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Enjoy Local Shopping in Virginia’s Historical Districts

by Stefanie | Posted on July 16th, 2014

It’s hard to believe that summer is more than halfway over. But don’t fret! Now is the perfect time to score some great deals on everything from clothing to furniture. And with that also comes the unveiling of fall’s newest lineups. We’re not in primetime season yet, so there are deals out there to get a leg up on the latest trends. As we wallow through this transitional phase, take advantage of all the unique shopping districts around the Commonwealth.

And don’t forget, TAX-FREE shopping weekend is Aug. 1-3!

Carytown Shopping

Carytown Shopping

Carytown, Richmond
Known as the Mile of Style, Carytown offers everything you need to eat, shop, and play. Its sidewalks are lined with unique boutiques, restaurants, specialty shops, spas and more. Enjoy the eclectic collection of award-winning, locally-owned businesses. Spend the day in the area voted “Best Shopping Neighborhood in Virginia” by the readers of Southern Living magazine. While you’re here, visit Carytown landmarks, including Cary Court, the oldest outdoor shopping center on the East Coast and catch a film at the Byrd Theatre, Richmond’s movie palace since 1928. Carytown hosts many festivals throughout the year, including the Watermelon Festival, Chalk up the Town, Craft Beer Festival, Food & Wine Festival, Carytown Fashion Show and more, of course!

Old Town Alexandria
The go-to D.C. destination for boutique shopping is Old Town Alexandria, with The Wall Street Journal praising, “The King Street area has some of the best stores and galleries in the region.” Nearly 80 percent of the restaurants and retailers in the King Street corridor are independently owned, including the chic shops of the Old Town Boutique District, while nearby, Del Ray’s Mount Vernon Avenue is another haven for eclectic, locally owned storefronts. Fashionistas flock to Alexandria for high end shoes and unique clothing finds, while home dĂ©cor shops and antique galleries burst with statement pieces. Delight in tasty treats from olive oils to award-winning hot chocolates, pick up pet friendly goodies, or peruse handmade jewelry at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. While you’re there, take in the sites and attractions of George Washington’s hometown and more.

The Pink Scottie in Historic Petersburg

The Pink Scottie in Historic Petersburg

Old Towne Petersburg
A devastating fire in 1815 wiped out the old towne of Petersburg, a collection of wooden warehouses and homes along the Appomattox River. Today, Old Towne is a district of antique galleries, boutiques, craft shops, restaurants, cafes and a mix of renovated residences. With cobblestone streets and national landmarks throughout, take in a truly unique shopping experience.

Historic Roanoke City Market
The Historic Roanoke City Market is the oldest such market in continuous use in Virginia, dating back to the 1800s. While you’re picking up from fresh, local produce, the Historic Market building also offers fantastic shopping opportunities. The entire Market District includes unique shopping, galleries, boutiques, restaurants, antique shops, museum shops and plenty more to discover.

Shopping in Smithfield
Smithfield’s Historic District, lined with Colonial, Federal and Victorian homes, offers antique collectors and shoppers a plethora of options. The Antiques Emporium, Heritage Antiques, Laura and Lucy’s, Olde House Antiques, Mansion House Art & Antique Gallery, and Wharf Hill Antiques offer everything from toys to treasures, furniture to fixtures, and memorabilia to music.

Hugh Mercery Apothecary Shop in Historic Fredericksburg

Hugh Mercery Apothecary Shop in Historic Fredericksburg

Historic Downtown Fredericksburg
Set foot into some of the most interesting periods in America’s past with a stroll among more than 350 original 18th and 19th century buildings in Fredericksburg’s 40-block National Historic District. While here, visitors can also step into over 100 shops, chef-owned restaurants and boutiques, concentrated in the downtown area and along a four-block “antique row” near the river.

Leesburg Historic District
Leesburg’s Historic District provides a charming backdrop for shopping, dining, walking tours, visiting art galleries and buying those one of a kind items or the stylish ‘must have’ accessories
 handbags, jewelry, clothing and more. Antiques and home furnishing stores are plentiful. The streets are lined with brick sidewalks, authentic, historic architecture and wonderful flowering trees and flower baskets. Discover the charm and the great buys.

Shockoe Slip, Richmond
Shockoe Slip’s neighborhood has become a prime example of urban restoration and historic preservation. What was once the only trading area in Richmond is now the city’s most fashionable shopping and dining district. The Slip’s restored warehouses and taverns house a unique assortment of exclusive apparel stores, galleries, restaurants and hotels.

