This Virginia town is known for its wild ponies and unspoiled beaches, but its charms go beyond four-legged inhabitants. There’s a real Main Street, with a couple dozen interesting shops, galleries, and restaurants catering to tourists as well as locals.
Jamey Brittingham, owner of MamerSass, specializes in repurposing vintage clothing into cool new looks, while Girls Day Out Boutique has beach-friendly designs by Vera Bradley and Fresh Produce. Sundial Books is the place to go for beach reads and jewelry as well as rollicking jam sessions on its back porch. The new Pico Taqueria (6382 Maddox Blvd.; 757-785-9920) stuffs its tacos with everything from cornmeal-fried oysters to crispy cauliflower to pickled Thai chilies. Cool your palate with a waffle cone from Island Creamery (6243 Maddox Blvd.; 757-336-6236). When it’s time to explore the natural side of town, join a boat tour with Daisey’s Island Cruises, then spend the night—with a view of Chincoteague Channel—at the Waterside Inn (3761 Main St.; 757-336-3434).
Distance from DC: 170 miles.
Town trivia: In 1946, Marguerite Henry wrote Misty of Chincoteague in Miss Molly’s Inn, a Victorian that’s still open to guests.
A 1905 train station in Purcellville marks one end of the 45-mile Washington & Old Dominion trail, a popular recreational path whose other terminus is in Arlington. If you’d like to bike the W&OD, we suggest ending in Purcellville so you can explore another reason to visit the town: its craft breweries and distillery. At Belly Love Brewing Company (725 E. Main St.; 540-441-3159), a half mile from the trail, a laughing Buddha adorns one wall, reinforcing the owners’ credo that “great craft beer makes bellies happy.” Try My Bitter X, a citrusy IPA. At Corcoran Brewing (205 E. Hirst Rd; 540-441-3102), 0.4 mile from the trail, a dozen beers are on tap; consider the Warterford Wit for summer.
Adroit Theory Brewing (404-C Browning Ct.; 703-722-3144), 0.9 mile from the trail, specializes in small batches, releasing three to five new beers a week, most with menacing names like Cannibalism. In 2009, before microbreweries set up tanks, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company (120 W. Main St.; 540-751-8404) opened in the historic downtown. You can try whiskey flights for $10; be sure to sample Mosby’s Spirit, a white rye. Down the street, Magnolias at the Mill (198 N. 21st St.; 540-338-9800) serves tasty burgers, steaks, and sandwiches in a converted 1905 mill.
Distance from DC: 50 miles.
Town trivia: Actor Martin Lawrence owns a home outside town.
Residents of Boonsboro, Maryland, like to talk about the juxtaposition that defines their town—love and war. Their ancestors tended wounded soldiers on September 17, 1862, as America’s bloodiest one-day battle raged nearby. Exploring Antietam National Battlefield by car, bike, horse, Segway, or foot is a stirring experience. As for the love part, well, history is more joyfully manifested in the 1790s Inn BoonsBoro, shown below (1 N. Main St.; 301-432-1188), restored by bestselling romance author and local resident Nora Roberts. The rooms are inspired by famous literary couples and are featured in her fictional Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy. Fans can also pop into Turn the Page Bookstore—run by her husband, Bruce Wilder—where the prolific author does signings or just drops in from time to time.
Other diversions in and around town include hiking on the nearby Appalachian Trail, playing the hilly, scenic Musket Ridge Golf Club, exploring Crystal Grottoes Caverns, or shopping at Premium Outlets in Hagerstown—or right on Main Street, at Roberts’s Gifts Inn BoonsBoro, which showcases local artists as well as products used at the inn. Cap off a visit with Italian fare at Vesta Pizzeria (2 S. Main St.; 301-432-6166) or a local brew at Dan’s Restaurant & Tap House (3 S. Main St.; 301-432-5224), both owned by members of Roberts’s family.
Distance from DC: 63 miles.
Town trivia: Nora Roberts—who has written more than 200 books that have sold more than 400 million copies—owns several businesses in town and supports others.
