour with a short video on the history of the property and the significance of the surrender that occurred on the grounds. After finishing the video, chat with the Visitor’s Center staff to see what special exhibits are available, such as living history experts that tell the stories of local figures from 1865. Stop to hear their stories if these actors are around, as their attention to detail make the iconic history of the park come alive. Finally, take a tour of the McLean House, where the Generals sat together and finalized the terms of surrender from the Confederate Army.

american civil war museum appomattox

The next destination on our itinerary is the American Civil War Museum, where General Lee’s sword and uniform are on display. While major figures like Lee are discussed, the museum also shares the history of the average soldiers, telling individual stories and their ultimate fates. Some are soberly heartbreaking, such as a torn uniform on display next to a picture of the soldier, complete with the bullet that ended his life. With these painstakingly detained stories in front of you, it is easy to imagine the turmoil and hardships that both sides faced during the Civil War. Before leaving, drop by the gift shop to browse locally made pottery, Civil War reproduction items, and books that cover every aspect of the war, from true historic accounts to late 19th century cookbooks.

babcock house appomattox

Drive back into town for lunch at the Babcock House, a charming bed and breakfast and restaurant that utilizes local, seasonal ingredients to craft fresh Southern fare. Delicious and hearty offerings such as the Shrimp N’ Grits, cornmeal-fried catfish, and a wide array of sandwiches and salads make it hard to choose, but be sure to leave room for dessert, as their sweets are overwhelmingly praised by the local residents.

sandy river outdoor adventure course and ziplines

After lunch, get back on the road towards Farmville and head to Sandy River Outdoor Adventure Zipline Park. The course takes up to three hours to complete, and will definitely work off any extra calories from your lunch, so be prepared to expend some energy on the course. When you arrive, staff will explain the course and walk you through the gear that you will need for your climb. Once you’ve mastered your harness and safety equipment, it’s time to take to the trees. The park offers several different courses for you to explore, each made up of different obstacles and zip line sections and ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert. Test your skills on the varying courses, but don’t miss out on the thrill of the longest zip line, which runs above an expansive meadow and moves at surprisingly swift speeds.

weyanoke hotel room farmville

Make your way into downtown Farmville and check into the Weyanoke Hotel. Take a few minutes to admire your spacious, beautifully decorated room and even lounge around in the comfy bathrobe for a bit. Open the balcony doors and enjoy the view from your private patio. Check out the massive walk-in showers…you’ll never want to leave your ultra-lux room, but you still have a few more activities left in the day, so soak it all in before heading out again.

A few miles up the road, the Robert Russa Moton Museum is an iconic site for Civil Rights history buffs. This preserved schoolhouse holds exhibits that tell the story of the Prince Edward County school district and how a few brave African American students stood up for their right to a quality education. Many of these students would become plaintiffs in the historic Brown vs. Education case that would lead to the integration of American school systems. Walk through the museum to learn about the conditions that the students faced and the hardships they would endure before emerging as the victors in a long and difficult struggle.

effingham's restaurant weyanoke hotel farmville

Finish your Friday with dinner at Effingham’s inside the Weyanoke Hotel lobby. The restaurant specializes in coal-fired pizzas made to order. Stick with one of the specialty pizzas on the menu, or build your own from their unique list of toppings, including foraged mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, Surryano ham, and chili oil. Pair your meal with a glass of the House Sangria or a refreshing Ballad’s craft beer from the draft list.




To start off Day 2 of your Farmville adventures, rent a bike from The Outdoor Adventure Shop located at the downtown trailhead of High Bridge Trail State Park. Owned by the same couple that runs Sandy River Adventure Park, the shop rents bicycles and sells all sorts of outdoor gear, from rock climbing accessories to lightweight hammocks and clothing from some of the most popular outdoor brands.

farmville lovework

Before hitting the trail, snap a picture in front of the LOVEwork right across the street from the shop. Made from wooden beams previously used in the railroad that was removed to create High Bridge Trail, the massive LOVEwork sets the scene for a great Instagram pic.

high bridge trail state park farmville

While the High Bridge Trail runs for about 31 miles, it is only a 4.5 mile bike to the most scenic part of the trail, the bridge for which the trail is named. Towering 125 feet above the Appomattox River, the nearly half-mile long bridge affords stunning views of the countryside surrounding the trail.

kayak lovework farmville

After returning to downtown Farmville, walk across the bridge to Appomattox River Company, the largest kayak and canoe outfitter on the East Coast. Whether you’re in the market to buy new paddling equipment or just browse their selection of over 3,000 kayaks, this is the place to go to learn more about outdoor water sports. Take a photo of Farmville’s second LOVEwork before leaving; on the outer wall of the shop, this creative LOVEwork is made from used kayaks.

uptown coffee cafe farmville

If you’ve worked up an appetite, walk back into downtown and stop by Uptown Coffee Café for lunch. The small-town restaurant serves up huge sandwiches and salads that will tide you over until dinner. Check out their selection of bottled sodas and made-to-order smoothies, and top off your meal with a few scoops of ice cream or a freshly-baked cronut, a sweet croissant/donut creation cooked in-house daily.

green front furniture shop farmville

Do a little shopping at a few of the local antique shops along Main Street in Farmville’s Historic District. The largest and most impressive of these is Green Front Furniture Company. Housed within 16 shops and warehouses in downtown Farmville, the furniture company has something for every taste and budget. Love modern furniture? There are several buildings devoted to just that style. You’ll find eclectic accents, Oriental rugs in all sizes, and handsomely handcrafted furniture sets as you tour the different stores. And with the Green Front stores totaling almost 1 million square feet, you’ll work off your lunch in no time. Snag a map before exploring the shops and find furniture within your price point. We found 4×6 Oriental rugs for less than $100, handwoven throw pillows made in Turkey starting around $30, and many other great deals that were unexpected at such a fashionable furniture shop, but you can definitely find warehouses filled with the more pricey items if that’s in your budget. Even if you aren’t looking to buy, the staff at Green Front are helpful without hovering, giving you space to browse without pressuring you to purchase.

the virginia tasting cellar wine farmville

Wrap up your shopping and walk behind Green Front’s Building 7 to visit The Virginia Tasting Cellar. For just $12, this Virginia-only wine tasting bar lets you try any ten wines. They work with Virginia wineries to serve their products at one of the twelve tasting bar stations, pouring over 40 wines from these wineries at any given time. After sampling your chosen wines, pick your favorite for a full pour and wander out to the gorgeous outdoor patio, an open deck space that overlooks the Appomattox River.

third street brewing farmville craft brewery

Around the corner from the Virginia Tasting Cellar is Third Street Brewing, Farmville’s first craft brewery. On most Saturday evenings, the brewery hosts local musical acts and food trucks, providing entertainment and snacks while you try a flight of the latest craft beer offerings. If the weather allows, order a pint and take a seat in the outdoor patio space.

After your brews, have dinner at the Weyanoke Hotel’s upscale Italian restaurant, Campagna. Full disclosure, it was not yet open during our visit as the hotel had just reopened a week prior, but if the other dining options at the Weyanoke are any indication, Campagna is sure to be one of the best restaurants in town.

catbird rooftop bar weyanoke hotel farmville

Finish the evening with a nightcap at Catbird, the Weyanoke’s rooftop bar. We managed to catch a sunset before anyone else had arrived, and the memorable moment was the perfect way to end our second night in Farmville.

sandy river outdoor adventure resort glamping tipis

Stay another night at the Weyanoke, or if you have a clear evening, consider booking one of the luxury glamping tipis at Sandy River Outdoor Adventure Resort, where you can light a campfire and sit out under a bright expanse of stars free from city lights before bed.




sassafras cafe coffee bar weyanoke hotel farmville

Sleep in a bit on Sunday before getting breakfast at Sassafras Coffee Bar inside the Weyanoke. In addition to specialty coffees and teas, the hotel bistro bakes fresh breakfast treats, including some truly tasty cinnamon rolls.

longwood university campus farmville

Grab a quick bite before strolling across the street to check out the Longwood University campus. Although right in the downtown area of Farmville, the campus is quiet and charming, with plenty of lush green landscapes encompassing the classic architecture of the college buildings.

A few miles outside of Farmville, Hampden-Sydney College is an all-male private college with another beautiful campus worth seeing. Walk the school’s idyllic property or just take a quick drive through the campus to get a peek at the pastoral grounds.

the fishin pig barbecue restaurant farmville

Before wrapping up your three-day getaway, stop at The Fishin’ Pig right outside of Hampden-Sydney’s campus for lunch. Known for their smoked meats, the restaurant is a must for any fans of Virginia barbecue. Top with their homemade barbecue sauces and add a few of their Southern-style sides for a fantastic last meal in Farmville, at least for this trip.


Keep an eye out for the next Crush Friday trip, where we’ll ditch work on a Friday and spend a three-day exploring the Great Outdoors around Roanoke!


Previous Crush Friday Virginia Destinations: 


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Hip Hop in Hampton Roads: An Introduction

Hip Hop in Hampton Roads: An Introduction

Norfolk Skyline

Hip hop is huge in Hampton Roads. How huge? Chart-topping hits. Some of the most legendary producers the genre has ever known. And don’t forget the world’s largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome. Since the 1990’s, the region has had a hand in making some of the most successful hip hop, rap, and pop music made anywhere. Given the success of artists like Missy Elliott, Timbaland, and Pharrell Williams, it’s safe to say that just about any minute of any day, someone around the world is listening to a song crafted by a native son or daughter of Hampton Roads.

The tradition is so significant that William & Mary University recently founded a section of their library’s special collections solely devoted to the area’s musical tradition — billed as “the most comprehensive of its kind dedicated to Virginia’s hip hop culture and history from the 1980s to the present.”

Read on for an introduction to hip hop in Hampton Roads, as well as a few places you can go to experience the music culture for yourself.


Missy Elliott—Portsmouth

Born in Portsmouth, Virginia, Melissa Arnette Elliott, better known as Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, ranks among the most successful and illustrious stars of the hip hop and R&B landscape. Elliott graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1990, concurrently founding R&B group Fayze (later called Sista) with two childhood friends and starting a musical partnership with neighborhood friend Timothy Mosley (you know him as Timbaland) that continues to this day. After moving to New York City and joining forces with the Swing Mob, a community of artists assembled by Jodeci member and producer DeVante Swing, Elliott and Timbaland broke through as a songwriting and producing duo, working with Aaliyah on her legendary 1996 album One in a Million. Elliot’s star rose even further as she embarked on a solo career that included a platinum-selling debut in Supa Dupa Fly and countless hits thereafter. She may not have a physical monument to her contributions yet, but given the enthusiastic support for a recent online petition, a statue might not be too far off.



Born Timothy Mosley, the hit-making producer you know as Timbaland was born in Norfolk and graduated from Salem High School in Virginia Beach. As early as high school, Timbaland was working alongside noted rapping collaborator Melvin (Magoo) Barcliff and future superstar Pharrell Williams, and along with Missy Elliott, he joined Jodeci member DeVante Swing’s New York City-based Swing Mob in the early 1990’s. His continued partnership with Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott made for some of the greatest songs in the hip hop and R&B canon, including “If Your Girl Only Knew,” “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” and “Get Ur Freak On,” and his extensive list of producing credits reads like a best-of list of popular music from the turn of the millennium on: Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Sam Smith, Justin Timberlake. He’s won multiple Grammys, most recently for helping to write “Drunk in Love,” a standout track from Beyoncé’s self-titled masterpiece. And he hasn’t forgotten his origins — he has a record of giving back to his high school, including surprise visits and grant money for technology.


Norfolk Scope Arena—Norfolk

Scope — officially known as the Norfolk Scope Arena — has been a defining feature of the city’s downtown since it was built in 1971. (It actually ranks as the world’s largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome.) Scope has set the stage for some of the city’s biggest and most memorable hip hop moments. Did you know that Public Enemy headlined a 1990 show there, playing alongside Heavy D. & The Boyz, Digital Underground, Kid ‘N Play and Chill Rob G? Organizers asked Public Enemy to skip “Fight the Power” fearing upheaval, yet the group both opened and closed their set with the classic anthem. The venue still books some of the biggest names in hip hop and R&B with Janet Jackson stopping by in late 2017 on her “State of the World” tour.


American Oldies Records—Newport News

Located in Newport News’ Denbigh shopping center, American Oldies Records is a favorite spot for vinyl enthusiasts, including those crate diggers who are looking to find just the right drum break to use in their next beat. The store’s history goes all the way back to the 1970s, when the space was named Memory Lane Records. It became American Oldies in 1982, and while it does sell some new vinyl alongside CDs, the focus is on used vinyl, and the store is known in the region for offering an especially large used selection — perfect if you’re looking for an obscure record no other DJ has sampled from. And it’s a great place to celebrate Record Store Day, when special, limited-run releases of all genres hit the shelves. The early bird gets the RSD exclusive vinyl!


