Discover the Charm of Reston, Virginia

Reston, Virginia, located just 30 minutes from Washington, D.C., is a vibrant town with a unique blend of urban and suburban charm. This planned community, designed for work, play, learning, shopping, and community involvement, offers a myriad of attractions, as per this travel blog article from Southern Living. From outdoor adventures to cultural experiences, here’s a guide on how to make the most of your visit to Reston.

Explore Nature and Outdoor Activities: Start your journey with a refreshing bike ride on the 45-mile Washington & Old Dominion Trail. Pick up the trail at Bike Lane Brewing & Café, where you can grab a coffee, tea, or pastry before embarking on your scenic adventure. For a day surrounded by nature, head to the expansive 476-acre Lake Fairfax Park. With a campground, carousel, multi-use trails, and a marina offering pedalboat and kayak rentals, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy. Reston also boasts other green spaces like Fred Crabtree Park, Baron Cameron Park, and Hunter Woods Park.

Indulge in Open-Air Dining: Experience the culinary delights of Reston in the open air. Savor Japanese cuisine at Ariake, or enjoy Mediterranean dishes at Cafesano. For a waterfront dining experience with a dog-friendly atmosphere, Kalypso’s Sports Tavern on Lake Anne is a top pick. Red’s Table, offering delicious cuisine and scenic views across Lake Anne, is another excellent choice for open-air dining.

Immerse Yourself in Arts and Culture: Delve into the thriving arts scene of Reston by visiting galleries such as the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art, celebrating its 50th year in 2024. The Reston Art Gallery, open on weekends, showcases rotating exhibitions featuring various art mediums. Additionally, explore the town’s public art installations that add to its cultural richness.

Entertainment and Performances: Catch a live performance at Reston’s CenterStage, a 260-seat theater hosting a variety of cultural events throughout the year, including musicals, author talks, and comedy shows. The venue also features live concerts spanning classical, soul, and bluegrass genres. Don’t miss the summer concerts and annual festivals, like the Reston Multicultural Festival.

Encounter Wildlife Experiences: Say hello to wild animals at NOVA Wild, a 30-acre non-profit zoo supporting international conservation programs. With over 200 animals, including lemurs, llamas, kangaroos, and pygmy goats,NOVA Wild offers a unique drive-thru safari and stroll-thru sections for a close encounter with the residents.

Connect with Nature at Walker Nature Center: Explore the 72-acre Walker Nature Center, offering nature-based programs to foster positive relationships with the environment. The center features wooded walking trails, picnic areas, a small pond, and native plant gardens. Engage in children’s programs, nature camps, bird walks, and wildlife counts.

Dive into Reston’s History at the Reston Museum: Visit the Reston Museum to delve into the history of one of the first planned communities in the United States. Discover artifacts, exhibits, photographs, and artworks showcasing the evolution of Reston from its early days in 1962 to the vibrant community it is today.

Shop, Play, and Stay at Reston Town Center: Experience the heart of Reston at Reston Town Center, a mixed-use open-air space featuring offices, restaurants, shops, a movie theater, and a seasonal ice skating rink. With the convenience of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and the Reston Town Center subway station, exploring the town has never been easier.

Discover Lake Anne Plaza’s Unique Charm: Explore the captivating Lake Anne Plaza, one of five village centers in Reston. Enjoy the weekly seasonal farmers market, boutique shops, and gathering places like Café Montmartre andLake Anne Coffee House. Don’t miss summer festivals, pedal boat and kayak rentals, and the iconic Van Gogh Bridge.

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Winter Wonders in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

When it comes to winter travel, Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains offer a unique and enchanting experience. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountain Range, this region spans over 600 miles, boasting small towns, scenic overlooks, and a drive that’s hailed as one of the South’s most picturesque. To guide you through the winter wonderland, this articlefrom Southern Living turned to Travis Milton, culinary director at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol, whose deep connection with the area unveils a side of Appalachia that’s best experienced in the colder months.

Exploring the Scenic Route: Roanoke to Bristol

The interviewed Chef Milton suggests taking the scenic route from Roanoke to Abingdon and Bristol, avoiding the highways to truly appreciate the beauty of Appalachia. This journey offers a glimpse into the vibrant communities and delectable meals that define the region. As you wind through the landscape, the crisp winter air carries scents of charred cinnamon and roasted apples, a testament to the seasonal events like apple butter cook-offs and canning swaps that infuse the area with a sense of community.

Roanoke: Gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains

For those traveling from afar, Roanoke serves as the perfect starting point. The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airportconnects major cities, and accommodations like Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center or the unique Fire Station One provide cozy stays. The latter, housed in a former firefighting headquarters, preserves historical features for a truly immersive experience.

Abingdon: A Picturesque Retreat

A scenic 2-hour drive from Roanoke takes you to Abingdon, a town described as one of the most picturesque he’s seen. The Martha Washington Inn & Spa, with its rich history, offers a luxurious stay, while short-term rentals provide a more casual option. Abingdon’s charm extends to its trails along the Holston River, the Virginia Creeper Trail, and historic Main Street, where quaint shops and a stunning cemetery await exploration.