Land of Chocolate
What’s special: Chocolate and roller coasters make for a fun combination at Hersheypark, a 120-acre amusement park. This year, the park opened its 13th coaster, Laff Trakk, the first indoor, spinning glow-coaster in the United States. The park also offers shows, a boardwalk, and water rides. At nearby Hershey Story Museum, you can learn about Milton S. Hershey and the town that bears his name. Visit Chocolate World to see where and how chocolate is made. The elegant Hotel Hershey, built in 1933, sits high overlooking the town. The hotel has swimming, golf, a luxurious spa, Segway tours, hiking trails, appearances by Hershey characters, and an array of restaurants. Or you can stay at the Hershey Lodge, where there are indoor and outdoor pools, s’more roasts, Hershey-character appearances, an indoor game room and a Wii room, a miniature golf course, and a variety of restaurants.
The deal: The Kids Stay, Play & Eat Free package, for those under 17, includes accommodations, free kids’ breakfast, admission to Hersheypark, admission to the beautiful Hershey gardens, and admission to the Hershey Story’s Museum Experience. In addition, guests at either the Hotel Hershey or Hershey Lodge benefit from the Hershey Resorts Advantage, which affords a complimentary shuttle to and from the park and early access to it. Rates start at $369 at Hershey Lodge and $469 at the Hotel Hershey, a savings of more than 25 percent. Mention Washingtonian when booking to also receive four snack vouchers, a $20 value. To book, call 717-508-1956.
When: Valid for stays on selected days through September 2015.
The Good Life
Where: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant, 36205 Snake Hill Rd., Middleburg, Va.; 540-687-3333.
What’s special: The luxurious Goodstone Inn & Restaurant sits on 265 acres of countryside and is an easy drive from Washington. Enjoy a full breakfast in the morning (included in the room rate) and complimentary afternoon refreshments in the Carriage House. The elegant guest rooms and suites are done up in English and French country styles. The inn offers vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a property that features exquisite flowers, woodlands, orchards, and kitchen gardens for its farm-to-table restaurant. You can hike the property, have a treatment in the spa (housed in a renovated barn), or swim in the gorgeous pool. Off the property, you can drive into Middleburg to shop at its antiques stores and boutiques or visit nearby wineries.
The deal: Goodstone’s Wine and Strawberries Package includes one night of accommodations, a $25 credit toward food and beverage at the Restaurant at Goodstone, a complimentary tasting for two at a local winery, chocolate-covered strawberries, and 20 percent off current rack rates for additional nights. Rates start at $385 for midweek stays, $475 on weekends. Mention Washingtonian when booking.
When: Valid for stays through August 31, 2015.
Smoky Mountain High
Where: The Swag, 2300 Swag Rd., Waynesville, N.C.; 800-789-7672.
What’s special: The all-inclusive mountaintop inn sits on the edge of magnificent Smoky Mountains National Park and offers breathtaking views and serenity. All guests get to choose and keep their own walking stick, made from a variety of beautiful woods, as well as a free picture frame. Both rustic and luxe, the inn’s common rooms feature wood-beamed ceilings and giant fireplaces—making them perfect spots to sit and read. Outdoors, you can take anything from a short stroll to a challenging hike to a walk across a swinging bridge. Or simply lounge on a hammock, soak in the hot tub and gaze out over the mountains, play croquet and marvel at the 50-mile view, or sit in a rocking chair on the porch and watch the hummingbirds flit by. Beyond the inn, you can visit historic Biltmore Estate (50 miles away), raft the whitewater rivers, and zipline through the forest. Meals are special, too, starting with the breakfast buffet, which includes made-to-order omelets, cider-simmered oatmeal, breads, bacon, country sausage, and fresh juices. For lunch, the inn will pack you a picnic—a sandwich, fruit, a chocolate dessert called a Swag Bar, chips, and coleslaw. Don’t want to hike to enjoy the picnic? Climb into a chair at the treehouse. Evening starts with a free social hour of hors d’oeuvres before the chef’s four-course meals featuring such dishes as local mountain trout. Cookies, nuts, and ice cream are available for free all day. The resort has no liquor license, but you can bring your own wine or alcohol.
The deal: Prices start at $495 for the room and all meals. Mention Washingtonian when booking to receive a free cheese-and-fruit platter, a $30 value, as well as either 50 percent off one massage or two massages for the price of one.
When: Valid for stays August through September 2015.
Where: Pier House Resort & Spa, 1 Duval St., Key West, Fla.; 305-296-4600.