Shaka’s Live—Virginia Beach

Located on Atlantic Avenue, just across the street from waves breaking, right in the heart of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, you’ll find Shaka’s Live. The venue offers visitors and veterans of the scene alike a gathering place for local and national shows, with everything form Americana acts and David Bowie tribute tunes to trap and Talib Kweli. Longtime attendees might remember that Slick Rick — Rick the Ruler himself — performed iconic track “La Di Da Di” there in 2011, and Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan was there as recently as 2017. Shaka’s also hosts resident DJs spinning crowd pleasing hits each Friday and Saturday night, with music starting at 10:30 p.m., VIP options and on-site parking.


Pharrell Williams—Virginia Beach

The Neptunes. N.E.R.D. The Voice. “Happy.” There are so many reasons Pharrell Williams could be part of your musical orbit, from his distinctive falsetto singing to his Grammy-winning producing career, and it all started during his time growing up in Virginia Beach. He graduated from Princess Anne High School, but as early as middle school, he was collaborating with fellow Neptunes creative force Chad Hugo, whom Williams met in band class. The duo was discovered at a talent show by legendary Michael Jackson producer Teddy Riley, and the Neptunes continue to hold a vaunted place in the history of hip hop production, having helped to create massively successful tracks with Britney Spears, Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Robin Thicke… the list goes on. Especially revered in the region is “Grindin,’” a track the Neptunes produced for beloved Virginia Beach rap duo The Clipse. Among Williams’ many awards and honors? A key to the city of Virginia Beach, presented by mayor Will Sessoms in 2014.


Clipse—Virginia Beach

Though they were born in the Bronx, brothers Gene “No Malice” Thornton and Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton moved with their family to Virginia Beach when they were young — when No Malice and Pusha T were seven and two respectively. In 1992, they formed Clipse and soon began a partnership with Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, frequently visiting Hugo’s house, where a home studio was set up in the attic. After a record deal with Elektra didn’t work out (debut album Exclusive Audio Footage was shelved), the duo signed to Arista Records and released Lord Willin’ in 2002, placing Clipse at the top spot on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Their follow-up, Hell Hath No Fury, was successful as well, widely considered to be one of the best albums of 2006 — and one of the true masterpieces of the genre.


Commonwealth—Virginia Beach

Commonwealth, the renowned specialty boutique with a motto of “for the greater good,” has its roots in Norfolk, though its current location in the state can be found in Virginia Beach as part of Lynnhaven Mall. The purveyor of fine streetwear has opened stores in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles — not to mention Manila, the capital of the Philippines — spreading a crucial element of Hampton Roads’ influence around the world, showcasing some of the foremost artists, designers, and photographers in hip hop culture via in-store displays, events, and exhibitions. Accolades include placements on lists like Detail magazine’s “Best Stores in America,” GQ magazine’s “Top 100 Stores” men should shop at, and Complex magazine’s Buyers Guide “Coolest 25 Stores.”


The Norva—Norfolk

Since 2000, the Norva has been bringing exceptional live music to downtown Norfolk, ideally situated on Monticello Avenue across from the MacArthur Center mall. The Norva hosts some of the hottest names in hip hop, with a 2017 schedule that included an appearance by Big Boi of OutKast, and 2018 performances by YoungBoy Never Broke Again, BIG K.R.I.T., Ty Dolla $ign, YFN Lucci and Tech N9ne. Want early access to the venue on the night of the show? Be sure to check out the “Get in Early” program, which allows concertgoers to find a place 15 minutes before the doors open after eating at the attached FM Restaurant (reservations required).



Hailing from Norfolk, Dominick J. Lamb — commonly known as Nottz — commands tremendous respect for his classic beat-making style and extensive production discography, not to mention his skills as an MC. His first placement came in the late 1990’s, on an album called Lyricists Lounge Vol. 1, and his subsequent credits include work with the Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Rah Digga, Swizz Beatz, Method Man, and The Game, among others. He landed three tracks on Busta Rhymes’ E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front, including an absolute classic in “Everybody Rise,” which fittingly shouts out the Virginia hip hop community. Nottz came from a musical family, with a father and three brothers who were all involved in DJing and making beats, and he’s stayed true to his love of old records, exhibiting a consistency via is sample-based approach.



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Where to Get Some of the Best Barbecue in Virginia

Where to Get Some of the Best Barbecue in Virginia


If you haven’t already started a barbecue bucket list for your travels around Virginia, then you’re in luck; we’ve got a few suggestions for the best barbecue in Virginia, from the best-kept secrets to award-winning spots that you need to try. Add these 20+ barbecue destinations to your travel itineraries for a little extra flavor during upcoming Virginia visits.


Buz and Ned’s—Richmond

buz and neds barbecue richmond

Since 1992, Buz & Ned’s has been serving up their barbecue to their loyal fans in the capital city. After steadily growing in popularity, the restaurant gained national acclaim when owner Buz Grossberg appeared on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” (which he won!), followed by “Man vs. Food”. The menu features BBQ pork, pulled BBQ chicken, beef brisket, smoked wings, and several different types of ribs, all smoked on-site with 100% hardwood. With a wide array of sides, appetizers, drinks, and desserts, Buz and Ned’s has an impressive southern style menu that will guarantee you don’t leave hungry.


Risin’ Smoke BBQ—South Hill

South Hill’s Risin’ Smoke BBQ cooks all their meat low and slow, using hickory wood to infuse flavor into their barbecue. Before smoking their pork shoulder, beef brisket, pork ribs, chicken, beef bologna, turkey, and other meats, they cover it in a thick layer of their homemade rub. Pick your meat and add a few sides to complete your meal, like the macaroni and cheese or the onion rings, both fan favorites. Try the barbecue with their three homemade sauces, a classic vinegar-based red sauce, the sweet sauce made with Hungry Hill Farms honey, or the habanero hot sauce. If you’ve got room, order one of the desserts, all made in-house by a mother/son duo. We recommend the cheesecakes, which come in a variety of flavors like cookies and cream, peanut butter chocolate chip, and cinnamon roll.


Checkered Pig Barbecue—Martinsville

checkered pig barbecue martinsville

Checkered Pig Barbecue is well known by both locals and barbecue aficionados from all over the country. In addition to winning several notable awards for their ribs, barbecue, and sauces, this small town barbecue joint has been featured on both the Food Network and Destination America. Every day, the meats are pit cooked over real hardwood, infusing the barbecue with lots of flavor and tenderness. Checkered Pig is known for being affordable, fast, and delicious, making it an ideal pit stop for any road trip through southern Virginia.


The Bone BBQ—Gainesville

The incredible flavors that you’ll find at The Bone BBQ are not based on some secret recipe the family has been using for five generations. Instead, the owners of this barbecue restaurant depend on using quality ingredients to craft their fine barbecue. Every ingredient is carefully selected to reflect the restaurant’s high standards, from the Certified Angus Beef Brisket and fresh produce to the hickory logs used in the smoking process. You can’t go wrong with any of the barbecue offerings at the Bone BBQ, but the award-winning ribs are definitely worth a try.


Woody’s Beach Barbecue—Chincoteague

woody's beach barbecue chincoteague

Woody’s Beach Barbecue in Chincoteague is all about serving excellent barbecue in a casual beach environment. The barbecue options include traditional pulled pork, ribs, and smoked chicken, with sides like coleslaw, hand-cut French fries, baked beans, and onion rings. You can even combine your meat and sides by ordering your pulled pork topped with slaw and fries or onion rings. After dining at this beach-town barbecue stand, stay a while and play a few of the lawn games, or relax in the hammocks or Adirondack chairs for an authentic beach and barbecue experience.


Yummy Pig BBQ—Leesburg

YummyPig BBQ does it all when it comes to smoking, serving a wide range of meats including pork, chicken, brisket, ribs, rib tips, bratwursts, and chicken apple sausages. Add a healthy dose of their homemade sauces, such as the Sweet Bourbon, Tequila Mustard, Four-Pepper Vinegar, or Chipotle sauce. Start with one of their delicious appetizers, like the Pig Pen Nachos, made with crispy kettle chips layered with a cheesy mornay sauce, smoked pork and chicken, salsa, kale, slaw, an avocado-lime crema, and pico de gallo, for a filling but fantastic barbecue experience.


Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ Company—Culpeper

Shawns smokehouse BBQ company culpeper

Dine at Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ Company to try some of the juiciest house-smoked meats in all of Virginia. In addition to their brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken and wings, ribs, and burnt ends, they concoct all of their sauces and sides in-house. If you find yourself envious of their smoking skills after your meal, you can sign up for Shawn’s BBQ School, a full day of hands-on barbecue training that teaches you everything you need to know to become a barbecue master.



Pulled pork, beef brisket, Angus chopped beef brisket in “Q” sauce, and smoked turkey breast are all slow smoked over seasoned oak and hickory woods at Poke-E-Joe’s in Lynchburg. How slow? They spend anywhere from 12 to 16 hours cooking meats over low heats between 190 and 210 degrees. The spice rub used to season the meat ends up curing into a sealed crust over the meat, preserving the tenderness inside. The resulting meats are rich, smoky, and full of flavor.


The Apple House—Linden

the apple house linden barbecue

The Apple House in Linden is a family-run barbecue restaurant that has been a staple in the community for over 50 years. Specialties such as pulled pork barbeque, half-pound Bully burgers, and beef brisket are served with your choice of sides, including seven-bean baked beans, cornbread salad, coleslaw, and homemade candied jalapenos. Top your heaping of barbecue with a generous serving of the secret sauce, a slightly sweet vinegar-based recipe that pairs perfectly with the hickory-smoked meats. After the meal, stop into the restaurant’s gift shop to browse an extensive selection of Virginia-themed products and gifts.


Something Different—Urbanna

something different barbecue urbanna

Ranked as the #1 Restaurant in Urbanna by Trip Advisor and featured in Southern Living’s Off the Eaten Path “Second Helpings” book, Something Different specializes in what they call “Fine Neanderthal Cuisine”. The restaurant uses their own unique blends of seasonings and rubs before pit smoking several types of meats, like pulled pork barbecue, Texas-style beef brisket, and tri tip, and finally serving them with homemade sauces for a mouthwatering finish. The down-South food is complemented by regular live local music, a full bar with creative cocktails and craft beers, and a boutique shop that sells everything from homemade pies and ice creams to freshly baked breads and roasted peanuts.


Bonefire Smokehouse—Abingdon

Located on Main Street in Historic Downtown Abingdon, The Bonefire Smokehouse specializes in ribs, barbeque, and southern cuisine. While the restaurant is passionate about their barbecue, they are also dedicated to preserving the music of Southwest Virginia, hosting performances from regional and national musicians every Thursday through Sunday. The smoked meats at Bonefire Smokehouse are a purists’ dream, with no sauces added to the barbecue before they reach your plate. But if you’re a barbecue aficionado who doesn’t mind a little (or a lot of) sauce, they provide a handful of original recipe sauces for you to top your barbecue at the table. In 2016, the restaurant was named the regional winner of the Best BBQ by Virginia Living Magazine, and they were also awarded “Best Ribs in America” by the Regis and Kelly Show in 2009.



More of the best barbecue spots in Virginia:



Looking for even more places that smoke incredible barbecue? Check out these previous articles for Virginia barbecue fans and share your favorite places with us in the comments below!

13 Virginia Restaurants that Serve Up Unbeatable Barbecue

18 Virginia BBQ Joints You’re Going to LOVE




The post Where to Get Some of the Best Barbecue in Virginia appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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6 Spots to Fill Your Picnic Basket in RVA

6 Spots to Fill Your Picnic Basket in RVA

There are a number of food holidays that take place every year — some we can get behind, others, not so much. One of the ones we’re all for? National Picnic Day, which is celebrated on April 23. After all, al fresco dining is something we wish we did more often. And we’re not just talking about having a meal on one of Richmond’s hot new rooftops.

You don’t need to wait for a special “holiday” to enjoy outdoor dining in RVA, though! A no frills picnic can be a great way to experience the Richmond Region like a local in the spring and summertime. With so many fantastic neighborhood spots where you can grab a meal to-go, a picnic can be easy as pie, even when you’re visiting from out of town. So grab a blanket and your favorite travel companions and explore a few of RVA’s best picnic spots.



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Looking for classic sandwiches with a bit of a twist? The Naked Onion has got you covered! This unassuming little sandwich shop on Cary Street in The Fan is a hidden gem, literally —as in it’s easy to walk or drive right past it.


Visit Richmond Virginia

Our picks here are the banh mi with pork belly —purists should note that there’s no liver patê but its so good you won’t miss it— and the blackened chicken salad. The banh mi is the perfect combination of salty and sweet and the baguette pairs nicely with the crunch from the carrots and daikon. The blackened chicken salad hits some of the same notes being both savory with a hint of sweetness from the apples and grilled corn. Both are packed with flavor. The serving sizes are generous and we recommend going halfsies with a friend so that you can try more than one! All sandwiches come with a side salad or potato salad (if you’re feelin’ fancy you can upgrade to soup or bread pudding). Bonus: Naked Onion has many vegetarian options and you can sub gluten free bread for most sandwiches.


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1300 Blanton Avenue

Grab your to-go order from The Naked Onion and bike or drive less than 2 miles to the Virginia War Memorial Carillon. The lawn leading up to the Carillon is lined with blooming trees when the weather is warm, making it a picture perfect spot to roll out your picnic blanket. This little spot has plenty of parking nearby and is typically less crowded than nearby Fountain Lake.

