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    The Best of Virginia’s Outdoors

    by Casey | Posted on July 25th, 2014

    National accolades for everything from ice cream to small towns, hot dogs and whatever else you can think of keep rolling in for Virginia areas and businesses. While it’s hard to keep up with all that’s fabulous and acclaimed, we thought we’d give it a shot by sharing the more recent accolades. This post, The Best of Virginia’s Outdoors, is the first in a series you can look forward to. Be sure to subscribe to our posts to avoid missing the upcoming articles.

    BEACHES

    Virginia Beach

    Virginia Beach

    Virginia Beach & Boardwalk

    • #4, 10 Last-Minute Beach Getaways for Summer, Fodor’s Travel, 2014
    • #6, America’s Best Boardwalks, Travel + Leisure, 2014
    • #6, 10 Under-the-Radar Beaches in the U.S., Fodor’s Travel, 2014
    • One of the 20 Most Awesome Boardwalks in America, Budget Travel, 2014
    • The 10 Best Boardwalks in America, Men’s Journal, 2014
    • Best Beaches for Memorial Day Weekend, USAToday.com, 2014
    • 10Best: Southern Beaches, USAToday.com, 2014
    • #7, 9 Best Boardwalks in the U.S., Huffington Post Travel, 2013
    • #9, 10 Best Boardwalks in the U.S., National Geographic, 2013
    • 10 Uncrowded Atlantic Beaches for Summer, USAToday.com, 2013
    • One of America’s Most Awesome Boardwalks, Budget Travel, 2013

    Assateague Island National Seashore

    • #23, 2014 Best Beaches in the U.S., TripAdvisor 2014 Travelers’ Choice
    • #6, Best U.S. Island, USA Today Travel Reader’s Choice, 2014
    • One of the 10 Most Beautiful Beaches in America, Budget Travel, 2014
    • The Best Campgrounds in the Country, Men’s Journal, 2014
    • Among the Best Beaches on Earth, Travel + Leisure, 2013
    • Top 25 U.S. Beaches, TripAdvisor 2013 Travelers’ Choice
    • Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Virginia, Trekaroo.com, 2012

    Chincoteague Island

    • #7, Top 10 Beaches in the U.S., TripAdvisor 2013 Travelers’ Choice
    • #3, America’s Best Little Beach Towns, Travel + Leisure, 2012
    • America’s Best Beach Town, AOL.com, 2010

    BICYCLING

    Virginia Creeper Trail, Abingdon

    • #6, 10 Best Rails to Trails, Travel + Leisure, 2003

    Arlington

    • #23, America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities, Bicycling.com, 2012

    Capital Bikeshare, Arlington

    • #11, The 16 Best Bike Shares in the World, TheActiveTimes.com, 2013

    Harrisonburg

    • America’s Top Mountain Bike Towns, TheActiveTimes.com, 2013

    Williamsburg

    • Recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community, League of American Bicyclists, 2013

    GARDENS

    Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

    Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

    Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond

    • #2, 10 Best Public Gardens in North America, USA Today, 2014
    • #21, 30 Must-See U.S. Public Gardens, TheActiveTimes.com, 2014
    • 10 North American Gardens Worth Travelling For, BBC Travel, 2013
    • Best Botanical Gardens in the U.S., Travel Channel, 2013

     

    GOLF

    Primland Resort, Meadows of Dan

    • #13, Top 100 Public Courses in America, Golf Digest, 2012
    • The Boutique Mountain Golf Resort in the U.S., Golf Odyssey, 2011
    • #22, Best Courses, Golfweek, 2010
    • Resorts to Watch, Golf Magazine, 2010
    • Best New Public Course in America ($75 and over bracket), Golf Digest, 2008
    • One of the Top 10 New Courses in the World, Travel + Leisure, 2007

    Golden Horseshoe Golf Club at Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg

    • America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses, Golf Digest, 2012, 2011, …
    • Top 100 Resort Courses, Golfweek, annually 2007-2012
    • Top 100 You Can Play, GOLF Magazine, 2012, 2011, 2010, …

