Spring 2013 Travel: Orange, Virginia
When Orange turns green, it’s a beautiful sight. But scenery isn’t the only reason to get away to this peaceful part of central Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountain foothills.
Inn at Willow Grove
Drive time: 4 hours, 30 minutes.
Stay and eat here:
Inn at Willow Grove
Beignets in the morning, tea service at night—your personal butler will do what it takes to make you feel pampered at this circa-1778 manor house and cottages set on 40 lavishly landscaped acres.
At the Vintage Restaurant at the Inn at Willow Grove, you can order one of chef Jason Daniels’ seasonal specialties off the á la carte menu ($27-$35). Or you can really get a taste of his diverse style with a bunch of $5 small plates on Tapas Wednesdays, the three-course prix-fixe dinner ($29.95) on Thursdays, or a customized tasting menu any night ($75 for five courses, $125 with wines). Rooms $250 weekdays, $295 weekends (double occupancy); suites and cottages $395-$425, $395-$525. 14079 Plantation Way (on Route 15), Orange; (540) 317-1206, innatwillowgrove.com.
James Madison’s Montpelier
General admission includes a guided tour of the home of our fourth president and his famously fashionable wife. Explore the 2,650-acre gardens and grounds on your own. $18/adults, $7/kids 6-14. 11407 Constitution Highway, Montpelier Station; (540) 672-2728, montpelier.org.
Civil War Museum at the Exchange Hotel
On select Friday evenings, this former Civil War hospital offers four-hour ghost tours for $25. Regular daily tours are $8 for adults and $4 for kids. 400 S. Main St., Gordonsville; (540) 832-2944, hgiexchange.org.
Blue Ridge Biplane Rides
The wild blue yonder has never been wilder than when you’re doing loops, rolls and spins in a ’40s-era open-cockpit Waco ($400 for 25 minutes). If you’re equilibrium is iffy, try a countryside flyover ($250 for 30 minutes, $400 per hour). Culpeper Airport, 12517 Beverly Ford Road, Brandy Station; (888) 760-8202, blueridgebiplanes.com.
Oakland Heights Farm Horseback Riding
Trade in the car for some four-legged horsepower and take in the spectacular scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills on a guided one-hour trail ride. $40; must be at least 6 years old. 17110 James Madison Highway, Gordonsville; (540) 832-3350, oaklandheightsfarm.com.
For thrifty types:
Sample the signature Octagon blend of merlot at Barboursville Vineyards. 17655 Winery Road, Barboursville; (540) 832-3824, barboursvillewine.net.
For dessert, sip a sweet Acai or chocolate-essence-enhanced blend from Horton Vineyards. 6399 Spotswood Trail, Gordonsville; (800) 829-4633, hvwine.com.
Veteran chefs Paul and Sarah Deigl focus their passion for everything fresh and local on lunchtime soup/salad/sandwich revelations at Real Food, their no-bigger-than-a-shoebox eatery. Most menu items are $4-$6.50. 12267 Old Gordonsville Road, Gordonsville; (540) 661-7261, realfoodva.com.
It can get pretty messy when you’re chowing down on the real thing, served up by Culinary Institute of America grads Craig and Donna Hartman at the Barbeque Exchange. Most platters are less than $10. 102 Martinsburg Ave., Gordonsville; (540) 832-0227; bbqex.com.
A 20-minute drive northeast from Orange, tiny Culpeper is teeming with restaurants, boutiques and antique shops. The Cameleer features a huge selection of crafts from around the world, ranging from the whimsical to the big wow. 125 E. Davis St., (540) 825-8073, thecameleer.com.
Sara Schneidman Gallery is home to a Philly-born watercolor artist whose colorful, feel-good designs are interpreted on home
décor items, toys and stationery. 122 E. Davis St., (540) 825-0034, saraschneidman.com.
Drive an extra 10 minutes to Brandy Station’s Graffiti House, where you can see messages and drawings scrawled on an upstairs wall by Confederate and federal soldiers during the Civil War. Free. 19484 Brandy Road, (540) 727-7718, brandystationfoundation.com.