15 Small Luxury Hotels You Need to Book for a Pampered Getaway  

Keswick Hall

A stay at a big-name resort comes with perks like full 18-hole golf courses, miles of trails, and several restaurant options on-site, but a smaller boutique inn has its own upsides, including peace and quiet, privacy, and personalized extras. Book a stay at one of these small boutique hotels and experience luxury in a whole new way.

INN AT WARNER HALL—GLOUCESTER

The Inn at Warner Hall is off the beaten path of an already less traveled section of Virginia, but this Northern Neck haven should not be overlooked when considering an upscale experience. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the waterfront plantation was originally built in 1642 by George Washington’s great-great grandfather. The manor has been rebuilt several times since then, with the current structure dating to the early 1900s. Today, the estate occupies 38 acres on Virginia’s coastline, with the waterways leading to the Chesapeake Bay. Eleven well-appointed guestrooms are furnished with period antiques, and features like Whirlpool tubs, gas fireplaces, and comfortable luxury linens add the modern comforts expected in a first-class inn. Start your day with an excellent home-cooked breakfast, such as the Warner Hall Eggs Benedict, which includes Chesapeake Bay crab and potato cakes. On the weekends, the on-site restaurant prepares a five-course chef’s tasting menu for dinner, and while you might be staying in a fairly remote location, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better meal in even the largest Virginia metropolis.

THE GEORGES—LEXINGTONThe Georges

Lexington is a Virginia town filled with history, and The Georges embraces it fully. The hotel is distinctive in that it occupies not one, but two of the oldest structures in the area, located right across the street from each other. While the buildings date back over 200 years, they were tastefully restored in 2014, with each of the 18 rooms custom designed so that no two are alike. The hotel is just around the corner from both Virginia Military Institute and Washington & Lee University, two of the most historic and beautiful college campuses in the Commonwealth. Don’t miss trying a specialty cocktail or a glass of wine at Taps, the lobby lounge, and plan on having dinner at the impressive hotel restaurant, Haywood’s, at least one night during your stay at the Georges.

INN AT WILLOW GROVE—ORANGE

The Inn at Willow Grove

The Inn at Willow Grove has a long and storied history; built in 1778, the property was expanded in the mid-1800s by the same craftsman that Thomas Jefferson hired to work on his vision of the University of Virginia. In 2008, current owners David and Charlene Scibal saw the potential of the once-great property and set about renovating the historic plantation into a charming inn in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Your pampering begins the moment you arrive, as a …read more

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Come Home to Virginia – African American Historic Sites Part I

Mount Vernon, the riverside estate of George and Martha Washington from 1759 until 1799, now includes the Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, with 25 galleries and theaters, interactive displays and more than 700 artifacts.

Virginia history is more than we have been taught. Many know Virginia as the mother of Presidents. It is also the place where at least 500,000 enslaved people lived and worked when Americans fought each other in a civil war (1861-1865). Their presence and contributions have shaped the commonwealth of Virginia in a myriad of ways. This blog explores African American history across time and space. I look forward to sharing my experiences as a visitor to museums and historic sites. I am a native and a resident of Virginia; my work as a historian explores public spaces with attention to visitor education and community engagement.

Welcome to my first post for the Virginia Travel Blog, “Come Home to Virginia – African American Historic Sites”. I visited three presidential homes, two national historic sites, and two museums and I’d like to share my experiences with you. I hope you will enjoy reading it and I hope you will visit. Come Home to Virginia….

Mount Vernon

In October 2016, Mount Vernon opened a new exhibition, Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, which chronicles the lives of families who worked the land, lived in the main house and beyond, and eventually established communities in the surrounding area. Initially conceived for one gallery, the curatorial staff flexed its wings and created a stunning exhibition which encompasses seven galleries. The details which flesh out the documentary evidence helps us appreciate the interconnected yet unequal lives of people who toiled as enslaved people and the people who owned them, George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis Washington.

Much of what we learn in this exhibit comes from the collections at Mount Vernon. The various lists of enslaved people made by members of the Washington and Custis families open the door so that we may glimpse into the lives of the people who were enslaved at Mount Vernon. They raised families, formed communities, and shared hopes and dreams that later manifested beyond the confines of the plantation. You will learn about Doll, Caroline Branham, Frank and William Lee, Hercules, Ona (Oney), Sambo Anderson, Priscilla and Penny, Judge Staines, Kate, Caesar, George, Davy Gray, Edmund Parker, Christopher Sheels, Kitty, and Nancy Carter Quander.

