Many of Virginia’s craft breweries happen to be located near great hiking and biking trails. Head out with the ones you love, then come back and settle in for an ice cold beverage and great local hospitality.
This trail runs from George Washington’s Mount Vernon, along the Potomac River north to Arlington. Concentrate on the Alexandria to Arlington portions of the trail and find that there are four breweries not too far away.
Looking for something old, sweet and pretty? Antique and trash-to-treasure shops are havens for DIYers and collectors alike.
Southern Living issued The Ultimate Antiquing Tour in their November 2011 edition and those gems are still shining brightly in Virginia. Writer Paula Disbrowe plotted her way from Maryland into Virginia, even including suggested places to eat.
In recent years Virginia’s craft beer industry has seen a major resurgence. August Virginia Craft Beer Month was born in 2012 with nearly 40 breweries. It’s now a year later and that number has jumped to over 60. Plus, we know of at least two more opening this fall. So when did this craft beer movement start in Virginia?
All the way back at the beginning of exploration …
According to BeerAdvocate.com, the History of American Beer begins in 1587 as “Virginia colonists brew ale using corn,” and then in 1607 the “first shipment of beer arrives in the Virginia colony from England.” Apparently the English beer didn’t last long, as the history goes on to reflect “American ‘Help Wanted’ advertisements appear in London seeking brewers for the Virginia Colony” in 1609.
Beer & Founding Fathers
George Washington’s Gristmill
Beer can be traced through Virginia’s history with asterisk moments like George Washington’s beer recipe and evidence that beer and ingredients to produce it were forms of payment to his Mount Vernon employees.
Or how about Thomas Jefferson? In 1812, a retired Jefferson successfully crafted his first home brew from local hops and malt. He had a fine teacher in his wife, Martha, a small-batch brewmaster during their early years of marriage. By 1814 Jefferson was malting his own grain in his own brewhouse at Monticello. Others, including James Madison, began to take notice and sent their staff to Monticello to learn the trade.
Today we’re all about buying and shopping locally. That’s not a new concept, as George Washington wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette on January 29, 1789, “I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America; both these articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality.”
Legends Brewing Co. Brewery
Handcrafted beer has been in Virginia since the beginning, though breweries have come and gone along the way. Virginia’s first modern day microbrewery was Chesbay – Chesapeake Bay Brewing Company – in Virginia Beach (no longer operational). Chesbay Double Bock won gold at the very first Great American Beer Festival in 1987. That’s quite an acclaim and a legacy for Virginia craft beer.
Though not old by my standards, Virginia’s oldest craft brewery is Legend Brewing Company in Richmond, which was established in 1994. If you’re quick on your math, you’ll note that 2014 will be Legend’s 20th anniversary. Mark that down and plan to pay a celebratory visit.
Suds on the Rise
Virginia is making frothy waves across the beer industry with acknowledgements from the likes of Travel Channel as one of the “Top 7 Beer Destinations.” Explore for yourself with our handy Beer Map, or check out our recent articles for inspiration:
Fall is one of the most – if not THE most – beautiful seasons in Virginia. The air turns cool and the leaves turn vibrant shades of orange, red and yellow. The Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains are a stunning tapestry of color, beckoning weary souls to come and relax.
Don’t miss out on your chance to steal away. Accommodations book quickly and now’s your chance.
Blue Ridge Highlands
The Main Street Inn in Blacksburg is offering 10% off a Tuesday night stay. If you can escape mid-week, this is a beautiful location and a savings for your wallet. Thirty-two guest suites include modern amenities while downtown Blacksburg’s dining, shopping and theater are just a stroll away. Offer valid through October.
Head to Stephens City where you can “find peace in the valley (Shenandoah Valley, that is)” during the week. Travel to The Inn at Vaucluse Spring any Sunday through Thursday and receive 20% off your room rate. Spin that savings into a date when you also book the Dinner with the Chef on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night. Offer valid through December 19.
Book the Natural Bridge Fall Escape for a stay between September 2 and November 30 and save $80. The deal is one night for two at the Natural Bridge Hotel with breakfast and the Natural Bridge attraction passes included for $99. Or a family of four starts at just $149 per night. Book Now
Clarksville is Virginia’s only lakeside town and your stay at Cooper’s Landing Inn is reduced by 50% if you stay on a Wednesday or Thursday night. Add to that dinner at Traveler’s Tavern, breakfast and the beautiful sunrise of Kerr Lake and you have one really beautiful getaway. Offer valid through December 23.
How about a little fun on the farm? Stay at Comfort Suites Leesburg and your family will enjoy a studio suite, four tickets to Great Country Farms and guest passes to Bluemont Vineyards. While at Great Country Farms, you’ll receive four feed cups for the barnyard animals, a family-sized bag of kettle corn and four slushies. Wine tasting for the adults is included with the farm passes at Bluemont Vineyards. Offer valid through November 23.
Enjoy camping? Head to Williamsburg KOA sometime between September 26 and October 31 to get your Thursday night free when you book a Friday and Saturday night. Great events are planned every weekend, and this deal includes cabins! Book Now
We’ve asked and received recommendations for the most amazing Virginia breakfasts, highly acclaimed BBQ, comfortable patio dining, best places to enjoy a craft beer and favorite ice cream spots. All of these recommendations came from locals in the know. Yet, there was one more thing we had to ask:
Where is the best place to eat like a local, regardless of the time of day or menu specialty?
It turns out that some familiar names popped up. In addition, local pride and loyalty made appearances. Read on.
