Autumn is one of the best times to be in Virginia. Why you ask? It’s simple. The humidity is gone, the fall foliage is out in full force and the crowds that flock to Winchester, VA to discover all of its history, great culinary scene and the amazing massages to be had at the George Washington Hotel have headed home.
Shenandoah Valley towns still roll out the red carpet for visitors. They also show you the quiet side of the life you crave on a weekend in Winchester. Life can be stressful if you commute to work in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Richmond or any of the other major cities on the East Coast. Winchester with kids is when you get to slow down, do some hiking and reconnect.
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HISTORIC STAY AT THE GEORGE WASHINGTON HOTEL
One of the easiest decisions to make when planning your trip is booking your Winchester hotel. The George Washington Hotel, a Wyndham property, is filled with history, blocks from the Loudoun Street (the main drag), great restaurants, and it has an indoor pool for the kids and a spa for mom. Junior suites are large enough for a family of four to spread out, as they provide a pull-out couch, humongous bathroom and king-size bed for parents. Girlfriends looking to get away can share a standard room or enjoy a suite together as well.
Any tired parent, whether they are traveling together or not, needs to book at massage with Kelly at the Saumaj Health Spa. This small space in the bottom level of the George Washington Hotel may not look like much, but Kelly will work out all of your problem areas and have you feeling like new in under an hour. Need to talk out some of your stress? She will listen to that too. If you have time, head to the hot tub just next door to the spa to loosen up those muscle a little bit before your treatment. The pool and hot tub are open to all guests, whether you have a spa appointment or not.
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WINCHESTER RESTAURANTS NOT TO MISS
Winchester has a nice little culinary scene that will make sure you don’t go hungry while you are in town. Two Winchester restaurants in particular are making waves, but for very different reasons. While Fresca Kitchen hits the needs of vegetarians (with some carnivorous protein thrown in when you need it), Bonnie Blue is all over the meat, and we couldn’t be happier.
Fresca Kitchen, 6 S Loudoun St, Winchester, VA 22601. Healthy, flavorful options burst off the menu, making it easy to get your daily supply of veggies when you are at this Winchester restaurant. If you have a gluten intolerance or are trying to cut back on carbs, but love pasta, this is the spot for you. Most of their noodles are made out of vegetables. No wheat required at all. I enjoyed a honey-lime salmon over butternut squash pasta that I wish I could make at home. I’d never eat regular pasta noodles again.
Bonnie Blue, 334 W Boscawen St, Winchester, VA 22601. Kitschy gas station meets some of the best brisket BBQ on the east coast when you walk into Bonnie Blue. This very popular joint is jam packed for a reason. The owners and staff make sure no one ever goes hungry when they show up. Stick around, grab a table and meet the locals (they are always there). Enjoy a cold beer while you wait for your pulled pork, ribs, and of course, that brisket we love.
THINGS TO DO IN WINCHESTER VA
Shop South Loudoun Street. Winchester isn’t huge. It does pack a nice punch when it comes to boutique shopping for your home and personal attire. Wander up and down Loudoun Street (the main street through town) and the side streets to find unique wares and get inspired to do a little redecorating.
Cooking class at Nibblins’, 229 Market St, Winchester, VA 22603. It may seem odd to take a cooking class when you travel. It’s actually a great way to meet the locals and learn something at the same time. A rotating roster of chefs come to teach classes that cover everything from classic macarons and gourmet holiday cookies to stuffed pizza and Harry Potter inspired concoctions. Oh, and there are even classes for kids. Check the calendar before you arrive to see what’s cooking in class that week.
WINCHESTER WITH KIDS
Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, 19 W Cork St, Winchester, VA 22601. Parents looking to entertain their kids on a rainy day or just wow them with some knowledge should definitely stop into this children’s museum. Science comes alive on multiple levels. Engineering, chemistry, paleontology and physics are broken down to a level, even a mom who barely passed high school science can keep up with (yup. That’s me!) and enjoy. Most exhibits are hands on. Questions, curiosity and a whole lot of fun are definitely encouraged.
Hike the Tuscarora Trail to Eagle Rock Overlook. You didn’t come to the Shenandoah Valley to stay in town the entire weekend. Get out with some local hiking guides, or go out on your own to the Eagle Rock Overlook on the Tuscarora Trail. This hike is easy for kids to do with their parents. It is also perfect for a group of friends to tackle before brunch on a Saturday morning. The views are magnificent of the valley. You will see the fall colors pop out here before they do in town. If you are looking for hiking supplies or to join a guided hike, stop in at Mountain Trails (115 N Loudoun Street). The knowledgeable staff hikes the mountains every week, takes out groups, and will set you up with all you need.