If you're itching to go antiques shopping, you're in luck. There's no better time of year to find antiques than spring, and no better place to start your search than the South. Deep-rooted in American history, where the nation's first settlers called home and grand estates are often passed from generation to generation, Virginia is fertile ground for fine antiques and densely populated with locally owned storefronts brimming with age-old treasures. Along with the glorious springtime weather and longer days also comes extended shop hours and stock that has been replenished over the winter months in anticipation of the new season. Follow our route through the rural countryside between western Maryland and Northern Virginia, where windy two-lane roads give way to pastoral towns, verdant landscapes, majestic mountain views, and a mass of dealers looking to unload their bounty. The bonus of this particular passage: The scenery is every bit as satisfying as the shopping.
Frederick, MD — Middletown, MD 13 miles
Home to more than 200 antiques dealers within eight blocks, the downtown district in Frederick, Maryland, with sweeping mountain views, offers a bounty of storefronts with the antiquing action heavily concentrated along two streets: East Patrick and East Carroll. On East Patrick, look to Silk&Burlap (silkandburlap.com) for its edgy farmhouse style, such as an 1800s farm table ($1,870) paired with mid-century Eiffel chairs in black, white, or charcoal gray ($134 each), and Relish Decor (relishdecor.com) for artfully styled displays, collections of pretty pastel Pyrex, and china pieces from England and France. Allow time for lingering at Emporium Antiques (emporiumantiques.com), a true antiques mall with 55,000 square feet of floor space and more than 100 dealers selling everything from Fiesta Ware and folk art to Civil War relics and fine French and Swedish antiques.
The lunch line starts forming at Black Hog BBQ (blackhogbbq.com) as soon as it opens for service at 11 a.m. The Texas-style beef brisket is tender, smoky, and so full of flavor you may opt to eat it without sauce. If it's a nice day, take your brisket or pulled-pork sandwich (with a side of tangy vinegar slaw or Southern-style greens) to a shady spot along the brick-lined Carroll Creek promenade two blocks away.
Later in the evening, kick back with the seasonal sangria at The Tasting Room restaurant and wine bar (thetastingroomrestaurant.com) and feast on Prince Edward Island mussels cooked in a garlicky white wine broth. Then head 11 miles west on U.S. 340 through farmland and dairy fields and call it a night at The Inn at Stone Manor (stonemanorcountryclub.com; rooms from $200), an 18th-century estate in the rural Middletown community well-appointed with Chippendale and Hepplewhite antiques. The two-story house, with its lovely blue-painted doors, was constructed in 1755 with native fieldstone and sits on 114 acres of pastoral countryside that provides panoramic views of the Catoctin Mountains.
Middletown, MD — Middleburg, VA 58 miles
After a hearty breakfast of egg soufflé and wineberry muffins at Stone Manor, continue 15 miles south on U.S. 15 to Lucketts Store (luckettstore.com) in Leesburg, Virginia. The former post office and general store is now a three-story shop hosting more than 30 vendors—and a local favorite for its mix of vintage goods. On any given day, you'll find upholstered furniture, garden accessories, painted case pieces, and bolts of burlap. Just down the road, Rust & Feathers (rustandfeathers.com), another multi-dealer shop, is ripe with industrial-style offerings.
Seven miles farther south on U.S. 15, in the Leesburg historic downtown district, Leesburg Antique Emporium (leesburgantiqueemporium.net) houses the wares of more than 40 dealers in a former department store with a noteworthy collection of vintage house parts and hardware (brass towel bars, door knobs, pulls, and hinges) on the bottom floor. Across the street, The Cottage (cottageatleesburg.com) is more shabby-chic than antique but worth a stop for its quirky and classic furnishings.
Stop in at the Wine Kitchen (thewinekitchen.com) on King Street, where the menu highlights local farmers, ranchers, and artisans. Wash down the open-faced braised short rib pot pie, made with flaky puff pastry, with one of 30 offered wines, all available in a 2-oz. taste or flight.
If you're in luck, your trip will coincide with a sale at Ekster Antiques (eksterantiques.com) in Hamilton, Virginia. Several weekends a year, Caroline Verschoor and her husband, Jon-Paul Saunier, sell European furnishings out of the 8,000-square-foot former dairy barn next to their home. You'll find Louis-style chairs upholstered in burlap and vintage feed sacks, painted tables, ticking fabric, and a bevy of wicker baskets, lanterns, and urns.
