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Virginia - What order to see things in a 7 day October trip?

Virginia - What order to see things in a 7 day October trip?

Old Jan 29th, 2014, 09:59 PM
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Virginia - What order to see things in a 7 day October trip?

We're two California couples coming to Washington DC (four nights) and Virginia (8 nights). We've already booked the Tabard Inn in Washington and will have three full days there. We fly into Dulles and out of Richmond, Virginia.

VIRGINIA: We have 7 full days to see things in Virginia. We're interested in hiking, historic sights such as the presidential houses, colonial towns, other historic houses and gardens and other things we can't see at home. I also love historic cemeteries.

The four of us have come up with a preliminary list of what we would like to see. For those of you that know Virginia, can you make suggestions about how best to see the following? We're not sure about which order to see things and how to build a trip so that we're not staying only one night in many different places (driving times look short between many of these places). We can't easily tell if this list is way too long for the 7 days we have.

Alexandria
Mount Vernon
Great Falls
Charlottesville
Monticello
Montpelier
Monroe home (Ash Lawn?)
Shenandoah NP (stay in the lodge and have a good day hike?)
Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown (time for all three?)
Richmond

These are some of the obvious things we found so far. Have we missed something that we could do around these other sights? Appreciate any suggestions, and thanks.
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 01:57 AM
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I don't know Great Falls but the others are all Worth It. I would stay in Charlottesville for the historic houses and to visit a winery or two, as long as you don't expect a lot from the wines. Barboursville is set up like a Napa winery with a seasonal restaurant and euro style plates available all the time. Charlottesville is a traffic nightmare because if the University, but it is well-located for what you have listed.

Williamsburg makes a good base for the rest. It too is a college town but you don't notice it so much. I would not necessarily stay in Colonial Williamsburg but I would certainly buy a pass and do some heavy touring. Do not miss the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. Similarly, in Jamestown the Museum is fantastic, the outdoor reconstructions not so much for anyone over 12.

Both places have gone crazy for historical reenactment ("Imagine you are the Master! Imagine you are a slave!"), which completely ruined the Peyton Randolph House in Williamsburg for us. This house is enormously significant architecturally and all we got was pretend social history. But other houses and buildings are very well handled, and it is interesting to see colonial crafts and industry well practiced.

You do not mention the James River Plantations on VA 5 between Williamsburg and Richmond . These are still private houses and are not always open to the public, with the exception of Shirley, which is a must visit. It is still owned by the same family, who live upstairs and operate the plantation as a workin farm. The interior has only been painted 9 times since 1745, and it is very authentic. The whole drive is beautiful.

Richmond is a wonderful city that does not show it's best face to visitors. Ever single approach is ugly at best. For a visitor, I would recommend the Museum District along Boulevard. The Virginia Historical Society and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts are almost next door to each other and gloriously free. The VMFA is open 365 days a year. You can eat at the VMFA or at one of the many places in Carytown, a few blocks away. CanCan Brasserie is fun and pretty authentic, but there are lots of Asian and other choices.

Finally, Hollywood Cemetery is in a neighborhood that looks scary but isn't. It has lots of Confederate graves (Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart, Jewish Confederate Soldiers) and lots of amazing tombs. A ride out Cary Street through an area called Windsor Farms will show you an entirely different side of Richmond, gracious houses on tree-lined street, and you can connect to I-64 at Gaskins Road to go back to Williamsburg or to the airport.

The airport is teeny, by the way, and an excellent place to fly from except for having to make connections to get anywhere.
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 03:52 AM
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Great Falls...easily done with the car but you really don't need to spend a lot of time there. Some would say it isn't as much a "falls" as it is a big rapids. It is the point where the piedmont meets the coastal plain so Niagara it's not.

Unless you are really INTO this sort of cataract thing I would spend my time elsewhere.
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 08:21 AM
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Skip Great Falls...it's all McMansions. Bleh. The park there is nice to hike but there is better hiking elsewhere. Monticello and Charlottesville are lovely and a great way to spend a day. Charlottesville has a neat pedestrian area downtown with quite a few restaurants. Loudoun County has a ton of wineries, if you're interested in those. Leesburg (the county seat) is a nice little historic area with shopping and restaurants and would make a good base for a day of wine tours.
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 05:40 PM
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Great advice so far, thanks!

If we still want to stay in Shenandoah NP, any advice how to do this? We would spend the night. Should we go straight from Alexandria, stay there and then on to Charlottesville for a few nights, or Charlottesville first? Can't tell from the map which makes sense.

Also...the James River Plantations sound awesome. Are there any others open besides Shirley?

Ackislander, also especially appreciate the advice on Richmond. Those kind of suggestions are hard to get from a guidebook. Appreciate your thoughtful advice.

We've been to Napa in California many times, so would probably skip the wineries in favor of plantations, which we don't have in California!

Thanks again.
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Old Jan 31st, 2014, 08:16 AM
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Make your reservations through the Shendandoah NP website. The accommodations are on par with most NP places -- rustic and cozy, not at all posh, decent food. It's a great park for day hikes. Fog or haze can obscure the views although overall autumn is a particularly nice time to visit.

