DC Road Trip to… Middleburg, Virginia

Middleburg- downtown

Trip Overview: For this DC Road Trip, we focus on the quaint town of Middleburg, Virginia. Known as the nation’s “Horse and Hunt Capital,” Middleburg is an upscale rural escape that’s just about an hour away from the nation’s capital. Its historic district dates back to the 1700s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, countless boutiques, cafes, historic inns make for a downtown that’s just made for strolling. Couple that with dozens of nearby wineries, sweeping views of horse-filled pastures and the region’s newest luxury destination resort… and you’ve got yourself a road trip!

Time needed: 1 day, with an optional overnight

Distance from DC: Around 40 miles

Best time to visit: Year round

Best suited for: Couples, Girlfriend Getaway, Friends… and feel free to bring your dog. Middleburg is very dog friendly!

DC ROAD TRIP TO MIDDLEBURG, VIRGINIA

SUGGESTED ROUTE – DAY 1

1.) Stop and Shop in Aldie
The drive from DC is typical (traffic, subdivisions, strip malls) until about 8 miles before you reach Middleburg. At that point, the traffic dissipates and you’re left with gorgeous pastoral views of fields with rolling hills.

Before you reach Middleburg, you’ll pass through the super-small village of Aldie, established in 1810. With a few shops and a historic mill, it would be easy to pass right through. But stop and explore two Aldie gems that I discovered, and you’ll be rewarded with good wares at great prices… and a couple big personalities!

Aldie Peddler – The Aldie Peddler is a wine shop owned by Wally, the former Mayor of Aldie. Wally’s boisterous greeting — “Y’all’ve been here before, haven’t ya?” — welcomes many visitors, most local, some just passing through. The shop boasts 100 wines under $10, and while that may be a bit of an overstatement, the Peddler’s worth a stop for some wine tasting and chitchat with Wally.

Aldie Peddler- Wally

My friend Adriana and I pose with Wally… and a super-sized wine glass and bottle!

 

Bella Villa Antiques – Next to the Aldie Peddler is Bella Villa, an antique shop that feels like an Anthropologie-esque boutique. Run by Rosanna Smith, a feisty and energetic Italian who tells it like it is, Bella Villa is full of rustic, whimsical and elegant items. My favorite pieces were a golden duck perched on an aqua crushed velvet arm chair, a series of flying pig statuettes and gorgeous antique books with jewel-toned bindings.

Bella Villa

Bella Villa

 

2.) Window Shopping in Middleburg
Middleburg’s downtown historic district is just about a half mile long, so in theory you should be able to see everything fairly quickly. But, not so fast! All of the stores here are really unique and it’s easy to lose track of time as you wander through those that pique your interest. And definitely don’t resist striking up conversation with the storekeepers– they’re all too eager to share some local history and recommendations.

Some of my favorite shops include:

Middleburg Tack Exchange – This is horse country, so it’s only fitting that Middleburg’s home to this 4,000 foot shop, once called “the best equestrian shop in the country” by Southern Living Magazine. Even non-riders will appreciate the sheer variety of merchandise. The store offers everything from traditional English-style equestrian garb, as well as accessories like hunting horns, sandwich cases and flasks.

Middleburg Tack Exchange- window

The window of the Middleburg Tack Exchange

 

Lou Lou – This reasonably-priced clothing and accessories boutique is now a local chain with 15-some locations in the DC-area. However, here in Middleburg is where Lou Lou first got its start and the town has both Lou Lou and Lou Lou Too, which focuses on accessories.

Lou Lou

Inside Lou Lou

 

OlioOlio‘s an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting room with flavors ranging from the classic — like Black Truffle olive oil — to the fun — like Citrus Habanero olive oil or Blueberry balsamic vinegar.

Olio

Olio’s tasting room

 

Betsey – Promising “clothing with moxie” this cute boutique features accessories, shoes and clothing for young, modern women. Betsey provides lots of style for prices that won’t break the bank.

 

3.) Lunch 
All of this shopping is sure to work up an appetite! There are a few standouts for catching a casual bite to eat along Middleburg’s main street. Or, consider getting your food to go and create a picnic to take on to your next stop…

Market Salamander ($) - Evoking feelings of an outdoor cafe in a European village, Market Salamander has been a local staple in Middleburg for years. It’s a gourmet eatery with soups, sandwiches, daily specials and a number of picnic-worthy wines, cheeses and charcuterie.

Market Salamander

The Market Salamander

 

The Home Farm Store ($$) - This must-visit grocery store is part organic butcher, part locally-sourced gourmet market. I was awed by the displays of cheeses and baked goods (think: maple-glazed donuts topped with a huge slab of crispy bacon!).

Home Farm Store

The Home Farm Store

 

Common Grounds ($) - Light fare like sandwiches, salads and an extensive list of coffee drinks are on the menu at Common Grounds. Inviting touches like leather armchairs, a roaring fireplace and paintings of traditional horse hunts give this coffee shop a cozy lodge-like feel.

 

4.) Wine Tasting at Greenhill Winery
Less than 2 miles from downtown Middleburg lies one of Northern Virginia’s newest wineries, Greenhill Winery. Opening in late August of 2013, Greenhill has already become very popular, and it’s easy to see why. Here you get the quintessential Virginia winery experience, including award-winning wines like the 2009 Blanc de Blancs (an effervescent sparkler) as well as world-class views of the Virginia countryside.

