Virginia's Travel Blog Travel Ideas and Stories Tue, 01 Dec 2015 18:41:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1's Travel Blog Entertaining Family & Friends: Relaxing with Spas, Sips & Sports Mon, 30 Nov 2015 21:04:11 +0000 ]]>

It’s the time of year when the most treasured people arrive on your doorstep to spend quality time reconnecting and catching up. Joyous, to be sure, but filling every waking moment with something fun for your guests is … a challenge. May we help?

Chances are good that you’re not the only one who is stressed right now. Your guests want to help but don’t know how. They’re getting a little stir crazy and anxious. Send the ladies to the spa and the men to do … manly things. Problem solved!

This is the third of a three-part series of ideas to help you maintain your sanity while showing gracious hospitality and LOVE this holiday season.



Manicures, pedicures, facials, sauna sessions, and massages are all welcome in the midst of the holiday season. Relieve stress with the magic of the human touch.

Seasonal Spa Specials:

The Spa at The Omni Homestead – Cinnamon Cocoa Delight body treatment
The Spa at Wintergreen – Winter Fig Pedis and Manis
The Spa at Boar’s Head – Peppermint Mani $55 and Pedi $60
Spa Minérale at Lansdowne Resort – Sweet Spa Deal TBA
Salamander Spa – Winter Warming Seasonal Ritual

Salamander Spa

Salamander Spa. Photo by Justin Kriel.



Gents, swing a club, shoot a hopper of paintballs … there are plenty of ways to burn some adrenaline, chill out, and bond.

Consider These:

– Rent an ATV and burn up the Spearhead Trails
– Bang around at Thunderbolt Indoor Karting or American Indoor Karting
– Find your nearest shooting range and fire off a few rounds
– Strategize on the paintball field as you pick sides and pick off one another
– Hire a fishing guide and explore the local streams for cold biters
– Tee off at a Virginia golf course or work on your swing at a driving range

Pev's Paintball Park

Pev’s Paintball Park



Virginia craft beverage industries are BOOMING. There are now more than 260 wineries, more than 120 craft breweries, nearly 20 cideries, and almost as many distilleries, with more coming soon in each discipline. It’s tough to keep up, but you can start trying at any time.

A FEW Ideas:

23 Favorite Wine Tasting Rooms
Virginia Beer Trails & Tours
Virginia Distilleries for Spirited Travel
As American as Virginia Cider

Pale Fire Brewing Co.

Pale Fire Brewing Co.


What’s your favorite way to unwind with the ones you love? Leave a comment!

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]]> 0 Salamander Spa Pev’s Paintball Park Pale Fire Brewing Co.
Entertaining Family & Friends: Hot Spots to Shop Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:29:47 +0000 ]]>

It’s the time of year when the most treasured people arrive on your doorstep to spend quality time reconnecting and catching up. Joyous, to be sure, but filling every waking moment with something fun for your guests is … a challenge. May we help?

Shopping is a favorite pastime for the ladies of the family (in my family, anyway), but there are opportunities for the guys and kids to get in on the action as well. Consider these places where everyone will have something to get excited about.

This is the first of a three-part series of ideas to help you maintain your sanity while showing gracious hospitality and LOVE this holiday season.



This is a great place to spend the day with incredible decorations, the kids train, and high-end shopping and dining. The brand new L.L. Bean store is a draw for the outdoorsy folks, and Orvis can be found there, too. After lunch, take a time-out with the kiddos at the Children’s Museum. It’s a great opportunity to burn off energy and get the grumpies out. Techies will spend time at the Apple Store or Bose while purse lovers will flock to Kate Spade New York and Michael Kohrs. When it’s time for another break, hit up the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa or make a new friend at Build-A-Bear Workshop. Guys, hit up Rock Bottom Brewery while the gals check out White House | Black Market and Pottery Barn. Reconnect for dinner and then call it a day.

Photo courtesy of Short Pump Towne Center.

Photo courtesy of Short Pump Towne Center.



This suggestion can actually help you plan more than a day out of the house as Merchants Square is alongside Colonial Williamsburg, which can easily take a day or more to fully explore.

There are about 40 stores and restaurants in Merchants Square for your holiday shopping and dining pleasure. Of interest to those looking to replicate some of the Williamsburg experience are specialty shops like WILLIAMSBURG at HOME, which carries the full line of Williamsburg® brand linens, prints, dinnerware, and more. Additionally, find apparel retailers like Chico’s and Tablots, and kitchenware at Williams-Sonoma. The kids will enjoy a trip to Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop for handmade fudge, but don’t forget to treat them to a Spirit of ’76 drum or fife from Everything Williamsburg.

Also of Note: Williamsburg Premium Outlets – More than 135 top name-brand stores offering big discounts.

Photo courtesy of Merchants Square.

Photo courtesy of Merchants Square.