What’s special: This waterfront hotel features a private beach and pool, a spa, two dining options, and the Chart Room bar, where Jimmy Buffett played early in his career. The hotel is a short stroll from such attractions as the Ernest Hemingway House, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum (where gold bars, silver coins, emerald jewelry, and other precious cargo from 17th-century shipwrecks are on display), the Sunset Pier, and Mallory Square with its street performers. Don’t want to walk? The hotel has a free shuttle. Water lovers will be interested in Danger Charters for sailing and snorkeling and Sunset Watersports, both near the hotel.
The deal: Readers receive 20 percent off the usual room rate. Book online here.
When: Valid for stays August 23 through September 30, 2015 (except blackout dates September 5, 6, 7, 18 and 19).
Paradise by the Sea
Where: El Conquistador Resort & Las Casitas Village, 1000 El Conquistador Ave., Fajardo, Puerto Rico; 787-863-1000.
What’s special: Atop a 300-foot bluff on the eastern tip of Puerto Rico, this resort spans 500 acres overlooking the convergence of the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Guests have a choice of 23 restaurants, bars, and lounges ranging from gourmet to casual, many with ocean views. Play golf on a championship course, relax at the Waldorf Astoria Spa, enjoy water sports on the resort’s private island, or splash with the kids at Coqui Water Park.
The deal: The Best of Waldorf Astoria promotion includes a $100 resort credit based on a two-night minimum stay, plus a $50 credit for every additional night. Mention Washingtonian when booking to also get two complimentary Coqui Water Park tickets, a $40 value.
When: Valid for stays through September 2015.
247 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 302-227-4300
We love the staff at this hotel on the main drag—relaxed, friendly, attentive, and helpful. The rooms are comfortable and contemporary, and you couldn’t ask for a more convenient location. Summer rates: $320 to $469.
Biggest Adventure: Overall Run
Overall Run in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park is best known for having the tallest waterfall in the park, at 93 feet. While impressive and beautiful when the stream runs high in the spring, during summer months the falls are but a mere whisper of water. Still, the flow is enough to fill a series of three interconnected swimming holes two miles downstream—one pool can get more than seven feet deep. The creek runs over a smooth, sloping rock wall that works as a fantastic water slide. The sun-filled area is a popular spot—especially with local teenagers trying to beat the heat. Even in August the water can be surprising and refreshingly chilly.
The swimming holes are reached via a long (8.5-mile), moderately difficult loop hike through the park, on the Overall Run/Beecher Ridge trail or on a moderate one-mile hike from a parking area on Thompson Hollow Road.
Bentonville. For more information, go to swimmingholes.org/va and scroll down to Overall Area.
Not only does learning a new language boost brain power, it can also completely transform your travel experience. Washington is a great place for learning, with classes and groups—some teach up to 60 languages!—that cater to your level of fluency and offer flexible scheduling.
This weekend, July 17 through 19, Baltimore will be once again be hosting what's billed as "the nation's largest free arts festival," Artscape. More than 150 juried artists and craftspeople will display their works both indoors and out. Live music—rock and soul and hip-hop to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra—will take to the festival's multiple stages. Also on the schedule are opera and dance performances, street theater, film, photography, outdoor sculpture, a display of "art cars," and hands-on activities for kids.
In years past, more than 400,000 people have attended the three-day festival, in the area around Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street. For tips on getting to the festival, click here.
On a steamy weekend in the city, why not take a drive to the country—and enjoy a diversion that's a different sort of steamy?
The annual Castleton Festival, which stages concerts and operas by some of the world's most promising young singers and musicians, opened June 28 and runs through August 2 in Virginia's Rappahannock County, about 70 miles southwest of DC. In May, the New York Times named it one of the country's top 10 summer festivals for classical music.
While a few of this weekend's events are already sold out—including Law in Opera, which features operatic performances followed by the commentary of Supreme Court Justice (and opera fan) Ruth Bader Ginsburg—you can still get tickets to Friday's 8 p.m. performance of Roméo et Juliette, a French opera based on the Shakespeare tragedy. Tickets cost $20 to $85.
If your classical tastes run more classic, there's also a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 on Sunday, July 12, at 2 p.m. As a tribute to the late maestro who founded the festival, Lorin Maazel, Beethoven's work, which includes "Ode to Joy," will be sung by four celebrated soloists, including Washington native Denyce Graves. Tickets are $20 to $65