    HIKING

    Appalachian Trail

    • #5, 7 Adventure Trips You Need to Take this Summer, TheActiveTimes.com, 2014

    Cape Henry Trail at First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach (PDF)

    • #9, 30 Great American Hikes, TheActiveTimes.com, 2014

    Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park

    • #6, 30 Great American Hikes, TheActiveTimes.com, 2014
    • #29, 31 Great American Day Hikes to Do Before Summer Ends, TheActiveTimes.com, 2014

    RIVERS

    Shenadoah River. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

    Shenadoah River. CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

    Shenandoah River

    • Class I, 50 of the Best Rivers in the Southeast, Blue Ridge Outdoors, 2013

     

    SKI RESORTS

    Massanutten Resort, McGaheysville

    • 10 Best Ski Resorts for Summer Fun, Fodor’s Travel, 2014

     

    STATE AND NATIONAL PARKS

    High Bridge Trail State Park, Farmville

    • #17, 36 Stunning U.S. State Parks, TheActiveTimes.com, 2014

    Natural Tunnel State Park, Duffield

    • #21, 36 Stunning U.S. State Parks, TheActiveTimes.com, 2014

    Shenandoah National Park, Luray

    • #30, The Absolute Best National Park, TheActiveTimes.com, 2014

    COMMUNITIES RECOGNIZED FOR THEIR OUTDOOR OPPORTUNITIES

    Galax

    • The Next Great Mountain Towns, Blue Ridge Outdoors, 2013

    Luray

    • The Next Great Mountain Towns, Blue Ridge Outdoors, 2013

    Richmond

    • Best Town Ever, Outside, 2012

    Roanoke

    • 10Best: Bike-Friendly Cities,¬†USAToday.com, 2014
    • Best Trail Town, Blue Ridge Outdoors, 2013
    • Best Mid-Sized Mountain Town, Blue Ridge Outdoors, 2012

    Learn more about Virginia’s outdoors at Virginia.org/Outdoors.

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    Five Can’t-Miss Summer Events

    by Casey | Posted on July 23rd, 2014

    Some events know no end and we LOVE them! Annually occurring festivals are marked on our calendars a year ahead of time. They’re something to look forward to and yet another opportunity to make memories with the ones we love. Here are five upcoming “late” summer events that you can’t miss. Start a new tradition or chime in via the comments to tell us your favorite parts of these five.

    Assateague Island Pony Watching from the Assateague Channel

    Assateague Island Pony Watching from the Assateague Channel

    1. The Chincoteague Pony Swim from Assateague to Chincoteague Island has been happening at the end of July for nearly 90 years. That’s quite the tradition, and there are families who never miss it, making an annual pilgrimage to see the crossing, the parading, and the auctioning of the years’ foals. While you’re in town, be sure to visit Island Creamery, hailed the #1 ice cream parlor in America by TripAdvisor users.

    2. The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival is one of the mid-Atlantic’s longest running outdoor music festivals. This year’s session began on July 18 and continues with dates through August 31. Remaining on the schedule are acts like United States Air Force Strings, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, The Oak Ridge Boys and Eddie from Ohio. Centered around Shenandoah County’s Orkney Springs, the setting is bucolic with the Allegheny Mountains as a backdrop. Buy Tickets

    Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Image by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

    Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Image by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

    3. The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna is the place for summer concerts and family performances! This summer has included Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Ben Folds, Diana Ross, Pilobolus, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Sara Bareilles, The Fray and Lionel Richie with CeeLo Green. Yet to come (and tickets available for!) are ¬†Sarah McLachlan, Darius Rucker, Heart, Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, Boney James and Eric Benet, YANNI, The Band Perry, Cirque Dreams – Jungle Fantasy and Colbie Caillat. Every summer season brings great acts that you won’t want to miss.¬†Buy Tickets

    4. The still new but ever growing Virginia Craft Brewers Festival is held each August at Devils Backbone Brewing Company against Wintergreen Mountain in Roseland. Now in its third year, more than 40 of Virginia’s craft brewers have signed on to offer tastings and tout their upcoming flavors. You won’t want to miss the awarding of the Virginia Craft Brewers Cup. Devils Backbone has taken home the cup each year so far. Their Smokehaus Lager won in 2013 and their Schwartz Bier won in 2012. Buy Tickets and/or Reserve a Campsite

    Morven Park is the setting for Epicurience Virginia in Leesburg.