2. Stella’s Grocery + Virginia Museum of Fine Arts


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Stella’s Grocery

1007 Lafayette Street

Oh, Stella’s Grocery. Located across the street from Stella’s the restaurant, many to-go versions of the much-loved items from the restaurant can be found at Stella’s Grocery. If you’ve ever been to Stella’s, that should be enough to inspire a trip, but you can find everything from greek salads to souvlaki to pasta to desserts to rotisserie chicken. They even have hot soup and paninis. Like any good market, you can also stock up on everything from high quality olive oil to local goods like candles and soaps while you’re visiting.


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Robins Sculpture Garden at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

200 N. Boulevard

Conveniently located just about a mile and a half away from Stella’s Grocery is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (or VMFA, as the locals call it). The VMFA is truly a Richmond gem, and not only because of its stellar art collection. Located in the aptly named Museum District, the VMFA’s Robins Sculpture Garden offers the picture-perfect atmosphere, pups galore, and a number of tables, chairs, and benches throughout the property where you can relax and enjoy your meal (which is especially convenient if you didn’t think to pack a picnic blanket). When you enjoy a tasty picnic paired with views of Chihuly’s Red Reeds, you’ll quickly see why this is one of our favorite spots to enjoy the outdoors. Bonus: The VMFA stays open late on Thursday and Friday evenings, and you can buy local beer and wine at the on-site Best Cafe to enjoy with your picnic meal.

3. Proper Pie Co. + Libby Hill Park


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Proper Pie Co.

2505 East Broad Street

Pie only picnic?! Yes please! And not just sweet pies (although we’d be okay with that, too). Proper Pie Co. also serves up some killer New Zealand style savory pies, which just happen to be the perfect handheld food for an impromptu meal outside. Located in Church Hill, this restaurant is strategically positioned near a few excellent picnic spots. Proper Pie’s menu rotates daily, and is shared every morning on its Facebook page. If the pork chile verde pie is on the menu, do yourself a favor and order it (then share with us)! These savory pies are great for sharing — but we’ll warn you, you might not want to.


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No picnic would be complete without something sweet, and at Proper Pie, picking your dessert might be the hardest decision you make all day. The assortment of pies is overwhelming at times, but we believe in you! The good news is no pie choice is a bad pie choice. One big note here: Proper Pie is open Wednesday to Sunday and pies do sell out, so plan accordingly.


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Libby Hill Park

2801 East Franklin Street

The park with “the view that named Richmond,” Libby Hill Park has some of the most beautiful views in the city. On one side you have views of Shockoe Bottom and the city skyline, and on the other you’ll see the James River and Rocketts Landing. In the park you’ll find plenty of green space to unfurl your blanket and even a few picnic tables. If you’re looking for a romantic spot to eat dinner and watch the sunset with your boo, this is it.

4. Garnett’s Cafe + Meadow Park


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Garnett’s Cafe

2001 Park Avenue

There’s been so much happening in Richmond’s restaurant scene in recent years that sometimes it can be easy to forget about restaurants that keep it simple — and we mean that in the best way possible. Garnett’s Cafe has two locations: the original on Park Avenue in the Fan District and a new downtown location at The Valentine.


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What you’ll find here: elevated sandwiches, salads and a glorious selection of desserts. The original location of Garnett’s even has picnic baskets and blankets you can borrow when you order takeout, which is basically the stuff that picnic dreams are made of. The best part: you know the desserts will be good here, Garnett’s is a part of the same restaurant family as WPA Bakery.


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Meadow Park

401 N. Meadow Street

You don’t have to meander very far at all from the original location of Garnett’s to find a nice spot to picnic. Meadow Park (not to be confused with Meadow Event Park in Caroline County) is located on, you guessed it, Meadow Street, and is just a few steps across the street from Garnett’s. Benches are limited, so if you plan to visit this spot, bring a blanket or borrow one from Garnett’s.

5. 8 1/2 + Scuffletown Park


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8 1/2

401 Strawberry Street

Whether you live in Richmond or you’re visiting, chances are you may have heard of spots like Dinamo, Edo’s Squid and Mamma Zu if you’re a fan of Italian food. Well, 8 ½ is the takeout joint connected to these spots, and it’s the real deal. Menu favorites include pizza, pasta, heroes and entrees like eggplant parm or lasagna.

Located on Strawberry Street in The Fan, 8 ½ is open daily for both your lunch and dinner picnic needs. While we wish 8 ½ was a secret so we could keep this goodness all to ourselves, the cat’s out of the bag on this one so plan accordingly. First, call ahead — typically 30-45 minutes before you want to pick your food up. Second, be prepared to walk for your pizza, it’s all street parking here and it can be hard to come by, but we promise it is totally worth the wait and the walk!


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Scuffletown Park

418 Strawberry Street

Don’t you love it when delicious take-out food is located just a stone’s throw away from an outdoor space where you can enjoy said food? We do, too. Enter Scuffletown Park, the little park located just across the way from 8 ½. It is a little hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so we recommend using the map at the end of this post to find it.

A pocket park, Scuffletown isn’t huge, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm. Picnic seating is available and there is even a Friends of Scuffletown Park group that works to make sure this piece of RVA is well cared for.

6. Yellow Umbrella Provisions + University of Richmond


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Yellow Umbrella Provisions

5603 Patterson Avenue

Located in the Near West End, Yellow Umbrella Provisions has all kinds of gourmet goods that are perfect to fill your picnic basket with, from cheese and artisanal breads to sweets and prepared items like country ham sandwiches and deviled eggs. Seriously, you can do your picnic up if you stop at Yellow Umbrella first.

If you time your picnic excursion right, you can make things even easier on yourself —Yellow Umbrella has sandwich specials on a weekly basis Thursday – Saturday between 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Follow along on Instagram to see the upcoming sandwich specials, including the very popular lobster roll. If you call ahead, your sandwich will even be waiting for you when you arrive!


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University of Richmond

28 Westhampton Way

Okay, we’re stepping away from the park theme for a hot second here, but hear us out. You’d be hard-pressed to find a much more Instagram worthy setting than Westhampton Lake at University of Richmond. You’ve got a water view, lots of trees and a university setting that’s been recognized a number of times as one of most beautiful higher education institutions in the country. (We’re looking at you, Princeton Review). Take a blanket and your appetite for learning and you’ll be all set! Just kidding about the learning part, that’s optional. (Image courtesy of University of Richmond).

Bonus: We’ve created a handy-dandy Where to Picnic in Richmond map to guide your picnic adventures! Happy picnicking!

Written by Visit Richmond VA for Visit Richmond.

Featured image provided by Visit Richmond Virginia

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America’s First Lighthouse

America’s First Lighthouse

“The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
And on its outer point, some miles away,
The Lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.

Even at this distance I can see the tides,
Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
In the white lip and tremor of the face.

And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
Through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light
With strange, unearthly splendor in the glare!

Not one alone; from each projecting cape
And perilous reef along the ocean’s verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
Holding its lantern o’er the restless surge.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Lighthouse

When you look at a lighthouse, what do you see? Perhaps to you, lighthouses spark memories of a family vacation to the shore or elicit seafaring imagery that could be ripped from the pages of a Herman Melville novel. Maybe you just see a big flashlight. In the age of electronic navigation and two-way radios, this is understandable. While lighthouses are still utilized in many capes and inlets across the world, they have turned into somewhat of a novelty for many – a relic of days past. But, as is often true with historical structures, these lighthouses hold within them more than steel, brick and glass. Each flame that flickered through the thick windows broke through the panoptic blanket of night and signalled something different to everyone who saw it. Safe passage into harbor. A new beginning. The end of a journey. Home.

Cape Henry Lighthouse

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

Each stair leads to a story and the 191 steps leading to the top of Virginia Beach’s Cape Henry Lighthouse, at the corner of the Chicks Beach District and the North End Oceanfront District, are no exception. This story begins, surprisingly enough, not on the shores where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, but in New York City’s Federal Hall, in 1789. The newly formed United States of America, still recovering from the destruction of revolution, was holding its first session of the First United States Congress, which is still regarded as the most important meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives ever held. It was at this session that the US Treasury was formed, the rules of the House, Senate and officers were established, and George Washington was inaugurated as the nation’s first President.

Cape Henry Lighthouse

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

It was also during this historic session that Jacob Wray, the collector of customs at Hampton, made a plea to the newly-appointed Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, that the unlit shores of Cape Henry, which had claimed 57 maritime vessels, needed to be promptly addressed. With many Congressional leaders feeling a pressing need to answer the public’s demand for safe and navigable waterways, Hamilton contracted the project with John McComb, Jr., the designer of the planned residence of the President. Using the Aquia stone that remained on-site from a failed attempt to build a lighthouse during the war, as well as Rappahannock freestone, McCombs plans called for an octagonal structure with three windows in the east and four in the west, that would stand 90 feet above the water table, and cost $17,700, roughly $435,000 in today’s money. As the tower neared completion, President Washington requested a list of applications for the new lighthouse keeper to be selected by him personally. In late October, 1792, Laban Goffigan of Norfolk lit the fish oil-burning lamps of the new Cape Henry Lighthouse for the first time.

Cape Henry Lighthouse

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

The completion of the Cape Henry Lighthouse marked the first federal work project of the new United States government to be fulfilled and it quickly became an important fixture for our region’s maritime enterprises and military. Though a new lighthouse, which is still in use, was built adjacent to it in 1881, the old Cape Henry Lighthouse still stands as a reminder of Virginia Beach’s historic past. Today, you can gain access to the lighthouse, which sits on the active Fort Story Military Base, and climb the winding metal staircase all the way to the top, adding to the revered legend’s story, one step at a time.

Written by Vist Virginia Beach for Visit Virginia Beach.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

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Between Two Buns: 17 of the Best Burgers in Virginia

Between Two Buns: 17 of the Best Burgers in Virginia


Everyone has that one restaurant that they are absolutely sure has the best burgers in Virginia, so we asked around and local residents in the following towns shared their secret spots with us. Visit a few of these 17 burger joints and let us know which restaurant tops your list for the best burgers in Virginia.


Grafton Street Restaurant & Irish Pub—Gainesville

grafton street bar and grill g street burger

Grafton Street Restaurant & Irish Pub, named for the popular street in Dublin, serves a wide array of Irish fare (and drinks to match), but their “G Street” Burger has become a go-to order for regulars. They start with a toasted Brioche bun and a delicious thick burger, and then pile on tons of Applewood bacon, Vermont cheddar cheese, crispy fried onions, and a healthy topping of their secret burger sauce. Pair it with a draft beer for a satisfying (and filling!) burger experience.


Jake’s Bar & Grill—Waynesboro

Jakes Bar and Grill burger

Using 100% locally raised USDA ground beef, Jake’s Bar & Grill in Waynesboro takes pride in every single burger that comes out of their kitchen. They also make every one of their tasty sauces in house, topping their 10 specialty burgers with concoctions like a lime-infused Avocado-Poblano or a tart and tangy Citrus Chipotle sauce. While all the burgers command respect at Jake’s Bar & Grill, we recommend the award-winning Tumbleweed, a brioche-bun burger featuring breaded jalapeño nuggets, cream cheese, apple jelly, and crunchy fried onion strips.


Boulevard Burger and Brew—Richmond

Located on the Boulevard and on the outskirts of Richmond’s craft beer-centric Scott’s Addition neighborhood, Boulevard Burgers and Brew has become a burger mecca for the capital city. The old-school diner cooks up the patties to your preference of either “pink” or “no pink”, resulting in a perfectly juicy burger. Go with a specialty order like the Chuck Norris Black and Blue (blackened spice, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion) or the Fatty D (spicy Asian dry rub topped with cilantro, tomato, pickled ginger, Nori, and wasabi Kim Kim aioli), or build your own burger from their “add-ons” menu. And make sure to add a side of the fries…you won’t be disappointed. Pair your burger with a draft beer or one of their adult boozy shakes and floats. We like the Belle Isle Brew shake, made with Belle Isle Bold Brew Coffee Moonshine, Bailey’s, and vanilla ice cream.


Grill 309—Culpeper

grill 309 culpeper burgers

Culpeper’s Grill 309 is a favorite spot for locals, with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and incredible burgers that will keep you coming back again and again. For a sweet and savory pairing, try the Doughnut Burger, a ½ pound Virginia Black Angus beef burger with cheddar cheese, grilled onions, an over easy egg, and bacon, all served on a freshly glazed doughnut bun. If you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, go for the Burger Sliders, three mini Virginia Black Angus Beef burgers with lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles.


The Shack—Staunton

the shack burger

The Shack is a must-visit when it comes to dining in Staunton. Under Chef Ian Boden, the restaurant’s menu reflects the abundance of fresh produce and ingredients found in the Shenandoah Valley. While it’s tough to choose a favorite dish, the burger is definitely a front runner, topped with a black garlic mayo, cheddar cheese, marrow roasted onions, dill pickles, and thick slabs of crisp bacon. Go crazy and top it all off with an egg for the full burger experience at The Shack.