Capo's Music Store in Downtown Abingdon

Capo’s Music Store in Downtown Abingdon

Abingdon Historic District
Specialty shops, boutiques, art galleries and more line the streets of historic downtown Abingdon. Spend a day wandering the cobblestone sidewalks and discover historic landmarks like the State Theatre of Virginia, all the while browsing unique antique shops, music stores, the Abingdon Olive Oil Co. and more.



Deals & Discounts, Events, Family, History, Locals | 1 Comment

7 Unexpected Ways to Experience Historic Virginia

by Caroline | Posted on June 10th, 2014

Everyone knows that Virginia is a state steeped in a rich history. After all, the Commonwealth is home to Jamestown, Williamsburg, Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields, and is known as the “Mother of Presidents,” as eight United States presidents were born right here in Virginia.

Stone Mansion Ruins at The Winery at Bull Run

Stone Mansion Ruins at The Winery at Bull Run

You probably learned all about Virginia’s history through textbooks and in the classroom – you may have even visited a site or two before. However, Virginia isn’t all Colonial garb and historic homes—if you look closely, you just might find that historic Virginia has an edgy – dare we say it?—cool side that you might never have suspected.

Here’s our guide to experiencing Virginia’s history in an unexpected, fresh, and new way:

Sip Virginia wine
on a national battlefield at the Winery at Bull Run. Enjoy a taste of Virginia past and present at this Fairfax County winery, which adjoins over 5,000 countryside acres of the historic Manassas National Battlefield Park, providing you with a beautiful vista of preserved 19th century farmland. Not only will you get to sip on delicious Virginia wine, but you’ll also get a glimpse into Virginia’s rich heritage with winemaking techniques from the Civil War-era, historical buildings and artifacts.

Play a Revolutionary War spy game – just like on AMC’s TURN—by visiting RevQuest in Williamsburg, Virginia. The thirteen colonies are on the verge of declaring their independence from Great Britain, and fighting has already begun. The fledgling American nation has no professional army or navy while the British have the greatest military force in the world. We must have a strong ally! Does the old saying, that “the enemy of our enemy is our friend” hold true?

Carter Family Fold

Carter Family Fold

Channel your inner Johnny Cash at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons. The Carter Fold is a rustic, 1,000 seat music shed offering traditional music every Saturday night. Johnny Cash (who married Carter family member and country music darling June Carter) played at the Fold many times – in fact, he played his very last concert there in 2003. The Carter Family was discovered in 1927 by Victor Recording Studio in Bristol and recorded 300 songs between 1927 and 1942. Playing traditional Appalachian music, the family has often been credited as forerunners of modern-day country music. Today, A.P. Carter’s old general store acts as a museum. Recent additions include the newly moved and reconstructed original A.P. Carter Homeplace.

Are you a fan of The Following? See where it all began in Richmond. Though the FOX television hit series was not filmed in Richmond, the show’s first season took place in downtown Richmond and featured all things Edgar Allen Poe, the muse of the show’s villain, Joe Carroll. Visit the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in downtown Richmond if you’re looking for a sinister way to explore Virginia’s capital city.

Drive by the home of the REAL Scarlett O’Hara in Mecklenburg County. Civil War-era author Myrta Lockett Avary penned two books: A Virginia Girl in the Civil War and Dixie after the War, and was one of the major influences for Margaret Mitchell when she wrote Gone with the Wind. This sassy antebellum belle resided at Lombardy Grove just off Route 58 in Mecklenburg County.

See the hoof print of the real Misty of Chincoteague. Remember reading Misty of Chincoteague when you were little? Well, Misty was a real horse, and you can see her actual hoof print in front of the Island Theater in Chincoteague! The premiere of the movie “Misty” on Chincoteague was in 1961, and Misty was led down Main Street  by her owner Ralph Beebe. In front of the Island Theater, Misty put her front hoof prints in the cement, and author Marguerite Henry wrote Misty’s name in the cement underneath. Misty’s hoof prints can still be found in the sidewalk in front of the newly renovated Island Theater. A bronze statue of Misty is located at Robert Reed Waterfront Park in downtown Chincoteague. Today, you can find direct descendants of Misty at the Chincoteague Pony Center.

Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve

Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve

Enjoy modern cuisine in Old Town Alexandria: The historic district known as Old Town Alexandria takes you back to the time when our nation’s early leaders strolled the streets and partook of grog at pubs and taverns. Today, Alexandria is known for its exquisite culinary scene and its chefs are getting national recognition. Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve has become a foodie darling, earning a nod from the James Beard Foundation earlier this year.



