Getaways, The Features, The Great Outdoors

Getaways: Chincoteague & Assateague

Wild Ponies at Sunset, Assateague

"Wild Ponies at Sunset, Assateague" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

Relinquish control to nature. That’s extremely difficult for an urbanite like myself. But, I was on the fast track to total anxietyville and desperately needed an escape. What better way to unwind than leaving yourself behind on a five mile bike trek through a barrier island refuge? Sighing upon spotting wild ponies? Napping on a deserted beach? Being bitten by insanely voracious mosquitoes?

Ok, this last is not quite as relaxing as the rest! Definitely watch out for those bloodsuckers while you enjoy some sea-drenched nature just three hours away from DC, on the Chincoteague Island National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague National Seashore. With some 14,000 acres of barrier island habitat including marshes and long stretches of beach, this is a naturalist’s dream.

The town of Chincoteague itself is rather like a rusty old tugboat that does its duty with a trusty nonchalance. It’s not a glamorous destination, but there are plenty of decent seafood places, surf shops, cute boutiques, and decadent ice cream parlours. It’s still milking the “Misty” books, Marguerite Henry’s tales of the penning of the famous wild horses. Yours truly learned to ride on a Chincoteague pony back in the mists of her teenage years and still has a soft spot for these extremely tough and beautiful animals. There are pony rides to be had here, of course, but I suggest you rather seek out viewing them in their natural habitat on Assateague (unless you are or have kids, in which case, they will love a ride). Continue reading

Getaways, The Features

Getaways: Nags Head, OBX

Nags Head Beach, OBX

My senior year of college, I read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick during spring break, which I spent quietly with my grandparents in Florida. This may have been a regrettable decision, because now the book and its contents are so knotted up with my experience sitting in the sand peering out onto the infinite sprawl of the ocean. Ishmael gets antsy and fed up with the people around him; he has to go to the sea. “With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.” I didn’t take to the ship, but I did take to the shore — the Northern Beaches of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Standing in the surf with my back to the mainland, the wind whipping away any human sound, I was able to regain a small measure of the calm that city life whittles away. 

The Outer Banks seem to become the favorite place of basically everyone who visits there. The 200-mile long strip of islands cover about half of the North Carolina coastline, and can be easily reached from most of the mid-Atlantic by Interstates 64 and 95. The series of islands, from north to south, include Bodie, Roanoke, Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. Bodie Island, the northern-most peninsula of the OBX reaches as far up as Virginia Beach and boasts several communities, among them Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. If you’re going to the OBX, you’re most likely going to relax on or near the beach — something you can achieve in pretty much any community on the islands. For us, Nags Head was the place, just a couple miles down from the Kitty Hawk memorial to the Wright Brothers and their first flight. 
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Entertainment, Food and Drink, Fun & Games, Getaways, The District

Getaways: Rehoboth Beach

Photo courtesy of
‘Sandy Palimpsest’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’

From boardwalks, to seafood, to sandy stretches to outlet shopping, Rehoboth Beach in Delaware has everything you could ask for in a beach. Three of my friends and I recently struck out for a relaxing escape-our-stressful-jobs girls weekend.

We’re twentysomethings on budgets, so we stayed at the Atlantis Inn. Clean, no frills, on the main strip, only a block and a half from the beach, the Atlantis is equipped with comfy rooftop poolside chairs, but take warning: double beds. So if you’re just a group of friends, you’ll be forced to do some mandatory cuddling. Whatever, at least we like each other.

The main drag of Rehoboth is adorable, lined with all kinds of great shops, good food and plenty of ice cream options. We were totally entertained. Continue reading

Adventures, Getaways, The Features

Getaways: Virginia Beach, Part 2

Photo courtesy of
’40Off Blue Team Pics’
courtesy of ‘visitvirginia’

I won a mystery trip to somewhere in Virginia last month, and Katie told you all about day one already. The adventure continues…

The day before, our trip organizers had announced that we would be going kayaking on day two of our all-expenses-paid exploration of Virginia Beach. Everyone was pretty excited about this at first, but as the day wore on, the weather reports kept getting gloomier and gloomier. Cold, rainy kayaking? No, thanks.