When I spoke with Mary Thompson, Research Historian who has worked at Mount Vernon since 1980, we talked about the decades of research she conducted to learn about the enslaved people at Mount Vernon. Davy Gray, for example, arrived at Mount Vernon when he was nearly sixteen years old. He had been enslaved at Martha Custis’ plantation. When she married George Washington, Davy Gray was taken to Mount Vernon where he worked as a field worker, supervisor, and eventually became an overseer. When Washington implemented dietary changes for the workforce in 1793, Gray advocated for his fellow laborers to Washington, recommending a sufficient diet rather than the barely sufficient amount in the new plan.

There is also Priscilla who ran away twice, once while six months pregnant and another time nine months after …read more

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Give Back to the Great Outdoors: Where to Celebrate Virginia Public Lands Day

**Co-Authored by Daniel White, Sr. Conservation Writer, The Nature Conservancy in Virginia**

The sheer diversity of local, state and federal lands protected for the benefit and enjoyment of Virginians and visitors is cause for pride and celebration. And celebrating is exactly what’s in store this month, as the commonwealth and the whole conservation community gear up for the first Virginia Public Lands Day.

The commonwealth and conservation organizations are hosting a slate of special events for this inaugural Virginia Public Lands Day. Guided hikes and paddle trips encourage people to get outside and explore all that Virginia’s public lands have to offer, while volunteer cleanups raise awareness of the shared responsibility to protect and care for these special places in perpetuity.

The Nature Conservancy is pleased to join with state partners in co-hosting four public events on September 30. Make plans to attend one of these conservation events, then share photos of your Virginia Public Lands Day adventures by posting on social media using the hashtags #VAPublicLands and #VAOutdoors.

Trail & Beach Cleanup at Kiptopeke State Park—Cape Charles

Kiptopeke State Park, a pristine park located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, hosts the Trail and Beach Cleanup on Virginia Public Lands Day. Join park rangers to help pick up litter and debris as you learn about the natural, cultural, and historic wonders of the Eastern Shore. Afterwards, stick around the park to try your hand at fishing or crabbing in the coastal park waters.

Paddle & Hike at Nottoway River/Chub Sandhill Natural Area Preserve—Waverly

Celebrate Virginia Public Lands Day with a two-mile paddle along the Nottoway River and a one-mile hike through Chub Sandhill Natural Area Preserve. The river is a gentle coastal waterway, suited for even beginner paddlers, while the Chub Sandhill Natural Area Preserve is dedicated to preserving the state’s pineland forests, one of Virginia’s rarest tree species.

Douthat State Park Interpretive Hike & Trail Cleanup—Millboro

Give back while having fun when you volunteer at Douthat State Park for Virginia Public Lands Day. As you walk the trail and pick up refuse, you’ll hear about the history of the park and the importance of conservation when it comes to public lands. The moderate .79-mile hike follows the Tobacco House Ridge Trail to White Oak Campground, providing a stunning vantage point along the way of Douthat Lake.

Interpretive Hike at Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve—Honaker

Fishing at Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve

Head to Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve on September 30th for a 3-4 mile nature trail hike past waterfalls, cliffs, and the namesake of the park, a massive 400-foot rock outcrop known as the Pinnacle.

WHY CELEBRATE VIRGINIA’S PUBLIC LANDS?

Roaring Run Falls Hike

Roughly 3.7 million acres of land across Virginia—close to 15 percent of the state—is managed for public benefit. From the smallest city parks to the vast George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, our shared green spaces provide …read more

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Where to Find the Best Fall Colors in Virginia

Grayson Highlands State Park.

Virginia’s expansive woodlands, famously blue-tinged mountains, and rambling scenic byways are the place to be when colorful autumn leaves are at their fiery peak. Fortunately for seasonal color seekers, the Old Dominion state is also sprinkled with state parks, national forests, and vast wilderness areas. For those to prefer to do their leaf-peeping on foot, Virginia boasts a staggering 554 miles of the Appalachian Trail—more than any other state. When you are ready to seek out some fall color, take to the state’s wild spaces, and cherish the seasonal transition at these 10 stunning Virginia locations.

