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10 New Ideas for Fall Weekends

Mindfulbliss: Vaucluse Spring. Photograph by Jumping Rocks Photography.
Fall Weekends 2019

About Fall Weekends 2019

Whether you want to get out of town for just the day or for a few, here are some great ideas for colorful autumn trips. Hit a hiking trail, stomp grapes at a festival, stroll a historic small town, and more.

Old Favorites Made New

Recent revamps at these four longtime destinations make them worth another look.

L’Auberge Provençale

Since opening 38 years ago, this elegant inn has become a Shenandoah Valley fixture. But changes are afoot in the 11-guest-room property, 70 miles northwest of Washington. The menu and decor at its lauded fine-dining restaurant, La Table Provençale, has morphed from old Provence to Paris chic. Adieu, escargots with Roquefort cream. Bonjour, farm egg with brioche. A new bar/bistro serves casual fare such as charcuterie and steak frites. But the farm-to-table ethic remains, with herbs, fruits, and vegetables picked from the inn’s garden. 13630 Lord Fairfax Hwy., White Post, Va.; 540-837-1375. Rooms start at $199 a night. Distance from DC: 71 miles.

Boar’s Head Resort

This resort at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains still has beautiful grounds, multiple pools, and one of the region’s best tennis facilities. But its restaurant, the Mill Room, recently underwent an extensive overhaul that includes an industrial-chic bar. Classics such as creamy Virginia pea­nut soup are now offered alongside innovative dishes like Southern-fried lobster dredged in local Three Notch’d Brewery–beer batter. 200 Ed­nam Dr., Charlottesville, Va.; 434-296-2181. Rooms begin at $175 a night. Distance from DC: 116 miles.

Inn at Vaucluse Spring

How do you increase the serenity factor at an already bucolic country inn? One (very 2019) word: mindfulness. Physician Tiffany Niide and her husband, Derrick, bought the Shenandoah Valley property four years ago, aiming to teach even the most distracted how to be in the moment. But even if you skip the mindfulness training, just chilling—in the gracious six-guest-room 1785 manor house, one of three lovely cabins, or the duplex cottage—is certain to lower your pulse rate. 231 Vaucluse Spring Ln., Stephens City, Va.; 540-869-0200. Rooms start at about $200 a night, with a two-night minimum. Distance from DC: 82 miles.

Inn at Perry Cabin

The Eastern Shore’s most glam property has upped its game even further by adding an 18-hole course designed by golf legend Pete Dye as well as eight high-def simulators in the pro shop. Meanwhile, at the inn’s restaurant, Stars, a new chef has created a locally inspired menu with offerings such as rockfish topped with an addictive mélange of blue crab, raisins, and capers. 308 Watkins Ln., St. Michaels, Md.; 410-745-2200. Rooms start at $415 a night. Distance from DC: 81 miles.

High style: Four Seasons Philadelphia. Photograph Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
High style: Four Seasons Philadelphia. Photograph Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

What’s New

Five noteworthy destinations that recently opened their doors—and one on the horizon with a big name attached to it.

A Page Out of Restoration Hardware

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to spend the night in a Restoration Hardware showroom (and really, who hasn’t?), book a room at the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club’s new Barn or cottages. All furnishings in the Barn’s 18 rooms and the five self-contained cottages—from mattresses to mirrors—come from RH. But unlike any retail showroom, this overnight nets you access to a full-service spa, jumbo lump crabcakes at the inn’s Knoxie’s Table restaurant, and views of the bay. 180 Pier 1 Rd., Stevensville; 410-604-5900. From $239 a night. Distance from DC: 46 miles.

Way Higher Than the Rocky Steps

It could be worth challenging a fear of heights to stay at Philadelphia’s new Four Seasonsnow one of the highest hotels in the country. It spans the 48th to 60th floors of the Comcast Technology Center, the city’s tallest building, at more than 1,100 feet. You’ll get sweeping views from each of the 219 guest rooms and suites—and from the 30,000-gallon infinity pool. You can eat at restaurants from Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and James Beard Award winner (and Philly fave) Greg Vernick1 N. 19th St.; 215-419-5000. From $500 a night. Distance from DC: 140 miles.

A Castle in Virginia

A modern-day castle in the heart of horse country near Richmond, Dover Hall offers ten baronial guest rooms filled with art and antiques culled from Europe. Conjure the game Clue when you settle in at the 38,000-square-foot property for the weekend, enjoying cocktails in the billiard room, coffee in the conservatory, breakfast on the stone terrace, and a leather-bound novel in the library. 1500 Manakin Rd., Manakin Sabot, Va.; 804-784-6051. From $295 a night. Distance from DC: 122 miles.

Luxury Cells

Its former occupants likely wouldn’t recognize the place. The Blackburn Inn in Staunton, Virginia, once served as a state hospital, then a medium-security prison, and last year was transformed into a 49-room boutique hotel. The circa-1828 hospital’s administrative offices and treatment spaces have been converted into luxe guest rooms, with 12-foot-tall ceilings and bed linens with high thread counts. Climb the winding staircase to the cupola to take in views of the hotel grounds, then stroll into town to sample Staunton’s burgeoning food scene, including the Shack (105 S. Coalter St.; 540-490-1961), overseen by James Beard Award semi-finalist Ian Boden301 Greenville Ave.; 540-712-0601. From $101 a night. Distance from DC: 157 miles.

Sanctuary in Prince George’s

Lisa Alexander and her husband, Kevin, saw a niche in the travel market and decided to fill it. “We wanted to fulfill the unmet needs of travelers of color,” Lisa says. “Sometimes their preferences—entertainment, culinary—aren’t reflected at luxury properties.”

What sprang up was Wellspring Manor & Spawhich opened in November. The art hanging throughout the property as well as the books in the Baldwin Room library are by artists of color. The names and decor of the five guest rooms—including the Angelou Suite and Chavez Suite—also reflect diversity.

“Everyone is welcome: black, white, straight, gay,” Lisa says. The bed-and-breakfast offers a serenity—not to mention a swimming pool and cozy spa—that anyone could appreciate. From $229 a night. 11311 Drumsheugh Ln., Upper Marlboro; 301-288-6002. Distance from DC: 17 miles.

José Andrés in Harpers Ferry

The old Hill Top House Hotel in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia—which originally opened in 1888 and once welcomed VIPs including Mark Twain, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Bill Clinton—closed more than a decade ago. Now a group led by developer SWaN Hill Top and Interstate Hotels & Resorts has plans to turn the old site into a luxury resort that it hopes will inspire “big ideas”—or at least provide a place for those big thinkers to rest and recharge.

Chef José Andrés’s ThinkFood­Group is another partner; it will run a restaurant and all food operations. Additional offerings at the 130-room resort—projected to open in 2022—will include an art-and-photography school, a spa, and a cooking school.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that ThinkFoodGroup would run the cooking school at the property. It has since been updated.

This article appears in the September 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.