    Morven Park is the setting for Epicurience Virginia in Leesburg.

    5. Epicurience Virginia took by storm the culinary and wine scenes of Virginia, DC and environs when it debuted last year. Held at the beautiful, historic Morven Park in Leesburg, this event brings together the best tastes Virginia has to offer in an opulent atmosphere across three days at the end of August. The Grand Tasting is the second day and it’s the event you don’t want to miss with chef demonstrations and opportunities to meet Virginia winemakers and tastemakers. The rest of the weekend includes a Fabulous 1940s Party at Oatlands Plantation and various fine dining experiences. Buy Tickets

    >> Upcoming Festivals
    >> Virginia Craft Beer
    >> Virginia Wine
    >> Culinary Virginia

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    Arts, Events, Festivals, Food and Wine, Outdoors, Travel Ideas, Virginia Destinations | Comments Off

    Virginia’s Music Heritage

    by Casey | Posted on July 22nd, 2014

    At its core, music is all about emotion and storytelling. As Vince Gill puts it, “I just think it’s important to know your history. Period.” And the history of country music starts with the 1927 Bristol Sessions – “the Big Bang of Country Music,” if you will.

    Carter Family Fold. Image by Emily Edmonds.

    Carter Family Fold. Image by Emily Edmonds.

    Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited is a project that brings well known veterans of country and bluegrass together with rising stars to deliver, in fact, orthophonic joy. That is, reproduced authentic sounds that deliver feelings of great pleasure and happiness.

    The project of 16 re-recorded Bristol Sessions songs will be released in October, nicely dovetailing with the August 1 opening of the brand new Smithsonian Institution-affiliated Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol.

    Recording artists include Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Marty Stuart, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers and Ashley Monroe. The project is produced by multi-Grammy Award-winner Carl Jackson.

    >> About Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited

    Virginia’s musical legacy is as deep and wide as its rivers and valleys. In Southwest Virginia, the Carter Family and the Stonemans were two of the acts who helped popularize the rise of mountain music and were among the first to penetrate American households on radio and records.

    Dr. Ralph Stanley. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

    Dr. Ralph Stanley. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

    Ralph Stanley (pictured right), from Clintwood, helped bring Bluegrass and Old Time music into the mainstream. His lengthy and distinguished career received widespread acclaim with the release of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, featuring his songs O, Death and Angel Band. And while Man of Constant Sorrow, the unintentional¬†O Brother theme song, wasn’t penned by Stanley, he resurrected the old ballad in 1951 when he recorded it with his brother Carter for Columbia Records. No one knows for sure exactly where the song originated.

    The music of Southwest Virginia is more accessible than ever thanks in part to The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. The Crooked Road links together dozens of venues where live music can be heard each week. Heritage sites such as the Ralph Stanley Museum, the Blue Ridge Music Center and Heartwood help tell the stories of the music and musicians.

    Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

    Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

    Music festivals draw tens of thousands of fans from around the world. The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion fills the downtown area of the vibrant city with stages indoors and out. FloydFest is an eclectic celebration of music of nearly every description and is held adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival honors one of America’s top acoustic guitar makers and this year features Vince Gill as its headliner.

    Divergent veins of music run throughout Virginia, producing famous names in a variety of genres. Legendary singers Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey both hailed from Newport News. Country Music Hall of Fame member Patsy Cline was born in Winchester. Las Vegas legend Wayne Newton was born in Norfolk, and country music superstar Roy Clark is from the small town of Meherrin. Williamsburg is home to native son Bruce Hornsby.

    Dave Matthews grew up in Charlottesville and owns one of Virginia‚Äôs top wineries nearby. Pharrell Williams of Virginia Beach has made the world ‚ÄúHappy‚ÄĚ with his smash single. He and¬†his musical partner, Chad Hugo, from nearby Portsmouth, comprise The Neptunes and as performers and producers are one of the dominant forces in modern popular music.

