Keswick Hall features an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course. Photo courtesy Orient-Express Hotels
Virginia is for lovers, but it's also for surfers, rock climbers, wine connoisseurs and equestrians. Read on to see what adventures Virginia has in store for you.
Sun and Surf
Virginia Beach (vbfun.com, 800-VA-BEACH) is the logical choice if you want to feel the sand between your toes. Be sure to check out August's East Coast Surfing Championships, where you'll find skim boarding, concerts and volleyball in addition to surfing. Kids will enjoy the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. The expanded center features 700,000 gallons of aquariums with sand tiger sharks, harbor seals and the like.
Close to the North Carolina-Virginia border you'll find Lake Gaston (tourbrunswick.org, 866-STEWPOT) , a manmade lake formed by Gaston Dam. There's plenty of fishing — largemouth bass, crappie and sunfish — as well as water sports. Don't own a boat? Rent one from Stonehouse Marina, which offers pontoon, fishing and ski boats and canoes. The lake runs through Brunswick County on the Virginia side, which, legend has it, is where Brunswick stew was created, so naturally it's home to an annual Brunswick stew cook-off.
Not interested in an 18-hour plane ride to Dubai? Jet an hour west to Keswick Hall (701 Club Drive, Charlottesville, 888-778-2565 or keswick.com) for a splurge. This place is so hot it landed on Condé Nast Traveler's Readers Choice Awards "Top 100 United States Hotels" list in 2008. Each room includes a flat-screen TV with DVD player and heated towel racks, among other amenities. The master suites, which will set you back $775 to $975 a night, boast king-sized beds, separate living rooms, en-suite bathrooms with separate tubs and showers, and terraces. You can dine in style here, too. The AAA Four-Diamond Fossett's Restaurant, which offers a $70 five-course dinner, is one of six dining options at Keswick. And don't forget the spa, clay shooting excursions, tennis and the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course.
Live like a fat cat for a few nights at the Mobil Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond Inn at Little Washington (309 Middle St., Washington, Va., 540-675-3800 or theinnatlittlewashington.com). There are more than a dozen sleeping quarters to choose from, but the Mayor's House Suite ($950 per night with additional weekend and/or seasonal charges), with its king-sized bed, sitting room with a fireplace, private courtyard garden, whirlpool and separate shower, is primo. But what people really make a pilgrimage for is the food. Dinner will run you between $148 and $178 per person, and that doesn't include even a sip from the award-winning, 14,000-bottle wine cellar.
Roughing it might cost you your sanity at times, but it doesn't have to cost any money. You don't need much — a backpack, a map, a tent and some trail mix should do the trick. Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park (nps.gov/shen, 540-999-3500) has a circuit hike and rock scrambles, up to 2,510 feet in elevation. Plan on spending at least five hours here — maybe more on weekends since this popular spot gets crowded and leads to bottlenecks on the trails.
There's more hiking, plus fishing and boating, at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk (fws.gov/northeast/greatdismalswamp, 757-986-3705). Hunting white-tailed deer and black bears is permitted on scheduled days.
If you and your sweetie share a common love of the outdoors, try the Inn at Fairfield Farm (5305 Marriott Lane, Hume, 877-324-7344 or marriottranch.com) a historic bed-and-breakfast within Marriott Ranch's 4,200 acres. Your stay (rooms range from $129 to $229 per night; a cottage is also available) includes a tray of cheeses, beverages and a three-course breakfast. But what will really get your partner's mojo flowing is a romantic, 90-minute guided trail ride on horseback.
Cooking together is another way to keep the romance alive. If you're a pair of foodies, The Inn at Meander Plantation in Locust Dale (2333 N. James Madison Highway, Locust Dale, 800-385-4936 or meander.net) is your cup of tea — pun intended. Spend two days learning to cook from chefs Suzie Blanchard and David Scales, visiting a local food producer and eating gourmet meals for about $850. Each of the inn's rooms is different, but they all have romantic features, such as the two-person Jacuzzi and private patio in the Washington Cottage.