Bristol: Small City, Big Culture

The final leg of the journey brings you to Bristol, Virginia, where the Inn at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards awaits. Voted the South’s Best Hotel in 2023, this mountain oasis offers luxury yurts and an outdoor fire pit for a cozy winter night. Bristol surprises with its cultural offerings, from Cheap Thrills Records to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. It’s recommended that you visit HollerHouse for unique Appalachian art and Benjamin Walls Fine Art Galleryfor nature photography enthusiasts.

Culinary Delights in the Mountains

To truly savor the essence of Appalachia, Chef Milton suggests exploring local markets. In Abingdon, the Farmers Market hosts holiday and winter markets, showcasing the region’s diverse culinary offerings. For a taste of Chef Milton’s culinary expertise, start your morning at Hickory in the Inn at Nicewonder, where seasonal delights like buttermilk biscuits topped with fried bologna await. And if you’re in need of a caffeine fix, Bloom and The Girl and The Raven are the go-to spots.

Discovering Appalachian Trails: A Hiker’s Paradise

For those seeking an active winter adventure, the Appalachian Mountains offer an array of hiking trails. Near Roanoke, explore the Star Trail or the Roanoke River Blueway, where winter conditions make hikes more manageable. The Appalachian magic comes alive as snow blankets the trails, providing a serene backdrop for an unforgettable trek through nature’s winter wonderland. Lace-up your boots and embrace the tranquility of these pristine trails, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Embrace the Winter Magic

Winter in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains unveils a different kind of magic. From the snowy trails of Abingdon to the cultural gems of Bristol, each stop along the way adds a layer of charm to your journey. Whether you’re indulging in local cuisine, exploring historic sites, or simply breathing in the crisp mountain air, this winter escapade promises unforgettable moments.

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Explore the Nature of Smyth County, Virginia

One of the most memorable and beautiful areas of the country lies in the curving mountain roads of Southwest Virginia. The destination that allows you to quite literally reach new heights and visit destinations straight out of a painting is Smyth County, Virginia, and with this guide to exploring the county from Southern Living, you’ll be set for an unforgettable return to nature.

As a reminder, no matter where you’re traveling to in these uncertain times, it’s always a responsible move and a good idea to check local travel advisories, city ordinances, and state mandates that may have been implemented due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Travel safely and rest assured that you’ve done your due diligence by referring to CDC travel guidelines.

Smyth County is filled to the brim with natural wonders around every corner due to it being in such close proximity to State Parks and National Recreation Areas. So, if you’d like to experience the most of these beautiful environments along with someone knowledgeable of how to safely navigate the area, you should consider booking a local guide for the weekend. For instance, if you reserve a hike with White Blaze Outdoors, not only will your hike be all the more elevated because you get to explore the expansive views and tumbling creeks of the Appalachian Trail, but you’ll be shown literal off-the-beaten paths by your knowledgeable nature guide.

Two of the most popular tourist destinations in Smyth County are the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Hungry Mother State Park, and Grayson Highlands State Park. When travelers find themselves in Smyth County, they’re typically drawn to the centermost valley located within the boundaries of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, as it’s the meeting spot of three converging forks of the Holston River. Once inside Mount Rogers NRA, you’ll be able to walk a portion of the Virginia Creeper Trail, a rail-to-recreation trail that runs between Abingdon and Whitetop, Virginia.

On the other hand, if you find yourself at Hungry Mother State Park, you’ll find yourself within a seemingly boundless enclosure of over 100 acres begging to be explored. Known locally as being one of the crown jewels of the Virginia park system, Hungry Mother State Park is filled with activities for families of all ages, offering plenty of fishing, boating, swimming, and more. Similarly, Grayson Highlands State Park, which is located near Virginia’s highest peaks: Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, is a celebrated State Park that offers hiking trails, scenic views of alpine-like mountain peaks of over 5,000 feet, and waterfalls and overlooks that allow you to see Virginia in all its natural splendor.

Survey a wide array of unique experiences and a rich tapestry of historical events at Smyth County’s Museum of the Middle Appalachians in Saltville, VA. Stop in for an afternoon and discover what types of one-of-a-kind geology had attracted the earliest human settlers and wildlife. Oh, and that includes the single most complete Mastodon remains on display in the United States of America. Afterward, feel free to check out the natural salt marsh that made Saltville such an attraction during the Civil War or simply look over the expansive, beautiful city at the Lilypad, a casual picnic overlook.

The best part about all of the nature sites, parks, and experiences to be had in Smyth County, is that there are plenty of accommodation options that allow you to be mere steps away from the forests, trails, and mountainsides that will surely tire you out. Consider reserving a stay at a historic Inn such as the refined, redbrick General Francis Marion Hotel or the charming Collins House Bed and Breakfast Though, you might prefer to literally “bunk in nature” by booking a stay in one of the unforgettably cozy log cabins inside of Hungry Mother State Park. No matter where you stay, you’ll be sure to return ever ytime you hear the Virginia air beckon you back to the mountains.

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