Amtrak: A Day in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Old Jul 25th, 2022, 02:31 PM
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Amtrak: A Day in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Hello!

I was visiting a friend in Richmond Virginia from my parents’ place in northern Virginia and decided to stop on the way back in Fredericksburg, a place that despite being between northern Virginia and Williamsburg, Va, where I did my undergrad, I had never visited.

And I would say it’s definitely a worthwhile stop for those interested in early US history. The look is very reminiscent of old town Alexandria although being in a further flung suburb of DC, is less built up. Caroline Street and the surrounding streets remind me a bit of King Street in Alexandria in architectural look and in that there are some charming looking restaurants, stores and cafes, albeit on a smaller scale.

My goal with the 4 hours I had between 2 Amtrak trains was to have lunch, view the Rappahannock River, see the Mary Washington House, the Kenmore House and the Monroe Museum. I did do all these things although I will admit to rushing the Monroe Museum.

The Mary Washington house was home to George Washington’s mother, who in numerous ways could be said to be instrumental in how the US nation came to be. Not only for giving birth to the first president but also for persuading him not to join the British navy, where colonials were less well treated than British and many sailors died. The tour was well-done, although it was excruciatingly hot today—I felt like I might pass out during the introduction on the porch; I don’t know how the woman in 18th century wide skirt garb and bonnet managed.

Mary’s home was humble in comparison to Kenmore, her daughter Betty’s home. The Kenmore had some remarkable stucco designed ceilings and carpets which were thought to be what Betty Washington Lewis had. Amazing in some ways it survived the Civil War. The grounds are also very beautiful.

Both tours were excellent, as was the quick tour I received of the Monroe Museum, with the guides all exceedingly knowledgeable on their subject matter.

All in all, I felt Fredericksburg was a definitely worthwhile stop, not only for those who like history and 18th/19th century architecture but also for those who like towns with a vibrant main street and non-chain shops, cafes and restaurants.

Happy Travels, Daniel
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Old Jul 25th, 2022, 02:35 PM
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Kenmore House

Rappahannock River view

Mary Washington House

Caroline Street, Fredericksburg
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 09:10 AM
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Thanks for this, Daniel. What a gorgeous brick home. Rhody's cousin and I met there twice and enjoyed it very much.

Should you (or others!) return, here's my TR:

https://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/gabfest-in-fredericksburg-va-1115826/

Last edited by TDudette; Jul 26th, 2022 at 09:13 AM.
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 09:30 AM
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Thanks for posting. I have always loved Fredericksburg and think it is a most overlooked historical place. There are homes of many famous people there and it is a nice place to explore.
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 10:19 AM
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Thanks tdudette and sassafrass for reading and commenting!

tdudette—I looked at your report and saw that you stayed at the Kenmore Inn (not financially linked to the house I’d presume?) which I did pass by and thought looked quite charming.

sassafrass—I agree that Fredericksburg is overlooked. Speaks in a way to the tremendous wealth of enriching activities there are in DC and vicinity.

What pleased me is that once arrived, I was able to walk to absolutely everything from the train station, making for such a pleasant and inexpensive day trip.
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 11:08 AM
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A lot of people would rate the 4 Civil War Battlefields in the area, 1 right in town, as the number one attractions in Fredericksburg. I will say that arriving by train saves a visitor from the horrendous I-95 and Hwy 3 traffic, since traffic is one of the characteristics of the area these days. Note that supplemental commuter rail to DC runs during the week but those times may not work for a day visitor.

I had an uncle who had a policy of "I am never touring another historic home," said they are all the same inside. It's not my sentiment exactly but I am sympathetic.
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 12:57 PM
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Lol tom_mn....DH and I were starting to feel that way about churches. 😇
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 01:11 PM
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Thanks for the report. When we visited Fredericksburg it was to see the battlefields. Sadly I missed the charming area you got to see. Maybe next time.
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 03:06 PM
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Tom_mn. I agree that the traffic in the DC area acts as a deterrent for people who are considering coupling a visit to Washington with a visit to Fredericksburg. And indeed the VRE (Virginia Railway Express) commuter trains don’t really help day-trippers to Fredericksburg out much but perhaps those who overnight. Some of the Amtrak trains though are not terribly expensive for Washington or Alexandria to Fredericksburg, so day trips are more feasible with them.

I wouldn’t say I pick destinations for historic homes although I usually do enjoy the tours—for the education of it, the sometimes interesting and entertaining storyteller guides, the unique stories and designs, as well as the occasional social element of it. I get why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea though .

oldemalloy— I think you might have enjoyed the historic center; I didn’t even realize there was a battlefield in Fredericksburg before going—sadly, didn’t plan enough time for it.
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Old Jul 27th, 2022, 07:38 AM
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I enjoy your trip reports. Thank you for sharing them. I am like-minded in that I enjoy visiting historic homes (and churches!) when traveling. I reach my limit on touring battlefields before my husband.

Noting your association with W&M, if you have not already done so give a little look into the life of woman who spearheaded the campaign to save Kemore from demolition in the 1920s. Kate Waller Barrett was a civic leader, philanthropist, and physician who was the second woman to serve on the College's Board of Visitors. And obviously the namesake of Barrett Hall.

