As we enter February and the weather forecast frequently shows snow or miserable and frigid rain, I start to develop a one-track mind – a one-track mind that thinks only of vacation, of course. While ideally I would be taking part in a trip that involved a plane, cold beverages and islanders that have never seen white stuff failing from the sky, sometimes you have to take what you can get. Luckily, DC is convenient to many wonderful weekend getaways. But why go somewhere where you will have to have a “been there, done that” experience? While many DC folks have seen New York City, Gettysburg, Colonial Williamsburg and Baltimore, there are many convenient weekend trips left untraveled.
Here are a few of the not-so-common DC getaway options:
Richmond, VA (2-2.5 hours away):
A lot of folks living in the DC area visit Charlottesville, Virginia and overlook this phenomenal college town. Situated nearby the historical James River, this city has just the right amount of antique charm and new age feels such as foodie spots, cute vintage shops and college-aged students in graphic t-shirts. Visitors can check out the James River in all its glory at sunset or twilight, visit the historical St. John’s Church or check out the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
If you’re like me and really just want to eat on vacation, Richmond can fulfill those needs too. Check out Country Style Doughnuts for a midday pick-me-up, Enoteca Sogno for some carb-heavy Northern Italian cuisine or Mama J’s for some good old fashioned southern cooking.
Snowshoe, West Virginia (4.5- 5 hours way):
This is a great spot to go to for some winter relaxation and quality skiing or boarding (at least for the East Coast). Come to this east coast ski town for Snowshoe Resort, which has a hard to beat “snow guarantee”. The place has its fair share of charm with a village-like atmosphere at the top of the mountain, making it easy to slurp down some hot chocolate or enjoy beer in-between runs.
The best (or worst) thing about this area is that cell phone reception is minimal – making it a wonderful place to say goodbye to email notifications and Pet Rescue Saga invites for a little R and R. If you aren’t looking to splurge on a hotel, check out Elk River Inn, which is conveniently located nearby the mountain and offers a hearty breakfast with your stay (don’t make the mistake of passing up the homemade granola).
Durham, NC (4 – 4.5 hours away):
Durham sounds like a nothing town tucked carefully away below the Mason-Dixon line – but don’t judge a book by its cover. This city is full of hipsters and they can cook delicious food and brew beer with the best of them. Named “The South’s Tastiest Town” by Southern Living, Durham begs visitors to come on an empty stomach. Some highlights of what you should taste include:
Fullsteam – A a local brewery that doubles as a great spot to sit and let the local food trucks come to you. Try Hogwash (a hickory smoked porter), Carver (a sweet potato lager) and Common Good (a Kentucky common with cider apples).
Scratch Bakery – Come here to get a casual but decadent dessert. Try the buttermilk sweet potato vanilla sugar pie. Although their domain name ‘pie fantasy’ is not misleading, they have great savory options as well (see: shaved Brussels sprout and bacon crostata or the pickled egg salad).
Mateo – A tapas restaurant that blends flavors of the Spain with the tradition of the south. Enjoy delicious and fancy creations that you can’t pronounce quite right.
Boone, NC (6.5 hours away):
While admittedly this might need to be a long weekend trip, it can definitely be worth the drive. Boone is a small college town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains – and even in the winter, it is charming. Take a stroll down King Street for artsy shops with local handmade goods and get serenaded by the occasional stray “Boonie” playing the banjo. Slip up to Appalachian Ski Mountain or Sugar Mountain for some low-key skiing and experience the mesmerizing views of the Blue Ridge Parkways on hikes such as Grandfather Mountain, Snake Mountain and Rough Ridge.
Though Boone is one of the smallest of the towns mentioned in this post, it still delivers for food-centric travelers. Try Melanie’s for locally sourced breakfast, Appalachian Mountain Brewery for well-made brews or Our Daily Bread for seriously delicious (and cheesy and gooey) sandwiches.
If you’re feeling locked in by monuments on all sides, relax. Washington D.C. places you at a perfect place on the map to get in your car and go. My advice? Check the forecast in advance and try to pick a weekend where you won’t be sharing the roads with a snow monster like Juno. Now, the only question is – where to?