Families enjoy a trip to MacArthur Center in downtown Norfolk for a number of reasons, but one of the coolest is MacArthur on Ice, the seasonal ice skating rink and kiddie rink. Shop awhile at stores like Banana Republic, Aveda, and Abercrombie & Fitch while the men in your life visit The Art of Shaving. Enjoy a meal together and then lace up your skates and glide beneath the evening’s falling snow. Are you multi-gen shopping? Send the little ones home with grandma and take in a show right across the street at The NorVA.



Virginia’s downtowns are known for their hospitality and gorgeous holiday decorations. The streets are lined with gift shops, spa-like boutiques, artisan galleries, music stores, paint-your-own pottery studios, and typically, a movie theater and park can be found nearby. Split up and conquer the day.

Culpeper. Photo by Bo Corbin.

Culpeper. Photo by Bo Corbin.

DOWNTOWN CULPEPER – The Lollipop Station’s Storytime Saturday entertains little ones while you shop from their Christmas list. My Secret Stash has cool nostalgic candy that’s perfect for stuffing stockings, and Harriet’s General may be the place you have trouble pulling him away from. For the wine or cigar lover in your life, check out Vinosity. For chocolate, head to The Frenchman’s Corner. Before you go, take the family photo in front of the red and white LOVEwork. It’s the perfect backdrop for your holiday photo.

* CHARLOTTESVILLE HISTORIC DOWNTOWN MALL – This pedestrian-only mall easily lends itself to a day out of the house. Head to Rock Paper Scissors to score awesome stationery, writing utensils, 2016 calendars, and more. Blue Whale Books specializes in antiquarian books and maps, as well as chromolithographs from the 1800s; you’re sure to find something for the person who has everything. Do the “shop local” thing by buying a sweet children’s frock or bib from Boutique Boutique. Speaking of children, they’ll enjoy a mid-day break for lunch as well as another for play at the Virginia Discovery Museum right on the mall. Shopping til you drop? That’s okay. There may be entertainment at The Paramount to give you a break.

* DOWNTOWN LEESBURG – Several blocks of shopping will keep couples and friends busy all day long. For the gentleman, note the locations of McDowell Brew Kitchen and Crooked Run Brewing (both on Harrison Street) so you’ll know where to go when you’re ready for a break. Ladies, Very Virginia Shop must be on your list if you’re seeking tasty Virginia-made treats or gifts. Lou Lou is a fine accessory boutique and Crème de la Crème is a home accessory boutique. Both are perfect places to  secure a BFF, MIL or LYLAS gift. To the east is Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets where more than 110 additional stores await. Hop the Leesburg Trolley for easy transportation and fewer parking headaches.

* DOWNTOWN STAUNTON – Staunton has been hailed “Best Small Towns in America,” so why not shop it out? It’s the perfect place to shop with and for the tots with places like Grandma’s Bait and Pufferbellies Toys & Books. They’ll also love blowing their own glass ornament at Sunspots! Have a culinarian on your list? Purchase a unique gift from Staunton Olive Oil Company, Yelping Dog or Lewis Creek Market. Gents, Shenandoah Hops and Redbeard Brewing are calling when your dogs are barking. Kick ’em up and tip one back before reconnecting for a lively holiday show at Blackfriars Playhouse.

Carytown. Photo by Beth Furgurson.

Carytown. Photo by Beth Furgurson.

* CARYTOWN RICHMOND – Affectionately known as “The Mile of Style,” Carytown is comprised of the business along Cary Street from Thompson Street to Colonial Avenue. You’ll find quirky gifts at places like AlterNatives and Mongrel while children’s fun and gifts can be found at World of Mirth and Franklin Goose. Kitchenistas will love Ladles and Linens while the guys may want to check out Carytown Tobacco or Walkabout Outfitters. Everyone will agree that a break at Dixie Donuts is in order.

Old Town Alexandria. Photo by R. Kennedy.

Old Town Alexandria. Photo by R. Kennedy.

* OLD TOWN ALEXANDRIA – No holiday outing is complete without a stop at The Christmas Attic. Pick out this year’s family ornament and maybe buy one for the teacher, too. The diva on your list will appreciate a gift from one of the many stylish boutiques. Check out Bishop for fine threads or Gossypia for eclectic, international flair. Treat the overworked mom to something special from Ladybug Bath and Body Apothecary, a sensual space you may delay departing. Take the kids to window shop at Why Not? where they’ll surely ask, “but why not?” when you say “No, it’s too close to Christmas.” Then send them on with another family member while you seal the deal and win on Christmas morning.


Where do you enjoy shopping with the whole gang during the holiday season? Tell us your favorite by leaving a comment!

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]]> 0 Photo courtesy of Short Pump Towne Center. Photo courtesy of Merchants Square. Culpeper. Photo by Bo Corbin. Downtown Culpeper in the winter. Virginia Tourism Corporation, Carytown. Photo by Beth Furgurson. Carytown, known locally as "Mile of Style", is a shopping strip in Richmond that brings together locally owned shops, boutiques, restaurants, and specialty stores. Virginia Tourism Corporation, Old Town Alexandria. Photo by R. Kennedy.
Entertaining Family & Friends: Five Ideas for Outdoor Explorations Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:26:01 +0000 ]]>

It’s the time of year when the most treasured people arrive on your doorstep to spend quality time reconnecting and catching up. Joyous, to be sure, but filling every waking moment with something fun for your guests is … a challenge. May we help?