F'burg can be a very feasible car trip from DC with some caveats. Leaving DC early in the morning, southbound I95 is usually an easy trip. Returning northbound in the early evening is typically a decent journey. Never Fri-Sun or holidays. And of course when I95 tips over, which it does often, it's pretty painful. (As a disclaimer. I spend more time on I95 and I64 between Williamsburg and DC than the average bear.)

I am in awe of how much ground you cover without a car when you travel. Props to you for that. Realistically, though, I suspect most people prefer to see the F'burg battlefields by car. Biking is a great option within the parks but less so in "great metro" F'burg.

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Old Jul 27th, 2022, 09:59 AM
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obxgirl— I remember seeing some portraits of several women involved in the preservation of Kenmore House while there, but even if I had seen the name Barrett, I wouldn’t have traced it to Barrett Hall at William & Mary, so thanks for tying the two together for me.

I love my adventures by train but I think you’re right that probably most would want the flexibility of a car, so thanks also for suggesting the best times to drive from DC to FXBG and back. Maybe that will inspire someone to visit Fredericksburg from Washington by automobile.

Best wishes Daniel
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Old Jul 27th, 2022, 11:26 AM
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Fascinating link to W&M, Obxgirl.

Great trip report, Daniel. Thank you! Fburg is often a lunch stop for us if we get a late start heading up 95. We avoid the chains off the highway and like to try the restaurants downtown. The last time we did that, we found and enjoyed the Mason-Dixon Cafe. Bonus, it was next door to Carls Frozen Custard.

I love old house tours and have been on several over the last year. I’m starting to see the tours incorporate the histories of the slaves that worked for and supported the owners and their wealth building enterprises. I’ve found that the amount of knowledge in this area that the docents share varies from rich and informative at the William Paca house in Annapolis to dismal and barely a whisper of info at the Joseph Manigault house in Charleston. Many of them are researching the names, life histories and skills of these people that were so important to the running of the houses. Shame on houses and their interpreters that continue to ignore this aspect of the history of the houses and owners. When I asked the docent at the Manigault house about the slaves, she only referred to them as part of the owners wealth. Dollar bills.
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Old Jul 27th, 2022, 03:08 PM
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And thank you, Birdie, for the cafe and frozen custard idea. That frozen custard would have been heaven given Monday’s heat and humidity. I didn’t quite make it to that part of town (was maybe 5 blocks away on Fauquier Street), but did have a nice cool Diet Coke with my burger at Sammy T’s on Caroline Street. One thing I really like about being back in the States this summer is the free refills on drinks!

As for the house tours, the guides at Mary Washington and Kenmore House addressed the lives of the slaves who worked at both respectfully I felt.
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Old Jul 27th, 2022, 05:50 PM
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Add me to Birdie's Paca House words. Annapolis is a wonderful Colonial site...Chestertown also.
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Old Jul 27th, 2022, 06:32 PM
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tdudette—I checked out a trip report I wrote on Annapolis back in 2008 on my first visit there as I wanted to verify it was the Paca House I saw and indeed it was. It was fun to see a comment of yours on that report too; I thought how nice that we’ve communicated, sharing travel experiences for at least 14 years now! And to this day, I think of Annapolis as such a charming historic jewel of the mid-Atlantic, whose walkability, street life and harbour I remember fondly!
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Old Jul 28th, 2022, 05:45 AM
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Did you take a bus from D.C. to Annapolis, Daniel? If so, I remember that aspect of your TR...my Kindle won't let me scroll through your TRs...will try on the computer. 14 years! Were you still in high school?! 😇
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Old Jul 28th, 2022, 06:04 AM
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OK, I did a computer search for your TR, Daniel: (Car-less in) Annapolis: The Jewel of the Mid-Atlantic?

I tried to find busses TO D.C. after Rhody died in 2010...pre-covid. At that time, it looked like commuter busses were still the biggest options and one still had to get to parking spaces at the bus stops. Anyone know if things have changed?

PS...I always enjoy your TRs. Your travel POV is shared by many on Fodor's.
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Old Jul 28th, 2022, 06:08 AM
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tdudette—Alas, I was far out of high school 14 years ago. Your memory is nearly right; I took the bus from New Carrollton to Annapolis, which appears to no longer exist. Cheers, Daniel

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Old Jul 28th, 2022, 12:02 PM
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I meant to mention a sort of interesting observation I made as well this trip. On my friend’s driveway in Richmond, I observed a lizard scurrying on the asphalt in her carport. And then again, in Fredericksburg, I saw a lizard moving quickly on a wall near the train station. However, I can’t ever recollect seeing a lizard near my parents’ in the DC suburbs (within the Beltway) or in the city of Baltimore when I lived there. Seems sort of odd to me that the dividing line for lizard habitat would be between Fredericksburg and the DC Beltway.
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Old Jul 28th, 2022, 12:58 PM
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Coincidentally, I just spotted a little lizard outside my doc's office in the Annapolis area! We know it didn't take the bus....😁😂
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