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A day among the sand and salt water is just one of the many options Virginia Beach has to offer. Numerous attractions and restaurants near the oceanfront also entice vacationers.
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Atop the Hilton, hotel guests enjoy an infinity-edge pool among views of the Atlantic, the city and even the Eastern Shore.
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Craddock Terry Hotel
Whimsical in style, the Craddock Terry, a boutique hotel in Lynchburg, features modern décor throughout the lobby and guest rooms, and displays shoes in honor of its shoe factory past.
Like me, you’re probably itching to hit the road for a summer getaway. Only got time for a long weekend? No problem. We’ve got a route you may not have considered.
Sounds modest, but U.S. 460 – improved over the past few years to near-interstate quality in some sections – offers treasures old and new. Many portions of the eastbound road were a new experience during a recent trip with my husband, and the number of fun stops along the way pleasantly surprised us.
The mostly four-lane highway entices travelers with historical sites, wineries and peanut shops galore. And once mountains and farmland give way to ocean views, you know you’ve reached your final destination: Virginia Beach. This resort city continues to grow in popularity, its inviting, energetic atmosphere boasting enjoyable attractions, top-notch hotels and impeccable dining options.
Here’s a plan for a jaunt to the coast, taking Friday off and heading out Thursday evening.
It may only put an hour dent in the approximately five-hour drive to Virginia Beach, but the perks of a night at the Craddock Terry Hotel and Event Center in Lynchburg are worth it.
Part of the downtown revitalization project, the whimsical boutique hotel – once a turn-of-the-century shoe factory and tobacco storage warehouse – features 44 guest rooms and suites enhanced by architectural elements such as exposed beams, brick or stone walls and large windows. Located on Commerce Street, the hotel serves up a sense of luxury and comfort with modern décor and attention to small details. Its shoe factory heritage remains a constant through artwork of footwear (each room door is decorated with a painting of a different type of shoe) and complimentary breakfast served in an old-fashioned shoeshine box. For us, it was a unique delight to select food items on the provided breakfast menu and place the shoeshine box outside our door that night. The next morning, we found it filled with the bagels, fruit and juice we requested.
The hotel also houses two restaurants. If it’s fine dining you crave, Shoemakers’ elegant fare includes signature steaks with topping choices such as caramelized onions or bleu cheese, crab cakes, and sides large enough for two (we shared their popular fried potatoes). A romantically lit ambiance, complete with open kitchen, separate bar and extensive wine rack, carries on the revitalized tobacco warehouse look with exposed beams and duct work. With a more casual atmosphere, Waterstone is known for its fire-roasted pizzas, gourmet salads and martini concoctions.
“The Craddock Terry and the associated tenants all bring new visitors downtown, as well as many repeat customers,” says L. Kimball Payne, Lynchburg’s city manager. “We have heard high praise for the uniqueness and hospitality of the Craddock Terry Hotel. The rescue and renovation of historic structures and the sales, meals and lodging taxes generated by the facilities are all great benefits for Lynchburg.” (Craddock Terry, 434-455-1500; craddockterryhotel.com)
Before continuing your trek on 460, be sure to take a stroll through downtown Lynchburg; many attractions are a short walk from the Craddock Terry. On Main Street, you’ll find the community market, where locals sell produce, crafts and homemade goods. Monument Terrace on Court Street, which leads to the old Court House Museum, honors fallen Lynchburg soldiers from the Civil War to present day along its 139 terrace level steps. And on Taylor Street, the 26-acre Old City Cemetery is the burial site of more than 20,000 confederate soldiers. (Lynchburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, 434-847-1811, discoverlynchburg.com)
It’s only an 18-mile drive from Lynchburg to Appomattox with its rich Civil War history. Three miles off 460 sits the Appomattox Court House and National Historical Park. Here, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, signaling the end of the Southern States’ attempt to form a separate nation.
Park your car and traverse the Colonial-style pebble path to the visitor center in the reconstructed courthouse to view an interpretive slideshow, browse museum artifacts and obtain a map of the village. Before touring the rest of the park, a $5 per person fee is charged for entering the McLean House.
Inside the McLean House is the parlor where Lee surrendered and a combination of original and reproduced furnishings representing how the home would have looked in 1865. Other highlights include the Clover Hill Tavern, the oldest structure in the village; numerous slave quarters; and Plunkett-Meeks Store. During the summer, costumed interpreters perform daily living history demonstrations. Encampments, rifle demonstrations and battlefield tours are scheduled for July and August. (434-352-8987, nps.gov/apco)
A Legend in Wakefield
Appropriately dubbed “The Peanut Capital of the World,” Wakefield and its Virginia Diner are a must-stop, if not for the country cooking and famous peanut pie, but for its vast selection of peanut-themed goodies.
The diner once served travelers in a refurbished railroad dining car. Reproductions and additions occurred to accommodate growth, but the welcoming atmosphere remains the same. Classic red and white tablecloths adorn the dining tables, where visitors feast on burgers, sandwiches, chicken and homemade pies. I just had to try the peanut pie, and I’m glad I did!
