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  • Middleburg, Virginia
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    Middleburg,

    Virginia

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    Middleburg is a town in Loudoun County, Virginia, United States, with a population of 673 as of the 2010 census. It is the southernmost town along Loudoun County's shared border with Fauquier County. Middleburg is known as the "Nation's Horse and Hunt Capital" for its foxhunting, steeplechases, and large estates. The Middleburg Historic District, comprising the 19th-century center of town, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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    Inspiration

    19 Romantic Staycation Ideas for Valentine's Day Weekend

    As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, hotels and destinations around the U.S. have been doing their best to reopen safely, initiating strict health and safety protocols and updates like contactless check-in to help restore confidence in travel among visitors and keep employees safe. Valentine’s Day is happening during a long weekend this year, making it a great time to escape with your beloved to a remote cabin in the woods or try a romantic staycation closer to home. According to a recent study by vacation rental search engine HomeToGo, U.S. travelers are booking Valentine’s Day weekend vacations 48% more than they did last year, prioritizing trips to remote cabins and rural destinations over busy cities. Searches have increased the most for rentals in the Adirondack Mountains and Windham in New York, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Banner Elk in North Carolina, Captiva Island and Anna Maria Island in Florida, Aspen and Colorado Springs in Colorado, Big Sky in Montana and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, with travelers requesting whirlpools, Wi-Fi and pet-friendly perks as top amenities. For those willing to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow the rules in the places they visit, there are plenty of affordable romantic packages to be had. Here’s a look at 19 of our favorites, all available for under $220 a night. Maine In South Berwick, The Stage House Inn’s romance package includes a $100 credit at its onsite restaurant Dufour, a bottle of prosecco and homemade truffles to enjoy during your stay. Rates from $199 a night when you book by calling (207) 704-0516 and stay between February 11 and March 13, 2021. Rhode Island Hotel Viking in Newport wants you to celebrate the good times with a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine and breakfast for two at One Bellevue Restaurant. Rates start at $199 a night when you book through this link. Virginia Just 20 minutes from Washington, D.C, Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria’s Valentine’s Day package comes with locally made treats like a cocoa mask kit for two and two Bailey’s chocolate mousse cheesecakes from the Alexandria Makers Market. Rates start at $179 a night and include late 2 p.m. check-out. Northern Virginia is also a great place for day trips to local wineries, with most sporting socially distanced seating with heaters and fire pits for you and your beloved to cozy up next to as you sip locally made wine. Stop by Cana Vineyards & Winery in Middleburg, Cave Ridge Vineyard & Winery in Mount Jackson, Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville, Potomac Point Winery & Vineyard in Stafford, Montifalco Vineyard in Ruckersville, Valley Road Vineyards in Afton or King Family Vineyard in Crozet — all within a 2.5-hour drive of Washington D.C. North Carolina Calling all Nicholas Sparks fans: Get ready to geek out in Beaufort — where two of his novels, A Walk to Remember and The Choice were set — with Beaufort Hotel’s A Ride to Remember package. In addition to a one-night stay, you’ll get a special keepsake and two tickets to the Ride to Remember guided bike tour of Beaufort. Use promo code PRIDE to unlock rates from $169 a night. Florida Celebrate Valentine’s Day all month long at Plunge Beach Resort, located in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea about 45 minutes north of Miami. As part of the romance package, you’ll get a free bottle of Champagne and a $30 breakfast credit to use at one of the resort’s onsite restaurants, with rates from $179 a night in February. Tennessee Bode’s Valentine’s Day promotion includes a 14% discount and a complimentary bottle of prosecco