These four small towns have several things in common: Great outside to-do’s, nifty dining and cozy places for an overnight or two.
Fall is arguably the best season to live and play here in Virginia. It’s impossible not to want to grab your partner-in-crime, pack a bag, hop in the car and set off to explore a new town for a weekend. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a few places that offer not just romantic getaways, but also weekends filled with delicious dining, adventures and even a few surprises along the way.
Turn Up the Heat In Hot Springs
While most are familiar with the Omni Homestead Resort, not many know that Hot Springs itself can be a hot weekend getaway for any couple looking to rekindle some romance. With everything from surprisingly haute French cuisine to some of the South’s best mountain bike trails to, yes, those hot springs that the town is named after, Hot Springs has it all. If you’re looking to wine, dine and wheel your weekend away, then check out this mountain hamlet.
What to Do: With over 40 miles of trails ranging from technical singletrack to more forgiving, level routes along the lake, Douthat State Park has a little something for every kind of mountain biker. Be sure to pick up a trail map from the main office—the rangers will happily discuss what routes are best for you. From Blue Suck Falls, culminating in a multi-tiered waterfall, to the infamous 2000’ climb on Stony Run Trail, you won’t get bored on this world class singletrack.
After a long day on the trails, head over to the Homestead’s Hot Springs to rest and relax. A soak in the Jefferson Pools mineral water will quickly wash away any adventure-induced aches and leave you ready for a romantic night on the town.
Where to Eat: While at Douthat, be sure to grab lunch at the Douthat Lake View Restaurant. During the fall, it’s only open on weekends, but offers a satisfying array of sandwiches, burgers, and BBQ—everything you need to refuel during a long day of riding.
For a romantic evening out, visit Les Cochons d’Or, a locally-inspired French restaurant offering surprisingly refined cuisine in the middle of what seems like nowhere. For a taste of Virginia, be sure to order the Tasting of Virginia Cheeses and the Mountain Trout or Wood Grilled Leg of Lamb.
Where to Sleep: While you could bunk down in one of the many cabins (or campsites) at Douthat State Park, splurge a little on a room at Vine Cottage Inn, a bed and breakfast in downtown Hot Springs. Housed in an adorable turn-of-the-century mint green inn, Vine Cottage offers homey rooms, delicious breakfast and a slice of Virginia hospitality that you won’t find elsewhere.
Hidden Treasure in Sperryville
Founded in 1820 as a small farm town, Sperryville has since evolved into a modern-day treasure trove of antiques, art galleries and local distilleries—partially due to its proximity to Washington D.C., and other larger cities like Richmond and Charlottesville. Nestled on the edge of Shenandoah National Park, it also offers easy access to some of the region’s best hikes, making it a premier weekend getaway for couples looking to sneak away from busy city life for a night.
What to Do: One of Virginia’s most popular hikes, Old Rag Mountain, is located spitting distance from downtown Sperryville. If you’re looking for unparallelled views of the Shenandoah Valley coupled with a strenuous nine-mile hike, then rise early and hit the trailhead before 7 a.m. in order to experience a little solitude. With required rock scrambling and steep switchbacks, this hike isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s more than worth it when you finally reach the top. Be sure to pack plenty of water and a lunch—and keep a close eye on the weather as things can turn dicey with little notice.
If you’re looking for something a little more town-centric, be sure to visit Sperryville’s numerous art galleries. River District Arts showcases 10 studios ranging from pottery to painting to photography, and if you poke around any of the shops on Main Street, you’re bound to find a unique piece of art that catches your eye.
Where to Eat: Before a romantic dinner at the Thornton River Grille, stop by Copper Fox Distillery for a tour and tasting of its whiskey and gin. One of Virginia’s most successful distilleries, Copper Fox opened in 2005 and hasn’t looked back since—and their single malt whiskey is definitely worth a quick afternoon side trip and sip.
For dinner, Thornton River Grille never disappoints with its focus on Southern ingredients. With standouts like Grilled Shrimp and Gouda Grits swimming in red eye gravy or Duck Leg Confit with Cranberry Chutney Butter, you simply can’t go wrong. Serving simple ingredients with care, Thornton River Grille embodies the best of Sperryville—local, fresh, and decidedly Southern.
On the way home, take a bit of Sperryville with you and stop by Heritage Hollow Farms’ Farm Store for the best meat in the region. Since the beef is 100 percent grass-fed and finished, the pork soy-free and the chicken organic, you can really taste the difference (and the love) of animals raised as holistically and healthfully as possible.
Where to Stay: Interested in turn-down service with a nightcap of beer? Then Hopkins Ordinary Bed & Breakfast + Aleworks is the place to stay in Sperryville. Originally built in 1820 as an inn and tavern, Hopkins Ordinary has maintained much of its original charm in its comfortable guest rooms, locally sourced breakfasts, and even in its own microbrewery featuring barley malted by Copper Fox Distillery.
