The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton
Are you thinking ahead towards next year’s travels and looking for some inspiration a little closer to home? I’ve compiled my list of the top 10 mid-Atlantic places to visit in 2014 and whether you’re in search of an urban escape, an outdoorsy getaway, a place that lets you be a beach bum or some destinations with a foodie focus, I’m sure to have something that strikes your fancy.
Check out these 10 places to visit in 2014… and keep checking back here throughout the year as I do my best to visit all of them before the clock strikes midnight next December 31st!
1.) Lexington, Virginia
Throughout 2013, many of my travels took me within a stone’s throw of the historic town of Lexington, Virginia. Each time I dared to get close, my Twitter and Instagram feeds would begin to hum with recommendations and suggestions… all for Lexington, which was never on my itinerary. This is the year that I will, finally, visit Lexington. From eating at Kenney’s (known for serving up a mind-blowing combination of fried chicken and fried biscuits) to meandering down Main Street… I’ll try to do it all, so keep those recommendations coming.
UPDATE: I stopped through Lexington, Virginia as part of a summer road trip to Asheville, North Carolina. It was as charming as I expected and I hope to have a longer visit soon.
2.) Coastal Virginia
When I say “Coastal Virginia,” I bet your mind immediately thinks of Virginia Beach. This year, head towards Virginia Beach and keep going. Drive the 17.5 mile Chesapeake Bay Tunnel towards lesser-known Eastern Shore spots like Cape Charles — a place with serious small town charm and lots of water activities (you can kayak to a winery!) — and Tangier Island — so remote that most inhabitants get around by golf cart or bicycle. (Tangier Island’s also the soft shell crab capital of the world!)
3.) Richmond, Virginia
Evidently, I’m a few days late to the game… Frommer’s has just named Richmond as one of its top places to visit in 2014, saying: “Richmond is coming into its own as a choice regional destination with a growing slate of breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and even white-water river rapid activities cutting right through downtown. While you weren’t looking, Richmond got cool.” Knowing that Richmond’s also home to the five-star, historic Jefferson Hotel and that it’s an easy train ride from DC… consider me IN for this urban escape.
4.) Middleburg, Virginia
This past summer, the Salamander Resort opened in Middleburg. I followed along on social media as picture after picture was posted, unveiling the spectacular property. For anyone who loves horses, loves spas, loves food or just loves staying at über- luxe resorts, Salamader Resort’s reason enough to visit Middleburg. An added bonus? The actual town of Middleburg’s quaint with small-town appeal. Enjoy a meal at the town’s Market Salamander or historic Red Fox Inn before venturing out to one of the area’s many wineries.
UPDATE: I visited Middleburg in early 2014, and I LOVED it. Here’s my recap and suggested Middleburg Itinerary: DC Road Trip to Middleburg
5.) Frederick, Maryland
I grew up in Frederick County, Maryland, so at first glance it might seem unusual that I’d add the oft-visited flagship city of Frederick to my 2014 travel to-do list. But, in recent years, Frederick has undergone a culinary transformation, thanks to the celebrity status of VOLT mastermind Bryan Voltaggio. But Frederick’s foodie scene offers way more than just one amazing restaurant. Take the Market Street Food Tour for an overview of some of downtown’s best eateries, sign up for a beer tasting at the popular Flying Dog brewery or track the farm-to-table movement in a county with the most farms in all of Maryland.
6.) Assateague Island, Maryland
Assateague Island is where the wild horses roam free on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Sounds nice, right? Part of the National Park Service, Assateague makes for an easy day trip from the Maryland or Delaware beaches. After my time last year with the bears in Alaska, Assateague’s remoteness and abundance of wild horses and birds seems like it would be another photographer’s dream destination… but a little safer!
7.) Deep Creek Lake, Maryland
Deep Creek Lake is one of those few-and-far-between destinations that is equally as exciting in the winter as it is the summer. At this Western Maryland spot, all seasons offer distinctly different experiences– whether it’s spending the day skiing or snowboarding at Wisp Resort in winter, jet-skiing on the lake to escape the summer’s heat, or getting out and enjoying Garrett County’s many state parks, waterfalls and hiking trails in the spring and fall. As for me, I’d love to visit in the summer– rent a cabin in the summer with a lake-front dock just made for cannonballs.
8.) Hershey, Pennsylvania
Most people are familiar with Hershey for its chocolate empire. The chocolate company set up shop in this part of Pennsylvania in the early 1900s, and today still has a strong presence with its amusement park, Hershey Park, and several resorts including the Hotel Hershey — one of my dream hotels of the mid-Atlantic. But the “Sweetest Place on Earth” offers other draws for visitors too, like restaurants touting regionally-inspired cuisine and the Susquehanna Ale Trail has craft brewery stops all around the region.
UPDATE: I visited Hershey on a girlfriend getaway with my friend Molly. Read about my trip, here: A Grown-Up Weekend in Hershey, Pennsylvania
9.) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I drove though Philadelphia once in high school, stopping just long enough to admire the crack in the Liberty Bell’s austere frame. Then, a couple of years ago, I stopped into the city just long enough to do a Philly Cheesesteak Taste Test. (Go Geno’s!) I think my experiences mirror that of many others, but Philadelphia really is so much more than just founding fathers and cheesesteaks! This year, I want to move past the generic and really explore downtown Philadelphia’s museum, graffiti and food scene.
10.) Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
Set in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, this historic town has been a tourist destination for over 200 years. Known for its hot springs, George Washington visited often in the mid-1700s to soak in its restorative waters. Today, the town balances the historic with a a quirky new-age vibe. The downtown area is filled with aromatic healing stores, ice cream parlors, hot spring spas and antique shops. I visited briefly during a road trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in 2011, and found it to be an incredibly charming town that begs for a repeat visit.
That’s my list of the top 10 places I want to visit in 2014… what’s on your list?