By a wide margin, Millie’s Diner in Richmond was the most recommended place to eat like a local. What’s more, Millie’s was also one of the most recommended establishments for a great breakfast. Why so hot? “One word — scallops — the best in the U.S.” Or more words, if you’re not a fan of scallops:
- “The most delicious place to eat in all of Richmond, hands down. I have ordered things there that I never would have tried anywhere else, just because I know that there is NO WAY it wouldn’t be absolutely delicious coming from Millie’s kitchen.”
- “I live in Reston, VA and make it a point to eat at Millie’s EVERY time I am in Richmond.”
- “It was the place I chose to pop the question a couple years ago.”
- “I ate there every Sunday for two years … they saved a stool for me at the end of the counter. Now THAT is local.”
So what’s good to eat at Millie’s?
- “Thai Shrimp! I ordered it every Friday night the first year Millie’s was open, then decided the rest of the menu was probably good as well (and it is). We have been eating there for 25 years.”
- “Any one of the messes, though my favorite is Castro’s Mess.”
- “Devil’s Mess, Cajun Mess, or anything really. Especially the Bloody Mary.”
- “Love their vegetarian selections!”
Other great places to eat like a local in Central Virginia:
The Horseshoe Restaurant in South Hill is a classic diner operating since the 1930s. Southern eats like pimento cheese and fried pickles are daily offerings, as are stories of Roy Kelly (“Second Machine Gun Kelly”) and his arrest at the restaurant. The front page of the South Hill Enterprise dated December 31, 1938 stretches across one wall of the restaurant and features Kelly peering from behind bars. It’s just one of the cool pieces of this historic establishment that feeds the locals and travelers alike.
What to eat at The Horseshoe?
- “The Fried Green Tomato BLT is the best sandwich. Peanut Butter Pie and Chocolate Walnut are both out of this world.”
- “Everything on the menu is awesome.”
Blue Ridge Highlands
Wytheville loves their skeeterdogs. What’s a skeeterdog? A “World Famous Hot Dog” from Skeeter’s Restaurant, operating in historic downtown since 1920. Skeeter’s shares space in a building that was also the birthplace of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson. Presidential hot dogs, perhaps?
Burger Bar is an authentic Bristol original. A mainstay since 1942, it’s been long-said that Hank Williams enjoyed his last meal here. Pair your country music history with a classic burger and you get menu items like “Hey Good Looking,” in honor of one-time devoted customer Ernie Ford. The locals love “Oh My Cheese!,” two grilled cheese sandwiches with a burger between them.
Other great places to eat like a local in the Blue Ridge Highlands:
Blue Ridge Restaurant, Floyd – “Breakfast, lunch or dinner, you will find the best in home-style cooking.”
Ham is a typical Virginia staple and you can enjoy a fresh ham biscuit on the front porch at Edwards Ham Shoppe in Surry. One local suggests you “wash it down with a cold, old-fashioned bottled soda” for a true local experience.
Smitty’s Better Burger has been a local favorite in Hampton since 1956. A true drive-in with car hops, Smitty’s is a classic Old School experience that one local says is used “to impress visitors from out of town.” We do like to show off the things that are quintessentially “ours,” don’t we? Recommended menu item is the Better Burger, of course, “with cheese, fries and a drink!”
Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse
It’s a neat little historic tavern, but what you really want to know about Amy’s Cafe in Fredericksburg is what one local said: “The ribs are to die for!” Find Amy on West Cambridge Street and tell her someone really loves chef’s baby back ribs.
Waterside dining at Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse is beautiful. Find Tim’s in Dumfries. The restaurant sits at one of the widest points of the Potomac River, offering sweeping views that are incredible from inside or out. The tiki bar is a great place to hang out and enjoy a beer with your seafood, burger or sandwich.
Don’t be deterred by the name. Old Town Caterers & Deli in Manassas offers a diverse menu with international flair. The local favorite is the shrimp bisque.
Have you ever heard of a Liars Table? I had not and so inquired with our local about his recommendation of Hi Neighbor Country Restaurant in Strasburg. He mentioned the Liars Table as one of the main draws and I had to know why. He wrote, “The Liars Table is one of those things that really make a small town local restaurant.” He elaborated, naming names, to tell me that groups of “local characters” keep one particular table full all day long from about 5:30 a.m. until closing. One group coming in after the next, shooting the breeze, talking “local politics, news, etc.”
I imagine that Hi Neighbor, a community staple since 1949, serves great food along with warm hospitality. What to eat? Our local says the “homemade biscuits with homemade sausage or chipped beef gravy are awesome,” but notes that the burgers and sandwiches are, too.
In Roanoke, the name Texas Tavern dates to 1930. This love-worn establishment has been in the same family for four generations and is acclaimed for “Best Chili,” “Best Hot Dogs,” “Best Local Hamburgers,” and “Best Late-Night Dinner” by readers of Roanoker magazine. Saunter up to the counter and enjoy home-cooked food 24 hours a day.
Sal’s Italian Bistro in Edinburg is best summed up by the local B&B owner who wrote, “Sal, the owner, is the ‘real deal’ from Naples, Italy. The food is authentic and fabulous. Huge portions. We send all our B&B guests there.”
Staunton’s Mill Street Grill offers a variety of menu items, but the one thing our local raved about was the ribs (look out Amy!). “Ribs are fall off the bone excellent. I’ve yet to have something that wasn’t excellent.”
Other great places to eat like a local in the Shenandoah Valley: