By Tracey Meloni and Renee Sklarew with sidebars by Amanda Millward
FAMILY DAY TRIPS
Family adventures create lasting memories, so pack the car (or hop a bus) and bring directions to the Visitor Center at each location—Visitor Centers often provide free maps, restrooms and the tickets you’ll need to see the sights.—RS
Just two-and-a-half hours away, Philly beckons families with kid-friendly edu-tainment. It’s possible to cover many of the highlights in one day with the help of trolleys called The Phlash. Begin your visit at Independence Visitor Center to pick up tickets and then head over to Independence Hall—birthplace of the Declaration of Independence. Tour the Liberty Bell Center, where this historic treasure is positioned at a kid’s-eye-view.
Fortify the family with Philly’s renowned cheesesteak subs—a specialty of the restaurants on Market Street. Then head toward the Delaware River to Penn’s Landing—a waterfront park and cool place to eat and relax. Here, you can catch a ferry ride over to Camden or climb aboard the historic Battleship New Jersey. Afterward, hike over to nearby Elfreth Alley—the oldest street in America.
Younger kids adore historic Franklin Square for its playground, carousel and storytellers. Enjoy the horse-drawn carriage tours that explore Philadelphia’s historic neighborhoods. Then take in The Franklin Institute, an interactive science museum—named for founding father Benjamin Franklin—with floors of fascinating exhibits like the sports physics center. And don’t miss the Tuttleman IMAX, with its domed ceiling—perfect for horizontal movie viewing.
➧ Grab a Bite
Sonny’s Famous Steaks and Hoagies—healthier take on cheesesteaks and other subs. Franklin Fountain—old-time ice cream parlor.
Alternative to driving—MegaBus makes roundtrips to Philly from H Street in D.C. Leaves Philadelphia’s 30th St. Station as late as 8:30 p.m. Some Philadelphia attractions require advance ticketing.
Historic St. Mary’s City
How we once lived
A picturesque two-hour drive leads to St. Mary’s City, a living history museum situated at the convergence of the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River.Workers dressed in period costumes, speaking the dialect of the times, welcome visitors to observe the practices used by English colonists who lived peacefully side-by-side with Native Americans.
Visitors can handle artifacts, watch archeologists work and dig, and board the famous Maryland Dove—a replication of the 375-year-old sailing ship Lord Baltimore used to cross the Atlantic. Outdoor exhibits include the reconstructed State House of 1676, and Smith’s Ordinary—one of the nation’s first hotels. Kids can pet the livestock and churn butter at the Godiah Spray Tobacco Plantation where interpreters reenact the lives of a working colonial farm.
Visitors at the Woodland Indian Hamlet learn how Maryland’s native population traded goods with English colonists. Kids will listen enraptured as tour guides, acting out their roles as Native Americans, tobacco farmers, healers and soldiers, recreate this long-ago world. Bring a picnic lunch and eat at one of the tables available, or drive to the Student Center at St. Mary’s College for a reasonably priced meal.
➧ Grab a Bite
Bear Creek Open Pit BBQ—favorite local hangout on Route 5 North. Kids menu includes corn dogs and Frito pie. Cash only.
On weekdays St. Mary’s hosts many school groups, but it’s seldom crowded. Plan to walk long distances and bring snacks and water.
Explore and shop
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is a free, hidden gem—idyllic for kids of all ages to explore and commune with nature. A natural habitat for mammals, reptiles and birds, these wetlands also protect downtown Washington from flooding.
Run by the U.S. National Park Service, Kenilworth has groomed trails and elevated boardwalks for touring. Stop by the Visitor’s Center for maps and kid-friendly handouts.
Each season offers a different experience in this picturesque park along the Anacostia River. In winter, bare trees allow optimal wren and raptor watching. During spring, budding trees come alive, and baby deer and turtles arrive. Summer, when the water lilies and lotus flowers are in full bloom, it’s paradise for photographers. Fall brings glorious color to the trees, and glimpses of scurrying creatures preparing for winter. Despite close proximity to urban Washington, this nature preserve is very safe and feels like you’ve traveled to a faraway destination.
Next, drive to Capitol Hill to recently renovated Eastern Market. The indoor bazaar operates daily (except Mondays) selling flowers, prepared foods, meats and seafood, along with fresh produce directly from farmers. On Sundays, the outdoor flea market sells antiques, crafts and food.
➧ Grab a Bite
Pick up a sandwich or cupcake from Fine Sweet Shop while wandering through Eastern Market, or sit down at Market Lunch, for the bluebucks (blueberry pancakes), oyster sandwiches, soft shell crabs and burgers.
Early morning is the best time to see Kenilworth’s night-blooming flowers. And, Eastern Market has ample street parking on weekends but little on weekdays.
Surf, sun and food
Pack water, a blanket, sunscreen and towels for the three-hour drive to Rehoboth Beach. On your way into downtown Rehoboth, stop by City Hall for a daily parking permit. The beaches near the main street—Rehoboth Avenue—are crowded, so try the south-end streets like Hickman or Stockley. Hungry? The boardwalk has fast food, but, if possible, pick up a pizza at Grotto’s.
For a quieter beach—with showers, bathrooms, but limited food options—drive south on Route 1 past Dewey Beach to the Tower Road Delaware State Beach. For $8, use the facilities and avoid parking hassles.
After getting your fill of surf and sun, check out FunLand on the boardwalk. Bring quarters for the games and street meters ($1.25 per hour). FunLand opens at 1 p.m., so arrive early to avoid lines for the rides and arcade games. Next, wander the boardwalk sampling beach favorites like cotton candy, caramel popcorn and Thrasher’s fries.
On the way out of town, stop by Tanger Outlet Stores—for tax-free shopping while Dad plays miniature golf with the kids at Shell We Golf.
➧ Grab a bite
Grotto Pizza: best pizza in town with multiple locations; Tanger Outlets, boardwalk and Grand Slam on Route 1. Also, superb salads and subs.
The DC2NY bus offers weekend service from Dupont Circle to Rehoboth Fire Station. Leave Virginia around 7:30 a.m. and return from Rehoboth close to 7:45 p.m.
Philadelphia Independence Visitor Center 1-N Independence Mall West, Philadelphia; 215-965-7676
Liberty Bell Center 526 Market St., Philadelphia
The Franklin Institute 222 N. 20th St., Philadelphia; 215-448-1200
Franklin’s Square 200 N. 6th St., Philadelphia; 215-629-4026
Spirit of Philadelphia Harbor Cruises 123 Chestnut St., Philadelphia; 215-923-1419
Penn’s Landing’s Great Plaza 601 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia; 215-592-1914
Sonny’s Famous Steaks and Hoagies 28 Market St., Philadelphia; 215-629-5760
Franklin Fountain 116 Market St., Philadelphia; 215-627-1899
Historic St. Mary’s City 18751 Hogaboom Lane, St. Mary’s City; 240-895-4990
St Mary’s College of Maryland 18952 E. Fisher Road, St. Mary’s City; 240-895-2000
Bear Creek Open Pit BBQ 21030 Point Lookout Road, Callaway; 301-994-1030
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens 550 Anacostia Ave. NE, Washington, DC; 202-426-6905
Eastern Market 225 7th St. SE, Washington, DC; 202-698-5253
Fine Sweet Shop at Eastern Market 225 7th St. SE; Washington, DC; 202-543-9729
Market Lunch 225 7th St. SE, Washington, DC; 202-547-8444
Rehoboth Beach City Hall 229 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 302-227-6181
FunLand 6 Delaware Ave., Rehoboth Beach Shell We Golf 4405 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach; 302-227-4323
Tanger Outlets 36470 Seaside Outlet Drive, Rehoboth Beach; 302-226-9223
MEN’S DAY TRIPS
Guys have to work hard, so they need to play hard, too. Say goodbye to the daily grind and escape with some friends for real R&R. Here are four trips certain to get your blood pumping and your mind stimulated. For all you do, you’ve earned it.—RS
Boat and Brew Paddle
The Monocacy River
A short one-hour drive along the Maryland side of the Potomac River, you’ll arrive at a designated parking area. This is where the Monocacy River converges with the Potomac. The River Outfitters, operating out of Harper’s Ferry for 38 years, are waiting here to load you and your friends into buses that will drive you upstream to the “put in.”
Choose between a kayak or canoe—kayaks accommodate a solo paddler or two persons, while canoes are for two—and prepare for a seven-mile paddle downstream. This is mostly mellow water with a few riffles and rapids to negotiate. You’ll follow naturalist Mike Dudash as he describes the flora and fauna along the way. Often you’ll see ibis, heron, beavers and even eagles. Bring your lunch and plenty of water to keep hydrated.
You arrive at the end of your paddle, where your car is waiting, and you’ll follow Dudash in your cars to the Barley and Hops Brewery in Frederick, Md. The owner provides a tour and six different beers for tasting. After tasting, have a full glass of your favorite on the house. The brewery serves finger foods like onion rings and mozzarella sticks, but you can order a full meal from their menu as well. The Boat and Brew runs regularly on Saturdays and is available for private trips for groups of 15-20 people. The package price is $85 per person.
➧ Grab a Bite
Foster’s Grill—hop back on Route 270 South and take the East Urbana exit for huge burgers, wings, real sliced potatoes and frosty milkshakes. Good for sobering up.
The Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest is June 25-26 in Leesburg; Maryland Brewers Springfest, May 28 in Frederick, Md., craft brew fans.
Live like a man
The perfect man-cation awaits you and your friends courtesy of Appalachian Adventures, a full-service outfitter offering day trips packed with non-stop action. The trip includes a private instructor, who teaches safety and technique first, before turning the group loose with guns and motorized vehicles. You choose the level of competitiveness and challenge.
Arrive at 10 a.m. in the heart of the Shenandoah Mountains for a two-hour morning ATV ride. During the ride you’re bound to see deer, wild turkeys and even a bear on their 200-acre wildlife sanctuary adjacent to the George Washington National Forest. After the day warms up, it’s time to practice shooting targets at the range. The outfitters supply everything from handguns to assault rifles, or you can bring your own.
Chill while Chef Arnold, of Luray Bakery, sets up a picnic lunch with pulled pork barbecue, cole slaw and homemade desserts. Finish off the hot afternoon aboard a jet ski on the Shenandoah River. Appalachian Adventures takes you to a long stretch of the Shenandoah that is 30-feet deep, where two jet skis are enough to make plenty of waves. This day costs approximately $180 per person.
If you’re looking for relaxation, Appalachian Adventures offers low-key activities like horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, fishing and tubing. This family-owned business caters to your group’s preferences. Prices are based on the day’s activities and number of participants.
➧ Grab a Bite
Elegant Mimslyn Inn offers the Speakeasy Restaurant decorated in the Prohibition Era style. Uncle Buck’s is a casual, no-frills local favorite with homestyle cooking.
If any member of your party serves in the U.S. military, ask for a 10-percent discount on all activities. They also have cabins on the property if you want to stay overnight.
Stonewall Golf Course
Stonewall is considered by Golf Magazine as one of the top 15 golf courses in Virginia, in a state that has more than 400. This high-end daily-fee golf course is a popular destination for an entire region of golf enthusiasts. Nestled along the banks of Manassas Lake, Stonewall feels very exclusive and very far away.
Stonewall is a public course that lies adjacent to the prestigious, private Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Jonathan Schowenfeld, head golf professional at Stonewall, describes what makes Stonewall stand apart from area courses: “Stonewall has playability. The greens are firm and fast—the condition of the course is well maintained. Groups playing here will experience a scenic, manicured course with views unmatchable in Northern Virginia.”
Most of Stonewall’s holes border Lake Manassas, and golfers commonly spot wildlife—even a bald eagle nesting behind the 6th tee box. Holes 6, 7 and 8 border Old Carolina Road, which was formerly a trail used by colonists in the mid-1700s traveling from Pennsylvania to settle in the Carolinas.
The daily fees include the use of the golf carts, and Stonewall rents clubs for $50. You can even arrange for a pro like Schowenfeld to provide lessons. The clubhouse has a pro shop and casual dining room called the Brass Cannon—a comfortable place to reflect on a day of casual competition and camaraderie.
➧ Grab a Bite
Most golfers make a day out of playing a course like this, so hang at the clubhouse and dine at Brass Cannon—known for their crab cake sandwich and Angus burgers. For reservations call 703-753-6140.
Stonewall takes reservations seven days in advance. If you want to play weekends, call as close to 6 a.m. the preceding week for the best possible tee times.
Chesapeake Bay Fishing Charter
Bond with nature, buddies and beer
After driving less than 70 minutes on mostly rural roads, you’ll arrive in the quaint fishing town of Chesapeake Beach, where several of the region’s best fishing charters are headquartered. These charters leave their marinas in the early morning, when the fish are more likely to bite.
Bay fishing offers a group of male friends the opportunity to relax and bond—no electronics or worries about work allowed. There’s very little effort involved in chartering a fishing boat—your charter captain supplies licenses, tackle and rods.
All you do is pack sunscreen, food, drinks and maybe motion sickness medicine, then put yourself in the beyond-capable hands of your boat captain. Fishing charters really know where to find fish. They’ve fished in these choppy waters since they were small children. Captains tend to be members of fishing families who calmly teach the newest of newbies and even experts how to locate fish, cast and reel. Stripers are abundant in these waters across from Tilghman Island—including spot, flounder, trout, croaker, rockfish and blues.
Charter boats range in size, typically accommodating six passengers. The town of Chesapeake Beach has a small water park, fast food, delis and the Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa with regular bingo events. The prices for six people fishing for six hours is approximately $120 per person. Pre-ordered boxed lunches are $15.
➧ Grab a Bite
Abner’s Crab House is a typical Maryland crab house—offering steamed crabs, beer and other seafood. Medium priced with outdoor seating. Summer weekends are known for being very busy.
Chesapeake Beach offers trolley service and ultra-relaxing moonlight cruises on select summer evenings aboard the Lady Hooker. Also, there are concerts at the local Railroad Museum. For more information on special events, take some time to explore the Beach Trolley Association website at www.beachtrolleyassociation.org/events.
Foster’s Grill 8925 Fingerboard Road, Urbana; 240-699-0194
River & Trail Outfitters 604 Valley Road, Knoxville; 301-695-5177
Appalachian Adventures in Luray 540-743-7311
The Mimslyn Inn’s Speakeasy Restaurant 401 W. Main St., Luray; 540-743-5105
Uncle Buck’s 42 E. Main St., Luray; 540-743-2323
Stonewall Golf Course 15601 Turtle Point Drive, Gainesville; 703-753-5101
Chesapeake Beach Fishing Charters 866-532-9246
Rod ‘n’ Reel Charter Fishing (based at Chesapeake Beach Resort) 800-233-2080
Abner’s Crab House 3748 Harbor Road, Chesapeake Beach; 301-855-6705
LADIES’ DAY TRIPS
Women always have long “to-do” lists—work, carpooling, laundry, chores, exercise—it’s endless. But here’s how to leave those lists behind, and flee with your girlfriends for a day trip full of fun and relaxation.—RS
Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens
Cultural elegance in a mid-century estate
Visiting Hillwood Estate is the closest encounter with American royalty you’ll find in our region. Marjorie Merriwether Post was a Washington Doyenne who reigned over the D.C. area’s social scene in the 1950s and 1960s. Heir to the Post Cereal fortune, Post, upon her death, bequeathed her estate to the public as a museum, one that is surrounded by 25 acres of lush trees and manicured gardens.