when you book a night at either of its two Tennessee properties now thru February 15, 2021. Rates start at $171 a night at Bode Nashville and $111 a night at Bode Chattanooga with promo code BEMINE. Texas In Austin, Lone Star Court’s retro-style Valentine package comes with complimentary Wi-Fi and parking, a bottle of bubbly and a special kit so you can create your own s’mores by one of the onsite fire pits. Rates from $144 per night. With rates from $149 a night, Hyatt Regency Houston’s romance package treats guests to a bottle of Champagne and chocolates upon arrival, complimentary parking and late 2 p.m. check-out. Call (713) 654-1234 or choose the romance package offer when booking this deal online. Le Meridien Houston Downtown’s Better Together package is bookable for Friday and Saturday stays only, making it the perfect excuse to plan a romantic night in. You’ll get a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, late check-out, VIP access to the rooftop bar, Z on 23, and two house cocktails, with rates from $204 per night. The Westin Stonebriar in Frisco, about a 30-minute drive from Dallas, treats guests to sparkling wine and gourmet chocolates, late check-out and a romantic four-course dinner for two at its restaurant, Herd & Hearth, as part of its Retreat to Romance package. Rates from $209 per night for stays February 12-14, 2021. About 90 minutes from Dallas, head to East Texas for a romantic and socially distanced stroll at the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, home to 14 acres and 35,000 rose bushes sporting over 500 varieties of roses. Afterward, drive 40 minutes south to Jacksonville for a romantic retreat at Hotel Ritual and Wellness Center, with rates from $150 a night and all-inclusive amenities like complimentary cocktails, daily gourmet breakfast, spa pools (treatments are extra), sauna access and free snacks, coffee and tea all day long. New Mexico Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a complimentary bottle of bubbly at El Rey Court in Santa Fe when you stay between February 11-15, 2021. Use promo code HEART to unlock rates from $150 per night. Missouri St. Louis is the place to be Valentine’s Day weekend, with a socially distanced jazz extravaganza at BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups on February 13 (tickets from $20) and a special Valentine’s dinner at Lemp Mansion Restaurant & Inn February 11–13. Spend a romantic — and potentially haunted — night at the Inn, with rates from $150 a night Sunday thru Thursday and from $205 a night Friday and Saturday. Wisconsin If a romantic cabin in the woods is more your style, the following are all located within a 90-minute drive of Madison, with a two-night minimum stay required. In Platteville, Walnut Ridge is home to two luxury log cabins, each with a perfectly placed whirlpool spa by the fire and rates from $150 to $170 per night. Rustic Ridge Log Cabins in Merrimac offers five upscale and spacious log cabins with Wi-Fi, fireplaces and in some, Jacuzzis so the two of you can spend some much-needed alone time in Wisconsin wilderness. Seasonal rates from $219 a night thru March 2, then from $199 a night thru May 4. In Oxford, escape to A Secret Cottage for a romantic stay in the country with a private lake, whirlpool tub, fireplace, spacious front porch, fully stocked kitchen and a skylight upstairs so you can snuggle under the stars. Rates on Friday, Saturday and holidays start at $155 a night, while they’re from $150 a night for Sunday through Thursday stays. Nebraska You really can’t get more romantic than celebrating Valentine’s Day in an actual town called Valentine. If you’re up for a drive, Heartland Elk Ranch — located about five hours from Omaha in the north-central part of the state — is home to four beautifully furnished cabins close to hiking trails and stocked fishing ponds, as well as a herd of 50-75 elk that roams the area freely. Enjoy views of the Niobrara National Scenic River, with rates from $155 a night Monday thru Thursday and from $165 a night Friday thru Sunday and on holidays. In Omaha, celebrate your love at the same hotel John and Jackie Kennedy once visited for their 5th year anniversary, the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, formerly known as the Blackstone Hotel. Its Love is All Around Us package gives guests a special amenity, valet parking, two tickets to redeem for free wine or tea at the Fontenelle Room and a complimentary yoga class in the Gold Coast Ballroom if you’re there on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