Southwest Virginia serves as an excellent starting point to explore the foliage. Abingdon is one of several small mountain towns that offers easy access to both cultural amenities and stunning outdoor vistas, perfect for a weekend getaway. Take the time to enjoy the spectacular transition of fall at these 10 Virginia locations.

Grayson Highlands State Park

Grayson Highlands State Park.

Virginia State Parks

One of Virginia’s most unique places, the highland meadows, dense forests, and panoramic summits of Grayson Highlands State Park are still the domain of roaming bands of wild ponies. The park also straddles the massive Mount Rogers National Recreation Area – offering color-seeking autumn visitors sweeping views of some of the largest undisturbed wild spaces in the state. For a short hike with endless Blue Ridge vistas, trek the mile-long Rhododendron Trail—you are also likely to be sharing the path with the park’s famous hoofed residents.

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area

Mt Rogers.
Mt Rogers.

US Forest Service – Southern Region

One of the most spectacular corners of Virginia, the 200,000-acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, part of the massive Jefferson National Forest, is spread over a picturesque, high-elevation pocket of Southwest Virginia, sprinkled with alpine meadows, vast tracts of mixed hardwood forest, and the famed “bald” peaks of Appalachia. The Mount Rogers Scenic Byway, flanked by towering forests, winds gracefully through the massive wilderness area. However, if you prefer a self-propelled leaf-peeping tour, 60-miles of the Appalachian Trail meander through the highlands of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which boasts views of the two highest peaks in Virginia—the 5,729-foot Mount Rogers and the 5,518-foot Whitetop Mountain.

Channels State Forest

Spreading into Washington and Russell counties, 4,836-acre Channels State Forestis one of Virginia’s best kept secrets—and a most exceptional natural space. In the fall, visitors can admire not only the fiery reds and burnt oranges of the protected area’s mixed hardwood forests but also can hike to the namesake channels. The 400-million-year-old sandstone formations are nestled into the southern slope of Clinch Mountain, near the summit of Middle Knob. For shutterbugs, the labyrinth-like, ice-age-era geological formations provide a singular backdrop for any attempt to photograph seasonal color.

Hidden Valley Lake

The rapidly changing fall foliage looks perhaps even more stunning in the glassy surface of the 60-acre Hidden Valley Lake, which is snuggled into the crown of Brumley …read more

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Not All Who Wander Are Lost: 17 Corn Mazes to Solve this Fall

Historic crab orchard corn maze

There are a few activities that really say fall to us; picking out the perfect pumpkin at a local pumpkin patch, cozying up in a thick blanket on a hay ride through the fields, planning a scenic drive to get a peek at some of Virginia’s famous fall foliage, and of course, taking on the challenge of a corn maze. Bring the entire family and wander through the spent husks left from the summer harvest at one of these uniquely challenging corn mazes.

HISTORIC CRAB ORCHARD CORN MAZE—TAZEWELL

Dates: September 16- October 29, 2017

Photo credit: Shawn McReynolds

An historic site that embraces the season is the Crab Orchard Museum in Southwest Virginia. Their annual three-acre corn maze depicts a new theme every fall, and in 2017, the corn maze design pays tribute to the history of mountain music. After you solve the maze, take a ride around the property on a hay wagon, then tour the museum to check out important artifacts that tell the story of Virginia’s history. On Friday and Saturday evenings, bring along your flashlights and solve the maze in the dark. But don’t worry, the maze is all about fun, not fear; there is nothing spooky or haunted about these after-dark tours!

BERKELEY PLANTATION CORN MAZE—CHARLES CITY

Dates: September 1-November 30, 2017

Just outside of Richmond, Berkeley Plantation offers year-round tours that teach the colonial history of the property and the surrounding region, but starting in September, the corn fields are transformed into a challenging and fun corn maze. Additionally, the property has pumpkin picking, historic exhibits, and guided tours of the home and property, and you’ll find stunning scenery in the autumn gardens and along the plantation’s river shores.