I would head west from Alexandria to SNP and then onto Charlottesville, Williamsburg and Richmond -- a big circle-ish that will keep you off of Interstate 95 which can be a traffic nightmare depending on when you're on it. Speaking of which, I'd leave the DC area after 8 am but no later than 1 or 2 if you want to avoid DC rush hour which rivals the Bay area for congestion.

A possible itinerary:

Alexandria & Mount Vernon = 1 full day

Travel to Shenandoah Park & Day Hike = 1 full day

Charlottesville, Monticello & Montpelier or Ash Lawn = 2 full days

Richmond = 1 full day (or switch with Wmbg/Jamestown)

Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown = 2 full days


All of the above deserve more time to explore but that will give you at least enough time to sample the places w/o just checking a box.

If your appetite for history and especially historic homes is bottomless, you're going to hit the jackpot. Mt Vernon and Monticello are the largest and probably the most comprehensive and interesting of the lot. Not saying the other places don't have something different to offer b/c they definitely do but you will find them starting to blur after a while. Mixing it up with some of the other things in the area like battlefields, museums art or outdoor activities is worth considering.

While respectful of Ackislander's excellent advice, I probably wouldn't offload anything else on your list for the James River Plantations. Agree that Shirley is very interesting. The drive from Richmond along Route 5 to Williamsburg is very pretty in the daytime. Worth a couple of extra minutes drive off of the interstate.
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Old Jan 31st, 2014, 08:25 AM
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You could, possibly, take I-66 out of the Metro area toward Front Royal and take the Skyline Drive south into the SNP. Lovely drive for sure and if you head west on 66 in the morning the traffic may not be too bad.
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Old Jan 31st, 2014, 06:23 PM
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http://www.stratfordhall.org/
Robert E Lee birthplace and Washington's is close by also.

We took the trolley everywhere when I was like 11 or 12. It was a vacation during Christmas and we stayed in historic Williamsburg and it was magical. They still have it. Loved staying there and eating at the taverns.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 06:18 PM
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Just mapped the route from Williamsburg to Richmond using Route 5 as suggested and think that would be great. Am going to see if we have time to visit Shirley Plantation on the way to Richmond.

There's just so much to do in this part of Virginia and we only have 7 days...yikes. Based on these great suggestions am going to consult our friends on the revised itinerary.

thanks to all of you!
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Old Feb 5th, 2014, 08:23 PM
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Here are my comments on your venues in a suggested order:

Great Falls--this is a pretty little "hike" (more like bouldering) on the Billy Goat Trail. There is a portion that is very flat that I think runs along the C&O Canal.

Alexandria--go to King Street/Old Town to Torpedo Factory, cupcakes at "Occasionally Cake," Masonic Temple, and just walking around.

Mount Vernon--go south from Old Town.

Charlottesville--Once I toured Mt. Vernon in the late afternoon and my friend and I made it down to Monticello in time for the last tour (she had her mansions and presidents mixed up and when we got to Mt. Vernon she realized she had really wanted to see Monticello instead).
Monticello--Must see.
Montpelier--don't know much about it.
Monroe home (Ash Lawn?)
Shenandoah NP (stay in the lodge and have a good day hike?)
Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown (time for all three?)--Yes if you take two days.
Richmond--I've driven past it a bunch of times and as mentioned above, no approach does it any favors. There's little about it I care to see.

I'm torn on the order above; Shenandoah takes you way far from W'burg. Map it out and see which loop makes the most sense. If you're flying into Dulles, go Shenandoah then C'ville areas first, cross over to W'burg, then go up to Mt. Vernon and then into Alexandria and then to Great Falls and then back out to Dulles.
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Old Feb 5th, 2014, 08:24 PM
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Sorry, I just re-read your original post. Yes, Richmond and W'burg obviously last.
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Old Feb 8th, 2014, 04:30 PM
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Super. Great new ideas.

We're definitely staying two days in Williamsburg area.

Given the choice, would you stay two days in Charlottesville, Alexandria, or Richmond? We do fly out of Richmond.

Thanks again. We just about have this nailed down and now need to start making reservations. We favor B&Bs over hotels, so if anyone has some favorites to offer given the towns above we'd love to hear about them!
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 01:28 AM
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What time is your plane from RIC?
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Old Feb 13th, 2014, 07:57 PM
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Hi Ackislander,

Sorry, just found your post. Our plane leaves RIC at 7:44 am. We decided to spend two nights in Shendandoah as it looks so beautiful and hard to hike with just one night. Our trip now is scheduled:

Washington DC - 4 nights (booked at Tabard Inn)

Alexandria - one night (not booked)

Shenandoah - 2 nights (Big Meadow Lodge; booked)

Charlottesville - one night (not booked)

Williamsburg - one night (not booked)

Richmond - two nights (not booked)

Sure wish we had more time to spend in this lovely area of the country...I've never been.

If you are familiar with the area and have any suggestions, we'd love to hear them! We decided to stay two nights in Richmond to leave open possibility of James River Plantations or going back to Williamsburg area. My friends also had some battlefield or historic sight near Richmond. I want to go to Hollywood Cemetery!

Thanks, Leslie
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