Last weekend I spent one day in Virginia. While I started off exploring the state’s famous wine country, the day lead to a national park, an amazing scenic driving route and the discovery of an old inn that takes a step back in time.
Since I started The Blonde Banana, I feel like I’ve become a better traveler. Not because I’m more experienced or savvier, but because now I’m always present in my travels. I pay attention on tours, make a note of things I like and don’t like, and snap plenty of photos so I can remember what I want to share with readers when I get home.
Before I started blogging, I would go on trips and never take any photos. I can barely remember some of those adventures, simply because I didn’t write them down or document them. Of course not everything should be recorded and Instagrammed – sometimes you just need to live in the moment – but I love that I now have a record of where I went and what I did.
Case in point: Virginia. I’ve been to Virginia probably ten times in my life, but I honestly couldn’t tell you one thing about the state or where to go there. I have two aunts that live in the DC metro area, and while I remember frequently visiting them throughout my childhood, I really have no clue what on earth we did during these visits.
Last weekend’s visit, however, was different. Armed with my camera, I set out to explore a sliver of Virginia.
The morning started off with Mom’s Apple Pie in Occoquan, a bakery that is semi-famous because Michelle Obama bought pies there before. I assume that this pie must be the secret to Mrs. Obama’s toned arms, so I happily tagged along to shop for pie after a pilates class with my aunt Judy. Do pies count as post-workout protein? I’m going to go with yes.
Anyways, Mom’s Apple Pie is super cute and sells full pies as well as slices, all kinds of delicious pastries, and my life fuel, coffee.
After having my coffee and pie, the plan for the day was to hit up some of Virginia’s wineries. Virginia is known for some of the best wineries in the country, and while I don’t really know much about wine, I do like discovering new kinds that I enjoy so I feel smart when I order them off restaurant menus. A day of wine hopping sounded good to me, so off we went to Naked Mountain Winery.
The drive to Naked Mountain Winery was gorgeous, even though most of the fall foliage had disappeared this late in the season. The road twisted and turned until finally we reached the winery, which was tucked far away from civilization other than a couple nearby orchards and farms. I immediately liked this place because they served popcorn (I’m always ready for a snack. Wait, didn’t I just eat pie?) and named their wines after hilarious plays on the “Naked” branding. My favorite was “Birthday Suit,” and someone better get me a bottle for my birthday (which is in one and a half months! Eek!).
After Naked Mountain Winery, we decided to take a detour from our wine trail and drive to Shenandoah National Park. The park is famous for its Skyline Drive, a well known road through the Blue Ridge Mountains with numerous scenic overlooks that offer incredible photo opps. Skyline Drive is apparently a huge attraction during peak foliage season, but in the last few days of fall before winter strikes we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. The views really were beautiful, and I’d love to go back again someday when I have more time to explore.
But time was limited and wineries in Virginia are required to close pretty early (6 p.m.), so we left the park and resumed our earlier route. One of my favorite things about road trips is stopping along the way when you see something cool, so obviously we weren’t done with detours yet. We happened to pass the town of Little Washington, which my aunt remembered as having an incredible luxury inn that she’d always wanted to see. So we turned left at the sign and made our way to The Inn at Little Washington.
Luxury doesn’t even begin to describe this place, which I never expected to stumble across in the middle of nowhere. I felt like I had stepped back in time to an early 1900s version of Virginia. The bellmen were wearing adorable old school outfits and the maids look like they were dressed up for Halloween in French maid costumes. To give you an idea of how fancy this place is, the shuttle for guests is a Bentley.
The Inn at Little Washington is known for its restaurant, which serves gourmet American cuisine that is supposedly “so good it makes you cry.” I’ll have to add a stay here to the bucket list and verify that myself – it’s only a cool $635 to $3,700 per night.
If you’re not planning to stay at The Inn at Little Washington, you can still walk around the beautiful grounds and visit the gift shop.
After this detour, we finally were on our way to Barrel Oak Winery. Driving through rural farmland as the sun set over the mountains was a pretty amazing scene – so beautiful that even my photos snapped from behind the car windows look good.
Barrel Oak Winery ended up being one of my favorites in terms of wineries I’ve ever been to thanks to its cozy interior and lively scene. There’s a fireplace you can sit by, and even though we showed up 30 minutes before closing the staff was more than happy to serve us a glass. They even felt bad that we didn’t have time for more and gave us vouchers for a free tasting next time.
By this point I was hungry for some real food – the pie and popcorn could hold me over no longer. So back in the car we went, and my aunt took us to one of her local favorites, a restaurant called Sweetwater Tavern. This place was enormous and PACKED; we had to wait more than a half an hour for a table. I guess this is the VA hotspot, so if you go, definitely call ahead.
We made our way to the bar and on the bartender’s recommendation, ordered a round of “Happy Trails Christmas Ale.” The beer was decent, but my favorite part was the gingerbread coating around the rim. Cute!
When we finally sat down to eat, the food was really good as well. It definitely did not comply with my pre-Mexico diet plan, but YOLO. My favorite items were the corn fritters, crab cakes, and Sweetwater’s signature Ozzie Rolls, aka fried doughnuts. Unfortunately I just Googled those to ensure I was spelling the name correctly and discovered that they each contain 200 calories. I ate about four before dinner. Oops!
I had a blast on my first “real” trip to Virginia, and was only sad that I didn’t have additional time to explore more of the state. There’s no way I could manage all things VA in one weekend!
The next day we are headed to Washington D.C., a city that I have visited many times but again without straying from major tourist attractions. While a trip to D.C. is obviously incomplete without places like the Capital, the White House and the Smithsonian Museums, I ventured into a new neighborhood this time around and can’t wait to share my finds with you all next week!
This post has moved to my new site! To continue reading, please click here: 48 Hours in Aruba