Celebrate spring with stops at historic homes and gardens along this 180-mile drive from the Blue Ridge Foothills to the Tidewater region.
Nothing compares to Historic Garden Week in Virginia, the oldest and largest statewide event of its kind in the country. For the 80th anniversary, this April 20-27, volunteers from nearly 50 garden clubs offer visitors a rare glimpse inside the front doors and behind the gates of the state's most picturesque homes and gardens.
Bookended with two distinctive tours—one of the Blue Ridge foothills, the other in Williamsburg—this drive offers travelers a chance to make the most of Virginia's glorious springtime with plenty of alfresco dining and wine-tasting options along the way. Garden-tour tickets range from statewide passes for $175 to single-property tickets for around $15. Buy them at the door or in advance at vagardenweek.org, then make time to stop and smell the wisteria.
Top Ten Detours: Nellysford to Williamsburg
1. Best Country Estate
A highlight of the Nelson County tour (April 21-22), Solliden features three homes and 7 magnificent acres with a formal garden and lavender hillside. vagardenweek.org
2. Best Locally Sourced To-Go
Visit Greenwood Gourmet Grocery for locally sourced salads, sandwiches, and frosting-drizzled tea cakes made with farm-fresh milk, butter, and eggs. 540/456-6431
3. Best Sip and Stroll
Sip an Orange Dreamy (orange soda and vanilla ice cream; $3.95) at The Nook, at landscape architect Lawrence Halprin's pedestrian mall in Charlottesville. thenookcville.com
4. Best Overnight Splurge
The Pathfinder Suite at Maury Place at Monument (rates from $289) overlooks 100-year-old homes on Richmond's Monument Avenue. mauryplace.com
5. Best Patio Table for Two
At The Continental Westhampton, chef Stuart Lowrie dazzles Richmond with lobster hushpuppies ($9) and pork belly tacos ($12.95). thecontinentalrva.com
6. Best Outdoor Art
Don't miss the outdoor sculpture garden, part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' $200 million makeover in 2010. vmfa.museum
7. Best Private Manor
Perched by the James River, Westover Plantation (c. 1730) is one of the country's loveliest Georgian mansions. westover-plantation.com
8. Best Porch Dining
Enjoy a crab cake sandwich ($13) on the breezy porch at Charles City Tavern, housed in an 1880 farmhouse. charlescitytavern.com
9. Best Colonial Architecture
Williamsburg's Kingsmill and Colonial Area garden tour (April 23) features five homes. (Tickets $30 in advance.) vagardenweek.org
10. Best Alfresco Meal
End at Williamsburg's Fat Canary with a heritage pork chop ($29) and Gruyère bread pudding. fatcanarywilliamsburg.com