Burn off energy, stretch your legs, and share in a memorable outdoor experience together. These ideas will get your blood pumping and deliver great “point-and-shoot” opportunities for the scrapbook.

This is the second of a three-part series of ideas to help you maintain your sanity while showing gracious hospitality and LOVE this holiday season.



Virginia’s 36 state parks are open year ’round for your exploration and enjoyment. Hike or bike the trails, or get involved with an organized activity. Geocaching is a hit with families. Inquire with a park ranger about a GPS unit to get on your way.

#OptOutside: Black Friday goes GREEN! Visit a Virginia State Park between November 26 and 29, 2015 and take photos. Upload those photos for a chance to win a lifetime pass to the parks, gift certificates, and cool prizes from REI. More Information

Douthat State Park

Douthat State Park



Our curated list of 15 Favorite Winter Hikes will give you ideas for great look-outs, waterfall hikes (they may be beautifully frozen!), and even jaunts to fire towers.

Doyles River Trail

Doyles River Trail



Snowmaking typically begins early- to mid-December (and sometimes earlier) at Virginia’s mountain resorts. Check the slope reports and plan accordingly for a fun time tubing, snowboarding, and skiing. Ice skating is also available at some locations.

Snow Reports:

Bryce Resort
Massanutten Resort (don’t miss their indoor waterpark!)
Omni Homestead Resort (check out their heated outdoor pool!)
Wintergreen Resort

Massanutten Resort

Massanutten Resort



Stars on Ice will have nothing on you guys! Whirl and twirl away a few hours at any of Virginia’s indoor or seasonal outdoor ice skating rinks. Skate rentals and warm concessions are typically available, and if you’re skating outdoors at night, snow is always in the forecast at select rinks.

Richmond Ice Skating

Downtown Richmond Ice Skating



We identified 10 Virginia Bicycle Routes Perfect for Any Season, and that includes this one. Of recent interest and notoriety is the Virginia Capital Trail winding from Richmond to Williamsburg along Route 5 and the James River. The entire length of the trail is now open and many cyclist have been enjoying the scenery and seasonal beauty.

Virginia Capital Bike Trail: Shiplock Park

Virginia Capital Bike Trail: Shiplock Park


Where do you most enjoy taking your friends and family when you need a breath of fresh air? Leave a comment to share.

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]]> 0 Douthat State Park Doyles River Trail Massanutten Resort Richmond Ice Skating Virginia Capital Bike Trail: Shiplock Park
10 Holiday Favorites on Stage at Virginia Theaters Fri, 20 Nov 2015 14:26:49 +0000 ]]>

Do you remember George Bailey learning just how wonderful life is or Scrooge’s enlightenment by the ghosts of Christmas past? Enjoy these favorites and create a new holiday tradition by spending an evening at a Virginia theater with the ones you love.

Which holiday classics are your favorite for the stage? Leave a comment to share!



The state theater of Virginia, Barter Theatre dates to 1933 and is named for the practice of bartering for goods and services. Patrons were known to bring a bushel of vegetables in exchange for admission. Treat your family to this season’s entertainment:

Miracle on 34th Street
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol

Miracle on 34th Street. Photo courtesy of Barter Theatre.

Miracle on 34th Street featuring Rick McVey and Ella Combs. Photo courtesy of Barter Theatre.



Regardless of the performance, The Lincoln Theatre must be on your list of “must see” places in Virginia. Built in 1929 for vaudeville, it’s one of only three remaining Art Deco Mayan Revival style theaters in America. The Lincoln is a well known music performance venue in southwest Virginia, but plays also take the stage. This season, check out Christmas Belles by the Royal Oak Players.



This incredible venue is the world’s only re-creation of William Shakespeare’s own indoor Blackfriars Playhouse, and it is intricately detailed to deliver you back in time. The performances, including the use of universal lighting and actors portraying multiple characters in a piece, are true to those that would have been delivered in Shakespeare’s lifetime. This season’s performances:

The Santaland Diaries
The Twelve Dates of Christmas
A Christmas Carol

Allison Glenzer as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Bailey.

Allison Glenzer as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Bailey.



When you’re seeking Broadway quality performances, consider Riverside in Fredericksburg. Established in 1998, you can be confident of comfortable seats for enjoying your three-course gourmet meal. Oh, you didn’t know it was dinner theater, did you? Have your meal and entertainment in one fell swoop this season when you purchase tickets for MAME, a Broadway classic featuring Sally Struthers as Agnes Gooch and Sandy Bainum as Mame Dennis.



This 1929 theater has experienced fire and restoration, a heyday in the midst of Phoebus’s “Little Chicago” era, and sadly, decline until saved and given new life in 1998. Renewed, The American Theater reopened in 2000 and presents 50 performances annually. This season, check out It’s a Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre, an adaptation that spins the classic It’s a Wonderful Life on its head and into a “golden age” radio show.