A Perfect Weekend in Pulaski
Things have changed in Pulaski. The once-booming factory town dwindled in population during the second half of the 20th century, but now, with a successful revitalization program in process, it’s becoming the Southwest Virginia sleeper to keep an eye on. With easy access to Claytor Lake, the New River Trail State Park and countless country roads to cycle, the Town of Pulaski offers a cozy and active alternative for those looking for an under-the-radar getaway.
What to Do: While hectic crowds gather in neighboring Blacksburg on game days, renting a boat at Claytor Lake offers the perfect alternative. Whether you want to try your hand at fishing or just laze about on a pontoon and enjoy the dark blue water, Claytor is a quiet cousin to Smith Mountain Lake. You’ll almost never bump into another soul at your favorite cove and, sometimes, this peace and quiet is just what you need to truly get away from it all.
If road cycling is more your speed, then the New River Trail State Park, with its 57 miles of Rails-to-Trails graded paved and gravel trail, offers the perfect car-free excursion. Perfect for those looking to log just a few miles to those wanting to bag a century, the park offers a different and extremely scenic (and safe!) view of Pulaski and its surrounding counties.
Where to Eat: From Claytor Lake or the New River Trail, be sure to visit the Draper Mercantile for a casual lunch or dinner. Its Blue Door Café & Bakery features fresh baked bread, sandwiches, burgers and flatbreads that will leave you fully satisfied. Stop by early and pick up a sandwich to-go for your adventure, or drop by after for a hearty fried chicken plate.
If you’d like a meal in town, then be sure to visit the brand new Al’s On First, located in the Jackson Park Inn. With its mix of city charm and small town Americana, Al’s offers a typical American menu of steaks, burgers and chicken—all served with the hometown pride that is making Pulaski, once again, a small Virginia town on the rise.
Where to Stay: One of the hallmarks of Pulaski’s economic development and revitalization is the Jackson Park Inn, a hotel crafted from a 1920s grocery warehouse. Once an abandoned and crumbling property, the Jackson Park Inn now offers loft-like rooms that highlight the building’s original brick walls and exposed beams. It’s like waking up in New York City, but without all the hustle and bustle and noise.
Finding Peace & Quiet in Floyd
If you’ve lived in Southwest Virginia for awhile, then you likely know about Floyd. Home to Chateau Morrisette winery and the Floyd Country Store Friday Night Jamboree, it’s almost like a teeny-tiny Asheville in the heart of Virginia. For those unfamiliar, though, Floyd offers a chance to put one foot in the future and one foot in the past, all in one of the prettiest places in the Southwest region.
What to Do: Lace up your hiking boots for either the strenuous 10.8-mile Rock Castle Gorge or the more gentle (and short) but breathtaking Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve hike. Rock Castle Gorge offers ridge meadows, stunning views and a unique trek through the gorge. It’s not a beginners’ hike, but if you’re ready to put in a little sweat, it’s well worth the effort. Buffalo Mountain, on the other hand, offers a shorter, two-mile out-and-back hike to the top of the buffalo-shaped monadnock. Views from the peak are stunning, especially in autumn, and given its status as a nature preserve, you never know what wildlife you’ll run into.
Ever wanted to try your hand at fishing? Set up a half-day guided fishing trip with On The Water. Whether you want to catch trout or small mouth bass or panfish, the outfitter will supply all the necessary equipment (boats, reels, tackle, etc.) and knowledge to fish some of Floyd’s best rivers and streams.
Where to Eat: If there is one place that you must eat in Floyd, it’s Dogtown Roadhouse. Featuring the best wood-fired pizzas in Southwest Virginia, Dogtown has been slinging pies, pouring local microbrews and hosting regional and national music acts since 2010. It’s a casual atmosphere, but one that invites you to sit down and hang out for awhile and be part of the local crowd, even if you’re here for just a night.
If wining and dining is more your style, then drive down the road to Chateau Morrisette for a wine tasting and dinner. With sweeping views of the vineyard, it’s an intimate place for a four-star meal; and can we recommend the Border Springs Lamb Loin? You’ll forget any stress and trouble after an evening at Chateau Morrisette, and likely end up with a few of their highly rated wines in your trunk to enjoy back home.
Where to Sleep: If you’re weekending in Floyd, there is no better experience than the yurt experience. Staying for a weekend in one of Blue Ridge Yurts’ rentals is the best way to experience the magic of Floyd. Fully equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, air conditioning and even WiFi, the accommodations will almost make you forget that you’re staying in a semi-permanent dome. But after a solid night of sleep surrounded by only the wind in the trees, you’ll never want to experience any other rental ever again.