TEMPLE HALL FARM FALL FESTIVAL & CORN MAIZE—LEESBURG

Dates: September 29-November 5 and November 7-8, 2017

The Temple Hall Farm Fall Festival spans six weeks during the fall and while they have pumpkin picking, pig races, hay forts, and more in the way of entertainment, the 24-acre Corn Maize is the crowning achievement. The maze is the biggest in Northern Virginia and features a different pattern and theme every year.

FARMER’S DAUGHTER MAZE—CEDAR BLUFF

Dates: September 2-October 29, 2017

You’ll find both fall fun for the entire family and nail-biting Halloween scares at The Farmer’s Daughter Maze. Visit with the kids and check out the 3.5-acre corn maze (always un-haunted!), get hands-on in the animal petting area, and grab a seat on the wagon ride for a trip around the fields. If a haunted experience is more your speed, visit on Saturdays between October 7 and October 28. During these dark nights, you’ll scream your way through a wagon ride and a walk along creepy trails past old grain silos, finally escaping from the haunted barn filled with circus freaks.

CORN MAZE AT LIBERTY MILLS FARM—SOMERSET

Dates: September 9-November 7, 2017

liberty mills corn maze

Virginia’s largest corn maze spread across 25 acres of Liberty …read more

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17 Running Events for Fall and Winter

As it gets cooler and fall arrives, you may be tempted to go into your “hibernation mode” and leave the exercise off the agenda until spring. But there are plenty of fun running events happening during the fall and winter to keep you active. Join hundreds of others as they dash across Virginia during the following fall and winter running events.

The Neighborhood Harvest Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay, 5K, Kids Kilometer and Craft Brew Fest—Hampton

Date: Oct. 6-8, 2017

Run this scenic course as you encounter live bands, cheer stops, candy stops and other course surprises. The fun doesn’t end there! Celebrate your finish at a huge outdoor Craft Brew Fest with live music, Baker’s Crust Kickin’ Corn and Crab Chowder, and ice cold brews.

Oktoberfest and 5K Trail Race/Walk—Smith Mountain Lake

Date: Oct. 14, 2017

The 5K Trail Race/Walk will wind through the Jack-O-Lantern Branch Heritage Trail at the Booker T. Washington National Monument and end at the Oktoberfest site. The Oktoberfest festival will include live entertainment, a children’s play area, Oktoberfest-style strong man contest, German food and special Oktoberfest beer brewed by Sunken City Brewery.

– Smith Mountain Lake –

Fall Harvest Festival and Night 5k Trail Run—Gladstone

Date: Oct. 21, 2017

Enjoy pumpkin carving and painting, candle dipping, apple pressing, face painting, 19th century children’s games, an apple slingshot, a candy maze and more. Enjoy the sunset and sip hot cider by the bonfire at 6:30 p.m. followed by the start of the last race of the “Adventures on the James Games” series with a 5K run through some trails at the park at 7:30 p.m.

Anthem Wicked 10K, Old Point National Bank Monster Mile—Virginia Beach

Date: Oct. 27-28, 2017

The flat, fast, One Mile course will run on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk on Friday night while the 10K course and Mini Monster 1K take you on a scenic tour of the Oceanfront on Saturday. Celebrate on Saturday with a huge post-race party on the beach with plenty of Blue Moon Beer, live music, costume contest and post-race food.

Fredericksburg Zombie Walk—Fredericksburg

Date: Nov. 4, 2017

Lurch, groan and shuffle as you walk through downtown Fredericksburg dressed as a zombie. Prizes are given to the best Zombie costume. Bring nonperishable food items, household cleaning products, paper products or a monetary donation to benefit local charities.

Turkey Trot 10k and Mile—Quantico

Date: Nov. 18, 2017

Unleash a pre-emptive strike on Thanksgiving calories by participating in the Turkey Trot 10K, hosted by the Marine Corps Marathon. Held aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, this 6.2-mile event is sure to bring smiles to participants ages 8 and over. Families and younger runners may wish to participate in the Turkey Trot Mile held along with the event.

Christmas Town Dash 8k—Williamsburg

Date: Dec. 3, 2017

Enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas as you wind your way through the wonderfully decorated Christmas Town in Busch Gardens. All 8K runners will receive one 50% coupon for Christmas Town and one free single day pass for the …read more

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