    Inspiration

    Meet Our Favorite Hotel Pets

    From rescue pups and fluffy cats to talkative parrots and a family of penguins, adorable animals are doing double duty at hotels around the country. Not only do they make guests smile with free cuddles, many of them are also hotel "employees," fulfilling duties like leading guests on hikes, ringing the bell at the front desk, and leading philanthropic efforts in their communities. An added bonus? Research shows pets can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and isolation, which is good for hotel staff and guests alike. Get to know some of the cutest hotel pets out there, guaranteed to put a smile on your face the moment they greet you. Oreo at the Armstrong Hotel: Fort Collins, Colorado (Courtesy the Armstrong Hotel) The grand hostess of the Armstrong Hotel (thearmstronghotel.com), a historic property in Fort Collins that will reopen this April following a renovation, can often be found curled up in a window seat in the lobby or stretched out on the front desk. Adopted as a kitten 14 years ago, majestic Oreo is as popular with hotel guests as she is with locals. She has many friends who live in the area and come to visit her each week, and as such, she’s developed a few tricks to keep them entertained, like raising her paw for a high-five (for treats, of course). During winters in Colorado, Oreo tends to get a little stir crazy; come spring, you can find her sprawled out on the sidewalk enjoying the sunshine, much to the delight of Mugs Coffee Lounge visitors next door. Sasha at Bobby Hotel: Nashville, Tennessee (Courtesy Bobby Hotel) Adopted from a local shelter, Sasha arrived at the Bobby Hotel (bobbyhotel.com) in Nashville when it opened in April 2018. As the resident hotel dog (not to mention Instagram star, @ahoteldog), she takes her welcoming duties very seriously—greeting guests as they enter the lobby, playing fetch, and ringing her own gold bellman's bell. Though she’s been in her "forever home" less than a year, she’s already doing her part to give back to other animals who need rescuing: Towels in each guest room embroidered with Sasha’s face are available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the Country Road Animal Rescue, from which she was adopted. She was overjoyed to accompany the hotel team in bringing the shelter a check—along with much-needed items like dog beds, toys and food—after the holidays last year. Sunshine and Chance at The Palms Hotel & Spa: Miami Beach, Florida (Courtesy the Palms Hotel & Spa) These two birds might be the longest-standing residents of the Palms Hotel & Spa (thepalmshotel.com) in Miami Beach. Macaw parrots Sunshine, 18, and Chance, 29, first arrived at the resort as rescue animals 16 years ago, and have since become the property’s sociable mascots. They spend their days in the shade of the Little Gazebo, engaging in friendly conversation (Sunshine often says, “Hola!” in response to a greeting) and posing for selfies with guests passing by on their way for a swim. On at least one occasion, their proximity to the pool has led to the parrots engaging in a game of Marco Polo with kids, chiming in with a “polo!” call of their own. The lovable duo plan on enjoying many more years at the Palms, as the average life expectancy of macaws is about 50 years. Oreo, Nahu, Buddah, Zen, Mai, Tai, and Momi at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa: Maui, Hawaii (Courtesy Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa) You might not expect to find penguins in Hawaii, but this unlikely group is living their best life in the tropical climate at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa (hyatt.com). African black-footed penguins, an endangered species, began their tenure on the island in 1985, when the wildlife team at the property rescued George, Waddles, and Oreo. The only remaining resident is Oreo—he’s outlived the average life expectancy of his species (roughly 10 to 20 years in the wild or 30 in captivity), though he now has a large ʻohana --that's Hawaiian for family--to keep him company. Guests can visit them any time in the atrium lobby, though the 9:30 a.m. feedings are a must-see. (Just watch out for Buddah, the bossy one). The resort also has parrots, swans, flamingos, ducks, and African-crowned cranes on the property and offers wildlife tours around the grounds three times a week. Katie and Betsy at the Betsy Hotel: South