You can’t leave without making a peanut purchase in the gift shop. As the cashier rang up our chocolate-covered peanuts, she teased that we were on our own once we opened the bag. She was right; we couldn’t eat just one. Other available varieties include gourmet peanuts and snack mixes, along with novelty items such as peanut-shaped figurines. (888-VADINER, vadiner.com)
Vivacious Virginia Beach
The journey on 460 ended shortly before we reached Virginia Beach, but the fun didn’t stop. If you seek a little pampering and a taste of oceanfront luxury, head to the resort district for a stay at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront hotel. (757-213-3000, hiltonvb.com)
Twenty-one stories and offering ocean or city view rooms, the Hilton caters to guests with – among other amenities – a concierge desk, spa services and a rooftop infinity-edge pool. Before spending some time on the beach, we took advantage of the complimentary towels and coupons for beach chairs offered by the concierge. Cabanas, lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent once you reach the sand. If you choose to lounge by the pool, the rooftop offers unparalleled views of the ocean, Eastern Shore and downtown Norfolk. Its Sky Bar, open through Halloween, serves cocktails, light fare, wine and beer.
You don’t have to go far to dine in style. Only three blocks inland from the Hilton, Terrapin Restaurant features an intimate dining space and modern bar area, both complementing the selections on its fine dinner menu. The four-course tasting menu is recommended. Here, you eat with your eyes first, as the waiters eloquently describe the visually appealing food, most of it organic and all freshly prepared in-house. The menu evolves regularly, but always boasts unique salads, a perfectly portioned middle course, carefully crafted entrees and divine desserts. Special details include turtle-shaped butter and chocolate turtles as an after-dinner treat. (757-321-6688, terrapinvirginiabeach.com)
Even closer to your room, the Hilton’s two superb restaurants sit adjacent to the grand lobby. The only AAA four-diamond steakhouse in Virginia, Salacia is upscale dining at its best. We admired the quiet tables in the cobalt-blue dining room, but opted to dine on the outdoor veranda in the plush-cushioned, two-person wicker chairs. Menu items include Wagyu Kobe beef, filet mignon, fresh seafood selections and side items for sharing. Desserts are verbally presented, all sounding too good to resist. At the sound of New York-style cheesecake with fudge sauce for dipping, I was sold.
Casually elegant, Catch 31 boasts a full breakfast buffet and fresh seafood among its lunch and dinner cuisine. There are two outdoor dining areas: one with views of the ocean, the other – complete with a bar, umbrellas and fire pits – faces Neptune’s Park, where local and national bands perform day and night.
The park, built three years ago by the Hilton and donated to the city, hosts festivals, a summer concert series and other activities; it will be a concert site for the Stars and Stripes Explosion on July 4. With its large covered stage and gazebo-style stage, the park appropriately sits near the prominent King Neptune statue on Virginia Beach’s popular boardwalk.
Spanning three shoreline miles, the concrete boardwalk seems to always be filled with smiling people – and pets – exploring the area. A separate path is ideal for bikers and rollerbladers. Bikes and two-, four- or six-person surreys are available for rent at several boardwalk stops. We opted to walk, savoring the sights amid the cool ocean breeze. I was happy to learn there was more to see along the busy path – which runs from 3rd Street to 39th – than hotels and restaurants. It’s also lined with attractions such as the Virginia Beach Pier, the Old Coast Guard Station and the Naval Aviation Monument. Visitors also are drawn to the Virginia Aquarium, located on the south end, and its hands-on exhibits, exotic sea creatures, nature trail and IMAX Theater. (757-385-3474, virginiaaquarium.com)
More 460 Offerings
A history buff? Stop about 25 miles outside of Roanoke in Bedford to explore the National D-Day Memorial. Rising above the community that experienced the largest per capita loss on D-Day, the expansive memorial honors fallen soldiers and veterans. The memorial is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 800-351-DDAY; dday.org.
Further into Bedford, you’ll see signs for the Peaks of Otter Winery, just 5.7 miles off 460. Tastings of their Fruit of the Farm wines and tours of the property are available. During summer months, hours are noon to 5 p.m. daily. 540-586-3707; peaksofotterwinery.com.
Take a tour of Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat and marvel at the architecture, artifacts and gardens. Brochures describe the landscape and plantation community. The 40-minute guided tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except Tuesdays. 434 525-1806; poplarforest.org.
Twin Lakes State Park sits just outside Farmville; take Va. 621 off 460. It’s an ideal place to stretch your legs with six miles of trails through forests and near the lakes, or enjoy a picnic. dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/twi.shtml.
A memorial to men who have worked the railroad since 1888, the Crewe Railroad Museum features made-to-scale model trains and other museum items. During the summer, it’s open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 434-645-9868; crewerailroadmuseum.org.
Big Plans for Virginia Beach
For folks returning to Virginia Beach after a long hiatus, Jim Ricketts, director of the city’s convention and visitors bureau says you’ll notice a major transformation in the city’s appearance.
And there’s more to come.
New hotels, Ricketts says, seem to pop up every year – the most recent being a Hampton Inn on the south end – offering space for even more vacationers. The newest full-service hotel is the Hilton, which opened two years ago in the resort area.
“The resort area will be transformed into an upscale restaurant and shopping district,” Ricketts says. “Road improvements are also planned,” which include turning 31st Street into a pedestrian-friendly corridor.
Other projects planned or in the works include:
The Virginia Aquarium will soon complete its $25 million expansion and refurbishment of exhibits. “Restless Planet” will show diversity of environments through immersive habitats and new aquariums.
A developer is being chosen to create a headquarters hotel to support Virginia Beach’s convention center.
Slated for a 2013 opening, a multi-faceted entertainment venue will include an ice skating rink, Ferris wheel, 2,500-seat theater, sports floor and kids floor.
For more: Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-VA-BEACH, vbfun.com.