Tucked into the rolling hillsides 19 miles south of Hamilton is the historic village of Aldie (est. 1810). A quick stop is highly recommended if only to meet Wally Lunceford, the chatty and charming proprietor of the Aldie Peddler (703/327-6743). In the warmer months, he opens the sheds behind the shop to sell antiques and hold wine tastings.
From Aldie, head west along U.S. 50 to Middleburg, the heart of hunt, horse, and wine country. Book a room at the centrally located The Red Fox Inn and Tavern (redfox.com; rooms from $175), which was built in 1728 with local fieldstone and is known as one the oldest original inns in America. Enjoy a simple, home-style meal (and try the famous peanut soup) by the fireplace in the cozy tavern before settling in for the night.
Middleburg, VA — Orange, VA 87 miles
Ease into the day with coffee and the morning paper in a leather club chair at Middleburg Common Grounds coffee-house (middleburgcommongrounds.com); then amble down Washington Street to Middleburg Antiques Emporium (middleburgantiqueemporium.com), which carries fine American and European antiques from more than 30 vendors. A little farther down is Foxfire Gallery & Antiques (foxfireantiques.com), where the 18th- and 19th-century European wares give the new shop old-world flair. Don't miss the back room with shelves of pillows fashioned from antique and vintage Fortuny fabrics. If owners Keith and Pam Foster of nearby The Outpost (keithfosteroutpost.com) aren't around, they're likely visiting the farthest reaches of the globe to gather goods, such as English campaign chests, patchwork Turkish kilims, and Peruvian textiles. (They plan to reopen with fresh stock the beginning of April.)
Follow State 626 to U.S. 17 south to Warrenton for a stop at Red Truck Bakery & Market (redtruckbakery.com), a former Esso gas station that owner Brian Noyes transformed into one of the tastiest stops in town almost five years ago. Try the much-loved cranberry-orange-walnut muffins and chicken salad with apples, walnut, and a pinch of curry for a kick.
For a fun detour, head west on U.S. 211 until you arrive at the tiny village of Washington (population less than 200). The village has the distinction of being the first surveyed by George Washington, and was the first town in the nation named after him. It's also home to the luxurious Inn at Little Washington (theinnatlittlewashington.com). Pay a visit to the inn's Tavern Shops, and wander the five beautifully decorated rooms to get ideas for your own shopping: period pieces such as a classic mahogany Regency buffet circa 1875 mingle with glossy hardwood floors, chocolate-brown Tartan-covered walls, and blue-and-white ginger jars. While you're there, pick up a boxed lunch of country ham biscuits with mascarpone pepper jelly, potato salad, and a cookie ($28; order 24 hours ahead). If you have time to spare, eat on the veranda behind the shops overlooking the mountains, or stroll the grounds to find a spot by the garden or cherry orchard.
A 10-minute drive along U.S. 211 leads to nearby Sperryville, a farm village founded in 1820 at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The former Sperryville school is now Schoolhouse Antiques (540/987-5008), a complex of stores including an 8,000-square-foot room (the former gymnasium) filled with furniture, lighting, and rugs at unbeatable prices. (Two custom 6-foot-tall lamp bases wrapped in thick jute rope are priced at $799 for the pair.)
Copper Fox Antiques (copperfoxantiques.com), which sits behind Schoolhouse, is a former cold-storage apple facility that houses 30,000 square feet of vintage pieces, estate furniture, books, and collectibles. While some treasures are easy to spot (a mahogany Chippendale secretary for $1,695), others require digging (vintage H&C Heinrich china dinner plates for $2 each). Take a free tour of the adjacent Copper Fox Distillery (copperfox.biz), where they've been making a golden-amber single-malt whiskey since 2005.
Spend your last night at The Inn at Willow Grove (innatwillowgrove.com; rooms from $275), 37 miles from Sperryville. Set on a 40-acre estate, the 18th-century plantation house underwent a top-to-bottom renovation and reopened in 2010 as a boutique hotel overflowing with comfort and hospitality. The rooms have fireplaces and beds dressed in Anichini linens, and there's complimentary butler service, which delivers French press coffee with beignets in the morning. Even a single night's stay leaves you rested and well fed—the best way to embark on a journey home.