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As RVLovers, we’re always looking for the next road trip and exploring the places we find along the way. We love adventure, nature and jaw dropping views. Small towns with history and charm. Hidden gems and places that inspire and delight us. Good food and drinks – from cheap, tasty bites to the occasional fine dining splurge. We’re also incurable romantics.
So when we discovered Virginia’s slogan is “Virginia is for Lovers”, AND that they have more than 150 LOVEworks around the state. We knew it was our kind of place.
Our first visit to Virginia in 2015 was brief. We stopped to take a photo with our RV and the racing themed LOVEworks at Richmond Raceway. And we promised ourselves next time, we’d stay longer, and find even more of the love in Virginia. Finally, we’re back! So we began mapping out LOVEworks signs to find along our route, on a mission to visit as many as we could.
50 Years of LOVE
As it turns out, Virginia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Virginia is for Lovers slogan. In 1969, Virginia adopted the slogan to attract all kinds of lovers. Nature lovers, fishing lovers, hiking lovers, biking lovers, history lovers, mountain lovers, food lovers, wine lovers. So when Virginia Tourism learned we were here, they offered to help us create an itinerary that we would love, RVer style.
We discovered beautiful back roads, charming mountain towns, scenic places, and delicious food and drinks. The longer we stayed, and the more we experienced, the more we found there was to love. Our verdict is in. Virginia is for RV Lovers too.
Our LOVE-packed RV Road Trip Itinerary
In this post, we share what we loved most about our road trip in Virginia, focusing on:
- Great RV camping spots we loved
- Photo-worthy LOVEworks we loved
- Awe-Inspiring drives, trails and nature we loved
- Charming and historic small town gems we loved
- Good food, wine and other drinks we loved
1. We loved the RV camping
With all its natural beauty, the state of Virginia is very outdoor focused, so there are lots of campgrounds in many areas. In planning our Northern Virginia (NOVA) itinerary, we did start to find it a little more challenging finding campsites in the more populated areas (big cities). Campgrounds were lacking near many of the small towns we wanted to see.
Hub and spoke style travel
Knowing there would be some narrower roads and parking limitations, we decided to do more ‘hub and spoke’ style travel. That means parking our RV (a larger, Class A motorhome) at a campground as a base. Then go off exploring in the Jeep, so we could relax and enjoy the drive. We don’t mind putting on the miles, especially when it comes to driving rural, scenic roads and small towns. If you have a small RV – like a Class B, Class C or even a small towable – you could drive it to most of the places we visited.
We managed to find a few gems where we were able to park our RV. Here is where we stayed.
Lake Fairfax County Park in Reston, VA
Lake Fairfax Park has 70 spacious sites, inside a massive county park. Campsites have water and electric, and there’s a bath house and dump station on site. There are miles of biking and hiking trails, sports fields, and even a huge water park. The campground was surprisingly quiet and peaceful, especially being so close to major cities.
It’s close to DC, near a metro, and affordable for the area at $40-50 a night. It’s an easy drive to Northern Virginia’s Wine Trail in Loudoun County, including Leesburg, Purcellville and Warrenton.
Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville, VA
The beautiful Shenandoah River State Park is surrounded by 1600 acres of state park, the campground is spacious, and very well maintained. Campsites book up quickly, especially on weekends. We were lucky to score a 5 night reservation during the week. The sites at this park are water and electric only, but they have bath houses and a dump station on-site.
And if you don’t have an RV, you can stay in one of their cabins, yurts, or the lodge. Or you can just pitch a tent. RV camping is about average for the area at $40 a night. This a great base for exploring the North Central Virginia and Shenandoah Valley area.
Overnight Stay at Barrel Oak Winery in Northern Virginia
We love to experience different ways to camp, outside of campgrounds and RV parks. As members of Harvest Hosts, we can stay overnight (for free) at wineries, farms and other unique locations in our RV. So we were thrilled to find Barrel Oak Winery (BOW) in Delaplane was part of the program. We called ahead, got the OK to stay, and added it to our itinerary! This ultra-dog-friendly winery and brewery is appropriately nicknamed BOW.