Beach, Florida (Courtesy the Betsy Hotel) Brought to their home at the Betsy Hotel (thebetsyhotel.com) as puppies by their owners, the Plutzik family, these beautiful golden retrievers (Katie, 14, and Betsy, 3) have become a bedrock of the community there. Officially dubbed Canine Executive Officers, the pair can almost always be found hanging out in the corner of the lobby, especially on Friday afternoons, when they engage with guests during a formal meet-and-greet called “CEO Cocktails with Katie and Betsy.” Both dogs keep a busy social calendar, making regular appearances at corporate meetings the hotel hosts, as well as philanthropic events around the community. Older and wiser, Katie is quite the muse; she even inspired a poem by award-winning poet Gerald Stern when he was a guest at the hotel. Hamlet at the Algonquin Hotel: New York City (Courtesy Algonquin Hotel) Though he’s been at New York City's Algonquin Hotel (algonquinhotel.com) for less than two years, this calm, playful ginger is already a celebrity, surveying the lobby's happenings from his "treehouse” perch atop the front desk. He particularly delights guests when he hops down for a personal greeting while they’re checking in. For a feline, he’s quite the patient little guy, allowing children to pet him, going nose-to-nose with visiting dogs, and occasionally flopping over for a belly rub. But it's not all play: Hamlet puts in long hours as the official DirectFurr of Public Relations for the hotel, a role that includes cohosting an annual cat fashion show for charity in August. Lucky for him, he’s handsomely rewarded for his work—guests frequently send him gifts like cards and toys. Cupcake at Salamander Resort and Spa: Middleburg, Virginia (Courtesy Salamander Resort & Spa) She's only 32 inches tall, but what this miniature pony lacks in size, she more than makes up for in personality. As the equine ambassador for Salamander Resort & Spa (salamanderresort.com) in Middleburg, which has an on-site equestrian center, she’s a star and she knows it. Find her in the lobby Friday and Saturday afternoons, clad in a blue rhinestone halter to welcome guests to the hotel. That’s only the start of her responsibilities, however: She’s in high demand for appearances at conferences and birthday parties (complete with custom cupcakes from the in-house pastry team) held on the property, and she even visits individual guest rooms upon request. In keeping with her diva status, Cupcake has a diva-caliber wardrobe for every occasion—think: red, white, and blue tutus for the Fourth of July, shamrock barrettes for St. Patrick’s Day, and red bows for Christmas. Mr. Nutkin at Deer Path Inn: Lake Forest, Illinois (Courtesy Deer Path Inn) Deer Path Inn (deerpathinn.com) has celebrated the legend of its resident squirrel for nearly 90 years, since the English-inspired manor first opened in Lake Forest. (Don’t worry, the little guy stays outside, though squirrel figurines are scattered throughout the interiors in his honor). Adventurous, curious, and amiable, the current Mr. Nutkin often greets guests at the entrance, standing guard like a British soldier. He's so well-known throughout the community that locals pop by in the hopes of spotting him through the windows of the English Room during afternoon tea service. “His warm and fuzzy presence completes the Deer Path Inn family,” says innkeeper Matt Barba. Notorious for having a full belly, especially in preparation for a Chicago winter, Mr. Nutkin once inspired a turndown snack of chocolate acorns. Zoey at Cloud Camp: Colorado Springs, Colorado (Courtesy Cloud Camp) Ever since she arrived at Cloud Camp (broadmore.com/cloud-camp), a lodge perched 3,000 feet above The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, in summer 2017, 6-year-old Zoey has started her day at 5:00 a.m. Her duties begin with the raising of the flag, followed by leading guests on hikes and welcoming visitors. Trained as a bird dog, she’s incredibly obedient, yet also very nurturing. Zoe once showed her softer side when a woman who was terrified of dogs arrived at the lodge; sensing that she needed special attention, the sweet pup spent time with her each day, gently helping her overcome her fear. The woman called it a life-changing experience, says Cloud Camp staff. When she’s not on duty, Zoey’s been known to mingle with royals. She once had her photo taken with the Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps of Belgium, the great-great-granddaughter of hotel's founders.