Post inherited her father’s business and vast fortune at the age of 27, rocketing this socialite into a life of business and philanthropy. She was married to an American Ambassador to the Soviet Union, inspiring her to collect Czarist art, including ornate Faberge eggs. Hillwood is filled with a combination of French and Russian liturgical and antique arts and furnishings. Interestingly, everything is still in its place, as though the heiress just stepped out—tables are set, her boudoir contains a collection of clothing and shoes, even the retro kitchen looks ready for entertaining.
Special events are held here—the Russian Winter Festival and Bastille Day are especially festive—along with concerts and high tea. Gather your friends for day at Hillwood—advance reservations recommended. A summer visit at Hillwood promises gardens bursting with roses and water lilies, and the Museum Shop sells replicas of some of this American princess’s most eclectic bling.
➧ Grab a Bite
The Museum Café with light lunch, bakery and boxed lunches for picnics is open from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. High tea seatings are available from 2:30–3:30 p.m. Check website for details.
Wear comfortable, sturdy walking shoes to navigate the garden’s crooked stepping stones—they’re not to be missed. Take the Red Line to Van Ness, and then take a cab.
Art, Shop and Dine
This year Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts hosts the Musee de Picasso exhibit (runs until May 15) in honor of the museum’s 75th anniversary. This exhibit is limited to very few galleries in the United States. The Virginia Museum is free and houses a diverse permanent art collection that includes Impressionists, American masters, ceramics, glass and Art Deco furniture.
Ladies may want to start their visit with some culture, and move on to creature comforts. Amuse Restaurant is a lively, contemporary fine dining restaurant located on Gallery Level 3 of the art museum. Amuse’s innovative menu features regionally sourced Virginia products. They serve lunch and afternoon tapas, giving you time to rest and rejuvenate for your shopping expedition in Carytown.
From the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, walk down North Boulevard toward the James River. Turn right onto Cary Street and continue into Carytown—known as “The Mile of Style” —with an eclectic collection of boutiques and restaurants. Carytown is a pedestrian mall on Old Main Street where you’ll find frequent art shows and street fairs each summer. On your way out of town, drive by Monument Park with grand statues of Confederate Generals of the Civil War and, most recently, Arthur Ashe, tennis champion and native of Richmond.
➧ Grab a Bite
Stronghill Dining Co. near the museum specializes in New Southern cuisine. Carytown’s Mezzanine Restaurant uses ingredients from local farms and fishermen—great brunch.
Free all-day parking is offered at VMFA. Many businesses in Carytown are only open 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., and some shops are closed on Sundays.
Glenfiddich Farm Cookery School
A popular and fun group outing involves cooking together. Gather your friends in the Loudoun countryside for a lesson guided by Scottish cookbook author Olwen Woodier at the Glenfiddich Farm Cookery School. Woodier hosts groups on Wednesday mornings and Friday evenings in her renovated barn for cooking classes—you’ll prepare multiple courses and sample it all afterward.
Woodier hosts up to 12 in her sprawling kitchen with rustic Italian terracotta floors—everyone has ample room to participate in food preparation. Woodier describes dishes from her very hands-on classes: “One menu might have caramelized scallops on a bed of greens with asparagus. We’ll make vegetable risotto with roasted pork tenderloins, a compost salad, and mozzarella with pear, beets and orange. We lay it out on a big platter, and people can’t wait to eat it.”
Woodier chooses fresh ingredients in season, many directly from her herb, fruit or vegetable gardens on the property. Desserts include homemade fruit ice cream, lemon meringue tart or rhubarb crumble. She even raises her own chickens for the fresh eggs. All wines she serves are from local vineyards that are within 10 miles of her home.
People dine together and, afterward, wander the property or relax in her enormous field-stone great room. “It’s a slice of paradise,” she says. You and your friends will want to sign up right then for the next class.
➧ Grab a Bite
In nearby Purcellville, try lunch or dinner at Magnolia’s at the Mill—serving contemporary America cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Good beer and wine selection.
Venture into Richard Busch’s Glenfiddich Pottery Studio in the lower level of Glenfarm to see Asian-inspired, hand-thrown stoneware. Busch, Woodier’s husband, sells collector-worthy ceramics like plates, vases, pitchers, bread bowls and cookie jars.
Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens 4155 Linnean Ave. NW, Washington, DC; 202-686-5807
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 200 North Blvd., Richmond; 804-340-1400
Stronghill Restaurant 1200 North Blvd., Richmond; 804-359-0202
Mezzanine Restaurant 3433 W. Cary St., Richmond; 804-353-2186
Glenfiddich Farm Cookery School 17642 Canby Road, Leesburg; 703-771 3056
Magnolia’s at the Mill 198 North 21st St., Purcellville; 540-338-9800
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
First dates, might-be friends, rookie co-workers, new roommates—all require special attention to break the ice and banish that awkward beginning. Go as a group. Laugh, make some wine, explore new galleries and find out if you’re destined for smooth sailing with fun and easy day trips.—TM
Vint Hill Craft Winery
Release Your Inner Winemaker
Vint Hill Farm, once home to a top-secret intelligence-gathering station, now houses a craft winery that decodes the secrets of fine vintages. And you can make your own wine there!
