Escapes: Summer fun near and far


Well, summer is right in front of us, and while living might not be easy these days, it is an opportunity to get out and explore all the things that our area has to offer. And we're not just talking about Charlottesville, we're talking about all the surrounding counties near and far that are having summer events to rock your world; everything from summer tubing and sight-seeing in Nelson County, to bluegrass in Augusta County, to a shoe factory in Lynchburg and a pro golf tournament featuring music by Aerosmith and Kenny Chesney in the nearby Allegheny Mountains. Oh, did we mention dinosaurs and theater? A new rock music festival in Nelson County at the end of the summer expecting to draw 30,000 people? Seriously, don't miss some of these great escapes. – Courteney Stuart, editor


Ski Resorts Do Summertime: Wintergreen and Massanutten

When the heat of summer rolls around don’t forget that the local ski resorts have summer activities too. Wintergreen Resort, located about 45 minutes from Charlottesville, provides summer tubing, hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and fly-fishing. For those looking for an adrenaline rush, head over to the Discovery Ridge Adventure Center filled with activities ranging from zip lines and climbing walls to bungee trampolines and a tubing park. Head down to Lake Monocan Park and you’ll find canoes, kayaks, water trampolines, picnic areas and a volleyball court—everything you need and more for a sunny afternoon adventure. For a more relaxing day, The Wintergreen Spa is open Monday-Thursday 9:00am-7:00pm, Friday and Saturday 8:00am-9:00pm, and Sunday 8:00am-7:00pm. Call 855-699-1858

Massanutten Resort, located about one hour from Charlottesville, provides mountain biking, horseback riding and trail rides, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, tubing, and more.  Check out The Family Adventure Park for the zip line/canopy tour and summer tubing.  Interested in a river adventure? They will shuttle you to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River for paddling, kayaking, canoeing, or tubing. If you’re ready to unwind after a day of activities, The Spa at Massanutten is open Sunday through Friday 10:00am-6:00pm, and Saturday from 9am-9pm.
 Call 540-289-9441.


Nelson Scenic Loop
Virginia is for lovers. Nelson County, thanks to its new 50-mile auto and biking Scenic Loop, is for naturalists, bikers, history buffs, wine connoisseurs, and hikers. The route, which encompasses dozens of historical, cultural (like the Mount View Tearoom shown here) and natural landmarks, is perfect for those seeking to enjoy the great outdoors from the air-conditioned comfort of their cars and for those who prefer to get out in it. In addition to natural wonders like Crabtree Falls,  the loop is studded with historical sites including Wintergreen Plantation and countless local markets, wineries and restaurants. The loop also links to miles of additional hiking and biking trails that wind through the Three Ridge Mountains, providing the adventurous spirit with endless recreation beyond the route itself. With all it has to offer, the Nelson Scenic Loop is a must-see this summer. For more information email

Augusta Expo String Music and BBQ Festival
Bring your fiddles and come hungry because on June 22, 2013, string music and BBQ are coming to the Augusta Expo. The Expo features events almost every weekend this summer, but the bluegrass music (with Blue Grass Hall of Famers, pictured here) and BBQ festival promises to be a huge hit. The festival runs from noon to 11 p.m. and offers corn hole tournaments for all ages, a BBQ cook-off and the opportunity to perform your music on stage. Whether you stop by for an hour or stay the whole day, the festival is one of the highlights of the Augusta Expo summer schedule.
And if you have kids in tow, stop by the Fast tracks go kart track in nearby Waynesboro and treat them to a couple laps around the track! For more information visit


Abington and The Barter Theater
With The Barter Theatre’s diverse offering of 21 shows, patrons can be swept away by the triumphant music and wrenching plot of the iconic Les Misérables, or seduced by the steamy scenes in A Streetcar Named Desire, and children have the opportunity to experience the adventures of the Ingalls family in Little House on the Prairie. Though The Barter Theatre no longer accepts livestock and vegetables as payment as it did when it first opened its doors during the Great Depression (thereby earning its namesake), the spirit of affordable theatre lives on as ticket prices range from only 13 dollars to 37 dollars depending on the performance. Rich in history and talent, The Barter Theatre is a cultural and artistic Mecca in Abingdon, Virginia that draws students, children and adults alike. Comprised of Barter Theatre, which seats 506, Barter Stage II with an intimate 167-patron capacity and a gourmet café, both avid theatergoers and first timers will find something to their liking. In addition to The Barter Theatre, Abingdon is home to numerous shops and boutiques, restaurants, galleries and outdoor activities perfect for a summer outing. There's plenty to see and do once you get there, and it's about a four-hour drive from Charlottesville. Call 276-628-3991.


