Why head out of state or the country? Options abound in your own backyard.
By Joan Tupponce
You want a relaxing break from your normal routine but don’t have the time to take a week’s vacation and jet off to an exotic locale. So why not discover the same attractions and destinations the millions of tourists who flock to Virginia have come to love? We’ve listed a few options below that include everything from five-star luxury to oyster farming.
Keswick Hall and Golf Club – A 600-acre boutique resort near Charlottesville, Keswick Hall just received one of the lodging industry’s most coveted ratings, the Forbes Five Star award. It is the first Charlottesville property to achieve this distinction and one of only three five-star properties in the state.
The cozy 48-guest room resort includes historic Villa Crawford, once the Italianesque private estate of the Robert Crawford family, built in 1912. Rooms have been renovated to provide a modern take on the history that surrounds the area. The end result: a clean, crisp, country-retreat feel that is as relaxing as it is comfortable.
The resort features a boatload of amenities such as three swimming pools (including an infinity pool overlooking a carpet of manicured fairway greens), tennis, a spa, fine dining, an on-site vineyard and nature trails. Golfers will want to test out their skills on the new Pete Dye-designed golf course. keswick.com
Nelson 151 (Route 151 in Nelson County) – On weekends you’ll find a steady stream of traffic on this picturesque two-lane road headed for award-winning breweries, vegetable stands, outdoor activities and some down-home cooking.
The route features three craft breweries: Blue Mountain, Wild Wolf and Devils Backbone. Devils Backbone was awarded the top brewery and brewmaster ribbons at the World Beer Congress. But don’t just go for the beer. The breweries are as well-known for food as they are spirited beverages.
Join in the spirit of the moment and stop into the rustic Bold Rock cidery, complete with pub, and the Silverback Distillery, where you’ll find top-shelf gin, vodka, whiskey and bourbon. During the spring and summer, the area is brimming with farm stands and produce markets where you’ll have your pick of fresh vegetables.
Just off Route 151, you’ll find Crabtree Falls, the tallest vertical cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. A switchback trail goes from bottom to top and provides a brisk hike and beautiful scenery. nelson151.com
Portsmouth – The charm of the city of Portsmouth is often overshadowed by its neighboring cities in Tidewater. That’s a shame because this historic city has lots to offer. Shops, restaurants, museums and even an original art deco theater line High Street, the city’s main artery. Families will love stepping inside a mammoth bubble at the Children’s Museum of Virginia. The museum also features the Lancaster Antique Train and Toy Collection as well as a modernized planetarium.
Just across the street is the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, celebrating close to 300 past and present athletes. Get in touch with your inner Denny Hamlin (or the NASCAR driver of your choice) and test your driving skills on the NASCAR computer simulator. After a spin around the virtual track, visit the Training Room to learn more about nutrition and fitness.
Now that the weather is warm, take a ride aboard the harbor cruise ship Carrie B and check out the Portsmouth and Norfolk harbors. Before you leave, stop by The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and the Lightship Portsmouth Museum, featuring a restored ship originally commissioned in 1915. visitportsva.com
High Bridge Trail State Park – Bicyclists from around the country are familiar with this Southern Virginia trail, named for the bridge crossing the Appomattox River Valley. High Bridge is built on the grade of a former railroad and is free of any steep uphill or downhill grades, making it good riding for cyclists of all ages. The 31-mile trail has eight entrances. Bikes can be rented near the trailhead at High Bridge Bikes in Farmville.
You’ll want to take some time to walk around Farmville, especially if you are shopping for furniture. You’ll find everything from Oriental rugs to room furnishings at the popular Green Front furniture complex. Not far away is the Robert Russa Moton Museum. The former school was the site of the 1951 walkout of African-American students in protest over the poor conditions there. Subsequent lawsuits became a main part of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/high-bridge-trail.shtml#general_information
Virginia Beach – Take a one-of-a-kind tour with Pleasure House Oysters, a small oyster-farming operation on Lynnhaven Inlet. You’ll be ferried out to the oyster beds, and oysters will be brought right out of the water for you to taste. The Chef’s Table dining experience will have you dining right there in the Lynnhaven River marsh. You will also get some one-on-one time with oyster farmer Capt. Chris Ludford so you can learn about the history of the famous Lynnhaven oyster.
Those who want a more hands-on experience can opt for the Waterman Tour where you can don waders and get out on the oyster beds and pick up your own oysters. pleasurehouseoysters.com
Colonial Williamsburg – Many people who go to Colonial Williamsburg don’t take the time to visit the art museums. Both the award-winning museums – the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum – are under one roof. Entrance to the museums is through the Public Hospital of 1773, a reconstruction of the first facility in 18th-century North America dedicated solely to the treatment of the mentally ill.
The DeWitt houses a collection of British and American fine and decorative arts dating from 1600 through 1830. Changing exhibits include the world’s largest collection of Southern furniture and one of the largest collections of British ceramics outside England.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, established by John D. Rockefeller Jr., is the oldest institution in the United States dedicated solely to the collection and preservation of American folk art. history.org
Culpeper – Tucked into the side of a mountain on the outskirts of the town of Culpeper is one of the most valued film and video repositories in America. The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Preservation was built during the Cold War years as a place to store important national documents in the case of a nuclear attack on Washington.
Today it houses first-generation acetates of famous movies, videotapes of classic television shows, audios of old radio shows and other media of recorded audio and visual history. All of the films and recordings must have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance. So you won’t find any footage of “The Bachelor” or “The Jerry Springer Show.”
The 205-seat Packard Campus Theater, a re-creation of a California art-deco theater, holds three public screenings each week, using state-of-the-art sound and projection. Screenings are free with open seating on a first-come/first-served basis. Advance tickets are available in town at the historic State Theatre or online. loc.gov/avconservation/theater