Virginia is for lovers, and it always has been. At least since 1969, when the state adopted this now-famous slogan. Though Virginia has plenty to offer, that catchy phrase pretty much summed up my knowledge of the state as I prepared to meet my best friend there for our semiannual trip together.
We planned to explore Richmond and Charlottesville — two of the state’s most popular cities — on a vacation fueled by delicious food, copious amounts of wine, a dash of adventure, and lots of laughs. And in those few days, I learned that Virginia’s slogan has nothing to do with the cheeky, slightly risqué meaning I had assigned it in my mind. As it turns out, Virginia is for lovers of history, nature, food, wine, art, and so much more. And it’s perfect for best friends, too.
So, if you and your gal pals find yourselves fresh out of ideas for your next vacation, here’s a glimpse of what to do, see, and eat in Virginia, with tips from my own girlfriend getaway.
In Charlottesville, we checked into Quirk, which, as its name suggests, is a quirky property with fun and unique art strung across the walls. It’s the first boutique art hotel in the city’s historic downtown.
And that central location came in handy, as the hotel was just a short distance from Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, a pedestrian walkway lined with more than 120 shops and 30 restaurants. We wandered the mall, poking our heads into used bookshops, vintage clothing stores, and more. When our stomachs started rumbling, there was no shortage of options, from Brasserie Saison and Citizen Burger Bar to The Whiskey Jar, our personal favorite, where we indulged in a classic Southern meal. The foodie scene also extends outside the Downtown Mall, with The Wool Factory, a former factory that has retained its industrial roots, but is now a full-on food and beverage destination with fine dining, craft beer, wine, and coffee roasters all in one place.
Beyond Charlottesville’s city center, there’s lots to explore on a girls trip — namely, vineyards. We were surprised to learn that Virginia is home to dozens of wine trails, with more than 300 wineries, including a particularly beautiful option just outside Charlottesville: Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. We sat at a table near Pippin Hill’s quaint gardens and admired the grape-covered landscape, all while polishing off two wine flights — one red, one white — and some light bites.
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is part of the growing Monticello Wine Trail, named after Thomas Jefferson’s former home, which is nearby and a must-visit for history lovers. For another fun, outdoorsy activity in the area, head to Carter Mountain Orchard for a pick-your-own fruit adventure topped off with homemade cider donuts and a shop with all things apple.
In Richmond, we relived the glory of our college days with a stay at Graduate Richmond. Only, it was a bit more sophisticated, as this property has a university theme, but with a lot more class than any dorm room I’ve ever seen. It also serves as a nod to local tennis star Arthur Ashe, who was born in the city.
Yet another centrally located stay made it easy for us to hop on some electric scooter rentals and explore the city. Each neighborhood has its own unique feel and architecture, much of which harkens back to the city’s foundations in the 1700s. As the capital city of Virginia and former capital of the Confederacy, Richmond is home to plenty of history, but a stroll down Monument Avenue is particularly interesting. Beyond the impressive homes that line the street, you can also witness some history in the making, as the city and state governments work to remove Confederate statues, leaving behind just the pedestals for now.
To learn more about Richmond’s history while also indulging in some tasty streets, we headed to Church Hill, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, and joined a Discover Richmond Food Tour. With five stops along the way, we tried Ethiopian classics, a New Zealand-style handheld pie, a tasty slice of pizza, a hot chicken sandwich, and a wood-fire baked croissant with chocolate and layers of flaky goodness.
And what better way to wash it all down than with a trip to Buskey Cider, one of four cideries in Richmond, followed by a nightcap at Starr Hill Beer Hall & Rooftop, one of 35 craft breweries in the city. Basically, if you and your girls love to eat and drink, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Virginia.
Of course, with all that eating and drinking, we also needed to move our bodies a bit. Luckily, Richmond has plenty of opportunities for that, too. We went white-water rafting on the James River with RVA Paddlesports and closed out the trip with a soothing yoga class at BareSoul, a studio that focuses on self-care and connection.
When it comes to planning your next girls trip, Richmond and Charlottesville are easy choices, but so is the entire state of Virginia. These cities only scratch the surface of a state filled with natural beauty, lots of wine, and bustling cities in between.