    Inspiration

    Exploring Shenandoah Country

    Fabled in song and story-remember Shenandoah! the movie (with James Stewart) and Broadway musical?-Virginia's Shenandoah Country welcomes visitors with a full agenda of compelling things to see and do: Civil War history, wine tastings, nineteenth-century villages, cave tours, antiques shopping, a museum filled with colorful Rose Parade floats, tubing on the Shenandoah River, a visit to a gourmet potato chip factory. Happily, many of these activities are free, and the rest won't bust your budget. Similarly, chain motels quoting rates of $55 to $65 for two are plentiful, and you can dine nightly on roast ham, fried chicken, tasty pork barbecue, and other Virginia treats for about $10 per person. Consider this four-day, 450-mile drive a down-home getaway. By Shenandoah Country, I mean both Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park. The 110-mile-long valley is tucked between the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west. Traced by the meandering Shenandoah River, it is a popular regional playground. The national park embraces a 100-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge, where forested peaks climb above 4,000 feet. On this circle tour, you will drive south through the valley and return north on Skyline Drive, the park's scenic ridgetop road. A fertile region of farms and orchards set among green, rolling hills, the Shenandoah Valley has played an important role in American history. In the early eighteenth century it was the raw frontier, where a young Colonel George Washington commanded Virginia troops during the French and Indian War. In the Civil War, it became the breadbasket of the Confederacy, feeding General Robert E. Lee's troops until almost the end. General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Lee's valued lieutenant, earned his first laurels defending the valley. Both are buried in Lexington, a pretty Shenandoah Valley college town that today is something of a Southern Civil War shrine. In a hurry, you can drive the length of the valley from Winchester in the north to Lexington in the south in a little over two hours on busy I-81. But on this trip, we'll stick mostly to U.S. 11, the Old Valley Pike, a lightly traveled, mostly two-lane road that covers the same route at a more leisurely pace. As a city dweller, I often pull over to watch newborn farm animals-calves, colts, kids, and lambs-scampering in the fields. Getting started Fly into one of the Washington, D.C., area's three airports. Generally, the best fares are available into Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) in suburban Maryland, a hub for Southwest Airlines, America's largest discount airline. America West, another discounter, also operates out of BWI. But the most convenient airport is Washington Dulles International (IAD) in suburban Virginia, served by a trio of discount carriers: AirTran, America West, and JetBlue. Discounters ATA and America West fly into Washington's third airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), just minutes from the White House and the U.S. Capitol. This drive begins at Dulles, located less than an hour from Shenandoah Valley. Dulles is 60 miles from BWI and 35 miles from Reagan National. Rental cars average $175 a week at various Dulles counters. Day one: On the road From Washington Dulles International Airport to Winchester, Virginia, 60 miles. The drive gets off to a scenic start, crossing through Virginia's affluent horse country. Stately stone mansions stand surrounded by acres of broad green pastures, where aristocratic-looking steeds graze contentedly. Jacqueline Kennedy lived and rode here. To view the rich, stop in Middleburg, the hub of the horsey set. Browse its elegant antiques shops just to see the museum-quality items for sale. A few miles west, the road (U.S. 50) skirts the little village of Paris and climbs a modest Blue Ridge pass called Ashby Gap. From the summit, you descend into the Shenandoah Valley. In minutes, you will cross the Shenandoah River, which flows rather lazily in summer en route to its confluence with the Potomac River. This drive crisscrosses the Shenandoah many times. Winchester claims to be the first city established west of the Blue Ridge. At least eight structures in the Old Town district date back to the late 1700s. Among them is George Washington's Office, a log-and-stone cabin preserved as a museum (adults, $5). It focuses on the year 1755 to 1756, when Washington was assigned to protect the western frontier from