Veteran award-winning Virginia winemaker Chris Pearmund and savvy business executive Ray Summerell founded the winery in 2009, with a “new concept in ultra-premium personalized winemaking.”
The state-of-the-art “green” winery is located in the unique historic barns at the former Vint Hill Farms Station. The barn facility was a high-security listening station used by the U.S. government from the early 1940s through the late 1990s.
Vint Hill is called a best-kept secret by winery buffs, and “the only winery on the East Coast where you can compare and contrast” wines from multiple regions.
“Create/Taste/Learn” is Vint Hill’s motto. Small groups, families and corporate teams can work alongside expert winemakers to design and label a signature wine. The Result: 300 personalized bottles of wine to share among friends and family.
Prefer to just taste and learn? Vint Hill Craft Winery is open to the public for tastings and wine sales. Compare the wines made here with fruit-sourced ones from California, Washington State and elsewhere in Virginia, “and learn to create magic in a bottle.”
“‘Failte!” Visit The Scoti, purveyor of atisanal and unique products of Ireland and Scotland. From tartans to Celtic jewelry, music to poetry, it’s a perfect stop for special gifts.
Schooner Woodwind Cruises
Finding Friendly “Mates” at Sea
Ever imagine yourself crewing in the America’s Cup race? You can play an extra for races in America’s Cup-style: Steer, set sails or just sit back and share a vicarious yachtsman experience with new friends in Annapolis.
The 74-foot schooners “Woodwind” and “Woodwind II” were custom-designed and -built specifically for sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. “Woodwind” is a replica of the classic, fast wooden schooners built as yachts in the early part of the 20th century. Mahogany brightwork, gleaming chrome and a roomy cockpit distinguish this sailing aristocrat from cargo-hauling work vessels. “Woodwind II” rose to stardom in 2005’s “The Wedding Crashers.”
Nothing demonstrates compatibility or builds teamwork/friendship bonds like sailing. Test your team’s mettle with a cruise aboard a schooner out of Annapolis, considered the Sailing Capital of America. Two-hour sails leave three times daily from the Marriot Waterfront. Sail past the Naval Academy, into the bay, under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Or bring a group for a specialized sail: office retreat, buddies party, sail to a crab fest, “Wine in the Wind” or “Brews in the Breeze.”
Let them know your plans, group size and budget, and Schooner Woodwind can customize your sail. Consider the Lighthouse Tour, learn basic sailing with “Team Fun,” enhance leadership skills with “Team Challenge.”
➧ Grab a Bite
Take your sea legs across the bridge to Eastport’s Restaurant Row—steer to port and set a mental course for jumbo lump crab cakes or baked oysters at Carrol’s Creek Café.
Go on Wednesday, then take the long way home (Rt. 2 South) via Galesville, to catch sailboat races and a tropical experience with spiced shrimp at Pirates Cove’s Big Mama’s Dock Bar.
Workhouse Arts Center
From Suffering Suffragists to Studios
Who knew that a former prison could be transformed into one of the most unique art destinations in the United States? What was once a prison and a workhouse has become a gigantic center for both the visual and lively arts.
At the start of World War I, “Silent Sentinel” suffragists picketed the White House, protesting the hypocrisy of fighting for democracy abroad while withholding it from half of the population at home. The suffragists were arrested on charges of “obstructing traffic.” Many were convicted and incarcerated at the Workhouse. Reports of their plight galvanized the country, turning the tide in the struggle leading to the 19th Amendment.
Built in the early 1900s and formerly known as the Occoquan Workhouse, the complex represented Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive vision: Provide prisoners with fresh air, natural light and structured, purposeful work as the basis for their rehabilitation. The Colonial Revival-style buildings, well worth saving, were designed by D.C. architects Snowden Ashford and Albert L. Harris.
Fast forward through changing times. Overcrowding and inmate violence led to the 1997 decision to close the prison.
The Lorton Arts Foundation (LAF) was created in 2001, and developed a plan to transform the former Occoquan Workhouse into a cultural arts center. Today, the Workhouse is home to over 150 of the region’s finest professional and emerging artists.
➧ Grab a Bite
Alexandria sculptor Gwen Harrison Lockhart goes for Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant in Occoquan, “especially the oysters on the half shell, soft shell crab sandwich and dining outdoors on the deck next to the Occoquan River.”
Lockhart’s sculptures can be seen at the Loft Gallery in Occoquan, a 21-member cooperative gallery celebrating its 25th birthday. Her studio is located in the adjacent Loft Gallery.
American Visionary Art Museum
“I Know What I Like”
Hit the road for Charm City and test your art/humor compatibility at the museum that will forever change your outlook on art and artists: Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). You’ll be in good company: Fans include Rosie O’Donnell and Robin Williams, the Dalai Lama and Rev. Desmond Tutu.
Billed as a place for self-taught individuals without formal art training who express their “innate personal vision,” the AVAM is a constantly changing delight.