Built by state Senator Benjamin Pitts in 1938, The State Theatre is a richly revitalized gem with state-of-the-art equipment and a robust annual calendar featuring musical guests, films, and performing arts. The community gives back with a special two-nights-only dramatization of A Christmas Carol this December.



While the organization of MetroStage has been around since 1984, the performance location has bounced around. Find the spotlight centered squarely on the converted Smoot Lumber Company warehouse in Old Town, where it has been since 2001. Seating only 130, it’s an intimate space for interaction between the audience and the actors. This season, see A Broadway Christmas Carol, an annual favorite for MetroStage audiences.



The Paramount opened its doors the evening before Thanksgiving in 1931. Those who love Thomas Jefferson and Charlottesville history will appreciate its octagonal auditorium chamber, the painted tapestries, and delicate plaster work. The Paramount is a crown jewel of Charlottesville and showcases musical acts, films, and popular ballets and musicals. On the bill for this holiday season is the Moscow Ballet performing The Great Russian Nutcracker, complete with 40 world-class dancers, more than 200 costumes, and 10-feet-tall puppets. It’s a show you don’t want to miss!


 Find more great holiday events at

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]]> 0 Miracle on 34th Street. Photo courtesy of Barter Theatre. Allison Glenzer as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Bailey.
Virginia’s Beautiful Holiday Main Streets Thu, 19 Nov 2015 15:57:02 +0000 ]]>

One sure way to get into the spirit of the season is to center yourself in a beautiful place dripping in décor and nostalgia, and Virginia has more than a few to choose from. These streets are but a sample of all Virginia has to offer during the season, and there are Favorite Christmas Towns you’ll want to check out as well.

Did we miss your favorite? Please leave a comment and feel free to send us a photo at, too.



One of HGTV’s Top 10 Christmas Towns, Alexandria is a twinkling representation of Christmas past. In fact, Claire M. has said, “a stroll on historic King Street is like being in a real-life Dickens Village, complete with European flair.”

Alexandria Holiday Tree

Photo by R. Kennedy.



Julie P. gushed to us about Fredericksburg’s Caroline Street, writing, “The holidays are magical on Caroline Street. The center of a 40-block, National Historic District lined with original 18th and 19th Century buildings is all decked out for the holidays with festive lights, decorations, boutiques, art galleries, chef-owned restaurants, antique shops, historic homes, tours, museums and even Santa!”

Fredericksburg Christmas



Brick sidewalks, wreaths around the street lamps, and storefronts decorated with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments all make for a decidedly festive atmosphere for shopping and dining on Main Street in Lexington.

Holidays in Downtown Lexington



Take to the Eastern Shore this season for beautiful explorations. Evelyn S. invites you to Chincoteague Island where “historic Main Street is resplendent with decorated shop windows, lampposts with greenery and bows, LOVE chairs in Robert Reed Waterfront Park and more.”  Evelyn said the “historic buildings dating to the early 1920’s shine beautifully at Christmas and the Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade on the first Saturday night in December ushers in the holiday season in island style.”

Chincoteague Island LOVE



When considering Staunton, Kathy M. says you’ll love “the captivating beauty of the season as you stroll along decorated Beverly Street, marveling at the architecture and taking joy in finding unusual and handcrafted gifts in the downtown shopping district.”

Beverly Street, Staunton. Photo by Peter Aalestad.

Beverly Street, Staunton. Photo by Peter Aalestad.



Fincastle has a dedicated group of volunteers that check and string up the nearly 2,000 bulbs that are needed to bring light to Main Street. Snowflakes and wreaths are among the signature assemblage of decorations, with some pieces blending a retro vibe with the small town charm.




Cora G. wants you to see the Town of Narrows and the Main Street with “large snowflakes that twinkle in multiple colors as residents and visitors stroll or drive through town.”  She also suggests two points of interest: “The New River Bridge is strung with old fashioned colored lights that welcome people to town as they crisscross overhead, and the Duck Pond is lit up with snowflakes, ducks, and trees of white lights.”

Narrows Duck Pond



Market Street is perhaps the most appealing street for holiday inspiration in Roanoke. “The lampposts will be decorated with wreaths and lights. Most of the downtown streets get some type of decoration but that one stands out more because it’s the most pedestrian friendly and the farmers market gives it more character. It’s also the main area for the Dickens of a Christmas Festival, which is the first three Fridays in December,” David A. reported.

Holidays in Roanoke



According to Susan C., “Kilmarnock’s Main Street comes alive with the glow of holiday lights, store front windows charmingly decorated and the sense that you can have a traditional ‘Norman Rockwell’ styled experience.”




Salem is beautifully dressed for the holidays. Park the car and walk Main Street to enjoy the seasonal elements, shop the shops, and find something good to eat.




Walking is the way go to in Charlottesville, and Bri B. told us there’s “a huge Christmas tree on Central Place and lots of lights and decorations throughout.” Shop, eat, and enjoy the merriment!