attack. Nearby, the white home with a cannon on the lawn is Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters (540/667-3242; $5), a museum detailing Jackson's stay from 1861 to 1862, when his troops fought off Union attempts to seize the valley. Winchester is said to have changed hands more than 70 times during the Civil War. Country music fans will want to see the home, grave site, and other landmarks celebrating the life of singer Patsy Cline, who was born and raised in Winchester. Pick up free brochures about local area attractions at the Winchester-Frederick County Visitor Center (800/662-1360; 1360 S. Pleasant Valley Rd.). Details From Dulles, take Virginia Route 28 south five miles to U.S. 50 west to Winchester. Stay at the 113-room Red Roof Inn (540/667-5000), $60; or the 62-room Super 8 (800/800-8000), $55 weekdays, $65 weekends. Dine with the local folks at the friendly, funky Amherst Diner (540/665-4450), where the pork chop plate with dressing and vegetables is priced at an easy $7.25. More romantic is the Cork Street Tavern (540/667-3777). Try the broiled trout at $9.95. Information 800/662-1360, visitwinchesterva.com. Day two: Winchester to Lexington, 160 miles Today's drive mostly follows U.S. 11 past prosperous farms and quiet nineteenth-century towns, each with a special attraction. Still a breadbasket, the Shenandoah Valley markets lots of locally grown produce. But perhaps its most famous edibles are the gourmet potato chips made at Route 11 Potato Chips, a small factory in Middletown, just south of Winchester. The chips are fried the old-fashioned way-hand-stirred in small batches in bubbling kettles. Visitors can watch through the kitchen window (no charge). Samples on Friday and Saturday; best to come before 11 a.m. On October 19, 1864, Middletown was the setting for the last great Civil War battle in the valley, when the North finally claimed victory. The story is told at the Cedar Creek Battlefield Visitor Center ($5), which overlooks a landscape little changed since then. In the distance stately Belle Grove ($7), an eighteenth-century plantation home, is maintained as a museum by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. You don't have to tour the house to enjoy its magnificent Blue Ridge views. Walk among the gardens and orchards at no cost. Both sites are part of the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park. Down the road in Strasburg, browse the Great Strasburg Antiques Emporium, where 100 dealers display objects (some expensive, most not) from America's past. My wife frequently snaps up fancy porcelain serving dishes at a bargain. Treat the kids to a swim at Half-Moon Beach Park ($5 adult, $3 ages four to nine, add $2 on weekends), a 16-acre rock-quarry lake in the woods with a five-acre white-sand beach. It's the Strasburg swimming pool. On to Edinburg, home of Shenandoah Vineyards. In recent years, Virginia's more than 70 wineries have begun winning raves for quality vintages. Judge for yourself at the vineyard's rustic tasting room, a red barn in the midst of 40 acres of grapevines. I stopped recently to sample a fruity Chardonnay and the offbeat Shenandoah Ruby. No charge for tasting, and the view is grand. Now it's the youngsters' turn for fun again. Take them to American Celebration on Parade ($8), a massive museum of famous parade floats located south of Mount Jackson. The museum displays 27 huge floats, all but three of which appeared in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. I'm a Northerner, and my sympathies do not lie with the Confederate cause. This said, I can admit that I came away touched by the story told at the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park ($8) in New Market. On May 15, 1864, a band of 247 teenage cadets, hastily assembled at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, charged an attacking Union line and helped win a Southern victory. The Visitor Center movie, Field of Lost Shoes, which focuses on the death of one young Confederate hero, is especially poignant. Enough sightseeing for the day? Relax and enjoy the scenery as you cover the remaining 75 miles to Lexington. En route, take a look at Staunton's beautifully restored nineteenth-century town center. And connect here to Virginia Route 252 to Lexington, one of the valley's loveliest roads. A twisting, two-lane pathway, it tops a series of rolling hills, yielding a view of farm-country America as beautiful as you could hope to find. Every turn presents a landscape worthy of a painting: a grand old farmhouse on the far hilltop; a