Currently showing: “What Makes Us Smile?” the American Visionary Art Museum’s 16th year-long (through September 4) exhibition. The teasing celebration of human joy is co-curated by Matt Groening, renowned creator of “The Simpsons”; artist Gary Panter, the wit behind the whimsy of “Pee-Wee Herman’s Playhouse”; and museum founder Rebecca Hoffberger. “Smile” features the costumes, cartoons, laugh-out-loud and glee-filled surprises created by 90 artists. See MAD Magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman in various iterations, a towering bottle cap sculpture, a lush fabric scrap collage and 1,500 translucent toothbrushes fashioned unto a mosaic welcome mat.
“Come Shopping, Leave Smiling” is the motto of the museum’s shop, “Sideshow.”
And there’s nothing like the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, when 100 or so “Kinetinauts” push people-powered sculptures, like giant pink poodles, through (or over) 15 miles of mud, bay and cobblestones—and help each other out of many pickles.
➧ Grab a Bite
Abundance abounds at Federal Hill and the Inner Harbor, but why not try AVAM’s recommended delight, Mr. Rain’s Fun House? Think Black-Eyed Chow-Chow Pea Cake or Lamb Burger with Olive Mayo.
Aim for the Almost Famous Kinetic Annual East Coast National Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race held Saturday, May 7, this year. If you miss it, plan ahead for next year!
Vint Hill Craft Winery 7150 Lineweaver Road, Vint Hill; 703-991-019
Iron Bridge Wine Company 29 Main St., Warrenton; 540-349-9339
Claire’s at the Depot 65 S. 3rd St., Warrenton; 540-351-1616
The Scoti 35 Main St., Warrenton; 540-351-0309
Schooner Woodwind Cruises 80 Compromise St., Annapolis; 410-263-7837
Carrol’s Creek Cafe 410 Severn Ave., Annapolis; 410-263-8102
Workhouse Arts Center 9601 Ox Road, Lorton; 800-453-8179
Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant 201 Mill St., Occoquan; 703-494-6373
Loft Art Gallery 313 Mill St., Occoquan; 703-490-1117
American Visionary Art Museum 800 Key Highway, Baltimore; 410-224-1900
Mr. Rain’s Fun House 443-524-7379
JUST THE TWO OF YOU
Is she/he the one? time to leave the herd behind and go off together, just the two of you, to find out. Maybe after a covered bridge picnic, high meadow hike, romantic winery visit or “dinner in Paris,” the answer may soar above you.—TM
Virginia Winery Is for Lovers
Turning onto the grounds of Tarara Wineryconfirms that Virginia IS for lovers, even if the shared love is only for wine so far. Situated on 475 lush acres on the bluffs of the Potomac, Tarara is the perfect site for a romantic getaway. Sip together on the Winery Deck, picnic alongside Shadow Lake and make plans to return for one of Tarara’s popular summer concerts.
Tastings are available seven days a week, but the premier, hour-long tastings available only on weekends are a special treat. They set forth samples of wines not included on the regular tasting menu, in a more private room. Enjoy small-bite pairings, and friendly wine advice from knowledgeable staff.
Artisanal and intimate, the small winery limits production to wines that showcase their vineyards. Head winemaker Jordan Harris knows his terroir. His efforts focus on the soil and climate, resulting in what some call Virginia essence in a glass.
Join Tarara’s Vine Club for winemaker-selected exclusives, complimentary tastings and invitations to members-only special events. Vine Clubbers also receive advance notice on new wine releases—and some complimentary tickets to Tarara’s famous summer concerts.
➧ Grab a Bite
Wendy Deker, owner of Leesburg’s “Ideas Unique,” gives a thumbs-up to the Blue Ridge Grill’s Angus beef.
Trapped in the body of a 1950s motel is an antique lover’s heart and soul at Leesburg Court of Shoppes, known for its ever-changing inventory.
Hiking, Antiques and Strawberries
The Ultimate Trifecta
He likes to hike. She likes antiques. Both love good food and each other. Virginia offers perfect compromises.
Sky Meadows spreads over 1,842 unspoiled acres made up of pastures, woodlands and foothills, on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park also celebrates the evolution of American farming and offers weekend tours of Mount Bleak House, showing how an 1860s farm family might have lived. Enjoy hiking trails for all skill levels, including access to the Appalachian Trail. The moderately difficult Ambassador Whitehouse Trail is mostly uphill, reaching the romance of a surprise meadow with a very scenic overlook.
If you make the Strawberry Festival expect plenty of succulent fruit, arts and crafts, innovative performers, festival food and hayrides.
Just two miles away is something for her in Paris—make that Paris, Va.—An American in Paris, an antique store featuring the highlights of mid-18th- to mid-19th-century pieces. Shop owner Carol Konkel keeps the shop open on weekends but can accommodate most appointment requests. She buys throughout New England and the South.
➧ Grab a Bite
The romantic Ashby Inn draws accolades as a model for sustainable, local and seasonal fare, supporting area farmers and artisans.
Choose Sunday—skip the hike, dress in casual finery and hit the Ashby Inn for brunch then American in Paris for a loving memento.