Mical Robert



Reston Town Center is a beautiful place, and Market Street is but one of the thoroughfares you’ll want to stroll when you visit and shop. A giant Christmas tree sits across the way from the ice skating rink while lights twinkle up and down the way.

Ice Skating at Reston Town Center

Photo by Jim Kirby.



While all of Shenandoah County’s cities and towns are strung together like unique pearls with their own holiday offerings, Jenna F. has an especially fun place in mind. “Take in the splendor of the Shenandoah County historic Courthouse decorated with wreaths and white lights in Woodstock’s historic Court Square, and enjoy the other whimsical lights along Main Street including a toy train, nutcrackers, wooden soldiers, a jack-in-the-box and more.”

Woodstock, VA



When Richmond’s skyline is illuminated the first Friday in December, Cary Street in historic Shockoe Slip comes alive with beautiful bright lights, animated reindeer, and a merriment that’s nearly palpable. Great dining and drinks can be found along this section of Cary Street while shopping is great fun on West Cary Street in Carytown.

Richmond's James Center. Photo by Beth Furgurson.

Richmond’s James Center. Photo by Beth Furgurson.



Locust Street (as well as Main Street) is abuzz with holiday shopping and entertainment. According to Pat S., “The Town of Floyd is truly nostalgically beautiful during the holidays.  The town puts up beautiful holiday snowflake lights and businesses have a tradition of decorating with lights, wreaths, bows, etc. to make it truly awe-inspiring.”  Floyd’s holiday décor make for a beautiful place to shop and celebrate the holidays.

Floyd during the holidays.



The train track runs between Center Street creating two one-way streets that are beautifully decorated during the Christmas season. Near the Amtrak station (pictured), Center Street is known as Railroad Avenue. Pam N. wrote to us, “Ashland becomes a mile-long holiday card this year. We are going to light up the tracks … we also put up a 25ft Christmas tree.”

Ashland, Virginia



“We decorate the Main Street area every year, and get many people who come just to see the decorations,” said Rebecca R. With the photo like the one below by Jacob Schwartz, one can definitely see why a trip to Front Royal is worth a drive.

Front Royal, Virginia

Front Royal. Photo by Jacob Schwartz.

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]]> 0 Alexandria Holiday Tree Fredericksburg Christmas Holidays in Downtown Lexington Chincoteague Island LOVE Beverly Street, Staunton. Photo by Peter Aalestad. Fincastle Narrows Duck Pond Holidays in Roanoke Kilmarnock Salem Mical Robert Ice Skating at Reston Town Center Woodstock, VA Richmond’s James Center. Photo by Beth Furgurson. Dickens2010_040 Ashland, Virginia Front Royal, Virginia
Five Illuminating Ways to Kick Off the Holidays Wed, 18 Nov 2015 19:27:57 +0000 ]]>

When a little merry is what you seek, a little merry is what you shall find. Gather your friends and family to kick off the holiday season in a bright way. We have five suggestions that are sure to delight.



Surprise! There are fireworks this time of year in Virginia; no need to wait until New Year’s Eve or Independence Day when there are major displays for your enjoyment.

Colonial Williamsburg Grand Illumination, Williamsburg
Christmas Illuminations at Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon
Hollydazzle, Newport News

Christmas Illumination at Mount Vernon

Christmas Illumination at Mount Vernon



An interesting way to light up the season is with an evening parade of decorated, lighted boats on the water, and there are a few places to enjoy such a show in Virginia.

Deltaville – lighted boat tour

Christmas Illuminated Boat Parade

Christmas Illuminated Boat Parade in Alexandria by R. Kennedy.



Many Virginia communities gather together to flip the switch on their annual tree, so these mentions do not scratch the surface. Discover more.

Chincoteague Island
Clifton Forge

Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, Chincoteague Island. Photo by JMS Photography.

Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, Chincoteague Island. Photo by JMS Photography.



Virginia’s historic homes and private residences are putting candles in the windows, wreaths on the door, and a welcome mat out front just for you this season. Come on in and take a look around.

Monument Avenue, Richmond
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, Forest
Lantern Tours at Meadow Farm, Glen Allen
James River Plantations, Williamsburg
George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon
Stratford Hall, Stratford
Christmas at Oatlands, Leesburg
Discover More

Poplar Forest

Poplar Forest



Drive all 100 Miles of Lights or pick a few experiences here and there this season. You don’t even have to get out of the car.

McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach, drive the boardwalk at Virginia Beach
Celebration in Lights, Newport News
Elks National Home Christmas Lights Display, Bedford
Illuminate Light Show & Santa’s Village, Doswell
Celebration of Lights, Staunton

Illuminate Light Show & Santa's Village

Illuminate Light Show & Santa’s Village

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]]> 0 Christmas Illumination at Mount Vernon Christmas Illuminated Boat Parade Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, Chincoteague Island. Photo by JMS Photography. Poplar Forest Illuminate Light Show & Santa's Village
10 Virginia Holiday Traditions for You and Yours Wed, 18 Nov 2015 15:47:44 +0000 ]]>

Everyone has traditions they look forward to each holiday season. Virginia’s 100 Miles of Lights is a major one, but here are 10 more. Are they among your favorites? If not, give them a try this year and perhaps you’ll have a new one to look forward to.

