Virginia: A Road Trip RevealedWords by Courtney Cox
I’ve traveled to wedding and honeymoon destinations all over the world, but I’m consistently awed by locations right here in the good ol’ USA. Having grown up on the West Coast, I had never visited Virginia before and to be frank, I was floored by what I found. Hosted by Virginia Tourism Corporation, I went on a road trip to explore what the state had to offer for romance travelers.
Virginia has three major perks: convenience to big-time East Coast cities, a staggering amount of American history and a varying topography that will leave your head spinning. The capitol of Richmond is roughly a two-hour drive from Washington D.C. and five hours from New York City. The state boasts beaches, the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling vineyards and some of the prettiest countryside I’ve seen. Driving down unassuming country roads, I passed signs for the homes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – to name a few. Here is a sampling of what else I discovered on my Virginia adventure.
The state’s capital is currently undergoing a renaissance and sees new hotel and restaurant openings on a regular basis. New to the scene, the Quirk Hotel is the perfect example of what Richmond has to offer the modern couple. First opened in the historic Arts District in 2015, Quirk Hotel is an “art-infused” boutique hotel, which has unique touches to spare. I would recommend a ceremony in the marble courtyard, cocktail hour in the art gallery and a rooftop terrace reception to take in the sites of Broad Street below.
If you’re looking for a more traditional option, The Jefferson Hotel just celebrated 120 years and is befitting of royalty with grand ballrooms, a marble-column mezzanine and the infamous Palm Court Lobby. The recently renovated rooms are equally impressive with marble bathrooms and high ceilings. Treat your wedding guests to The Jefferson’s famous Sunday brunch – they will serve up to 1,000 guests a day in high season.
If you wish to say “I do” outdoors, both the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Maymont Estate are excellent options. Maymont includes a Romanesque-style mansion dating back to 1893 and two gardens that are over a century old. Choose the Japanese Garden for nuptials in front of a waterfall or the Italian Garden for tulips and a dramatic column walkway. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is relatively new to the outdoor wedding scene, having first opened a mere 50 years ago. The options here are more extensive and just as impressive – from the Cochrane Rose Garden and Visitor’s Center, to the Lace Gazebo and Bloomendale House.
An hour northwest of Richmond, you’ll find the former home of three of our nation’s founding fathers and a breathtaking landscape. It’s now home to Keswick Hall and Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. Located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a stone’s throw from Jefferson’s Monticello, Keswick Hall is a 48-room mansion, which would make a resplendent option for your guests’ accommodations. For your nuptials, I can’t say enough about Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. The décor and architecture are straight out of a Restoration Hardware catalog.
The Ceremony Lawn has sweeping views of the surrounding vineyards and mountains and The Granary will make a stunning, rustic backdrop for your reception. As if the views and décor weren’t enough, they also happen to make delicious wine.
Two hours northeast of Charlottesville is quaint and charming Loudoun County – home to Salamander Resort & Spa and Stone Tower Winery. Opened in 2013, Salamander Resort is a striking and welcome addition to the landscape. Ideal for the couple wanting a more pastoral, outdoor wedding, the Equestrian Center and Culinary Garden are both gorgeous. To keep your guests busy, the resort will provide transportation to the five nearby vineyards. For true wine enthusiasts, consider Stone Tower Winery. Venue options include the Harvest Barn, Tank Room and Vineyard View Ballroom. Exchange vows amongst the vines or on the hillside overlooking the pond and Stone Grotto.
No matter your tastes or vision, I’m confident you can find a wedding or honeymoon option to fit your needs in Virginia. Who says you have to have a passport or travel tremendous distances for your destination wedding? Sometimes your ideal setting is right in your own American backyard.
For more information on Virginia, the food scene and additional recommendations, visit destinationido.com/virginia-2.
Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Kip Dawkins (1st & 4th), Salamander Resort & Spa, Maymont Foundation, Robert Schnell Photography, Aboud Dweck & Visit Loudoun, The Jefferson Hotel, and Jen Fariello.
This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Spring/Summer 2016 issue. You can order a copy here.
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