tall, brick silo looking worn but solid; bales of hay rolled up in the fields; a pasture of Black Angus cattle knee-deep in lush, green grass; lots of sheep, of course; Moffatts Creek tumbling by the roadside; and thick stands of trees, where the branches reach across the road to form a shimmering tunnel in the sunlight. Details From Winchester, take U.S. 11 south to Staunton, connecting to Virginia Route 252/39 into Lexington. Stay in Lexington at the 50-room Super 8 (800/800-8000), $65 weekdays, $72 weekends; or the 148-room Red Oak Inn (800/521-9131), $65 weekdays, $75 weekends. Dine at Aunt Sarah's Restaurant (540/464-5227); the cod plate is $7. Information 877/453-9822, lexingtonvirginia.com. Day three: Blue Ridge Vistas Lexington to Skyland Resort, 140 miles Spend the morning touring Lexington on foot. Pick up a map at the Visitor Center (106 E. Washington St.). Visit Robert E. Lee's tomb at Washington and Lee University, where Lee served as president after the Civil War, and the Stonewall Jackson House ($5), which Jackson bought when he was a professor at Virginia Military Institute. Pay your respects, too, to their famous horses. Lee's horse Traveller is buried on the grounds of Washington and Lee; Jackson's mount, Little Sorrel, stands as if alive at the VMI Museum. In a glass case nearby is the raincoat Jackson was wearing when he was accidentally shot. Look for the fatal bullet hole below the left shoulder. From Lexington, begin the return trip north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We will cover only 20 miles of the famed 469-mile ridgetop parkway, but it's enough to give you a taste of this spectacular drive. Keep an eye open for deer, which are plentiful. Glide down from the mountains on Virginia Route 56 to Vesuvius to visit the McCormick Farm (no charge) in yet another gorgeous pastoral setting. Here in 1831 Cyrus McCormick demonstrated the first successful mechanical grain reaper in the fields near his farm. Tour his blacksmith shop and gristmill, and a museum. Head back into the mountains at Waynesboro, southern gateway to Shenandoah National Park. The park's 105-mile Skyline Drive was built to show off the scenery. Flowing like a stream among the rocky peaks, it offers grand valley views. Far below, green pastures and golden fields form a patchwork quilt, and the Shenandoah River makes silvery loops. Skyline tempts motorists to stop at nearly 80 overlooks. That's one way to see the park. The best way, though, is to go for a walk in the woods. About 28 miles into the park, Ivy Creek Overlook provides an opportunity to hike a short, rock-strewn stretch of the Appalachian Trail. You might bump into a bear here, but don't count on it. Tonight's stay is in the park. At dusk, watch the lights twinkle on in the valley. Details From Lexington, take U.S. 60 east to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Travel 20 miles north and exit on Virginia Route 56 west. At Steeles Tavern take U.S. 11/340 north to Waynesboro and the entrance to Shenandoah National Park. Follow Skyline Drive to Skyland Resort. Stay at 174-room Skyland (800/999-4714), beginning at $55 weekdays, $70 weekends. Also in the park is 97-room Big Meadows Lodge (800/999-4714), beginning at $70 weekdays, $85 weekends. Dine with a grand view at Skyland Resort or Big Meadows. At Skyland, the fried-chicken plate with apple fritters is $9.55. Information 540/999-3500, nps.gov/shen. Day Four: On the River Skyland Resort to Dulles Airport, 100 miles From Skyland, drop back down into the valley for one last look. In Luray, consider a one-hour tour of Luray Caverns ($16), which claims to be the region's largest cave. A guide leads the way through cathedral-size chambers of fantastical stone formations. Easier on the budget is the adjacent Garden Maze ($5), a one-acre footpath puzzle formed by eight-foot-tall evergreens. Save time for a Shenandoah River trip. At Bentonville, 14 miles north, Downriver Canoe Company (800/338-1963, downriver.com) will put you on the Shenandoah in a canoe, rubber raft, kayak, or inner tube. A three-mile, three-hour tube float with shuttle service costs $14 per person. Or plan a picnic at Shenandoah River State Park ($3 per car), which boasts five miles of river frontage. And then head for the airport and home. Details From Skyland Resort, head north ten miles, exiting west to Luray on U.S. 211. From Luray, take U.S. 340 north through Bentonville to Front Royal. Return to Dulles quickly on I-66 east to Virginia Route 28 north.

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