Meem’s Bottom Bridge
“The Bridges of Madison County” may be viewed as a “chick flick,” but star Clint Eastwood demonstrated that even macho men could be swept away by kissing bridges.
Of Virginia’s 100+ covered—or kissing—bridges around in the early 1900s, only eight survive. Five are open to the public.
Of those, Shenandoah County’s Meem’s Bottom Bridge in Mt. Jackson is perhaps the best known. It was constructed in 1892-93 from materials cut and quarried nearby for the massive arch supports and stone abutments, which extended 10 feet below the riverbed.
Sadly, the original structure met with mischief: It was burned by vandals in 1976, a Halloween prank. Fortunately the original timbers were salvaged, the bridge was reconstructed, and eventually undergirded, with steel beams and concrete piers. The bridge was reopened to traffic in 1979 and is still in operation to date.
Sit on a blanket and soak up the sensory memories—creaking floorboards, musty wood shavings, rustling leaves, babbling water. Savor a picnic of bread, creamy cheese and crisp wine—but leave room for …
➧ Grab a Bite
You can’t get this close to Front Royal’s Apartment 2-G without a little detour. If you miss the husband/wife Gedney’s tapas (Thursdays) or five-course tasting (Saturdays), check out the bistro-like downstairs Element.
Stop in Strasburg, the “Antique Capital of Virginia,” and the Shenandoah Valley’s oldest settlement. Start with the 65,000-square-foot Great Strasburg Emporium, home to 100 antique dealers.
Balloons Over Virginia
Where Romance and Hot Air Mix
Assuming your significant other is not terrified by heights, few romantic excursions can top a hot air balloon ride. Planning a proposal, anniversary or birthday surprise? Travel south to Ashland, to Gilbert Martin’s Balloons Over Virginia. Ask Martin what to expect from your experience and his answer is enthusiastic: “The memory of a lifetime!”
Step aboard a beautiful balloon, nine-stories high in spinnaker-splashy colors, and feel the world fall away. The serene and floaty rise takes you a mile high with just the gentle “whooshing” noise of hot air.
Private flights for two are happily booked—in some cases balloon rides can be arranged from your own location. Balloons usually “sail” just after sunrise or two hours before sundown for maximum magic, lasting about an hour. After landing, complete the ceremony with a First Flight certificate, a photograph marking the occasion, plus snacks and champagne.
➧ Grab a Bite
Continue the romance at Richmond’s glam, revamped and “Virginia Green”-certified Lemaire—local, playful food, and NOT your Mama’s hotel fare!
You may want to dress to impress, but trust us, hot air balloon rides demand flat, firm footing and a weather-comfy wrap. Leave the stilettos and strappy tops at home, ladies. You can always pull them out later.
Tarara Winery 13648 Tarara Lane, Leesburg; 703-771-7100
Balloons Over Virginia 9988 Lickinghole Road, Ashland; 804-798-0080
Ashby Inn 692 Federal St., Paris; 540-592-3900
American in Paris Antiques 694 Federal St., Paris; 540-592-7137
Sky Meadows State Park 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane
Meems Bottom Covered Bridge 888-367-3965
QUIRKY DAY TRIPS
You’ve done all the usual trips—history, culture, recreation—but you’re craving something different. You want to explore new territory and consider new ideas. These four quirky destinations promise to make you gasp, laugh and think outside the box.—RS
Above the Fray
In Lower Manhattan, New York City
New York–inexpensive? Rarely. Entertaining? Always. But this day in Lower Manhattan really is both. Book a Vamoose bus from Arlington round-trip, less expensive and inconvenient than Amtrak, more relaxing than driving four hours. Upon arrival at Penn Station, cab downtown to Soho’s art-filled streets to visit Evolution, a shop of eye-popping biological oddities—skeletons of humans, fossils, gemstones, bird’s eggs and more.
After exploring this and other eclectic Soho shops, walk uptown on 6th Avenue toward Greenwich Village. By now you’ve worked up a serious appetite. Enter the Jekyll and Hyde restaurant—the name suggests the strange encounters you’ll have within. Weekend brunches include free drinks.
After lunch, walk west toward the Hudson River and ascend Gransevoort stairway to the newest park in Manhattan—the High Line—once an elevated freight line, but now a unique promenade. Stroll above the streets of New York, enjoying views of the shoreline, even Lady Liberty. The High Line is landscaped with planters of wild grasses and flowers; the breeze cools as you make your way uptown. Descend the staircase at 16th Street near Chelsea Market—stop there for gourmet treats.
Catch another cab to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Enter the pedestrian walkway of this architectural masterpiece for breathtaking, free views of Greater New York. Walk on the right to avoid mishaps with cyclists. After crossing into Brooklyn, cab back to Penn Station to board the bus home. The NYC-savvy can save even more using the subway.
Avoid bringing anything cumbersome to be free to enjoy exploring New York. Schwartz Travel Services will store your gear from 8 a.m.–11 p.m. for $10 per bag (near Penn Station’s 8th Avenue Exit).
Natural Bridge is Not just views
Native Virginian Mark Cline had a dream: to entertain people and make them happy. So, he built a mini-theme park next to a glorious natural sight (Natural Bridge). Visitors are rewarded with massive fun and whimsy.