What events does your family enjoy during the holiday season? Leave a kind comment to share and give ideas to others.



Nearly 100 entries that include emergency response vehicles, giant balloons, marching bands, floats, athletes, celebrities, dance troupes and more draw a crowd of more than 100,000 to Broad Street year after year. Held the first Saturday in December.

Dominion Christmas Parade



The first three Fridays of December are dedicated to family festivities at Dickens of a Christmas. Centered in the historic Roanoke market, this event features carriage rides, chestnuts roasting on an open fire (well, roasted chestnuts anyway), and plenty of merriment to go around.

Holidays in Roanoke



Alexandria was established by Scottish merchants in 1749 and the annual Christmas Walk pays homage to that rich history with the only parade of its kind in Virginia: a kilted one. The first Saturday of December always welcomes dozens of Scottish clans descending upon Old Town in their best plaids and armed with bagpipes. It’s a tradition that has frequently landed on the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events list.

Scottish Christmas Walk

Photo by R. Kennedy



If you have an affinity for fireworks, Hollydazzle is the place to be in the evening hours of the first Saturday of December. Pyrotechnics, synchronized-to-music special effects, and fun light shows make this a tremendous night for all ages. It all happens “in the round” at the City Center at Oyster Point, which happens to be a great place to find dinner and a hot chocolate.




Gun fire and fireworks were the celebratory actions one would experience during the 18th century. If you’re in Colonial Williamsburg, what else would you expect? Join in a night of revelry with musical performances and three locations of beautiful fireworks. Grand Illumination occurs the first Sunday of December annually.

Grand Illumination at Colonial Williamsburg

Photo by Tom Green, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.



The entire village of Waterford is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, which should tell you that it’s beautifully preserved and should be ripe with festivities during the holiday season. Tour the homes (even by candlelight!), enjoy carolers, and find the perfect handmade artisan gift in this sweet early American rural community during the second weekend of December.




How does driving the boardwalk at Virginia Beach sound? Pretty cool, huh? Even cooler to drive it at night with light displays surrounding you. See dolphins appearing to jump from the tide, enormous sandcastles, and even wise men making their way to the star. Load up the car/van/minibus/motorcoach and come on down. There are special price nights, military nights, and more. The boardwalk will be lit from November 20 through January 2.

100 Miles of Lights - Virginia Beach



What does a 17th century Christmas look like? Head to Jamestown Settlement to find out just how different today’s celebrations are from settlers’ time. A variety of daily tours, interpretations, music, and special opportunities will entertain and educate families between December 1 and January 3. Be sure to seek out the Lord of Misrule, a mischievous character indeed.

Jamestown Settlement



You won’t find anything that compares to Busch Gardens when it’s transformed into Christmas Town. The jolly ol’ elf, Santa, is one of the best (from this mom’s point of view), and the themed areas are great fun. Millions of lights paired with the top-notch shows Busch Gardens is known for equals a night your family won’t soon forget. Do get the signature peppermint hot chocolate, too!

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

Photo by Scott K. Brown.



More than 30 acres of lit displays and botanical creations make for a delightful walk through a merry wonderland. The centerpiece, however, is the Conservatory. Beautifully lit and housing indoor displays, it’s not to be missed. Seek out the firepits and make yourself a s’more. Hot chocolate is available, too!

Dominion GardenFest of Lights


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]]> 0 Dominion Christmas Parade Holidays in Roanoke Scottish Christmas Walk Hollydazzle Grand Illumination at Colonial Williamsburg Waterford 100 Miles of Lights – Virginia Beach Jamestown Settlement Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Dominion GardenFest of Lights
Six Holiday Itineraries for Family, Friends & More! Mon, 16 Nov 2015 15:42:43 +0000 ]]>

This holiday season, grab your family and friends and head to Virginia to see millions of brilliant lights, enjoy shopping at local boutiques and shopping districts and dine at one of many historic venues. See below for a few sample itineraries to help get the planning process started.


100 Miles of Lights

100 Miles of Lights - Virginia Beach

From Richmond to Virginia Beach, see over 100 miles of tacky lights, holiday décor, gardens decked out in lights, historic homes ready to entertain and more.


Be Merry in Prince William and Manassas

The Holidays in Downtown Manassas

Get into the holiday spirit in Prince William and Manassas. Visit any time during the winter season to see historic streets decked out in lights and hunt for that perfect gift at one of their wonderful boutiques.


Christmas in Abingdon


Visit Bristol Motor Speedway where the roar of the engines is replaced with the twinkling of two million lights. Enjoy shopping at Heartwood where you can find the region’s best in authentic crafts, music, & food, one of a kind jewelry, pottery, quilts and hand­crafted musical instruments, a farm to table restaurant and coffee and wine bar.


Dickens of a Christmas Holiday Tour

Holidays in Roanoke

Roanoke welcomes visitors to enjoy the most popular holiday event, Dickens of a Christmas, occurring annually the first three Fridays in December! Fun and holiday cheer abound with horse-drawn carriage rides, chestnuts roasting by an open fire and special shopping hours for those one of a kind gifts.


