It’s been several months since I first posted about our “small trip” vacation planning. The plans went through a few iterations, temporarily settling on Cape Cod… then veering south after seeing hotel prices in that region. Eventually, we decided on a multi-stop driving trip focusing on Williamsburg, Shenandoah National Park, and Gettysburg: Hence, “The ‘Burgs.” Or, possibly “The Beers.”
We didn’t set out for such a beery trip, but it certainly turned into one. Our first stop was indeed a brewery, Dogfish Head in Milton, Delaware. It was a bit over two hours into the drive, a good stopping point, and a good spot for our first linkup with Jim and Erin, our friends who joined us for this vacation. We grabbed a bite for lunch in Bunyan’s Lunchbox, took the brewery tour, then continued on our way. I’m planning to post a few Brew-re-views from this trip, so I’ll hold off on any further details. Suffice it to say, though, Dogfish Head did not fail to impress… definitely a worthwhile stop!
Our next stop was dinner on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, at Virginia Originals and Chesapeake Grill—always a good crab cake sandwich stop. This turned out to be the most difficult drive of the trip, slogging through the intensely boring “slower Delaware” until we reached the Bridge Tunnel. But, we survived, linked back up with Jim and Erin for a quick (but relaxing) dinner… then it was on to our first destination: Williamsburg!
There was a bit of a mix-up with the reservations at our resort, so we ended up sharing a two-bedroom unit with our friends. In the end, it was fine (not to mention cheaper). We slept to dreams of good weather for our day at Busch Gardens.
The dreams must’ve paid off, since we couldn’t have really asked for a nicer day. Warm, but not hot, a bit overcast, but not rainy… just perfectly comfortable! It turned out to be among the best Busch Gardens stops I’ve had. Granted, we missed out on some stuff as they were in Hallowe’en (“Howl-O-Scream”) prep mode, but it was still great: ridiculously short lines on the classic Loch Ness Monster, a plethora of animals (including highland cattle, which I don’t recall seeing there before), a full circuit of the Skyride, some tasty food, a tastier Guinness in Grogan’s Pub… all in all, just a great day! You can get an overview of everything from my camera’s digest video of the day:
We topped things off with a shopping trip to stock our kitchen for the next few days, and finished things off with dinner and a Cards Against Humanity marathon, accompanied by some home brew I’d brought along, as well as a 750ml bottle of Noble Rot from Dogfish Head. Tasty, fun, and a bit crazy by the time the beer was gone.
The rest of our Williamsburg time was designed to be relaxing and less structured. We had three-day tickets for the colony, freeing us to pop in and out at leisure. We hit up the museums on the rainiest day, hung out in the visitors center a bit, and ended up with really only one full day at the colony, which was just fine.
Outside of the colony, we certainly had no problems keeping ourselves busy. We had lunch and a quick tasting at Williamsburg Winery, did some shopping at Williamsburg Pottery and at Merchant’s Square (also did dinner there at Berret’s one night, and brought dinner back to the resort courtesy of The Cheese Shop another)… and while timing didn’t work out for a tour, we did do a flight tasting at brewery #2, AleWerks.
It was definitely a relaxing few days, with a nice mix of the familiar and new experiences. We always enjoy returning to the Williamsburg area, and I’m sure we’ll return again to walk back in time once more….
Shenandoah National Park
Leaving Williamsburg, we planned to head homeward via Skyline Drive, through Shenandoah National Park. There’s a winery region (the Monticello Wine Trail) just south of the drive, so I sought out one with food for lunch, and settled on Pollak Vineyards. Why I thought they have food, I’ll never know, since they explained Virginia wineries can’t do that. So, we settled for a tasting, searched for somewhere nearby for lunch, and—lo and behold—ended up at brewery #3 for the trip, Blue Mountain Brewery. The winery was excellent (I’d really like to return to do more of the Monticello trail); the brewery, not so much.
And then there was Skyline Drive. Despite the fact that we took a ton of them, photos simply cannot do this justice. There are something like 80 separate scenic overlooks; we stopped at maybe half of them. Eventually, it got almost redundant: “yep, that’s also beautiful.” We pulled off at one point and wandered down a trail for a while, but as the weather was muggy, the insects were plentiful, and we could only tolerate so much of the gnat storms.
It was unquestionably a long drive (well over three hours, I think), and not one that bears frequent repetition, but it was totally worth it. If we were to return, it’d probably be later in the Autumn, as I can only image how amazing the scenery becomes as the leaves change.
Our last stop was our second “burg” of the trip: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We got a bit ahead of Jim and Erin at this point, as they doubled back a bit to check out Luray Caverns. Gina and I craved the familiar, so we headed forward.
Our first stop, outside of Gettysburg, was the classic roadside attraction Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium. This was our second or third visit there, after having driven by it even more times in the past. Mr. Ed’s is precisely as trippy as it sounds… and definitely worth a stop. There are giant elephant (and other) statues and gardens outside, and a small elephant museum inside with literally thousands of little elephants. Also, a huge assortment of candy, homemade fudge, and surprisingly nice restrooms. Always worth a visit!
After Mr. Ed’s, we stopped at our favorite Gettysburg lunch location, Thai Classic IV. It’s a very unimposing place downtown, but we’ve just always loved their Pad Thai. It didn’t disappoint. We linked back up with Jim and Erin for dinner, hitting brewery #4, Appalachian Brewing Company. Nothing too special this time—we’d been there before, as well as a location closer to home—but an enjoyable dinner all the same.
Also in Gettysburg were two planned winery stops: one at Hauser Estate and one at Reid’s. The former didn’t disappoint, with their always delicious cider and the usual beautiful views from their deck. The latter was more of a mission. We’d visited their in-town tasting room on our last visit, and had been pleasantly surprised by the quality. This time, we hunted down the actual winery (quite off the beaten path), but I was unfortunately a bit disappointed with the tasting. We did end up buying a bottle or two, but there wasn’t much that we tasted that was worth buying.
Our Gettysburg missions complete, we headed home. Of course, we had to bookend the trip with another brewery tour, so we chose the reasonably close-to-home Victory. Although we arrived after their last planned tour of the day, they thankfully added another, so we put our names in right away. We killed a little time, took a short tour (I was rather disappointed, but more on that when I do my brew-re-views), then killed a little more time before getting a table for dinner (and samples, of course) at the brewpub. In all, a very fitting ending for a very good trip!
Yes, we already have another trip planned! Our fifth wedding anniversary is in a little more than a month, so we decided another “small” vacation would be in order. Since the show I’m currently directing has a dark week (Hallowe’en, a week after our anniversary), we figured that’d be as good a time as any. I won’t come right out and say what we’re doing, but I’ll include one more image from Mr. Ed’s gardens that pretty much gives it all away. (What I photographed also probably infringes copyright, but that’s Mr. Ed’s problem, not mine!)