Along Route 11 you’ll see an imitation of the great architectural wonder—Stonehenge—but this is actually Foamhenge—Cline’s infamous roadside attraction made out of Styrofoam, metal and wood. You can stop and touch it, or just view it from your car window as you head toward Natural Bridge.
At the Natural Bridge Gift Shop buy tickets for three unusual experiences. First, you’ll encounter a guide who takes you to a charming haunted house filled with monsters. Tell the guide how much scary you can take; they’ll even leave lights on in the Haunted Monster Museum if you prefer. If you want to be scared … well, that can be arranged.
Next, walk to Escape From Dinosaur Kingdom—Cline worked closely with paleontologists to recreate a dinosaur habitat, but with a twist. Cline imagines dinosaurs were sent by Union Soldiers to fight the Rebel Army during the Civil War.
Lastly, Cline’s latest attraction, created this year, is “Stalk Big Foot with a Redneck.” Let the Redneck be your guide as you hunt the furry beast. The Redneck has his reasons—Big Foot stole his singing fish. Better experienced than explained.
➧ Grab a Bite
Head over to the Pink Cadillac, a restaurant where you’re greeted by an 18-foot-tall King Kong statue in this 1950s-style diner.
View the historic national landmark—20-story-high Natural Bridge—since you’re out there. Check “Drama of Creation” Light Show.
National Pinball Museum
The DC Circulator is an inexpensive way to explore Washington’s historic neighborhood of Georgetown. Access the Circulator on the parking deck at Union Station. From there, trolleys make several stops, including one at M Street and Wisconsin Avenue—directly adjacent to the Shops at Georgetown Park.
Inside the Shops, among high-end boutiques, is your destination, the National Pinball Museum. Visitors of all ages will find the history of this interactive game more interesting than one would expect. Learn about pinball’s evolution—how it first developed from the 1700s French game of bagatelle to a tabletop game played in American saloons in the 1800s.
Pinball games progressed through the years, as manufacturers created increasingly complex machines. Pinball themes, including football, gangsters and movies, demonstrate emerging national trends and interests. The Museum has 800 operational pinball machines produced from the 1930s to the latest computer-driven models of today. Visitors can touch and play up to 40 of these treasures in the Pay-to-Play room. For 50 cents a game, you can still be a Pinball Wizard, or show your kid how you spent your allowance when you were his or her age.
➧ Grab a Bite
Mie N U—a Silk Road-themed restaurant in Georgetown with seating areas that resemble a Moroccan Bazaar, Turkish Tent or Tibetan Lounge.
On Thursday nights, Happy Hour at the Pinball Museum offers unlimited games for $20 (from 6 p.m.–8 p.m.). School groups are welcome, and the museum is available for parties and special events.
Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry
Brush like an Egyptian—lay those wooden teeth rumors to rest. Head for Charm City and test your quirky compatibility at the somewhat whimsical (while quite serious) Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry.
Located a short jaunt from the Inner Harbor at the University of Maryland, home of the world’s first dental college, the museum introduces you to the thousands-year-long struggle to preserve pearly whites. Meet Hesi-Re, “greatest of the teeth,” so named in 3000 BC Egypt, and discover how his countrymen bound replacement teeth together with gold wire. Imagine campaigning for the presidency with one tooth—The Father of our Country did, the rest being the cumbersome ivory dentures on display. Follow the timeline for the introduction of “laughing gas,” silver amalgams, fluoridated water and the use of ether.
An affiliate of the Smithsonian, the Dental Museum celebrates Queen Victoria and Fred Flintstone—and who could pass up exhibits called “Your Spitting Image” or “Whale of a Tooth”? See into the future of dentistry, play interactive computer games, dig into the Marvelous Mouth and show off your own smile at the Smile Experience display. Guaranteed to be more fun than a visit to the dentist.
➧ Grab a Bite
Explore Federal Hill and “Let ‘em eat steak” at Cork, or dig into the fabulous “Garbage Salad” at Regi’s American Bistro.
Imagine the museum shop! Tooth-shaped T-shirts and cookie cutters, beaded chopper coin purses, “Cavi-tees” for golfers, tree ornaments and funky vintage posters for dental products like Ipana Toothpaste.
Professor Cline’s Haunted Monster Museum 4942 S. Lee Highway, Natural Bridge; 540-464-2253
Pink Cadillac Diner 4347 S. Lee Highway, Natural Bridge; 540-291-2378
Vamoose Bus 301-718-0036
Friends of the High Line 529 W. 20th St., Suite 8W, New York; 212-206-9922
Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant and Bar 91 7th Ave. S, New York; 212-989-7701
The Evolution Store 120 Spring St., New York; 212-343-1114
Chelsea Market 75 9th Ave., New York
Amy’s Bread Chelsea Market 212-462-4338
Penn Station Hot & Crusty Bagel Café 10 B Penn Station, New York; 212-279-6448
Schwartz Travel 355 W. 36th St., Washington, DC; 202-290-2626
The National Pinball Museum 3222 M St. NW, Washington, DC; 202-337-1110
Mie N U 3125 M St. NW, Washington, DC; 202-333-6122