Michief and Mistletoe Williamsburg Holidays

Jamestown Settlement

Step back in the 1600’s and 1700’s to enjoy Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown. Shop everything from traditional and designer clothing to handmade candies, antique quilts, folk art and a variety of exclusive Williamsburg reproductions.


Winter Market and Irish Stew

Downtown Harrisonburg Holiday Tour

Browse and shop local foods, wines, plants, and much more at the Winter Farmer’s Market. Enjoy a day trip to Massanutten Resort for skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. In town for the Holidays? Don’t miss the annual Harrisonburg Parade & Tree Lighting Ceremony, Downtown Holiday Tour and Shop ‘Til You Drop weekend held in December.


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]]> 0 100 Miles of Lights – Virginia Beach The Holidays in Downtown Manassas Abingdon Holidays in Roanoke Jamestown Settlement Downtown Harrisonburg Holiday Tour
Five-Star B&Bs for Late Fall Romance Along the Coast Thu, 05 Nov 2015 16:31:56 +0000 ]]>

Fall is one of Virginia’s most romantic seasons. Crisp air makes you reach for the warmth of another, while explosions of red, gold, and orange foliage set the stage for a memorable time away together. Make the most of it by staying somewhere that’s warm, comfortable, and showcases the best of the season, both in flavor and in views. Consider these five-star* romantic bed and breakfasts for your late fall getaway to the coast.

This is part two of a series. See part one, Five-Star B&Bs for Fall Romance in the Mountains.



The fourth President of the United States, James Madison, was born at Belle Grove Plantation, a 1670 southern plantation situated along the Rappahannock River. Choose from four spacious, elegant suites reflective of the past but as accommodating as today with modern amenities. The breakfasts at Belle Grove are described as “decadent,” with fresh, filling choices like blueberry oatmeal streusel french toast.

Belle Grove Plantation. Courtesy Rich Johnson Photography.

Belle Grove Plantation. Courtesy Rich Johnson Photography.



‘Tis the season for an in-room fireplace, no? Choose a room at Fig Street Inn and get cozy with your loved one. Turkish linens and organic cotton bathrobes will make it hard to leave, but Greg’s loaded omelettes made with Eastern Shore farm-fresh eggs will surely draw you downstairs.

ALSO SEE: Four Scenic Coastal Drives for Fall



In 2013, named The Inn at Tabbs Creek one of the Top 10 US B&Bs based on traveler reviews. With each room boasting a waterfront view, it’s easy to get a glimpse of why it’s a beloved Virginia reprieve. The notable breakfast at The Inn is the lemon blueberry cornmeal pancakes. If you’re a meat lover, ask for the local sausage from Sausage Craft or maybe the crab quiche featuring fresh Chesapeake Bay blue crab.

The Inn at Tabbs Creek

The Inn at Tabbs Creek



Just a quick half-mile walk from Colonial Williamsburg, Bentley Manor Inn is a classic brick colonial home offering four beautiful rooms with private baths. A filling country breakfast awaits you in the morning, with several offerings to choose from and served by candlelight.



The two-story wraparound porches beckon your stay at Barclay Cottage Bed and Breakfast, and the signature french toast will make “one more day” quite appealing. The amenities and beautifully furnished guest rooms are more than comfortable. It feels like home. Borrow a bike and helmet to enjoy the area, and feel free to help yourself to snacks and drinks as you wish. This may be your new favorite beach destination, in-season or not.

Barclay Cottage Bed and Breakfast

Barclay Cottage Bed and Breakfast



The Hornsby House Inn has been a beacon for three generations of weary travelers, making it a tradition for families experiencing the Historic Triangle. Five luxurious accommodations are available, two of which are suites fit for four that include private outdoor terraces. If you’re lucky, breakfast may include the filling sausage and egg casserole, a Hornsby House mainstay.



The centerpiece of this plantation owned by George Washington’s great-great grandfather is the impressive manor house, the Inn at Warner Hall. Guests have 11 rooms to choose from, some of which boast amazing views of the Severn River. Chef serves a breakfast bounty, of course, but dinner is also available with delights that include steamed Rappahannock “Old Salts” oysters with sautéed spinach and Parmesan.

Inn at Warner Hall

Inn at Warner Hall



Built in 1850, the Essex Inn is a Greek Revival mansion boasting soaring 20-foot ceilings, wide-plank original floors, and most of its original windows. You’ll be quite comfortable in one of the four main house guest rooms or one of the four “Quarters” suites. For breakfast, ask about the Amish egg bake with homemade biscuits, then head out and enjoy the beauty along the Rappahannock River.



Just three blocks from Onancock Wharf, the Inn at Onancock is a sweet Eastern Shore reprieve with five guest suites (two with fireplaces!), and fun cooking sessions with Innkeeper and Chef Lisa LaMontagne for those who want to add a little flavor to a weekend escape. Enjoy the nightly “WineDown” to sample vino from around the globe.