Luckily, our fabulous guides were flexible (key when traveling with a group!) and let us know that we would be playing it safe and heading indoors to the Virginia Aquarium. I’m a huge fan of aquariums, so I was pretty excited to check out this one, since I had never been before. Plus, we got to sleep in an extra hour with the change of plans! Bonus. Continue reading

Fun & Games, Getaways, Special Events

Getaways: Virginia Beach (Part I)

Live the Life

This is a special edition of Getaways, which will be broken into two parts. Since Jasmine and I were both lucky enough to head to Virginia Beach, we’re tag teaming the trip for your reading pleasure.

Jasmine: Like many of you, after reading Katie’s post last month on Virginia Tourism Corporation’s mystery vacation giveaway, I put my name on the list. The temptation of an all-expenses-paid trip plus the mystery of not knowing where I would be going was just too much to handle. And a few weeks ago, after a particularly terrible day, I got the call: I had won! After extensive squealing and jumping up and down in the street, I immediately called diligent informer of awesome vacations and excellent travel companion Katie to invite her along with me. VA Tourism packed so much into our two days, we’re going to have to split this one up, with each of us taking a day. And so, without further adieu, here’s Katie to tell you all about that first crazy day. Continue reading

Adventures, Entertainment, Getaways, Night Life, The Features

Getaways – At the Drive-In

Photo courtesy of
‘Templeton Drive-in Theatre – Movie’, courtesy of ‘ciao-chow’

When someone mentions “drive-in” to you, do you think of fast food, or gargantuan screens in front of rows of parked cars, playing B-grade horror or sci-fi flicks?

The relics of a bygone era, the drive-in theater still exists, just not in abundance anymore. Any drive down backwater rural roads these days may reveal the abandoned hulks of these once-great date destinations, their towering screens ripped and dark, the listening posts a mute testimony to the heyday of ‘courting’ and hanging out. (And if you don’t get what I mean, just watch Happy Days on TVLand and you’ll get it.)

The drive-ins that survive today do so out of a mix of nostalgia and determination. And the fact that these days, ‘retro’ is the new style. But even so, drive-in theaters are disappearing. Continue reading

Getaways, Tourism, Travel

Getaways: Artists Inn Residence

Lionshead Faucet, Artists Inn Residence

"Lionshead Faucet, Artists Inn Residence" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

Sigh. Stupid economic apocalypse. I really wanted to get away for my birthday this year. Rough times on all fronts. Originally I had some fantasy about skipping town to Barcelona or Marseilles. But, no such luck. So, I settled for a staycation and escaped for the night to exotic Dupont Circle. The bed and breakfast that I discovered, however, turned out to be the best birthday idea I’d had in ages.

The Artists Inn Residence, run by the incredibly kind Terry Gerace, is an amazing B&B at 18th and R Streets NW. If you have any out-of-town guests to house or are looking for a romantic or peaceful escape, this is the place. Beautifully renovated, it’s filled with light and gives the impression of a gracious Parisian mansion with a modern twist. Six suites are lovingly decorated like perfect jewelboxes – each with a different theme that is never heavy-handed. The rooms are also completely outfitted with the technophile essentials like high-speed wireless internet, crazily hidden HDTVs, heated floors, mood lighting… I easily spent half-an-hour just fiddling with the gadgets like the TV hidden in the mirror over the massive stone fireplace.

I stayed in the Da Vinci suite, with its bed constructed out of massive carved doors making me feel like I was nestled in a Tuscan farmhouse. Upon arrival I was even sweetly greeted by a little chocolate cake. Now that’s a class act. Continue reading


Getaways: Happy Valley

Nittany Lion, courtesy of Ben Stanfield

Nittany Lion, courtesy of Ben Stanfield

Nestled in the hills and valleys of the Allegheney Mountains, just 3 1/2 hours from the hustle and bustle of power brokers, power breakfasts, and newly powerful administrations, lies the scenic centre of Pennsylvania, perfect for a weekend getaway.