History, Travel Ideas, Uncategorized, Virginia Destinations | Comments Off

16 Bed and Breakfasts for Virginia History Explorations

by Casey | Posted on April 16th, 2014

Virginia’s most popular history attractions are always within reach, but come a bit closer. Pair your history jaunt with a stay at the closest bed and breakfasts.

A Williamsburg White House Bed and Breakfast

A Williamsburg White House Bed and Breakfast

Historic Jamestowne is the first permanent English settlement in North America. Colonists arrived here in 1607; John Rolfe and Pocahontas were married here in 1614; and the first representative assembly in America met here in 1619. Archaeology walking tours are available daily and the on-site archaeology museum will give you quite the view and understanding of the important ground you tread upon. Within five miles, choose from these four immaculate bed and breakfasts.

The Powell House Garden at Colonial Williamsburg

The Powell House Garden at Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg’s Revolutionary City takes you inside 1775 and the beginning of the Revolution. Meet the townspeople, tradesmen, shopkeepers, political figures, women, and enslaved that call Williamsburg home. As one can imagine when considering the historic nature of the Williamsburg area, bed and breakfasts are plentiful. Here are a few contenders within walking distance of Colonial Williamsburg.

  • Fife & Drum Inn (.6 mile) – Nine distinctive rooms and suites are decorated in the flavor of the 18th century but with a modern twist.
  • Colonial Capital B&B Inn (.8 mile) – Colonial Revival boasts a rich blend of warmth, style, and comfort.
  • Applewood Colonial B&B (.8 mile) – Stately Georgian modeled after early Colonial Williamsburg restoration efforts.
  • The Williamsburg Manor (.8 mile) – Southern hospitality in a fresh and eclectic setting. Recently updated to combine the spirit of Williamsburg with the most modern of amenities.

Yorktown Victory Center is a museum of the American Revolution chronicling America’s struggles for independence. Exhibits include a rare early broadside printing of the Declaration of Independence dating to July 1776, a predecessor to the handwritten parchment copy signed by members of Congress. Within a mile of the Center are two historic B&Bs to choose from.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop Monticello in Charlottesville is a must-see historic destination. It’s the only U.S. presidential and private home on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Stay at The Inn at Monticello, just two miles away, to enjoy the home, gardens, and views Jefferson loved so much. It’s an 1850s southern manor with romantic guest rooms and hearty gourmet breakfast.

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Estate and Gardens are located in northern Virginia right on the banks of the Potomac River. Visit to see the new Ford Orientation Center, the most famous dentures in the world, heritage animal breeds, Washington’s distillery, and so much more.  Just over six miles away is the charming Gatsby’s House Bed and Breakfast in Old Town Alexandria. The proximity to everything in Old Town is reason enough to stay.

Montpelier was James Madison’s lifelong home. Take a guided tour of his and Dolley’s house, the expansive gardens, and other points of interest on the 2,650-acre estate. The closest bed and breakfast for your presidential explorations is Inn at Westwood Farm, just 1.3 miles away. Four beautifully appointed rooms are available in the 1910 farmhouse, and the concierge service is renowned.

James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland. Photo by Richard Bronson.

James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland. Photo by Richard Bronson.

James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland will catch you by surprise. It’s far more modest than the aforementioned presidential homes. In fact, Monroe called his home his “cabin castle.” Tours are offered daily, and the working farm adds to the attraction. Only two miles away is a very comfortable b&b, the only one in Charlottesville that also has a working vineyard – Arcady Vineyard Bed & Breakfast. While it’s not a historic home as others mentioned in this post, it’s very well-appointed with no detail overlooked. You can even take their local winery tour with dinner transportation provided.

Of note, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, and Ash Lawn-Highland are sites along the Road to Revolution Heritage Trail.

In Ewing, find Wilderness Road State Park, 310 acres that lie astride the Wilderness Road, a route carved by Daniel Boone in 1775. The route, which followed a buffalo trace, opened America’s first western frontier. Most notable in the park is the Karlan Mansion, built in the 1877. Stay seven miles away at the Wilderness Road Bed and Breakfast, and ask for the master suite. The sweeping views from the balcony will leave you breathless. (Author’s Note, 7/9/14: Wilderness Road B&B is now closed.)

Civil War enthusiasts can visit the location of the war’s end in April 1865 – Appomattox Court House and National Historical Park. The highlight is the McLean House where Generals Lee and Grant crafted and signed the terms of surrender, bringing an end to the bloodiest chapter of United States history. Babcock House Bed & Breakfast Inn is just .2 mile away and includes an on-site restaurant. The B&B is a graceful 1893 manor home with its own historical story to tell.