Aerosmith, Chesney, and the PGA Tour
Okay, like, even if there wasn't a PGA golf tournament at the Greenbrier (Tiger, Phil, and a host of other big names showed up last year at this FedEx Cup event) this summer, along with an accompanying concert featuring Aerosmith and Kenny Chesney on the bill, the historic Greenbrier resort, a couple hours west in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, would be well worth a visit this summer. In addition to this extraordinary event, taking place July 1 to 7, the beautiful grounds and accommodations at this 6,750-acre resort in the Allegheny Mountains, which first started welcoming guests in 1778, has four golf courses, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a 40,000-square-foot spa, a casino, over 30 shops, outdoor activities like swimming, horseback riding, kayaking, falconing, mountain biking, hunting, and fishing. If you have kids, there's laser tag, paintball, bowling, hiking, field trips, and scavenger hunts. Seriously, this place is a gem. In 2009, West Virginia entrepreneur James C. Justice II sunk $250 million into a renovation of the resort, which included a restoration of the grand hotel. July 1-7, The Greenbrier Classic and Concert Series, $159 per person (includes a badge to watch the tournament and see the concert). Get your tickets by visiting

Jurassic Park
Journey into the prehistoric past at Dinosaur Land, Inc., the roadside attraction on Stonewall Jackson Highway in White Post, VA.  With over 50 dinosaur statues from the Mesozoic era, all of which are realistically posed in nature as they may have been seen millions of years ago, guests can step back in time to an age when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Whether passing through or looking for an activity on a summer day, Dinosaur Land is worth a visit. Admission tickets for children aged two to 10 cost five dollars and tickets for 11-year-olds and up cost six dollars. With plenty of space to run around and its designated party room, Dinosaur Land is also perfect for children’s birthday parties. The fully stocked gift shop is a can’t-miss, especially for dinosaur lovers. From dinosaur t-shirts and toys to books, jewelry and pottery, there are souvenirs for the whole family. Call 540-869-2222.

Shoe factory hotel
Never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined touting Lynchburg as an overnight getaway, but somehow, when we weren't looking, its riverfront downtown has become really cool. What convinced us? The Craddock Terry Hotel, a former shoe-factory-turned-boutique hostelry that's not just for shoe fetishists–– although footwear is a recurring motif. A free shoe shine is provided for guests, and the pet friendly hotel has an onsite dog named Buster Brown. It also boasts its own micro brewery–– the Jefferson Street Brewery, and when the weather's nice, the Biergarten is open. The hotel rents bikes for the Blackwater Creek Trail, part of which is built on abandoned railroad beds, and is just one part of Lynchburg's impressive system of urban-natural area biking and hiking trails, such as the  Riverwalk Trail along the James River, where you can rent canoes, kayaks, or tubes. And Amazement Square with its zip lines, tunnels, and towers has to be the best kids museum ever. And all this is barely an hour and a half south on U.S. 29. Look for the giant red pump.Craddock Terry Hotel, 1312 Commerce St ‎, Lynchburg,

The Hull Drive-InLexington
A little over an hour southwest, Lexington is a historic college town like Charlottesville– it's home to both Washington and Lee and Virginia Militiary Institute– and surrounded by the same kind of gorgeous Virginia countryside we know and love here. If you're looking for a romantic getaway or fun for the family, chances are Lex has something to fit the bill. For lovers of the world's wonders, there's Natural Bridge, of course, and the nearby Virginia Safari Park and Natural Bridge Zoo are big draws for kids. But there are several lesser known attractions including llama trekking. Accompanied by your very own llama, you'll take an approximately two-hour hike through woods and over hill-tops guided by folks from the Applewood Inn B&B. Overnight guests receive half off the $28 fee. There's also "The Gems of Rockbridge Geocaching Trail," in which participants use GPS coordinates to find gem caches. As one might expect in the home of VMI, there are military museums and Stonewall Jackson's house is open for tours. And after a day spent absorbing history, fill up a cooler, grab the kids and head to Hull's Drive-in Theatre to catch one of this summer's blockbusters from the comfort of a picnic blanket. That's a full weekend!
Green Valley Book Fair Book it to Green Valley
Looking to fill out your summer reading list? The Green Valley Book Fair is the one stop shop for fiction, mysteries, historical novels, romance novels and more.  Located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, the Book Fair is a discount book outlet featuring over 500,000 new books at bargain prices. Named the "best bookstore on the East Coast" by Attache Magazine, the Green Valley Book Fair has some of the best deals around. With book prices starting at only $2 and new shipments constantly arriving, the Book Fair offers brand-new novels for even the most eclectic tastes.  Featured during the May Book Fair, for example, is author Laura Hillenbrand’s Bestseller, Unbroken, on sale for only $7.50. In addition, hard-backed coffee table books start at only $5 and make the perfect addition to any sitting room table.
The Book fair runs from now through May 27, then from June 29 through July 14, and opens for the final summer fair from August 17 through September 2. Call 540-434-0309.
While you're exploring these places this summer you might want to start planning and getting psyched for something really special happening in September: the Interlocken Music Festival. Seriously, this could be the missing link that makes the Charlottesville area one of the premiere music destinations in the state, if not the country. Organizers for this festival, who have already booked Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Further, Zac Brown, The String Cheese Incident, and The Black Crowes, expect to draw 30,000 folks to the Oak Ridge Estate in Nelson County for the weekend of September 5-8. Located in Arrington, about 35 miles outside of Charlottesville, Oak Ridge is a privately-owned 4,800 acre estate. Promoters recently told the Nelson County Times they'd like this event to become "the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival of Central Virginia.” For tickets and information go to