Thursday, August 16, 2012

Where to Get Away: The Gamma Girls' Favorite Weekend Destinations

 Appealing Kate: Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I love hiking and wine. And earlier this spring I found a place where I could enjoy both of those things: Sugarloaf Mountain. Sugarloaf Mountain is a little over an hour from the District, making it the perfect distance for a day trip or an overnight adventure.

There are many reasons why I love hiking, including: getting away from the hustle and bustle, going off-trail and exploring, soaking in beautiful, natural surroundings, and of course, pushing myself physically. Sugarloaf Mountain proved to be perfect for all four of those things. It wasn't crowded at all, the trails were somewhat difficult to follow, the views gorgeous, and at times it was definitely challenging with its steep inclines and rocky areas. The hiking trail we explored took us about three hours (we also stopped for a picnic lunch), and took us deep into the woods while also offering sweeping views at the top.

Views from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain
And what's a great way to relax after a tough morning of hiking? Well, enjoying a local winery, of course. The Sugarloaf Mountain Winery is literally half a mile away. Patrons can order glasses of wine, sangria, or do flight wine tastings. We went for the sangria and then sat in the sun listening to the live musical performance.

Sadly, our adventure ended there.

But, this trip can easily be turned into an overnight getaway. The Pleasant Spring Farms Bed and Breakfast is about a 15 minute drive from the mountain. It looks absolutely adorable. Once you check-in and relax with a bubble bath, dress up and head to the historic Comus Inn for dinner where you'll eat fresh, local food and enjoy sweeping views of the mountain you hiked earlier in the day. Then head back to the B&B where the inn keeper will prepare a fire for you in your room, and have a home-cooked breakfast ready for you in the morning. 

And, boom, just like that you have a perfect weekend getaway. Either with your significant other, or with a small group of friends.


 Thirsty Ivy: Cape May, New Jersey

I've been planning an off-season getaway to Cape May for at least a year now ... and then my parents went and stole my idea (without inviting me, I might add). So, even though I haven't been and can't vouch for it personally, it has the Thirsty Parents' seal of approval!

Here's what I've been planning: pack up the car with the essentials (good friends, casual duds, and several bottles of wine) and drive to Lewes, Delaware (about 3 hours without traffic). Then we'll board the ferry (car and all) and cruise 17 more miles (another 90 minutes or so) across the bay.

After we disembark, we'll either check into Congress Hall or The Virginia Hotel (based on recommendations from friends in-the-know). Then we'll stroll through the town, admiring the colorful, Victorian homes and browsing our way through the little shops -- all the while chewing on some fresh salt-water taffy.

We'll dine at The Magnolia Room, George's Place, and Peter Shields and then walk off all of the calories on the beach. Then, we'll turn around on Sunday afternoon and do the trip in reverse -- more than likely with tears in our eyes. If you've been, share your tips! If you want to go, claim your spot in the car now -- I'm determined to turn these plans into reality this fall!


Capital Katie: Virginia wine country

To me, there is nothing more relaxing and romantic than driving out to Virginia's wine country with someone I love to spend an afternoon drinking in the lush scenery and, of course, the wine.

There are more than 200 wineries across the state, making it one of the top wine-producing states in the country (Virginia apparently ranks eighth in the nation for bearing acreage and grape production, but I couldn't find stats on how many wineries other states have).

The barrel room at Shenandoah Vineyards
Now, Virginia has wineries all across the state, but for the best wine experience, fill up your gas tank and head out on Interstate 66 toward Interstate 81 South to the Shenandoah Valley wine trail. My personal favorites are Cave Ridge Vineyard and North Mountain Vineyard, for when I just want to drink a glass of wine and enjoy the view, and Shenandoah Vineyards for when I want to actually learn about what I'm drinking, as the winery gives guided tours of their production and barrel rooms every hour.

And more than that, most of these places offer food of some variety, most notably DELICIOUS cheeses that pair perfectly with whatever vintage you've chosen to imbibe. I can't think of a better way to spend a summer afternoon!

Red White and Bourbon: Blacksburg, Virginia 

So as you can tell from my post earlier this week, I am a big Virginia Tech fan. While I am not an alum, my sister graduated from VT in 2010 and is currently in her third year of vet school there. Needless to say, since she has spent 7 years of her life in Blacksburg, I have made plenty of visits down 81 to visit her at Tech. Blacksburg is one of my favorite places on Earth and for those of you that haven’t had a chance to experience it, this fall I highly recommend taking a road trip to the ‘Burg.

GAME DAY WEEKENDS: If you love everything about college football, checking out a Hokie game at some point during the season is a must. Be prepared for a maroon and orange explosion, amazing tailgaters, cornhole, and a plethora of drinking games because VT knows how to tailgate right. And believe me, there is no experience like jumping in Lane Stadium during “Enter Sandman.” Heck, even ESPN regularly comments that VT is one of the loudest and most energetic crowds in all of college football.