Every corner of Virginia seeps history. Find more historic sites and the lovely accommodations near them when planning your next visit.

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Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month

by Casey | Posted on April 11th, 2014

If you have a love of jazz, you’ll find a lot to love in Virginia. April is Jazz Appreciation Month and as such, we’re shining a spotlight on our most beloved jazz musician, Ella Fitzgerald.

Don't miss the upcoming Hampton Jazz Festival in Hampton, Virginia.

Don’t miss the upcoming Hampton Jazz Festival in Hampton, Virginia.

Ella Fitzgerald, called “The First Lady of Song,” was born in Newport News, Virginia on April 25, 1917. Shortly after birth, she and her mother moved to Yonkers, New York. In 1934 Ella’s name was drawn to compete in Amateur Night at the Apollo. She planned to dance but changed her mind after seeing the dance act that preceded her. Instead, she sang “Judy” by Hoagy Carmichael and was cheered on to perform an encore. Impressed with the natural talent he saw, saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter helped Ella launch her career. Ella became the singer of the Tiny Bradshaw Band in 1935 before recording her first song, “Love and Kisses” in 1936. In 1938, Ella scored her first number one hit with “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”

Highlights:

  • Worked with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie
  • National Medal of Arts Award by President Ronald Reagan, 1987
  • NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1988
  • Recorded more than 200 albums
  • Thirteen-time Grammy Award winner
  • Gave her last concert in 1991 at Carnegie Hall
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom Award by President George H. W. Bush, 1992

Celebrate Ella Fitzgerald with a tour through Newport News to see her birthplace, or take in a show at The Hippodrome Theater in Richmond, a venue Ella played early in her career.

On what would be Ella’s 97th birthday (April 25), The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will present A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News. Tickets from $29. Buy Now

Additional Notable Jazz Musicians from Virginia:

  • James Genus of Hampton is a jazz bassist who has played in the Saturday Night Live Band and most recently studio recorded with Grammy Award-winning Daft Punk. His talents are heard on “Giorgio by Moroder,” “Touch,” “Beyond,” “Motherboard,” “Fragments of Time,” and “Contact.”
  • Lonnie Liston Smith of Richmond is a jazz pianist and keyboardist who has recorded with the likes of Pharaoh Sanders and Miles Davis. Smith is noted for mashing jazz with rap in the 1990s.
  • Steve Wilson of Hampton is a jazz instrumentalist best known as a flautist and saxophonist.
  • Don Pullen was a Roanoke native and jazz pianist who was well received in Europe for his avant-garde style.

Upcoming Jazz Events:

Did we miss any jazz musicians in Virginia? If so, let us know by leaving a comment.

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Events, History | 2 Comments

17 Places for Kids to Get Hands-On with Virginia History

by Casey | Posted on March 24th, 2014

Connect the dots with your children’s interest in history by allowing them to explore the Virginia sites that let them get their hands dirty and in the mix. Visits to the following 17 locations are perfect for spring break, weekends, and the summer season.

Jamestown Settlement. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

Jamestown Settlement. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

Located in Yorktown, the Yorktown Victory Center puts the struggle for America’s independence on display with exhibits pertaining to the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, plus, there is also a Continental Army encampment and 1780s farm. Kids will enjoy their time here because they may be invited to join an artillery crew or drill with wooden muskets at the aforementioned encampment, help plant and water the garden, or ”break” and “comb” flax at the farm.

Jamestown Settlement invites you to explore America’s first permanent English colony. Literally step back in history as you and your children steer with a tiller or whipstaff aboard a re-creation of one of the three ships that brought the first English colonists to Virginia or try on 17th-century-style armor and play quoits at the re-created colonial fort. Want to get your hands dirty? Grind corn, weave plant fibers into cordage and use oyster shells to scrape out a dugout canoe at the Powhatan Indian village.

The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton introduces you to life in West Africa (1700s), England (1600s), Ireland (1700s), and Germany (1700s) before these cultures settled in America, bringing their traditions, trades, customs and animals with them. Crops and animals representing each country live at each of the interpretive farms. A special upcoming event that allows you to get especially hands-on is Wool Days, when the sheep will be sheared. Take part in weaving on the Irish farm, carding and spinning wool on the 1820 American farm, sorting and scouring wool at the English farm, and processing flax on the German farm.

Nauticus is the home of Battleship Wisconsin in Norfolk, and is a maritime science museum. Among the things you can get involved with here are the shark and horseshoe crab touch tanks, experiencing a Category 1 hurricane (fee), exploring an historic World War II battleship, raising the signal flags, packing a sea bag,  and more.