Greenhill Winery- tree and grapes

A gorgeous vista at Greenhill Winery

Greenhill- a hill with a view

Adriana and I pose outside the main tasting room at Greenhill

 

Winemaker Sébastien Marquet is both knowledgable and passionate about his craft, and it shows in his high-end wines that showcase Virginia’s grapes to their fullest. Tastings are just $8, and wine’s also available for purchase by both the bottle and glass. For the devoted, the Greenhill Wine Club gives members access to it’s super-chic club house as well as invitations to special events and tastings.

Greenhill- Sebastian

Sébastien Marquet explains the winemaking process at a barrel tasting event

Greenhill Winery- Clubhouse

Greenhill Winery’s chic clubhouse

 

5.) End the evening at Salamander Resort
After nearly a decade of challenges, in August 2013, the Salamander Resort and Spa finally opened with much pomp and circumstance. Former BET head honcho Sheila Johnson’s dream has been realized, and Salamander Resort is truly a high-end escape.

The furnishings are impeccably luxurious and the service is top-notch. (Upon arriving, I locked my keys in my car – yes, that really happened — and they handled dealing with AAA without even blinking.)

For daytrippers, it’s worth stopping by Salamander to sneak a peek for yourself. In the winter, I would argue that there’s no place more inviting than the resort’s library. Dark woods, comfortable leather chairs, walls full of books, and a roaring fire in the center of the room make for a heavenly escape from the cold. Grab a glass of wine (they give hearty pours!) and a cheese plate from the bar menu and challenge your traveling buddy to a board game before heading back home to the real world.

Salamander Resort- exterior

Driving up to the Salamander Resort and Spa

Salamander Library

The Salamander’s cozy Library

Salamander Library- board games

Adriana and I play a rousing game of Sorry while enjoying a bit of bubbly

 

Optional Overnight: Salamander Resort
At this point in the itinerary, it would be easy to turn around and head back to DC. In an hour, you’ll be home in time to catch up on your primetime shows on the DVR. But, if you’re looking for a more immersive escape, why not spend a night at Salamander?

It’s not cheap (rates run around $400/ night, which feels a tad steep) but the rooms are warm and comfortable, with glamorous touches like gigantic bathtubs, fancy toiletries and evening turn down service with butterscotch and walnut scones instead of chocolate. My friend Adriana and I both had the BEST sleep, thanks to some extraordinarily comfortable beds and really good black out shades. Truly, the best sleep in months, I’d say!

After staying there for one night, the only “miss” I found was the restaurant, Harrimans. It’s characterless, and drab. Skip it and head back into town if you’re looking for a fancy dinner out. (Some good dinner places include the French Hound, the Red Fox or the restaurant at Goodstone Inn.)

Salamander Room

Our room… note the balcony!

Salamander Tub

A glorious tub!

Salamander- equestrian touches

Little equestrian touches were everywhere around the resort

 

DAY 2

6.) Brunch
The next morning, head to brunch at the historic Red Fox Inn and Tavern, the oldest building in Middleburg. This nearly 300 year-old building retains much of its historical charm, with ornate paintings of horses and hunting events, weathered wood floors and multi-rooms (each with a fireplace). The historical touches provide ambiance but it’s not a gimmick. The food is upscale American… and it’s really, really good.

Red Fox Inn- brunch

Crabcake Benedict at Red Fox Inn’s brunch

 

7.) National Sporting Museum
The final stop on our tour of Middleburg is a place that celebrates the tradition and heart of the town’s horse and hunting culture: The National Sporting Museum. Upon entering the museum, visitors are greeted by a dramatic 10-foot piece by famed horse-sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green and is just one of many beautiful sculptures and paintings. Admission is free, and it’s worth a quick walkthrough before you say farewell to Middleburg and head back to DC.

National Sporting Museum

Outside the National Sporting Museum

National Sporting Museum- sculpture

A stunning horse sculpture by Nic Fiddian-Green

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7 Responses to DC Road Trip to… Middleburg, Virginia

  1. Rosanna January 22, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Christina, It was so fun meeting you and Adriana… thank you for happening upon our charming little village and opting to pop in! We’re happy you enjoyed yourselves and look forward to seeing you again! Now that you’re on our mailing lists, you’ll be hearing about the various special events we host at our shops, all of which of course include wine. ; ) Cheers!
    Rosanna

  2. Charles McCool January 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    At Gilbert’s Corner, one mile east of Aldie (intersection of 15 and 50), especially in the non-winter months, produce and food trucks appear on weekends. I have had wonderful lobster rolls and the best tasting peaches.

    I enjoy exploring the unpaved roads in this area, Virginia’s Horse Country.

    A little further west is Upperville, with English and Irish pub/restaurants. It is a very small village but I am glad they have their priorities straight!

  3. Laura @Travelocafe January 26, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    Oh, I love the statue of the horse in front of the National Sporting Museum.
    Laura @Travelocafe recently posted..Visiting the Largest Chocolaterie in the WorldMy Profile

  4. Meredith Centrella March 7, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

    Dear Chris,
    Thank you so much for the AWESOME Middleburg suggestions!! They made our recent trip there so amazing. This was so helpful to figure out our route and where exactly to go. Thank you for allowing last weekend to work out perfectly and for all your great advice on where to eat, shop and visit!

    • Christina Ricchiuti March 23, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

      Thank you! I’m so glad that you enjoyed your trip, and that my tips were helpful :)

  5. I Want To Be A Game Tester April 10, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    I merely could hardly go away your web site in advance of implying that i always really liked the most common details somebody provide in your site visitors? Are going to be once again routinely to check fresh posts

  6. Lance July 24, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    Middleburg looks really, really cute and sounds like the wine was great too! I’ve put this on our travel list for the fall!
    Lance recently posted..The Birthplace of American Wine: The Monticello Wine TrailMy Profile

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