Burger in the Square—Roanoke

burger in the square

Since 1985, Burger in the Square has been a favorite in the Roanoke community. They use fresh ground beef to create a menu of over 20 different juicy burgers, from the most basic, no-frill burger on a bun to favorite specialty burger combinations like the Blazing Saddle (a burger made with ghost pepper cheese, grilled serrano peppers, sautéed onions, srirachi slaw, lettuce, and tomato) or the Oinker Burger (burger with hand-pulled sweet or vinegar barbecue on top and optional house slaw).


Maw & Paw’s Diner—Eagle Rock

Maw and Paws Diner burger

Photo Credit: Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Located north of Roanoke near the Virginia border, Maw & Paw’s Diner is a small, family-owned restaurant that knows how to make a fantastic burger. The diner is known for their Super Bacon Cheeseburger, built on a handmade patty, and at only $4.99, the burger is both delicious and affordable. If you’ve spent the day working up an appetite exploring the nearby mountain trails, add an order of the Bacon & Cheese Fries, but plan for a nap afterwards.


Me’s Burgers & Brews—Danvilleme's burger and brews

Owned by a mother/daughter duo, Me’s Burgers & Brews ties the family’s love of literature into the menu, with their ever-changing selection of burgers named for their favorite writers, including C.S. Lewis (a beef patty with pesto, caramelized onions, diced tomatoes, basil mayo, and swiss cheese), Alexander Dumas (the “Three Musketeers” of meats—ham, bacon, and grilled chicken breast—topped with lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and ranch dressing), and Jane Austen (a beef patty with bacon, mushrooms, lettuce, jalapeño aioli, and Pepper Jack cheese). If you prefer to be the “author” of your burger, start with a beef, veggie, chicken, bison, lamb, or tuna patty and then choose from the 30+ toppings to craft your own original masterpiece.



ra bistro burger lynchburg

{Ra}Bistro has a full menu with salads, starters, and a wide array of entrees, but the menu also features over 15 specialty burgers made with fresh-ground meats like Angus beef, turkey, bison, and chopped sirloin. The most unique offerings include the Funnel Cake Burger (a cheeseburger rolled in funnel cake batter, flash-fried, dusted with powdered sugar and served with raspberry melba sauce) and the Bayou Burger (Angus beef topped with flash-fried crawfish, Andouille sausage, melted provolone, and remoulade).


Viking Burger—Newport News

viking burger

If you’re in Coastal Virginia and looking for a fantastic burger, head to Viking Burger in Newport News. Since 2014, the restaurant has been redefining the art of the burger. While you can order a basic cheeseburger or one of their unique signature creations, we recommend Viking’s “Valhalla” burgers, made with two sirloin patties stuffed with different types of cheese, like the Valkyrie, a double burger stuffed with Pepper Jack, Muenster, grilled jalapeños, and spicy brown mustard, and then finished with even more Pepper Jack, grilled bell peppers, and lettuce. These behemoth burgers often conquer even the most voracious eaters, so don’t feel too bad if you leave with leftovers.


This isn’t the first roundup of restaurants that know how to make the perfect burger. Read about eight more great burger joints around the Commonwealth, find the best places for burger and beer pairings, or visit one of the honorable “best burger” mentions below!



The post Between Two Buns: 17 of the Best Burgers in Virginia appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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52 Places Pairing Virginia Wine, Cheese & Charcuterie

52 Places Pairing Virginia Wine, Cheese & Charcuterie

If you missed Virginia Vineyard Month in April, we have another reason to get outside and sip in exultation as the green landscapes continue to bloom. We’ve compiled a pro-list of wineries, restaurants and shops offering the best of Virginia Wine paired with mouthwatering cheese and charcuterie plates. If we missed one of your favorite spots offering this epicurean combo, let us know in the comments below!




Barboursville Vineyards – Gordonsville

Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia’s oldest vineyard established in 1976, is Italian-owned and operated by only two winemakers since its inception. Not-surprisingly Palladio, the onsite restaurant, will make you feel like you’ve stepped right into Tuscany with their Italian labeled dishes that deliver on every promise.

Try the Piatto Di Salumi e Pate’ Nostrani – selection of house made charcuterie, house cured sausages, pâtés & condiments.

View the full menu here.


Early Mountain Vineyards – Madison

Early Mountain proudly pairs its wines with the best seasonal produce from local farms, artisanal cheeses from craft cheese mongers and charcuterie made in-house. They also offer an ever-changing “Best of Virginia” selection of wines allowing guests to sample the finest wines from all over the state. Try these menu items:

  • Artisanal Cheese Board – cheeses, creamed honey, seasonal mostarda, marcona almonds
  • Artisanal Charcuterie Board – cured meats, spicy mustard, housemade pickles

View the full menu here.


Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards – Albemarle

The tasting room at Pippin Hill features artisan cuisine that complements their wine and reflects their vineyard-to-table philosophy. As part of the Wine Pairing menu you’ll find their wines paired with seasonally inspired dishes, highlighting the freshest ingredients from local farms and their very own Kitchen Garden. Try these menu items:

  • Charcuterie – three local & international cured meats, marinated olives, arugula pesto. Pairs with Cannon Red or Rosé.
  • The PHF Board – chef’s choice of two cheeses, two cured meats, traditional accoutrements. Pairs with Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot Reserve.

View the Wine Pairing Menu here.


Union Market – Richmond

Union Market is a neighborhood staple in Union Hill, next to Church Hill, offering fresh locally baked bread, a seasonal menu of salads and sandwiches, and a grocery packed with local fare and brews. Create your own charcuterie board from their chalkboard list of meats and cheeses then grab a bottle of Virginia wine to enjoy on the string lit outdoor patio when the weather warms up.

View the full menu here.


More nearby Restaurants, Shops & Wineries:





Upper Shirley Vineyards – Charles City

Experience the magic of Upper Shirley Vineyards, a one-of-a-kind estate, winery, restaurant and wedding venue perched above one of the most scenic bends on the James River. The Winery is 30 minutes from downtown Richmond and 35 minutes from Williamsburg, located just off Route 5 and the Capital Bike Trail. The estate boasts history and scenic beauty on an epic scale and with an abundance of culinary riches—bottomland produce, fresh-caught seafood—and world-class wines made from their own estate-grown grapes. Try these menu items:

  • Vineyard Board – Selection of Artisan Salami & Meats Manchego De La Mancha, House-made Pimento Cheese, House-made Conserva, Creole Mustard, Pickled Vegetables & Baguette
  • Cheeses From Here & There – Three Virginia & International Cheeses Paired with AR’s Southern Hot Honey, Fruits, Nuts & House-Made Crackers

View the full menu here.


Mermaid Winery – Norfolk & Virginia Beach

Mermaid Winery is Virginia’s first urban winery located in the charming Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk with a second location in Virginia Beach. You’ll find many familiar wines as well as Virginia varietals at the tasting bar where you can also view their winemaking process. Try the Cheese & Charcuterie Board – choose three or four from a list of meats and cheeses.

View the full menu here.


The Cheese Shop – Williamsburg

I ❤ cheez shop

A post shared by gracie (@gthreepio) on Apr 1, 2017 at 2:12pm PDT

Since 1971, The Cheese Shop has been promoting great cheese from all over the world. Belly-up to the cheese counter and sample your way to a perfect selection of cheeses. Their expert staff will help craft a platter for you to enjoy on their front patio or to take home for snacking or entertaining. You’ll find Virginia cheese from Caramont Farm, Goats R Us, Lovers Retreat Dairy, and Meadow Creek Dairy.

With their extensive selection of cheeses, there’s also no shortage of wine and accoutrements for pairing.


Eat: An American Bistro – Virginia Beach

Eat: An American Bistro is an eclectic restaurant with creative renditions of seafood, steaks, burgers & vegetarian fare. Grab a cocktail or craft beer on the outdoor patio located just off the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. Try these items on the menu:

  • Artisan Cheeses – handcrafted cheeses, house-made pickles, truffle acacia honey, everything crackers
  • Deluxe Charcuterie – house-made assorted fresh and dry cured meats, grain mustard, pickles, hand selected cheeses

View the full menu here.


More nearby Restaurants, Shops & Wineries:





The River & Rail – Roanoke

The River & Rail serves up rustic and regional cuisine with many items made from scratch, like house-cured meats, house-made condiments and pickled vegetables. The wine list features Virginia favorites from Chrysalis Vineyards, Veritas Vineyards, Blenheim Vineyards, and Michael Shaps. Try these menu items:

  • Farmstead Cheese selection – three Cheeses, rye crackers, and accoutrements
  • Salumi Board – bourbon mustard, house pickles, and grilled bread

View the full menu here.


Chateau Morrissette – Floyd

Chateau Morrissette Winery is perched right off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy their rustic farm to table fare by the fireside during cooler months or outside on the terrace during warmer months. They also offer seasonal events such as summer “Black Dog Concerts” and “Winemaker’s Dinners” all in an elegant, old world atmosphere. Try these menu items:

  • Cheese Platter – Meadowcreek Appalachian Cheese (Galax, VA), house-made marmalade, pickles, bread. Pair with Chardonnay Reserve.
  • Winemaker’s Platter – cured meats, local cheeses, roasted grapes, pickles, preserves, mustard, and bread. Pair with Our Dog Blue®.

View the full menu here.


Whitebarrel Winery – Christiansburg & Blacksburg

Mulled apple wine, and cheese and meat board for the win

A post shared by Abbie Watson (@abbiewg) on Dec 2, 2017 at 10:17am PST

Whitebarrel Winery, rebranded from Attimo Winery in 2015, is nestled in the New River Valley and practices ancient wine making techniques where production is exclusively done by hand. Whitebarrel recently opened a satellite wine and tapas bar in Blacksburg and is soon to open additional locations in Richmond, Northern Virginia, as well as a new east coast “Wine Truck.” Each location serves a full tapas-style menu with small plates that complement their wines, many of which are from Virginia.

Try the Charcuterie Board – Choose 3 or 6 meats and cheeses, served with homemade pâté & artisan crackers, olives, & fruit; with mustard and local jams.

View the full menu here.


More nearby Restaurants, Shops & Wineries:





Potomac Point Winery – Stafford

Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery is an old-world, Tuscan-styled vineyard and winery located just outside of Washington, DC in Stafford, Virginia. Potomac Point specializes in wine tastings, tours, weddings, catering and events. Bring your own picnic to pair with Potomac Point’s award-winning wines on their beautiful courtyard. Or pick from the full bistro menu including these artisan cheese platters:

  • White Wine Cheese Platter – Belletoile Brie, Truffle Honey Goat Cheese, Aged Gouda
  • Red Wine Cheese Platter – Manchego, Peppered Pecorino, Merlot Bellavitano
  • Le Grand Cru Platter – Peppered Pecorino, Merlot Bellavitano, Truffle Honey Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, Soppressata, Calabrese

View the full menu here.


868 Estate Vineyards – Loudoun

Visit 868 Estate Vineyards’ onsite restaurant, Grandale’s Viniter’s Table, for a local upscale menu in a relaxed winery setting. Enjoy the seasonally selected menu featuring wines from 868 Estate Vineyards as well as thoughtfully chosen wines from other regions of Virginia and the world. Try these menu items:

  • Cheese & Olive Board – handcrafted artisan cheeses, marinated blend of olives
  • Antipasto Plank – mix of house made, local, and European sliced charcuterie with seasonal pickles
  • Cheese, Meat & Olive Board – Two chef’s choice cheese, marinated blend of olives, two chef’s choice charcuterie

View the full menu here.


Jackson 20 – Alexandria

Located in the Alexandrian hotel in the heart of Old Town Alexandria on King Street, Jackson 20 is a top-tier restaurant offering hearty drinks and inventive American tavern fare. Try these menu items:

  • Artisanal Cheese Selection – Local Honey, Red Onion Marmalade, Raisin Walnut Toast
  • Charcuterie Board – Pork & Rabbit Terrine, Foie Gras, Cured Meats, Whole Grain Mustard, Baguette

View the full menu here..


Greenhill Winery & Vineyards – Middleburg

A little port & cheese party going on here 🧀🎉

A post shared by Greenhill Winery & Vineyards (@greenhillwine) on Jan 31, 2018 at 6:21am PST

Experience Virginia wine in an authentic farm winery setting. Greenhill is a lovely boutique destination winery in Loudoun County with a friendly and professional staff delivering quality wine in a breathtaking Virginia Wine Country environment. The tasting menu includes these cheese boards and more:

  • Cheese Board – A selection of imported & domestic cheeses served with a warm baguette
  • Cheese & Charcuterie Board – Imported & domestic cheeses served with a variety of aged meets & a warm baguette

More nearby Restaurants, Shops & Wineries:





CrossKeys Vineyards – Rockingham

CrossKeys Vineyards is located ten miles south of Harrisonburg in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley delivering gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The family-owned vineyard specializes in exquisite wine and delicious food as well as offering a wonderful venue for weddings, parties, and corporate events. Visit the bistro and try these menu items:

  • Cheese Flight – A montage of domestic and international cheeses, fresh and dried fruits, olives, and nuts. Pair with Meritage.
  • CrossKeys Sampler – a combination of charcuterie, cheeses, olives, nuts, and fruit. Pair with Cabernet Sauvignon.