The Inn at Onancock

The Inn at Onancock



Near the waterfront area of Hampton is the beautiful Queen Anne Victorian Magnolia House Inn. Three spacious guest suites are available, but the cream of the crop is The Ellington Suite with its spa tub and luxurious king bed. Enjoy Joyce’s famous Croissant French Toast (as seen in Essence) for breakfast before taking a stroll along the tree-lined streets of the neighborhood.

Magnolia House

Joyce Blair of Magnolia House Inn



The 1892 6,800 square foot Channel Bass Inn delivers fantastic comfort with spacious guest rooms that include a private sitting room and en suite. Just two miles from Assateague National Seashore, it’s the perfect place to explore on a crisp fall morning after you enjoy farm-fresh eggs used for such breakfast delights as Barbara’s Mexican eggs!

Channel Bass Inn

Channel Bass Inn



Incredibly large suites grace the Garden and Sea with amenities like whirlpool tubs, private screened porches, and fireplaces. Bringing a pooch? Ask for the Shiraz Suite as it has a small fenced yard for your convenience. In fact, bring more than your dog, as the suite is equipped for up to four people. Homemade yogurt and German specialties grace the breakfast menu at Garden and Sea.


Where do you love to stay when you spend time in Virginia?

This is part two of a series. Please see for many more options.

*As rated by TripAdvisor users.

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]]> 0 Belle Grove Plantation. Courtesy Rich Johnson Photography. Belle Grove Plantation. Courtesy Rich Johnson Photography. The Inn at Tabbs Creek Barclay Cottage Bed and Breakfast Inn at Warner Hall The Inn at Onancock Magnolia House Channel Bass Inn
Four Scenic Coastal Drives for Fall Thu, 05 Nov 2015 16:08:02 +0000 ]]>

As the colors of fall roll eastward across Virginia, ride the wave all the way to the shore for beauty and signature Coastal Virginia flavors. It is oyster season, after all!



Connecting the major sites in America’s Historic Triangle is Colonial Parkway, a 23-mile byway lined with incredible seasonal color. Created by the National Park Service over the course of 26 years, the Parkway is surfaced differently than modern thoroughfares and includes “historic brown” and brick bridges and tunnels the NPS is known for. The maximum speed limit is 45 miles per hour allowing casual motorists to have the opportunity to take in the beauty at a leisurely pace.

Colonial Parkway is part of Colonial National Historical Park, 10,221 acres of connected historical storytelling between Historic Jamestowne, Yorktown Battlefield (both NPS managed), and Colonial Williamsburg.

Local oysters are waiting for you at places like Waypoint Seafood & Grill and Fat Canary in Williamsburg, both rated four-and-one-half stars by Yelp reviewers.


Colonial Parkway

Colonial Parkway

ALSO SEE: Virginia’s Coastal Spring Drives and 10 Virginia Bicycle Routes for Any Season


— ROUTE 5 —

This scenic route connects the Historic Triangle to Richmond and is mirrored by the Virginia Capital Trail, a paved trail for walkers, joggers, and bicyclists. Along and just off of Route 5 are historic plantation homes and the James River. In fact, the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1619 along the shores at what became Berkeley Plantation, a 1726 Georgian mansion and the birthplace of William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States.

Another plantation, Shirley, is the oldest continually operating family-owned business and farm in America. You’ll want to visit this gem in every season, but definitely in fall when the leaves decorate the lawn and reflect beautifully off of the surface of the James.

Entrance to Shirley Plantation

Entrance to Shirley Plantation


— ROUTE 10 —

A short but beautiful route to enjoy this fall is Route 10 from Hopewell to Smithfield (or vice versa). Along the way you may want to check out Chippokes Plantation State Park or the only surviving example of Jacobean architecture in the United States, Bacon’s Castle. Don’t forget to enjoy some Virginia ham along the way in Surry.

TIP: Make this trip a loop by connecting Route 10 to Route 5 (above) with the connector of Route 156 and the Benjamin Harrison Bridge to the west and the Jamestown Ferry to the east.

Fall in Smithfield. Photo by Tammy L. Hill.

Fall in Smithfield. Photo by Tammy L. Hill.


— ROUTE 13 —

The beaten path from north to south on the Eastern Shore is Route 13, with several towns and hamlets just off of it to the east and west. Keep an eye to the sky as this is migration season and the Shore is a major stopover for fowl of all kinds. For the best glimpse, spend a little time at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center is just beyond the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel at the southern tip of the Shore.

At the northern end of the Shore is Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. This is the place to go if you want to see the famous wild ponies. Charter a ride with a guide to see them from the water. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

GOOD EATS: Off the Eaten Path: Business Route 13 on the Eastern Shore

Assateague Shore Birds

Shore Birds


Which coastal route is your favorite to enjoy the amazement of fall? Leave a comment to share your experiences.

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]]> 0 Colonial Parkway 10687173_937981132896920_6148274013720542821_n Fall in Smithfield. Photo by Tammy L. Hill. Assateague Shore Birds