    Truly, Virginia’s music reverberates around the world today with new sounds and influences, yet still finds a home among the hills of Appalachia.

    From inside the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Photo by Earl Neikirk, Bristol Herald Courier.

    From inside the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Photo by Earl Neikirk, Bristol Herald Courier.



    History, Video clips, Virginia Destinations | Comments Off

    Five Refreshing Summer Lake Getaways

    by Casey | Posted on July 21st, 2014

    Virginia’s lakes are excellent summer destinations for families, couples, friends, reunions … you name it! Take a few-day getaway to enjoy everything lakes have to offer. Tuck away into a private cove in a rental home, hit the water on jet skis, or swing the hours away in a waterside hammock. It’s your playground, find your fun!

    1. Forty-eight hours fly by when you’re having fun at Virginia’s second largest lake, Smith Mountain Lake. With 500 miles of shoreline, SML has many access points from the three counties that share it. Here’s just an example of a way to while away a weekend.

    Bridgewater Marina, Moneta

    Bridgewater Marina, Moneta

    Check into “Rustic Cottage” in Moneta. Sitting up on a bank, the view of the deep water cove is fantastic. Amenities include a paddle boat, swimming pool, ping pong, and more. Four bedrooms. Located between lake markers R26 and R27.

    If you’re bringing the whole family or just want to stay in luxury, check out the Wind Family Compound in Moneta. At 7,000 square feet, “spacious” is an understatement. Amenities include two master suites, two docks, 320′ of waterfront, game room, two kitchens, large playroom, huge screened porch, and tons more. Located near lake marker R19.

    If camping is more your speed, pull in your RV, pitch your tent, or rent an on-sight park model at one of these lakeside camping retreats:

    2. Virginia’s largest lake is Kerr Lake, stretching from Scottsburg to Boydton and down into North Carolina, and includes three counties in each state. Fifty thousand acres of fresh water and more than 800 miles of shoreline make it an outdoor enthusiasts paradise. Fishermen especially love Kerr Lake, and In-Fisherman magazine has hailed it as the number one Crappie fishing lake. In fact, numerous fishing tournaments are held at Kerr Lake annually.

    Choose your stay. Camp or set up cabin at Occoneechee or Staunton River state parks, Longwood Campground in Clarksville, or North Bend Campground in Boydton.

    Cooper's Landing Inn, Clarksville

    Cooper’s Landing Inn, Clarksville

    Want to step up your stay a notch or two? The Clarksville area (Virginia’s only lakefront town) has options!

    • Cooper’s Landing Inn is a beautiful bed and breakfast with its own restaurant, Traveler’s Tavern, on site. Enjoy their pool and hot tub while the innkeepers act as your concierge for explorations.
    • Blue Heron Lodge is a vacation rental home located on a quiet cove across the lake from Occoneechee State Park. Sleeps 12.

    Get out and about!

    There are numerous wildlife management areas bordering Kerr Lake. If you love wildlife photography or birding, this is a great destination for you.

    3.¬†Lake Anna is Virginia’s third largest lake with 200 miles of shoreline and 13,000 acres of water, yet it remains fairly private.

    Kindred Spirits, Spotsylvania

    Kindred Spirits, Spotsylvania

    You won’t want to leave “Kindred Spirits” once you check in. Located in a quiet deep water cove, this home sits on nearly two acres and has 250′ of waterfront for you to enjoy. A boat slip, jet ski lift, and fantastic water views are just a few of the great features this vacation home offers.

    Would you rather camp? You’ll find Christopher Run Campground in Mineral to be a fine choice with 200 campsites and a variety of cabins available. Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania is a gem for camping, too.

    4. Lake Gaston straddles the Virginia/North Carolina border and covers 20,000 acres with 350 miles of shoreline.

    You’ll love the waterfront camp sites at Lake Gaston Americamps in Bracey. Cabin rentals are available, too.

