Summer's been slow to get here--which means you may still be sorting out vacation plans.
For those in search of the perfect short road trip, the area starting around D.C. and heading southwest into Virginia is among the best. From Northern Virginia's horse country to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah Valley, you'll find a mix of nature, history and charm -- and plenty of restaurants, wineries and breweries to keep you fueled as you navigate the region's hills and valleys.
Credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation
Getting oriented is easy. Here are a few important stops you'll want to put on your map to help you plan your route.
Leesburg. About a half an hour from D.C, this hamlet boasts a walkable center with antiques, shops and galleries. For a history fix, you can tour a former flaxseed plantation or the home of Secretary of State George Marshall, founder of WWII's Marshall Plan.
Blue Ridge Parkway. This stretch of National Park--called America's favorite drive--runs all the way through North Carolina. One of the prettiest stretches, the Skyline Drive, runs along the Shenandoah Valley in northern Virginia. The 105-mile journey includes some 75 clearly marked overlooks and a 35-mile-an-hour speed limit, making it a great way to wile away an afternoon or day.
Harrisonburg. Just west of the Shenandoah Valley, this mountain-bound town features a historic downtown, galleries, museums and more.
Charlottesville. Home of the Thomas Jefferson-designed University of Virginia, Charlottesville is a mix of iconic America and more modern influences too. During the day, you can tour Monticello, Jefferson's home, and then spend the evening downtown watching live music.
Credit Virginia Tourism Corporation
Northern VA is wine, beer and even cider country, so you'd be remiss to come and go without sampling some of what's produced. Here are a few standouts spots to do just that:
The Barns at Hamilton Station. This ten-acre farm in the small town of Hamilton features a century-old stone barn and varietals like chardonnay, cabernet franc and more.
Virginia has a brewing tradition that goes back to colonial days. Check out Lost Rhino in Ashburn for a tour and a taste (or just a taste) of their IPA, pils and others. 3 Brothers in Harrisonburg is a vital part of the community's growers, donating their excess grain to cattle farmers and leftover yeast to local trout farmers.
Albemarle Cider Works keeps another Old Dominion tradition alive with their four varieties of hard cider.
Last but never least, this part of Virginia is also home to great edibles. From the classic American menu at Purcellville's Magnolias at the Mill to the thoughtfully prepped tasting menu at the Inn at Poplar Springs, if there's one thing that sums up the region's cooking, it's a focus on all things local. Check out White Oak Lavender Farm, Gunter's honey and Turkey Knob Orchards for a taste of Northern Virginia at its purest.