Virginia weekend recommendations, please!
January 29, 2014 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Some family is going to be at a conference in the Asheville area in May, and we've decided to meet up somewhere between Asheville and Washington, DC for a weekend stayover. But none of us are very familiar with the area, so we're not sure where to go. Recommendations from locals would be much appreciated!

Things we enjoy: Shopping and antiquing, sitting in cute little cafes eating decadent food, going to quirky little museums focused on local history, walking through old graveyards, and looking at beautiful nature from the comfort of our car (or easy walking distances). We plan to be there in late May.

We're looking for a place that is generally in between Ashville and DC, and small towns are completely ok. We're also ok with driving around once we get there. We need a hotel that offers suites or has decent enough rates that we could get two rooms for under $250.00 or so a night. Preferably suites, though. Thanks in advance!
posted by backwards compatible to Travel & Transportation around Virginia, VA (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Charlottesville, VA. It's got a cute downtown. The UVA campus is beautiful. Of course, Monticello. And there are a number of local-ish wineries that you can visit. The Rivanna Trail is lovely for riverside, woodsy strolls.
posted by rtha at 8:13 AM on January 29, 2014 [7 favorites]

Lexington, VA is just lovely. Definitely go to Natural Bridge and the VA Animal Safari if you can swing it.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:21 AM on January 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh - depending on when in May, you might actually want to avoid C'ville. UVA's graduation is the weekend of May 17th, and Peyton Manning is the keynote speaker.
posted by rtha at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's a beautiful time of year there, but keep in mind it's around graduation time for UVA and the high schools so hotels may be hard to come by. You could check out Williamsburg as well for something to do!
posted by cecic at 8:28 AM on January 29, 2014

So we stayed here in early May with another couple friend, and oh my god, we still talk about how much we loved that weekend. We just lounged around the grounds but it looks like its pretty centrally located (although, when you are there you would have NO idea). House was super clean, kitchen was well stocked, and owners basically left us the keys and some emergency numbers in case and let us have a perfect weekend. When we drove home (to DC) we took the scenic route passed Charlottesville and up Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Seriously, fantastic weekend. Memail me if you would like more details/ I'll send you the photos we took of the grounds, the VRBO doesn't really do it justice.
posted by zara at 9:19 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fredericksburg VA is another option. This is a good overview.
posted by COD at 9:27 AM on January 29, 2014

Seconding Fredericksburg, VA.
posted by gudrun at 9:43 AM on January 29, 2014

The only issue with Fredericksburg or Williamsburg is that they are definitely not halfway - the folks coming from Asheville are looking at a 6-hour drive.

I've heard good things about the Smith Mountain Lake area near Roanoke but haven't been there myself. It's definitely closer for the N.C. folks.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:00 AM on January 29, 2014

Lots of towns in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia might be appealing to you! May would be a great time to drive Skyline Drive / the Blue Ridge Parkway for scenic views. I would recommend Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Winchester. Charlottesville is a nice town too, though not actually in the valley, and it's not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.

Note: both Harrisonburg and Charlottesville are college towns (Staunton to a lesser degree), but if you're planning on late May you should be able to avoid graduation traffic.
posted by geeky at 11:15 AM on January 29, 2014

Avoid college areas with graduations.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is very pretty to drive and has lots of places to stop along the way. Floyd, VA is one of the better known towns to do so and has some really lovely countrysides. Chateau Morrisette is the best known vineyard in the area but tends towards alcopop wines so it won't make wine snobs happy.
posted by Candleman at 11:18 AM on January 29, 2014

Oh, yeah - Staunton ("stanton" is how you say it). We were just visiting my in-laws a couple weeks ago in C'ville and they were saying that Staunton is getting all kinds of fancy - there are a lot of new restaurants opening, and they go for theater stuff, and the like. So that's a possibility.
posted by rtha at 12:26 PM on January 29, 2014

Staunton, VA isn't exactly halfway either but it is SO quaint!
posted by chainsofreedom at 12:55 PM on January 29, 2014

Staunton is about 30 minutes west of Charlottesville, so it's about as relevant as the C'ville suggestions.

If it weren't for the graduation fear, I would suggest my hometown of Charlottesville as the meet up spot. Though, it's closer to the DC folks than the Asheville folks by a bit.

Lexington has a small town vibe, but a nice little downtown and several colleges you can wander around and visit, like Washington & Lee and the Virginia Military Institute. You can even visit Stonewall Jackson's and Robert E. Lee's graves in short order. It's in a pretty section of the Shenandoah Valley, too.

Someone mentioned Smith Mountain Lake. It's a little closer to Asheville in this equation, and while it's a nice lake (my aunt and uncle live there, my folks have a small lake house), it's also fairly remote. You're about an hour or so from Roanoke, which does have a lot of things to do, but if you're looking for closer places to visit and check's not the best location. It's perfect if you want somewhere you can sit by the water, fish or take a boat out to have some fun. The water gets ridiculously busy during holiday weekends, but is fairly quiet during the week. The National D-Day Memorial, located at Bedford, is about an hour, hour and a half, away. It's interesting, but unless you're a history nut, it probably isn't worth the visit.

The more I think about what you're looking for, Charlottesville would probably really fit the bill (particularly the deadly combo of the Downtown Mall and UVA's campus). There's a lot of everything there without getting too big. Though, Richmond is kind of a big small city. It has a lot of places to check out and visit without feeling like you're in a massive traffic jam or what not. It's also only about 50 minutes from Charlottesville, if you want to run out for a day.

You can sort of figure out where in the middle you want to meet, head north to 81 and somewhere in the Valley or north on 29 and somewhere in the Piedmont/Central Virginia.
posted by Atreides at 1:34 PM on January 29, 2014

posted by maggieb at 9:14 PM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Fredericksburg (and my parents still live there), and came in to say it hits most of your high points!
The overview that COD posted above is a good one, and mentions many of the things I'd recommend.
If you decide to go that route, feel free to memail me if you have more specific questions.
posted by PlantGoddess at 5:23 AM on January 30, 2014

Having been to both extensively, I'd recommend Charlottesville/Staunton over Fredericksburg. There's just more to do in the cville area. And better scenery.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 6:08 AM on January 30, 2014

West Virginia has some beautiful places and interesting culture equidistant from Ashville and DC with the bonus that after the whole chemical spill debacle they could really use the tourist money. Why not meet up and tride the Cass Scenic Railway or tour the secret bunker at the Greenbriar?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:41 AM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

By the way, you may find this mid-atlantic travel blog relevant & helpful. She's visited several of the towns mentioned and does a good job of describing them, plus hotel and restaurant recommendations!

Virginia trip posts
Mid-Atlantic Travel Guide

And here's a good write-up on some things to do in Staunton: Staunton, Virginia: An Epic Love Letter
posted by geeky at 8:11 AM on January 30, 2014

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