State College, home of Penn State University, along with Nittany Lions with their legendary coach Joe Paterno, isn’t always so quiet, though. On a football Saturday, over 200,000 fans from around the region stream into town, filling hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, and RV Parking Lots with boisterous fans. Its possible this could be JoePa’s last season at Penn State, so now is the time to visit Happy Valley.

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Adventures, Getaways

Getaways: Charlottesville, Virginia

enoteca and charlottesville mall

A month or so ago, Matt and I went on a weekend getaway to Charlottesville, Virginia. I was looking to shake DC for the weekend, and Charlottesville is about 4 hours away (round trip), a perfect weekend trip. Matt got his masters degree at UVA, and so he was thrilled to get to show me around his Alma mater.

We “named our own price” for a hotel on Priceline – something I encourage everyone to do, always. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be, you can save some SERIOUS money using it. We usually go for a four star hotel when we bid on travel, and I think we wound up getting the Holiday Inn for $60, over half off the $147 face price. If you’re willing to let go of a little control, or have a very well thought out strategy, you’re bound to wind up with at least half off the retail price wherever you go. We learned how to do Priceline through Bidding for Travel, it’s an easy way to educate yourself on good bidding strategy. It might be a little bit intar-webs ghetto, and the admin is a touch grumpy, but the site itself is a goldmine of bidding how-to and what you can expect to pay. But I digress. Continue reading

Food and Drink, Getaways, The Great Outdoors, Travel

Getaways: Wineries and a Pumpkin Patch down 66

Linden Vineyard Grounds

Weeks ago I was perusing my favorite local DC food blog, metrocurean, and got inspired by the Hurricane Wine Tasting post that blogger Amanda wrote about her recent winery trip. Having been to Barboursville recently, and loved it, I was antsy to take a trip out 66 to the wineries closer by, and Amanda provided me and my group of friends with the perfect trip planner. So the six of us set out on an afternoon trip.

Our first stop was Linden Vineyards. We piled in the cars and set out with our trusty GPS to guide us. We had heard this winery was one of the best in the state, and knew it was pretty prestigious and they were serious about their wine. So we were slightly surprised when we turned onto a 3-mile dirt road, but figured, well, if they say it’s this good, I guess you gotta work for it… And so we drove, and we drove, and Matt’s car got all kinds of dirty, but finally we arrive at Linden and it’s just gorgeous. See above. The porch faces the mountain (well, hill, if you’re going to get technical I suppose), people were having picnics on the lawn, the sky was blue.

So we went inside. It’s not too terribly inviting inside, just one single counter, no tables. We had a group of six, and the sign clearly said no groups larger than six. And they mean it. Amanda’s post had warned that the porch was reserved for “members” (ie: people who have bought a case of Linden wine during the calendar year). I didn’t think it would be quite so strict. Continue reading


Getaways: Lynchburg, VA


Looking up to the Lynchburg Museum from Church St.

Looking up to the Lynchburg Museum from Church St. Photo by Tom Bridge

Tom and I were in Lynchburg, VA this weekend for a dear friend’s wedding. I left the office early on Friday, hoping to dodge the traffic, but of course we were not successful, arriving at our hotel at 8:30 PM. The beautiful fall scenery would have to wait for our trip back on Sunday afternoon.

We stayed at a perfectly lovely boutique hotel, the Craddock Terry, named for the shoe company who used to have their factory in the same space. Our room was gorgeous, and there was an insert in the guest services notebook describing the furniture company who appointed it- a Ghanaian immigrant who had come to the US with $20 in his pocket 15 years ago and who now owned the company that did all the wood furnishings for the hotel. Of course, since I had come down with a bad cold and had a fever and nasty sinus congestion, all I was interested in was the bed, and settled into it right away. Exploring Lynchburg was going to have to wait.

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Getaways, The Great Outdoors

Tourism: Fall Apple Picking at Carter Mountain Orchard

red delicious macro

Fall, while not my favorite season, (fall does end in winter – you all know that, right?) does have some merits. Halloween, Thanksgiving, my birthday, and apples. Yummy, delicious apples. And where better to get crispy, fresh apples, but right from the source? So on a recent trip to Charlottesville, we headed to Carter Mountain Orchard to see what we could get.