Gunston Hall in Lorton was the home of George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights upon which the United States Bill of Rights was based. The home and expanse of land are fabulous to tour as the property backs up to and overlooks the Potomac River. Daily between July and August is a program called History’s Mysteries, an interactive, hands-on search of the grounds and mansion featuring a special clue book and a prize for solving the 18th-century mystery.

Virginia Sports Hall of  Fame & Museum.

Virginia Sports Hall of Fame & Museum.

See who the Virginia Hall of Famers are and then maybe try your hand at their sport when you visit the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in Portsmouth. Baseball, football, golf, and basketball areas are all waiting for your best shot. Also check out the Redskins Skybox and the Media Center for simulations of what it’s like to be on the other side of the sports.

The second Saturday of each month is Family Day at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle. Kids of all ages can explore the interactive museum, venturing through a gallery scavenger hunt and trying on period uniforms. The whole family can experience the weight of a pack as you each go through boot camp, or feel the ground shake as you land on Iwo-Jima in 1945. End the day with a meal in the Mess Hall.

Let your kids travel back in time and experience the life of a solider during the Civil War at the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Center in Bristow during special Civil War camp opportunities. Hands-on activities include “Enlist in Virginia’s Army” and “Civil War Medicine.” The camp also features a field trip to Manassas National Battlefield Park. Upcoming camp dates include April 14-18, July 21-25, and August 18-22.

The Rapidan Camp: President and Mrs. Hoover’s “Summer White House” in Shenandoah National Park has recently been restored to its 1929 appearance and is an excellent reflection of not only its era, but also of President Hoover. Kids can board the “Hoover Mover” at Byrd Visitor Center and start learning the history of Rapidan Camp, told by a Park Ranger. Upon arrival at the camp, children explore the restored “Brown House” and nearby Prime Minister’s House, which is a living museum. Visitors are encouraged to wander the camp, and discover why it was the perfect location for the President’s summer getaway.

Join in the living history aspects of Patrick Henry’s Red Hill in Brookneal. A variety of activities are available, from pottery making, tin punching and blacksmithing to spinning, weaving, and processing flax to linen. The children that attend the living history program spend the day immersed in what life would have been like in Patrick Henry’s day and time. They will get to try their hand at a multitude of activities that would have taken place years ago at Red Hill.

Touch Tank at Virginia Living Museum.

Touch Tank at Virginia Living Museum.

The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News depicts Virginia’s natural heritage from the mountains to the sea. Kids will especially enjoy the Touch Tank with its sea stars and horseshoe crabs, not to mention other opportunities to touch live spider crabs and fossilized dinosaur tracks!

Head to Hampton and the Virginia Air & Space Center where you can launch a rocket, pilot a shuttle and try on wings to feel the lift that makes things fly.

Kids will love the chance to experience their own “Night at the Museum” with the sleepovers offered at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. Special hands-on activities are offered on these themed nights. Pizza, an evening snack and breakfast are included as part of the fun!

If you have a little train lover in your midst who has never gotten to board one, head to the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke and climb aboard a steam locomotive.  Summer camps are available if your child would like an immersive daytime experience.

Civil War Adventure Camp at Pamplin Historical Park.

Civil War Adventure Camp at Pamplin Historical Park.

Called “the new crown jewel of Civil War History destinations in America” by Pulitzer Prize historian James McPherson, Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg has four world-class museums, four antebellum homes and is the site of the Breakthrough Battlefield of April 2, 1865, where Union forces broke through Petersburg’s defense lines. Here kids can get their hands on uniforms to try on (just their size!), and be prompted to perform other activities throughout the park. Go big or go home with the opportunity to participate in a Civil War Adventure Camp – perfect for all ages, so parents can attend, too.

The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly welcomes you to check out their staff-led roving Discovery Stations. The stations may be different in topic each time you encounter one. For example, the Animation Station allows you to generate a stop motion animated film with toys while the Rats in Space Station demonstrates gravity. Flight simulators are also on site along with the hundreds of aircraft and space exploration vehicles.

Perhaps the quintessential hands-on history opportunity in Virginia is found at Colonial Williamsburg where the entire Revolutionary City is interprets 18th century life. Try brickmaking, try the daily chores on for size at the James Geddy House or the Powell House, and get caught in the stocks for a photo opportunity. There are opportunities to see how things were made and done during the 18th century and sometimes you’ll be invited to join in; watch for your chance!

At which Virginia attraction have you had an unexpected hands-on learning opportunity? Share your story with a comment!

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Family, History | 1 Comment