View the full menu here.


Bella Luna Wood Fired Pizza – Harrisonburg

Bella Luna features hand-crafted, farm-fresh food in a warm and inviting environment. Located in the historic Livery Building in downtown Harrisonburg, Bella Luna offers wood-fired pizzas, hand-made pastas, fresh seasonal salads and sandwiches, and delectable desserts. The bar boasts a wide selection of local microbrews and hard ciders on tap, hand-selected wines and artisan cocktails.

Try the Antipasto Platter – cured meats, artisan cheese, seasonal vegetables, and hearth bread.

View the full menu here.


Local Chop & Grill House – Harrisonburg

Local Chop & Grill House is located in a historic produce exchange warehouse in Downtown Harrisonburg. Their dedication to supporting local artists, craftsmen, and family farms is shown through the fresh and seasonal menu. Enjoy local flavors with dishes of high quality steaks and chops, poultry, house-made charcuterie, organically grown produce and fresh baked goods.

Try the Chef’s Artisanal Plate – an assortment of salt cured meats and local cheese served with grilled baguette, various pickles, mustard and seasonal compote.

View the full menu here.


More nearby Restaurants, Shops & Wineries:

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Delicious Foodie Events at Virginia’s Theme Parks

Delicious Foodie Events at Virginia’s Theme Parks


Virginia’s two largest theme parks, Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, are hosting food festivals that welcome visitors to try the most incredible flavors from Virginia and around the world. Snag your tickets to these upcoming events to get your fill of exceptional culinary creations.


Taste of Virginia at Kings Dominion—Doswell

Taste of Virginia Kings Dominion food festival

When: Friday through Sunday, May 18 – May 20, 2018

The culinary team of Kings Dominion cooks up recipes inspired by the regions of Virginia, from the coastal seafood flavors to the fresh produce from the Shenandoah Valley, during the Taste of Virginia festival. The festival also features Virginia spirits, craft beers, and wines, as well as live local entertainment and music. If you’re feeling brave, be sure to ride Kings Dominion’s newest coaster, Twisted Timbers, during your visit to the park. Taste of Virginia is included with the price of park admission, while the food and drinks are an additional cost. Purchase a Wine or Food Tasting Card for $25 to get six wine or food samples from any Taste of Virginia location within the park.


Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival—Williamsburg

Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival

When: Every Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, May 25 – July 1, 2018

The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival features over 60 specialty food dishes, 30 wines, 25 craft beers, and 20 cocktails for guests to sample. The dishes represent regions all around the world, including India, Germany, Japan, France, and of course, Virginia, showcasing local flavors with dishes using Smithfield Ham, Apple Pie Moonshine, and more. Special entertainment such as chef demonstrations and beverage tastings occur throughout the festival and Hunter Hayes, Scotty McCreery, and other big name headliners take the stage on Saturday evenings for live concerts. Individual sampling portions and wine tastings are available for purchase, or you can save up to 45% by purchasing the $62 Food & Beverage Sampler, which allows you to pick 15 items from over 60 entrees and desserts along with more than 30 alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, or choose 10 items for just $49.

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7 Places that Highlight Then & Now in Virginia

7 Places that Highlight Then & Now in Virginia

richmond skyline vintage virginia is for lovers hot air balloon

Virginia has been welcoming visitors for centuries, but only in the past hundred years or so could we finally begin documenting these travelers with photography. Check out seven of Virginia’s most visited destinations in contrasting images that span several decades and plan your trip to celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week!


THEN: Kings Dominion—Doswell

kings dominion vintage

The Anaconda at Kings Dominion

The Eiffel Tower still stands where it was first built upon the park’s opening in 1975, but many other aspects of King’s Dominion have changed over the years. The Virginia theme park has continued to renovate and expand, adding epic coasters like the Dominator, Hypersonic XLC, Delirium, the Intimidator 305, and Volcano. In the fall, the park hosts Halloween Haunt during evening hours, a Halloween-themed event with special musical performances, terrifying haunted houses, and scary characters wandering the grounds. This year, they will add WinterFest and transform the park into a winter wonderland during the holiday season.


THEN: The Virginia State Capitol—Richmond
the capitol richmond vintage


Virginia State Capitol Building

Designed by Thomas Jefferson, Virginia’s State Capitol in Richmond has been hosting Virginia’s General Assembly since 1788. While they still meet there occasionally today, the buildings underwent multimillion-dollar restorations and expansions from 2004-2007, reopening with a gift shop, exhibit space, café, meeting rooms, and public restrooms. The Capitol is open daily for tours to the general public.


THEN: George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate—Mount Vernon

mount vernon vintage

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, George and Martha Washington’s historic home outside of Alexandria, has been carefully preserved in the centuries since the first president occupied the home. But the estate was once much larger, and the property’s preservation society has since worked to restore previous outlying buildings. In 2007, Mount Vernon restored George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill on the original grounds, welcoming guests to tour both the historically accurate distillery, where you can sample the resulting whiskey, and the functioning gristmill, which produces flour and cornmeal.


THEN: Skyline Drive
skyline drive vintage

Scenic Skyline Drive

Not much has changed along Skyline Drive, the National Scenic Byway that runs through Shenandoah National Park. The 105-mile roadway along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains has been carefully preserved and maintained as one of Virginia’s most stunning natural treasures. Stop along one of the 75 overlooks for impressive views of the mountains and valleys that border Skyline Drive.


THEN: Busch Gardens—Williamsburg
busch gardens vintage big bad wolf roller coaster

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens has been entertaining Virginians and travelers to the Commonwealth since 1975. Although the Big Bad Wolf, the coaster shown in the THEN picture, closed in 2009 after 25 years of thrilling rides, the park replaced it in 2012 with Verbolten, a steel roller coaster that is designed to reflect the Authobahn roadways of Germany. Many other new rides and attractions have been added to Busch Gardens, including Apollo’s Chariot, Mäch Tower, Griffon, InvadR, and Tempesto (shown). During the month leading up to Halloween, the park transforms at night into Howl-O-Scream, and from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, the park is fully decorated for Christmas Town.


THEN: Jamestown Settlement—Williamsburg
jamestown vintage ship

Jamestown Settlement

A living history museum, Jamestown Settlement tells the story of the first colonists in America with films, gallery exhibits, and living history experiences. The museum expanded significantly in the early 21st century as part of the 400 year anniversary of neighboring Historic Jamestowne, the original site of the settlement. New permanent exhibits and a new introductory film were presented to highlight the history of Jamestown and the experiences of America’s first Colonial residents.


THEN: Luray Caverns—Luray

luray caverns vintage

Luray Caverns

Like Skyline Drive, not much has changed at Luray Caverns in the past few decades (although thankfully fashion has improved). Discovered in 1878, the caverns are a U.S. Natural Landmark, open to visitors to explore the vast chambers decorated by nature with stalactites and stalagmites throughout. Make sure you stop by the Stalacpipe Organ, the world’s only organ that uses the natural stone formations of the caverns to create symphonic melodies.


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3 Days of Summer Fun in Charlottesville & Albemarle County!

3 Days of Summer Fun in Charlottesville & Albemarle County!

The summer season is an especially beautiful and fun time to visit Charlottesville & Albemarle County! The area is home to world-renowned historic attractions, the prestigious University of Virginia, a booming craft beverage scene including wine, beer, artisanal cider, and spirits, one of the longest pedestrian malls in the entire country , all while being nestled against the backdrop of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains. The hardest part of planning your trip will be trying to figure out which activities to choose, so the best bet is to extend your stay, so you can take advantage of everything. Check out this three-day itinerary that will deliver on many of the best things that the Charlottesville area has to offer!

Day 1

Your visit to Charlottesville & Albemarle County will begin by exploring some of the area’s iconic historic attractions. Home to three former presidents (Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison), this region is steeped in a history and tradition dating back to our nation’s formative years. Visit and tour the homes of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and James Monroe’s Highland for a glimpse back in time at how these former presidents lived, worked, and played. The two homes are located a short drive from one another and both can be visited and toured in half a day.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Roy VanDoorn

After your historic home tours, you will have probably worked up an appetite – and luckily for you, the historic Michie Tavern is conveniently located on the drive back into Charlottesville! Here, you will be able to enjoy a buffet of traditional Southern fare, including some legendary fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, and buttery biscuits. After lunch, be sure to experience more of the 18th Century way of life by exploring Michie Tavern’s general store, tavern gift shop, armory and artifacts shop, and metal smith shop. Self-guided tours are available of the property and games from the time period are available for the kids to play. Pro tip – purchase a Neighborhood Pass , which will give you discounted admission to all 3 of the aforementioned stops. Save even more money by purchasing this pass online!

After touring Michie Tavern, prepare for some of the best views around as you visit Carter Mountain Orchard! Peaches are in season and you will be able to pick your own fragrant fruit straight from the tree, or let the folks at Carter Mountain do the work for you! While you are there, be sure to get a dozen (or two) of the legendary apple cider donuts, straight from the fryer. They will melt in your mouth! Pro tip – enjoy these donuts on the back deck which overlooks the city of Charlottesville and the neighboring Blue Ridge Mountains with stunning panoramic views!

Carter Mountain Orchard Apple Cider Donuts


As you begin your descent back down the mountain, get ready to become immersed in history once again with a visit to the prestigious University of Virginia. Founded by Thomas Jefferson (and also a UNESCO World Heritage site), the University of Virginia is consistently ranked as one of the top public universities in the country, plus its architecture and Grounds are sure to leave you impressed. Located at the center of this University is the area referred to as the Academical Village and The Lawn, which also serves as a home for the iconic Rotunda. This structure, with its renowned columns, distinctive marble capitals, and white-dome roof, is well known throughout the world and serves as the University’s centerpiece, as well as a popular gathering space for students. Free tours are also available to learn more about the history of this recently-renovated, magnificent building. While you are here, be sure to stop by and visit the room where Edgar Allan Poe studied when he was a student at the University of Virginia and listen to an audio recording about his time studying there!

Rotunda at the University of Virginia

Brantley Ussery

Day 2

After a good night’s rest, gear up for another jam-packed day of discovering Charlottesville & Albemarle County. You will start your day by exploring the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall, located at the epicenter of the city. This eight-block avenue paved with brick and lined with mature oak trees is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the entire country! Once you are here, you will have your pick of dining options, with plenty of restaurants to choose from, many of which offer outdoor patio seating for dining al fresco! These outdoor patios are perfect spots to catch some shade from the trees above and listen to street musicians who can often be found serenading people here with their lovely tunes. After your meal, browse and meander the plethora of shops, stores, and galleries, which feature an abundance of locally-produced and crafted items for purchase. The Downtown Mall is also home to three major performance venues, the historic Paramount Theater, the Jefferson Theater, and the Sprint Pavilion, all of which are great options for catching a show or live music act. The Sprint Pavilion is located at the east end of the Downtown Mall and hosts many terrific musical acts throughout the year and a free, family-friendly concert series that takes place on Friday afternoons called Fridays After Five. Music lovers will definitely not be disappointed in the Charlottesville area – after all, this region is home to the legendary musician Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band!

Historic Pedestrian Downtown Mall

Brantley Ussery

After your excursion on the Downtown Mall, continue to explore the streets adjacent to it, many of which contain fascinating and unique stores, and check out West Main Street for even more restaurants! The amount of dining options in this area is staggering and it’s no surprise that the Charlottesville region has been dubbed the “Locavore Capital of the World” by Forbes. This area has been leading the pack in the farm-to-table movement and the chefs here always use locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. It’s the ultimate destination for foodies far and wide!

Once you have finished exploring the downtown area, it’s time to get out into the surrounding countryside to explore Virginia wine country! Charlottesville & Albemarle County features more than 30 wineries, most of which have several prestigious awards and accolades under their belts. The region was even named one of the top wine destinations in the world by Wine Enthusiast magazine! Several transportation companies offer wine tours so you can travel from vineyard to vineyard and ensure you are sipping safely. The wineries are all located on beautiful plots of land, with perfect views of the rolling landscape and mountains from the tasting rooms and grounds. The destination is also home to a booming craft beer scene, several artisanal cideries, and even a few distilleries, so there are leisure beverage options available for any preference you might have. Finish up your day by catching a show at the Heritage Theater Festival at the University of Virginia or listening to a performance of the Charlottesville Opera at the historic Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall.

White Hall Vineyards

Brantley Ussery

Day 3

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors in Charlottesville & Albemarle County. The area presents loads of outdoors adventures ranging from hiking, cycling, kayaking, fly fishing, and even floating down the river on a tube! Start your day with a short and scenic drive westbound to the picturesque Shenandoah National Park. Here, you will find abundant trails perfect for hiking in the clean, cool mountain air. There are hikes for those of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to even the most experienced hikers. After you’ve gotten in a quick hike and enjoyed the incredible views from the many scenic overlooks located along Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, head back to Charlottesville for a quick trip south to the charming town of Scottsville. Situated on the lazy banks of the James River, this town is the perfect summer hangout spot. Several reeling and rafting companies are available to help you plan your perfect river experience, whether it’s on a canoe, a kayak, or the ever-popular tube option. Nothing says relaxation like a lazy float down the James River, watching the clouds pass by overhead as you enjoy the crisp, cool water on a warm Virginia afternoon. After your tubing adventure, grab a quick bite to eat at one of the several restaurants located along Scottsville’s main street – plus, there is even a brewery, so you can sample the brewmaster’s latest carbonated concoction!