High atop a mountain overlooking Charlottesville, Carter Mountain Orchard is apple heaven. As of today, you can expect to pick Stayman and Granny Smith, which began on October 4th and fresh Fuji, Braeburn, York, and Winesap which begin this weekend. When we went, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, and Jonagold were in season. Continue reading

Food and Drink, Getaways, The Daily Feed

Quattro Goombas Winery

Wine Bottles IMGP0221

My father was in town this past weekend so we took him on a short tour of the Virginia wine country in Aldie and Middleburg. Actually, we visited one winery and drove by two or three others along the way.

Quattro Goombas Winery is on Rt. 15 about a mile north of Rt. 50 in Aldie, VA. I have visited quite a number of wineries in my time and can tell you that I had an experience there that I have only had one other time. I liked every single wine I tasted. Often these things are hit and miss but this tasting hit like a Slant Six, each wine delicious, with its own characteristics and each one smooth.

If you have an afternoon free, go see these folks. It’s only an hour west of DC and you are sure to enjoy it. They will treat you right and at the end of the tasting you will feel like an honorary goomba yourself.

Featured Photo, Getaways

Featured Photo

A River Runs Through It by Brian Knight

Fact: I love DC.

Fact: I love this photo that was taken in Harpers Ferry.

Fact: Harper’s Ferry is in West Virginia, not in DC.

Can’t we all just get along?

I’ve been to Harpers Ferry a few times since I moved to DC a few years ago.  It’s only about an hour drive outside of the city, and a scenic one at that.  You pass fields of wildflowers, quaint little towns, and pumpkin patches along the way, as well as a bunch of Taco Bells which is an added bonus. Continue reading

Adventures, Getaways

Getaways: Gettysburg

Photo courtesy of Cavalier92
IMG_4238, courtesy of Cavalier92

Located only two hours from downtown DC, Gettysburg is probably the most well-known Civil War battlefield in the nation. Originally begun as a memorial in 1864, the battlefield was established as a National Military Park in 1895 and transferred to the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service in 1933.

The quite Pennsylvania countryside around Gettysburg became the turning point of the Civil War during three days in July 1863. When the smoke settled and the clash of arms subsided, over 20,000 soldiers were injured and close to 50,000 were casualties of the brutal fighting. In the end, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was a broken force; the South would never recover from the defeat. Continue reading


Getaways: Ocean City

Photo courtesy of amishah

Ocean City, Maryland, courtesy of amishah

When it came time to come up with this week’s getaway column I stepped up to volunteer to cover Ocean City. Why write a full column all by myself when I can instead lean on my darling fiancée to provide me with material on her hometown?

The trip out to Ocean City is notorious at the best of times, but this last week it’s been in the news a lot. I’ve never cared for their dual-tracking on that bridge and I go out of my way to either be on the far right hand lane on the Westbound trip or on the Southernmost bridge when I’m heading East. Once you make it over the Bay Bridge – hopefully without too much tooth grinding – you’re on Kent Island, a perfect not-quite-halfway place to stop for lunch or dinner. We’re partial to the Harris Crab House but there’s no shortage of options.

Put down that last hush puppy and get back on the road, buddy – time’s a-wasting. Continue reading


Getaways: Middleburg, VA

Middleburg Benches by compulsion

An hour outside DC, in the middle of hunt country, is a tiny little town called Middleburg. I’d been meaning to get out and explore it, and this summer’s CSAdventures have given us just the opportunity. Our farm, in Bluemont, and our friends’ dairy farm, encircle a 100-mile circuit with Middleburg at the dead center, perfect for a lunch. Driving the gently rolling hills and winding scenic byways has become a real joy for us each weekend. The ancient stone wall fences that surround so many of the country estates and farms of the hunt country are iconic, throwbacks to a time long passed.

The town itself sits on the John S. Mosby Highway (Route 50), halfway to the Blue Ridge. It’s only about a mile wide, and certainly no wider than a few blocks, but what’s contained therein is an impressive collection of prosperous businesses. Restaurants, Beds & Breakfast, Country Inns, this is the perfect little hamlet for escaping to the country for a quiet weekend away.

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