    5. Lake Moomaw is tucked away in the Alleghany Mountains in Covington. It’s 2,530 acres are abundant with a variety of fish species while the wildlife around it are plentiful, too. The 43 miles of shoreline are wooded and undeveloped. True outdoorsmen will find the peace they long for when they choose a camping location on this lake.

    • Bolar Mountain Recreation Area offers waterside campsites, a sandy beach area, boat ramp, boat rentals, and 11 miles of hiking trails. Access this camp area from Warm Springs.
    • Greenwood Point is a 3.3-mile hike in (no road access), or you can paddle your way directly to the campground shore. Only five campsites are available here; first come, first served.

    If the lake doesn’t keep you occupied, venture out to see a few gems …

    • Falling Spring – A scenic waterfall south of Lake Moomaw on Hot Springs Road (Route 220).
    • Humpback Bridge – The only single span 100′ wooden arched covered bridge in Virginia.

    Enjoy these lakes and more!

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    48 Hours, Outdoors, Travel Ideas, Virginia Destinations | 1 Comment

    30 Freshwater Swimming Holes

    by Casey | Posted on July 14th, 2014

    Summer calls for a dip in the water, and we have fresh mountain streams and rivers that you’ll find most refreshing on a hot day. Our list has been compiled through various avenues of research, including tips from local residents. If they love these swimming holes, you’re sure to as well!

    Dismal Falls

    Dismal Falls

    If you are unfamiliar with mountain streams, let me tell you that they’re cold. Pack a picnic and refresh yourself in the Maury River at one of these public access points in Rockbridge County:

    Swim or wade at the base of a waterfall!

    Choosing your James River access point can be tricky, as this gem can roar mightily in certain areas, especially after a heavy rain upstream. Try these locations, but never swim alone.

    Splash around in the oldest river in North America, the New River.

    Blue Hole – many river towns have a special swimming hole they dub “Blue Hole.” Aforementioned Goshen Pass is sometimes known as Blue Hole by locals and here are two more:

    • A site James Madison University students and Harrisonburg locals call¬†“Blue Hole”¬†is located on Dry River off Rawley Pike (Route 33) in Rockingham County. A large boulder makes a fantastic jumping platform into this deep swimming hole.
    • University of Virginia students love their own¬†“Blue Hole”¬†on Moormans River near the Sugar Hollow Reservoir in Crozet. This swimming hole is within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park.

    Dunlap Creek flows beneath the renowned Humpback Bridge in Alleghany County. When the water’s high enough, it’s a great place for a dip. Otherwise, dipping your toes works, too, at this beautiful, historic site.

    Dunlap Creek flows beneath Humpback Bridge.

    Dunlap Creek flows beneath Humpback Bridge.

    Craig Creek Recreation Area is 130 acres in Botetourt County that’s available for camping, picnics, and of course, swimming! The water is gentle and perfect for families.

    Blackwater Creek at Hollins Mill in Lynchburg is shallow for wading in to cool off on a hot summer day and is also an access point for the Blackwater Creek Natural Area and Trail.

    While there’s no designated swimming area (like a beach) at Shenandoah River Raymond R. “Andy” Guest Jr. State Park¬†on the Shenandoah River¬†in Warren County, you can wade out and splash around or tube to your heart’s content.

    Off the Blue Ridge Parkway¬†in Rockbridge County at Petite’s Gap (milepost 71) is an unmarked gravel road (Petite’s Gap Road). Descend, winding, for several miles until you cross East Fork Elk Creek in Sulphur Spring Hollow. At the second crossing, pull off – your swimming hole is in that vicinity.

    St. Mary’s River is home to St. Mary’s Falls, which can be found in Saint Mary’s Wilderness in Augusta County. This swimming hole includes a rock slide, which can be great fun if the water level is just right. ¬†It’s just south of the falls.

    Please enjoy Virginia’s swimming holes with a friend; never swim alone. Also, follow “leave no trace” practices when experiencing any part of Virginia’s outdoors.

    Which of these have you been to? Which do you love that aren’t listed here? Leave a comment to tell us all about it.

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    Family, Locals, Outdoors, Video clips | 3 Comments