Tubing Down the River!

Courtesy of Charlottesville and Albemarle County

With a plethora of lodging options to choose from in Charlottesville & Albemarle County, there is something for every family (and budget). You can find charming inns and B&Bs, boutique hotels, chain hotels, and even high-end resorts with luxurious amenities all within reach!

This list only begins to scratch the surface of everything that Charlottesville & Albemarle County has to offer. We encourage you to explore our website to find a more comprehensive sampling of lodging options and activities, or to find out more details about the attractions and activities listed in this itinerary. Once you arrive, be sure to check out one of our visitor centers for even more information. One is conveniently located on the Downtown Mall and the other is located in the historic train depot in Crozet, a short and scenic drive from Charlottesville. So go ahead and start planning that perfect summer trip to Charlottesville & Albemarle County. We look forward to seeing you!

Written by Brantley Ussery for Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Charlottesville and Albemarle County

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Where They’re From: Walking in the Footsteps of Virginia’s Great Musicians

Where They’re From: Walking in the Footsteps of Virginia’s Great Musicians

ralph stanley music center

A time machine would be handy, wouldn’t it? Especially when it comes to the careers of legendary musicians, because only a select few fans get to see those first gigs that act as stepping stones toward stardom. While time travel remains out of reach, there’s good news: The options for exploring the history, hometowns, and early handiwork of Virginia’s musical giants are everywhere, from Northern Virginia wine country to the hills of the Commonwealth’s Southwest.

Here are a few ways to walk in the footsteps of Virginia’s musical greats.


Ralph Stanley—McClure

Born in McClure, Ralph Stanley got his first banjo when he was a teenager, learning to play clawhammer-style from his mother. With that foundation, and with Bill Monroe’s new bluegrass style growing in popularity, Stanley proved to be a foundational figure himself. He pioneered his own quick and crisp style of playing (“Stanley style”) and gained renown for his distinctive singing, with the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys. You’ll often hear his name preceded by “Doctor;” his contribution to the region’s musical tradition was so significant he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music by Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.

The Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center

Dr. Stanley passed away in 2016 at the age of 89, but his tradition is alive and well in Southwest Virginia. The definitive repository for Stanley scholarship and celebration can be found in Clintwood at the Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center. The center houses an extensive collection of memorabilia, offering visitors an opportunity to learn about the legend’s life, as well as the history of mountain music. And fans of the genre flock to McClure each Memorial Day for the annual “Hills of Home” bluegrass festival, now organized by Stanley’s son, with spots for camping and three days of fast-picking instrumentalists, including appearances by Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys.


Dave Matthews—Charlottesville

Though Dave Matthews was born in South Africa, he’s known as one of the most significant figures in his adopted hometown of Charlottesville. Matthews moved to Charlottesville with his mother in the mid-eighties, and what followed is the stuff of legend: A weekly gig at now-defunct local venue Trax, a breakout album in “Under the Table and Dreaming”, more than a dozen Grammy nominations, and a massive and loyal international following for his eponymous band. In fact, from 2000-2010, no musical act generated more in gross concert revenue — north of $500 million in total. Not bad for a guy who used to tend bar on Charlottesville’s downtown mall.

Blenheim Vineyards

Trax may be gone, but if you’re looking for ways to two-step the path Matthews walked in his younger days, Miller’s — where Matthews worked as a bartender — is a great place to start. It’s a favorite spot for locals and college students alike, with a busy schedule of musical performances and regular Thursday night appearances by the John D’earth Quintet — an incubator for local jazz talent. D’earth is the University of Virginia’s Director of Jazz Performance, and he’s performed on Dave Matthews’ recordings. (And Matthews sang on D’earth’s 2001 album “Mercury”.) For a look at Matthews’ more recent activity in the area, be sure to stop by Blenheim Vineyards, the winery he owns, located less than half an hour’s drive from the downtown spot where he worked as bartender.


Jason Mraz—Mechanicsville

Born and raised in Mechanicsville, Jason Mraz graduated from (and performed as a cheerleader at) Lee-Davis High School before studying at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City and eventually making a name for himself as a musician in San Diego. His intricate wordplay and seemingly limitless vocal abilities earned him a recording contract with Elektra Records, and his 2002 album “Waiting for My Rocket to Come” propelled him to national notoriety, with “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” earning him his first hit in the Top-40. Multiple Grammy nominations and wins have followed, along with recognition for “I’m Yours” as ASCAP’s 2010 Song of the Year.

The School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community — more commonly known by the acronym SPARC — was also part of Mraz’s journey to success. SPARC’s mission is to “profoundly influence young people’s lives through exceptional performing arts education,” and while he was still living in Richmond, Mraz spent afternoons and summers there learning and gaining confidence as a performer. And it’s clear he hasn’t forgotten his time there, as Mraz has served as Artistic Advisor for LIVE ART — a unique program that brings together performing arts instruction and special education, culminating in a yearly mega-concert, with past performances from Mraz, k.d. lang, Sara Bareilles, Rob Thomas, and René Marie, among many others. It’s a joyful celebration in support of an excellent cause — well worth seeing (and hearing) in person.


Bruce Hornsby—Williamsburg

Known for his bright and nimble piano playing, his multi-platinum recording career producing iconic hits like “The Way It Is,” and his time spent as a sideman with the Grateful Dead, Bruce Hornsby is as beloved a figure in Virginia’s musical history as you’ll find. He grew up in Williamsburg and graduated from James Blair High School, where he proved to be a strong basketball player. His musicianship turned out to be even stronger, as he moved to Los Angeles in 1980, formed Bruce Hornsby and the Range in 1984, and signed with RCA Records by the following year. While many got to know his music when he was working with backing band The Range, these days you’ll see him performing as Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers.

Colonial Williamsburg

If you’re not a fan of high school basketball, fear not — there are other ways to walk in Hornsby’s footsteps. He and his Noisemakers headline an annual festival in Williamsburg called the Funhouse Fest, presented by Hornsby himself and the Virginia Arts Festival. Past events have featured amazing acts like the Taj Mahal Trio, Hiss Golden Messenger, Sheryl Crow, and Greensky Bluegrass. VIP packages are available, offering early entry, premium parking, VIP Tent access, and even meet-and-greet opportunities with select artists. Whether you’re a Hornsby fan or just in town in June to see Colonial Williamsburg, there’s fun to be had at Funhouse. That’s just the way it is.


René Marie—Warrenton

René Marie’s is one of the most inspiring stories in Virginia’s long musical history. The jazz vocalist did perform some as a teenager in Roanoke, where she lived in the years after her family moved from her birthplace of Warrenton. But her career started in earnest decades later, when she was working at a bank and followed her son’s recommendation to get back into singing at the age of 41. Given an ultimatum by her husband to choose between singing and an abusive marriage, she followed her love for performing, going on to establish herself as one of today’s most talented and respected jazz vocalists. And she’s dedicated herself to helping others work through their own difficult circumstances by writing and performing a one-woman show about overcoming domestic abuse, and by establishing SLAM!, an online, one-on-one vocal therapy workshop that aims to help singers reconnect with their voices.

three fox vineyards

The early days of Marie’s relaunched music career included a production of “Ella and Her Fella, Frank” at the Barksdale Theatre in Richmond. The Barksdale merged with Theatre IV in 2012 to become the Virginia Repertory Theatre, and you can enjoy the nonprofit, professional theatre company’s productions at multiple locations around Richmond, including the Hanover Tavern, the November Theatre, and the Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn. If you’re planning a trip even further into Marie’s past, a trip to Warrenton provides access to some of Virginia’s most stunning wine country. In fact, Warrenton is centrally located along the Fauquier Country Wine Trail, which links more than two dozen wineries, including Three Fox Vineyards and Mediterranean Cellars, with plenty of bed and breakfasts nearby for those sticking around for an extended stay.

The post Where They’re From: Walking in the Footsteps of Virginia’s Great Musicians appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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11 Free (or Almost Free) Things to Do in Virginia Beach

11 Free (or Almost Free) Things to Do in Virginia Beach

Enjoy the beaches. Sandbridge Beach, Chic’s Beach and the Oceanfront Resort Beach are all free and open to the public.

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach
​Visit First Landing State Park or False Cape State Park.

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach
Explore the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach
Climb to the top of the historic Cape Henry Lighthouse, the first project commissioned by the new Federal Government after gaining independence from England.

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach
Peruse a local farmers market, like the Old Beach Farmers Market or the Virginia Beach Farmers Market.

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

Visit one of our many historic homes like the Adam Thoroughgood House (1680) or the Ferry Plantation House (1740).

Experience the high-octane history of the Virginia Military Aviation Museum.

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach
Check out the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art to learn about contemporary art through regularly scheduled changing exhibits, studio art classes, and special events.

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

Discover the historic DeWitt Cottage, built in 1895 on the Boardwalk. The cottage is now home to the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum.

Step back in time at The Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum, housed in a former U.S Life Saving Station, built in 1903 on the Boardwalk.

From Thomas Jefferson and Captain John Smith to Ella Fitzgerald and Patsy Cline, Virginia has been home to many of history’s giants. Check them out at the Virginia Legends Walk, at the oceanfront 13th Street Park.

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

Written by Vist Virginia Beach for Visit Virginia Beach.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

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Explore Wild Barrier Islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Explore Wild Barrier Islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore

The barrier islands that hug the 70-mile coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore are home to wild, unspoiled stretches of beach, delicate natural habitats and remnants of the past left by those who once called this frontier home. You’ll feel like the last person left on earth as you stand on the edge of the Atlantic.

Hire a local guide and boat or kayak out for the day or play captain and set sail for a day on the beach yourself.


There are 14 barrier islands off the coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. They comprise the largest stretch of coastal wilderness left on the eastern seaboard of the United States. They have been designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nationsand a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site of International Importance. This barrier island chain is one of only 17 locations in the United States designated as wetlands of international importance.

The islands are owned primarily by The Nature Conservancy and state and federal government and are open for hiking, nature study, swimming and photography during the day. All of the islands except Assateague Island, which you can drive onto, are accessible only by water.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of the world’s top destinations for paddlers, with the Chesapeake Bay on one coast, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

Courtesy of Visit Eastern Shore, Virginia

Many of these islands were once home to thriving communities. Island residents farmed, fished, hunted and ran lodges and hotels for tourists to make ends meet. In the 1930s, island residents began fleeing as hurricanes battered the coastline. Many houses from the islands were moved to the mainland and still stand today. You can learn about the history of the barrier islands and their fascinating residents at the Barrier Islands Center.


There is no road or bridge to these wild islands. The saying that getting there is half the fun when you travel, is definitely true of a trip to Virginia’s barrier islands. Hop in a kayak or canoe and paddle through salt marsh to the islands or head out with a boat captain who knows more about the barrier islands and the waters that surround them than you could fit in an encyclopedia. Take to the air and get a bird’s eye view. We recommend that you do all three — each experience will give you a unique perspective.


If you want to paddle the barrier islands on your own, bring your own kayak, or rent one here, then follow the Seaside Water Trail. Tackle small sections of the trail or if you’re feeling ambitious, kayak from one end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore to the other. Enjoy the peace of floating quietly among the salt marshes and bays with wildlife all around.

Learn more about kayaking on Virginia’s Eastern Shorehere. See below for details on where to launch your kayak.


If you have a boat, the barrier islands are really just a stone’s throw away. You can launch from a boat ramp in one of the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s quaint seaside harbor towns and be standing with your toes in the sand on a barrier island in as little as 10 minutes. Pack a picnic, hop in the boat and spread your towel on the sand for a relaxing day on a secluded stretch of beach. Bring your binoculars for some spectacular bird watching or grab your rod and reel for a little surf fishing.

Here’s a list of boat rampson the Atlantic coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Most are free but any fees are negligible compared to most popular boating destinations.


You can also hire an expert guide to help you explore the barrier islands. Catch a ride on DayTripper’s boat taxi. They’ll drop you off on Dawson’s Shoals, a sandbar off of the seaside village of Wachapreague, for a beach day. Take a cruise with a licensed captain and certified eco-tour guide who will point out shorebirds and regale you with tales of days gone by on the islands.

The guest house at Holly Bluff, on a privately owned barrier island, dates to the 1930s but has every convenience you need.

Courtesy of Visit Eastern Shore, Virginia

Kayaking outfitters can design guided trips out to the barrier islands. You can paddle around Assateague and get a closer look at the famous Chincoteague ponies, kayak out to Metompkin Island and learn about wildlife along the way or book a multi-day kayaking adventure and spend your evenings relaxing on Holly Bluff, the last privately held barrier island.