HIKING & BIKING: The Cascades are some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. As the leaves begin to change it is absolutely stunning; it is the perfect getaway location if you’re looking to get some fresh air. This scenery will literally take your breath away. Plus, for those of you that enjoy biking, there are plenty of mountain bike trails in the area surrounding Virginia Tech, as well. I can assure you once you’ve visited Blacksburg and see what it has to offer, you will be back sooner, rather than later.

FOR THE INNER-ROMANTIC: Dirty Dancing was filmed about 20 minutes west of Blacksburg at Mountain Lake Resort. For those of you that love this movie (and if you don’t then I assume you have no heart) make sure you visit this adorable resort. Mountain Lake Resort is open for business May-October for day trips or overnights. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you just missed the Dirty Dancing fan weekend (bummer, I know).

EAT DRINK & BE MERRY: And because it is a college town, there are plenty of places to eat and drink. Some of my favorites are El Rods (standard Tex-Mex but their Jumbo Texas Margaritas will knock you on your face for next to nothing), Macados (seriously these sandwiches are life changing), Sal’s (amazing Italian, sister and I are big fans of the calzone), or Bull & Bones (a girl needs her meat and potatoes).

The best part of all, while Virginia Tech is 4 hours away, it is literally two highways, and that’s it, you’re there. So pack a cooler, put some clothes in a bag, and jump on 66 W and drive until it ends, then hop on 81 S and drive until you see signs for Virginia Tech.  Yep, that simple!

Jules: Shenandoah National Park

Even though back-to-school ads would have you believe that summer is over and gone, the fact is, we still have a good month or so left of the best season of the year.  For those that need a break from the heat and tourists that seem especially ubiquitous in the summer, Shenandoah National Park is just 75 miles from D.C., but feels worlds away.

One hot weekend not too long ago, some friends and I loaded a car with our hiking gear- and about a week's worth of snacks -- and headed to Skyline Drive, the scenic roadway that leads you to the Park.  After pulling over a few times to ooh and ahh at the beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we put down the Monster Mix and got down to business: the hiking. 

With over 500 miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, there's no shortage of options.  Trails range from short, easy walks to long, rugged rock scrambles; my friends and I chose a hike firmly in the middle (to see maps and more information, click here).  

Despite the fact that it was 95 degrees and humid when we left D.C., it was delightfully mild in Shenandoah, which I pointed out approximately every 30 minutes to my friends ("Isn't it just so delightful here?") which I'm sure was not annoying at all.  On our hike we passed a waterfall, lots of wildlife -- including a bear! -- and took in some stunning views, each more impressive than the last.

Like the true city dwellers that we are, we opted to stay at the Skyland Resort Lodge rather than rough it in the wild.  After having dinner at the surprisingly tasty lodge restaurant, we put on our jackets (I just need to say that one more AUGUST) and sat on the back porch of our cabin to drink wine and watch the sunset.

And if you don't make it to Shenandoah before the summer ends, don't fret- Skyline Drive is an equally appealing destination in the fall, when the colorful leaves change the scenery into something else entirely.  But if you do go during the summer, make sure you post lots of updates on Facebook about how you're wearing a jacket and enjoying nature to remind your friends stuck back in swampy D.C. of all they're missing out on.  

Samantha: Dewey Beach, Delaware 

Nothing says summer to me quite like the beach. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore, the smell of suntan lotion and salt air, the feel of the sand beneath my feet and the taste of fruity orange crushes that lead to increasingly bad decisions. 

Dewey Beach is about a three hour drive from D.C. and a guaranteed good time. The beach there is clean and a bit more serene than neighboring beaches like Ocean City, MD and Virginia Beach, but the nightlife is loud and rowdy, unlike the more family friendly Rehoboth Beach right down the road. It short, it’s the best of both worlds.

After you’ve had your fill of sunshine -- which I recommend you get by working on your tan, splashing in the waves and playing beach volleyball in the smallest bikini you can get away with- shower off the sand and head to one of the bayside bars, where you’ll find big crowds and good quality live music. The cover band Kristen and the Noise is a Dewey Beach staple, and they never fail to rouse up lively crowds with radio hits and 90s favorites. And you’re in luck, because they’re playing tomorrow night at the Rusty Rudder.

And of course, no trip to Dewey is complete without a stop at The Starboard, voted one of the top 25 bars in the U.S. by Men’s Journal. Sure, Men’s Journal is largely full of crap, but they know what they’re talking about with this one- close the night there with a few hundred of your closest friends, and rest assured, you’ll have lots of good stories for the car ride home the next day.

What are your favorite weekend destinations?  


  1. I like those Loudoun County vineyards like Breaux!

  2. I've tried their wine at a dinner party, but never been to the winery. Is it pretty?

  3. Yes, I think it is the most like Napa in that it sits down in a valley, although I'm probably being a bit generous. They have a really nice tasting room and you can order fresh bagettes to go with their variety of cheeses. It's very relaxing to sit out in their outside area and look up at the mountains. They are nestled within Loudoun Valley.

    My favorite Breaux wine is their Nebbiolo.

    Hillsboro is up on a hill and has a wonderful view as well.