Learn more about guides or book an eco-tour here.

From the Air

Get above it all and see how the barrier islands form a long strand off the coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. You’ll get a whole new perspective on the barrier islands and the peninsula they protect.

Learn more about air tours here.


Not all of the islands are open to the public. Below is a list of islands that are open to the public with details about allowed activities.

The barrier islands are very delicate ecosystems that serve as an important habitat for migratory birds, are home to protected plants and animals and serve as a buffer for the Eastern Shore of Virginia against storms. These shifting and dynamic sands play an important role in the environment. Please treat this fragile ecosystem with the utmost respect.

  • Camping, dogs, vehicles and open fires are prohibited at all times.
  • Obey all posted signs to protect nesting birds and other sensitive wildlife and plants.
  • A good way to avoid doing any harm is to stay below the high tide line.
  • Leave nothing but footprints behind.
  • If you bring a picnic make sure to pack your debris out with you and dispose of it properly.
  • If you spot any trash while you’re out there, be a good samaritan and pick it up. It will make you feel good and it will keep trash out of the ocean and out of the bellies of wildlife.
Anchor your boat just offshore and spend a day on the sand on one of the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s barrier islands.

Courtesy of Visit Eastern Shore, Virginia

The Nature Conservancy Most TNC-owned islands are open to the public for low-impact, non-commercial, recreational day use, such as swimming, hiking, bird watching, surf fishing and photography. These include Cobb, Godwin, Hog, Mink, Myrtle, Parramore, Revels, Rogue, Sandy, and Smith Islands, and the TNC-owned portions of Cedar and Metompkin Islands. Seasonal restrictions apply. Little Cobb and Ship Shoal Islands are closed to public access. Learn more here.

US Fish & Wildlife Service
Assateague , Assawoman , and the FWS portions of Cedar *_and *_Metompkin Islands and parts of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge are open for day use with some seasonal restrictions. Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge is closed to public access, but you can take guided tours during the winter months. Learn more here.

VA Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries Mockhorn and the state-owned portions of Cedar Island are open for use with some seasonal restrictions. Learn more here.

VA Dept. of Conservation & Recreation
Wreck Island is open seasonally to public use and is closed to public access April 15 through August 31. Learn more here.

VA Marine Resource Commission Dawson’s Shoal is open to the public for low-impact day use. Seasonal restrictions apply. Learn more here.

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Written by EasternShore VA RootsRated for Visit Eastern Shore VA.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Visit Eastern Shore, Virginia

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4 Virginia State Parks with Incredible Mountain Biking Trails

4 Virginia State Parks with Incredible Mountain Biking Trails


Virginia has plenty of trail systems for mountain bikers eager to conquer new heights, but some of the most exciting and beautiful trails are found within Virginia’s State Parks. Mountain biking trails of every experience level wind through these four state parks, giving bikers the chance to get back to the pristine natural wilderness of Virginia while challenging themselves on miles of intense trails.



douthat state park

Containing over 40 miles of singletrack mountain biking trails within the park boundaries, Douthat State Park in Virginia’s Western Highlands has some of the most outstanding scenic viewpoints in all of Virginia. The 22 biking trails ascend 3,500 feet up the mountainous landscape, and range from easy to difficult. Flat Run is the easiest of the trails, winding 2.5 miles through the park. There are nine moderate-level trails totaling about 15 miles, and 12 difficult trails totaling about 24 miles. Although one of the most difficult trails, the three-mile Blue Suck Falls Trails has one of the best payoffs, finishing with a stunning view of a waterfall. Continue further along the trail to the Tuscarora Overlook for another scenic view of the surrounding mountains.

See the Complete Douthat State Park Mountain Biking Trail Guide



york river state park

Pocahontas State Park has over 25 miles of mountain biking trails, including traditional singletrack trails, machine-built flow trails, and hand-cycle friendly trails. The trails are part of both the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the Richmond Regional Ride Center, providing easy to moderate level trails through the woodlands of Central Virginia (although a few of the moderate trails are more technical, leaning to difficult). Three main trail systems curve through the park. The Morgan Trail System contains three trail loops totaling about 9.4 miles, and is known for tight turns over rocky, root-filled tread. The Lakeview Trail System is made up of another 9.5 miles of trails, with a combination of rake and ride and hand-built sections. The Lakeview Trails contain moderately tight turns, rough tread, and continuously rolling terrain. The Swift Creek Trail System totals about seven miles, with four separate machine-cut trails designed for hand-cyclists ranging from beginner to professional level.

See the Complete Pocahontas State Park Mountain Biking Trail Guide



york river state park

If you’re looking for mountain biking trails in Coastal Virginia, head to York River State Park. There are 11 miles of singletrack mountain biking trails within the park, including five trails specifically for mountain biking and nine multi-use trails where mountain bikers are welcome permitting they yield to hikers or horseback riders. The mountain biking trails within York River State Park range from easy to difficult, with a variety of terrain and elevation changes through the hardwood forests. Start with an easier trail, like Black Bear Run, a short .38-mile trail through the woods and the fields. The moderate trails include 3.12-mile Bobcat Run Trail, John Blair Trail, a 12-mile double track ride, and Laurel Glen Trail, a 1.26-mile moderate trail lined with vast mountain laurel bushes. Advanced riders will enjoy Marl Ravine Trail, a six-mile narrow singletrack trail that follows steep ravines throughout.

See the Complete York River State Park Mountain Biking Trail Guide



Southwest Virginia’s Hungry Mother State Park contains more than 12 miles of singletrack mountain biking trails that range from easy to difficult. There is a short half-mile trail for beginners, five moderate trails totaling roughly ten miles, and four difficult trails adding another seven miles to the trail system. Parts of the trail follows the scenic Hungry Mother Lake, with other trails curving through the forests and colorful fields of rhododendron. Ride Molly’s Knob Trail for outstanding views of the park from the summit; on a clear day, you’ll even be able to see Mount Rogers.

See the Complete Hungry Mother State Park Mountain Biking Trail Guide


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7 of the Best Burger Joints in the Charlottesville Area!

7 of the Best Burger Joints in the Charlottesville Area!

Is there really any comfort food like a burger and fries? This all-American meal is always a safe thing to order because, let’s be honest, there is no such thing as a bad burger. In fact, few things make me happier than a nice juicy burger, oozing with cheese, and other yummy toppings. The best part of all is that the Charlottesville area is full of restaurants that know how to make a burger that will be sure to leave you speechless, up until you enjoy the very last bite. Here are some of my favorite places to grab a burger in the Charlottesville area!

1.) Citizen Burger Bar

I was so excited when Citizen Burger Bar came to Charlottesville because their meat and eggs come from grass-fed cows and free-range chickens. Everything there tastes so fresh and real. Their brioche buns are to DIE for and let’s not even start on the fried pickles (YUM). Their menu gives you the option the create your own burger, but I always go for the original “Citizen Burger.” It’s made up of Timbercreek beef, McClure Swiss cheese, black onion, garlic aioli, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and it’s topped with a delicious fried pickle. It’s the perfect place to meet up with friends or watch the game on their row of flatscreen TVs while enjoying a burger and beer! (By the way, that mouth-watering burger at the top of this post also came from this establishment!)

Citizen Burger Bar


2.) White Spot

Do you ever find yourself wanting a greasy, delicious burger at 2:00 a.m.? Located on the Corner at the University of Virginia, beside Insomnia Cookies, White Spot is Charlottesville’s famous late-night diner that serves up burgers until 3:00 a.m. After a night of seeing a show at the Jefferson or bar-hopping on the Corner, White Spot’s cheesy Gus Burger with a fried egg on top is just what you need. This burger has had college students from decades ago (including UVA alum Katie Couric) return to enjoy what used to be their favorite late night snack – and in some cases, still is!

White Spot

Stephanie DeVaux

3.) Boylan Heights

Boylan Heights is THE place to go in Charlottesville for burger customization. Between the different burgers, breads, sauces, and toppings that you can choose from, you can be sure that you’ll find the perfect burger that will hit the spot. But if you don’t want to get too crazy and you’d rather stick with a basic cheeseburger, that is to die for, too! The burger patties are soft, juicy and full of flavor and the cheese melts over them giving it perfect texture and taste. With their wide selection of draft beers and their location on the Corner, Boylan Heights’ bar is a great place to go to watch a UVA game! Plus, you’ll feel like a student when you place your order using a “Scantron” form that must be filled out with a No. 2 pencil!

Boylan Heights


4.) Riverside

This is classic Charlottesville. Riverside has been serving up burgers and hot dogs in Charlottesville since 1935! These burgers get flat-pressed on the grill and customers go crazy over them! Wahoo sports stars frequent Riverside, so you might see Mike Tobey or Kurt Benkert enjoying a burger. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, tasty, and all-around amazing lunch – this is definitely the place!


Don H. – Yelp

5.) The Local

The Local Burger is just what it sounds like – local. This is one of Charlottesville’s favorite burgers because The Local (located in the Belmont neighborhood near downtown) uses fresh, organic, and local beef to make their signature burger creation. Not only is the beef local, the Swiss cheese they top it with is as well! They finish the burger with Applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and a side of their fresh and homemade french fries. What a wonderful and delicious way to support local companies!

The Local

Alexandria T. – Yelp

6.) Jack Brown ‘s Beer & Burger Joint

This relatively new restaurant came bursting on to the Charlottesville burger scene a few years ago – and though the dining space may be relatively tiny, the impact this restaurant has made has been enormous! Featuring 100% all-natural Wagyu beef, this isn’t your mama’s burger. Don’t even think about asking for lettuce and tomato! At Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, the burgers are prepared in a simple and basic fashion. For the more adventurous, there’s even “The Elvis” burger which features mayo, Applewood-smoked bacon, cheese, and peanut butter – just like “The King” would’ve wanted! If you need something to wash down all of that beautiful beefy goodness, they offer up more than 100 craft beer selections from which to choose. The hardest part will be figuring out what to order!

Jack Browns Beer Burger Joint

Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint – Facebook Page

7.) Draft Taproom

The recently-opened Draft Taproom now provides yet another fine burger and beer experience for eager eaters in the Charlottesville area! Try the Draft Burger or Bison Burger, both of which feature a bison & beef blend. If you’re not in the mood for beef, they also have a wonderful turkey burger, topped with Monterey Jack cheese, guacamole, tomato, arugula, and sage aioli, all on a soft Brioche bun! And with a name like Draft Taproom, you know there’s going to be quite a beer selection involved! Draft Taproom has more than 60 beers on tap and patrons are able to make their selection, pour it themselves, and get as little or as much as they want – and pay by the ounce! This burger and beer spot on the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall is not to be missed!

We’re lucky in Charlottesville and Albemarle County to have so many delicious burger options to choose from. Whether you’re out late, planning to watch the big game, or wanting to eat locally, there is a burger in Charlottesville for everybody’s taste buds! These have just been my top seven places to get my burger fix, but trust me, there are a LOT more amazing burgers in this area. What is your favorite place in Charlottesville to grab a burger and fries? Let us know in the comments section! Happy eating!

Written by Tess McGough for Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Charlottesville and Albemarle County

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Local’s Guide to the Great Outdoors in Va Beach

Local’s Guide to the Great Outdoors in Va Beach

While our beaches might be our biggest draw, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the great outdoors in Va Beach. From the windswept sand dunes of Sandbridge to the moss-adorned bald cypress trees of the historic First Landing State Park, there is no shortage of scenes to experience and adventures to be had. While the diversity of outdoor experiences can certainly make it hard to know where to start, we’ve got you covered. We are happy to share with you our Local’s Guide to the Great Outdoors in Virginia Beach.


Farm fresh

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

The agricultural Farming Community of Pungo is located just south of Sandbridge Beach and is home to 8,000 acres of farmland, including 16 pick-your-own farms. Depending on the season, you can pick your own bushel of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kale, cabbage or even your own bouquet of wildflowers! While the beginning of summer marks the end of strawberry-picking season in Virginia Beach, it kicks off new seasons for many fresh, local produce like blackberries and blueberries.

Some of Our Favorite Spots

New Earth Farm

Cullipher Farm Market

Flip Flops Farmer

Henley Farm

Kick it up a Notch

Sign up for a Food Lab Class at New Earth Farm and learn the ins and outs of food preservation, like pickling and fermentation.

Take it Easy

Pick a bouquet of wildflowers at one the area’s pick-your-own farms.

Local Tip:

Strawberry season is April – June, and after that window the strawberries are gone until next year. Go early in the season, go on a weekday, if possible, and start near the back for more options!


Ocean inlets

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach’s protected maritime forests are a crucial ingredient within the beautiful landscape that surrounds us. With over 4,000 acres of parks and national refuges, Virginia Beach is much bigger than most would think thanks, in large part, to our parkland and wildlife refuges. With numerous opportunities for hiking, biking, birdwatching, camping, and more, Virginia Beach is consistently rated as one the fittest and most adventurous cities in the United States, and for good reason.

Some of Our Favorite Spots

First Landing State Park

False Cape State Park

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Kick it up a Notch

If you’re an avid camper, take it to the next level with primitive camping at False Cape State Park, where you can camp in near complete isolation, and set your tent up right on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean.

Take it Easy

The Spanish moss-adorned Bald Cypress trees of First Landing State Park make for a dream-like canopy over the preserved marshland habitat. Go for a hike or bike ride, or bring your favorite book for a quiet, relaxing afternoon among the trees.

Local Tip:

Winter is the best time to visit The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge for prime birdwatching, as that is when many of our favorite waterfowl, like the Tundra Swan and American Black Duck visit us. They can be spotted in Back Bay or the impoundments on a winter tram tour or a brisk winter hike. Be sure to dress warmly.


Walking the beach

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

From the mighty Atlantic swell to the calm waters of the immense Chesapeake Bay, as well as 120 miles of waterways, being on the water is a way of life here. You can charter a boat and head out for a day of fishing, rent a kayak for a day of exploring our wetlands, or simply dive in for a day of swimming in the calm waves of the Bay.

Some of Our Favorite Spots

The Atlantic Ocean

The Chesapeake Bay

Back Bay

The Lynnhaven River

Kick it up a Notch

It doesn’t get more thrilling than chartering a boat and heading out to deep sea fish in the 115 fathoms of the famous Norfolk Canyon, where the bigger fish like billfish and tuna can be found.

Take it Easy

To do as the locals do, take a boat ride out on one of the inland waterways like the Linkhorn Bay or Broad Bay and spend the day on cruise control.

Local Tip:

Dolphins are frequent visitors to the calmer inland waterways off of the Chesapeake Bay, making for a perfect opportunity to kayak alongside some of our favorite locals.


Cloud reflections on the beach

Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

Our wide beaches, from the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean to the beaches of our rivers and inlets, are a staple of our Virginia Beach culture and a beacon of relaxation for locals and visitors alike. From shell-hunting and sunbathing to beach volleyball and building sandcastles, we think there’s something to dig about the sand.

Some of Our Favorite Spots

Chic’s Beach

The Oceanfront North End

Croatan Beach

Sandbridge Beach

Oceanfront Beach

Kick it up a Notch

We’re all about beach cruisers and fat tire bikes here in Va Beach, and there may not be a better way to explore the beaches of Sandbridge than by taking a ride right on the sand. Rent a fat tire bike from a local outfitter like Surf and Adventure Company and head to Little Island Park for a ride along the water’s edge.

Take it Easy

For a relaxing day on the Atlantic Ocean with a decidedly more local vibe, check out the Oceanfront North End Beach. Same beautiful, wide sandy beaches, but more residential. You can park on most of the side streets.

Local Tip:

To view some prime surfing, head to Croatan Beach, just south of the main resort beach. Croatan is a hidden gem that is a popular local beach and surf spot.

Written by Vist Virginia Beach for Visit Virginia Beach.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Vist Virginia Beach

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5 Things to Do in Fredericksburg

5 Things to Do in Fredericksburg


Filled with iconic history, award-winning restaurants, and a stunning downtown area, Fredericksburg is a convenient stop off of Interstate 95 for travelers journeying between Richmond and Washington D.C. or beyond. When planning a trip (or even a quick detour) to this historic Virginia city, make sure these five Fredericksburg destinations are on your to-do list!




An early 20th century American artist, Gari Melchers was one of the most successful painters of his time. He lived with his wife in Fredericksburg and built a studio on the property so that he could produce his artwork in the comfort of his own home. Today, the Gari Melchers Home & Studio at Belmont, a National Historic Landmark, houses the largest collection of his paintings and drawings in the world, with over 1,600 total artworks on display throughout the studio and art gallery. After perusing the incredible artwork, visitors can stroll through the restored gardens and peaceful walking trails on this Fredericksburg estate.



river rock outfitters kayaking in fredericksburg

Get active and explore the Rappahannock River during your Fredericksburg vacation with a visit to River Rock Outfitter, an outdoor shop that rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. The shop also sells gear for kayaking and paddleboarding, as well as fishing, hiking, camping, and climbing accessories. When booked ahead of time, rock climbing, fly fishing, kayaking, photography, and stand up paddleboarding lessons for every age and experience level are available at River Rock Outfitter.



Historic Kenmore Plantation & Gardens

Historic Kenmore Plantation & Gardens is a late 18th century estate built by George Washington’s sister and her husband, who was a wealthy merchant and planter in the Fredericksburg area. Sitting on the Rappahannock River, this Georgian-style brick mansion reflects the opulence of Pre-Revolutionary War Virginia and the status of a Fredericksburg merchant in that era. Take a guided 45-minute tour through the home, and then head outside and walk through the gorgeous gardens and grounds at your leisure.



A. Smith Bowman Distillery

Stop by A. Smith Bowman Distillery to tour a working distillery that has been making spirits in Virginia since 1935, opening right after Prohibition ended in the Commonwealth. The distillery was moved from its original location in Northern Virginia due to rising real estate and property taxes and opened the expansive Fredericksburg location in 1988. During your tour, you’ll get to see the entire micro-distilling process up close, from the massive copper stills to the small batch bottles of the spirits, including bourbon whiskey, dark Caribbean-style rum, vodka, and gin. Tours are free and start on the hour during daily business hours.



Downtown Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg’s National Historic District contains over 350 original 18th and 19th century buildings. Within four blocks of this historic neighborhood, you’ll find over 100 shops, restaurants, and boutiques, making it a convenient walking area for those looking to peruse local businesses.


After visiting all five of these Fredericksburg destinations, you may have worked up an appetite. Dine at one of these nearby restaurants for an excellent meal to cap off your visit.


Need more ideas for restaurants, historic destinations, and other activities to fill your itinerary during your Fredericksburg vacation? Check out even More Things to Do in this historic Virginia city.


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How to Maximize Your Vacation Days This Year

How to Maximize Your Vacation Days This Year


By now you’ve probably heard us say “Stop wasting your vacation days!” and “Take a day off!” But for many this is easier said than done. So if you still haven’t had the chance to sit down and plan your days off, we’ve got a plan laid out nice and easy for you – turn this year’s remaining holiday weekends into mini vacations.

That’s right, just by tacking on a few of your PTO days to the holidays your company recognizes, you can maximize your vacation days. No matter how many days you’re given off per year, this plan will turn 13 days off into 40 vacation days.


Blue Mountain Brewery and Restaurant


Here’s how:


Memorial Day – May 28

Take off Tuesday-Friday, May 29-June 1

Cost = 4 days off

Reward = 9 day vacation


Independence Day – July 4

Take off Thursday-Friday, July 5-6

Cost = 2 days off

Reward = 5 day vacation


Labor Day – September 3

Take off Friday, August 31

Cost = 1 day off

Reward = 4 day vacation


Columbus Day – October 8

Take off Friday, October 5

Cost = 1 day off

Reward = 4 day vacation


Veterans Day – November 12

Take off Friday, November 9

Cost = 1 day off

Reward = 4 day vacation


Thanksgiving – November 22

Take off Friday, November 23

Cost = 1 day off

Reward = 4 day vacation


Christmas Eve, Christmas & New Years – December 24, 25 & 31

Take off Wednesday-Friday, December 26-28

Cost = 3 days

Reward = 10 day vacation


Richmond Kayaking


Now that we’ve done the legwork, there’s no more excuses for not taking the time-off that you’ve earned and deserve. Notice each of these mini vacations involves taking a Friday off, and it just so happens that we’ve already curated the perfect itineraries to help you Crush Friday in Virginia.


This article was inspired by Travel + Leisure and The Forward Cabin.

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Four Virginia Destinations for the Hardcore Rock Music Lover

Four Virginia Destinations for the Hardcore Rock Music Lover

For the hardcore, metal or punk rock music lover, there are plenty of places in Virginia to get heads banging, ears ringing, and mosh pits going. Many of Virginia’s cities have roots in the development of these music genres, and many venues, record stores and rock historic sites are still around serving the rock community.

Richmond heavy metal band Inter Arma performs “An Archer in the Emptiness” live at the Byrd Park Pumphouse in Richmond.



Strange Matter – Richmond, VA

Richmond is known for its active rock history. The city is perhaps best known for shock-metal band GWAR, as well as many other punk and metal names like Lamb of God, Avail, Strike Anywhere, and others. Going to Richmond puts you in the middle of rock history to see where big names started while catching new acts who could make it big.

The National historic theater was built in 1923 and was part of a city block once known as Theatre Row. In 1968, it was converted into a cinema, which closed in 1983. Restored and reopened in 2008, The National is now used as a performing arts and music venue and hosts numerous rock acts throughout the year.

Strange Matter has housed a punk rock club for nearly three decades. It was most famously known as Twisters throughout the 1990s, and since then has been known as Club 929, The Nanci Raygun, and Bagel Czar before it re-opened in 2009 as Strange Matter. The club hosts up-and-coming local and national touring acts in the punk, metal, experimental and hardcore genres nearly every night.

The Canal Club in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom district has been serving the rock community for many years. The venue features national, regional and local hard rock and metal acts on a weekly basis with two floors of music, the upstairs for national acts and the downstairs for smaller, intimate setting with seating in the back and standing up front.

Other Richmond music venues that host hard rock music include The Camel and The Broadberry, which both host all genres of music from punk to bluegrass to electronic. Wonderland in the Shockoe Bottom area and Bandito’s Burrito Lounge in Richmond’s Museum District regularly hosts shows that cater to underground rock, heavy metal, thrash, punk, and more.

Richmond band GWAR has been recording, performing and touring for decades, bringing their theatrical show and metal music to stages across the world.  The band, along with local restaurateur Travis Croxton of Rappahannock Oysters, opened GWAR Bar in 2015 with a menu that features vegan and vegetarian options, along with craft cocktails. The bar also features karaoke and open mic nights.

And no trip to Richmond would be complete with a visit to one of its many independent record shops. The rock or metal lover will need to check out Vinyl Conflict, which focuses strictly on hardcore, punk, and metal releases. Or head to another favorite record store nearby.



Norfolk is no stranger to the hard rock, metal and punk scenes. The area was popular in the 1980s for the local underground punk rock scene and continues to draw crowds at its venues.

The NorVa opened in 1917 as a Vaudeville theater then thrived as a premier movie theatre into the 1970s. In 1998, it was renovated for its current use as a live music venue. The NorVa hosts hard rock acts often as well as other genres.

Smaller spots in the Norfolk area with shows for rock and metal fans include Riffhouse Pub in Chesapeake, Charlie’s American Cafe in the Riverview neighborhood, the Norfolk Taphouse in the historic Ghent district, and FM Restaurant and Hell’s Kitchen, both in downtown Norfolk.

While in Norfolk, make sure to head to Skinnie’s Records, located in Ghent. The store specializes in punk and hard rock music from vinyl to CDs as well as accessories including clothing, leather goods, patches, pins and posters. Or head to another favorite record store nearby.

Rock lovers can also head to Virginia Beach to catch the occasional metal show at Shaka’s Live, located in the heart of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront or see a major rock act during the summer months at the 20,000-seat outdoor concert venue Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater at Virginia Beach.



The Golden Pony – Harrisonburg, VA

Hardcore, metal and punk music has always had a home in the Shenandoah Valley. The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture thrived for years in Harrisonburg thanks to the passionate community, the numerous live music venues, and the proximity of James Madison University.

Many of Harrisonburg’s restaurants and live music venues cater to the hardcore, metal, and punk music lover. The Golden Pony in downtown Harrisonburg hosts live music Sunday-Thursday and DJs on the weekends. The venue also has pinball machines, an art gallery, an outdoor patio, and two full bars. Brothers Craft Brewing hosts Monthly Metal on the last Wednesday of each month featuring the best local and regional metal.

Every year in April, Harrisonburg hosts MACROCK (formerly the Mid-Atlantic College Radio Conference), an annual music festival showcasing a diverse array of independent musical acts, including many from hardcore, punk and metal genres. The event takes places across multiple music venues throughout the city and also provides educational and enriching community events celebrating independent music through events such as record and publishing label expositions, panel discussions, and live performances.



Tally Ho Theatre – Leesburg, VA. Photo credit: Steve Johnson

While there are many areas in Washington, DC that cater to the hard rock, metal, or punk music lover, Northern Virginia itself has some worthwhile destinations.

The Tally Ho Theatre is a landmark in historic downtown Leesburg that brings in many hard rock shows a year. The venue was created in 1932 as a movie theater until it was sold and renovated in 2012, and started hosting live bands in a wide range of genres, including hard rock and metal.

Rock lovers can also head to Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow during the summer months to see major hard rock acts.

Jammin’ Java in Vienna hosts music of all genres, but has the occasional hard rock show.

Also, pick up some records at Vienna Music Exchange in Vienna. The stores boasts a huge selection of metal records and plenty of punk, hardcore and rock LPs all packed into one spot. Or head to another favorite record store nearby.


Where are some other places in Virginia for metal, punk and hard rock lovers? Let us know in the comments below. For more music in Virginia, go to virginia.org/music. Share your Virginia music stories and photos with @VisitVirginia on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #vamusic and #vaisformusiclovers.

The post Four Virginia Destinations for the Hardcore Rock Music Lover appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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