It’s just 45 miles west of the Washington DC area off I-66. The location was easy to get to with our RV and they parked us at the top of the sloped hill, surrounded by vines. We weren’t able to get the RV completely level, but close enough for our short stay.
Staying at BOW meant we could enjoy our wine without having to worry about driving home. And who doesn’t want to wake up beside rows and rows of vines? We spent plenty of time and money enjoying BOW’s food, drink and entertainment. More on that further down in the “food and drink” section.
2. We loved the LOVEworks everywhere
Did you know there are over 150 LOVEworks signs and art installations all around Virginia? Almost all of them have a theme unique to the place they are located.
As RVLOVE, the mission of our Virginia road trip was to find the LOVE everywhere we could. This map was a huge help in putting together a list of all the LOVEworks along our route (plus a few extras) which we added to our itinerary.
It was fun to return to the NASCAR themed Lovework at Richmond International Raceway for another photo with our new RV setup. This is one of the few LOVEworks you can easily drive right up to with your car to take a photo! Can you spot what we did in this photo? RV. LOVE. Get it? 🙂
Here are some of the other LOVEworks we visited:
- horse racing themed LOVEwork at Meadow Event Park in Richmond
- amusement themed Kings Dominion Campground LOVEwork, in Richmond
- bicycle parts themed LOVEwork of Leesburg opposite the W&OD Trail
- peace themed mural painted trailer LOVEwork at Hearthstone School (near Sperryville)
- vineyard themed LOVEwork sculpture at DuCard Vineyards in Etlan (near Sperryville)
- downtown LOVEwork at Culpeper Depot in Culpeper (it lights up at night)
- romance inspired LOVEwork at Old House Vineyards in Culpeper
- recycled farm materials themed LOVEwork at Airlie in Warrenton
- river themed LOVEwork in Waynesboro
- wooden Logs of Love LOVEwork at Luray Caverns
We loved the scenic drives, trails and nature
One of the top drives in the country starts from Front Royal, VA. The 105 mile Skyline Drive runs straight through Shenandoah National Park and is loaded with scenic overlooks and hiking trails. If continuing south, it turns into the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. The most scenic part of the tree-lined Skyline Drive is between Front Royal and Mary’s Rock Tunnel (where there’s another entrance to Skyline Drive at US 211).
There are several big pullouts (even for RVs) to stop and take in the scenery, take photos and go for a hike. Our spring visit was lovely – lush and green – and we can only imagine how spectacular it would be to travel Skyline Drive in the fall!
Note: The signs for Mary’s Rock Tunnel show a low height of 12’ 8” but the tunnel is very short and much taller in the center. As long as there’s no traffic, you could safely drive your RV down the center of the curved roof tunnel. That’s how the big tour buses get through it!
We drove the entire Skyline Drive in one day (about 3 hours one way without stopping) to visit Waynesboro and Staunton. We returned to our RV that evening via the much faster (but less scenic) I-81. If you prefer avoiding the interstate, try US 11 and US 340 for a more scenic drive.
The W&OD Trail is built on the roadbed of the former Washington & Old Dominion Railroad. It is a fantastic 45-mile paved trail for walking, running and bicycling that starts in Purcellville in Loudoun County to Shirlington in Arlington County. We were glad we took our bikes along, so we could get in some exercise before lunch. We could have spent the whole day bike through the countryside and urban heartland and countryside of this trail. Next time!
Shenandoah River State Park
Shenandoah River State Park is a haven for nature and outdoor activities. It’s by the south fork of the Shenandoah River where you can head out in a kayak or canoe. There are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails. Pop into their excellent Visitor’s Center to get even more ideas, maps and notes about wildlife sightings. The highlight of our stay was one evening when we saw thousands of fireflies light up the hill behind our RV, creating a magical, natural firework display.
The largest and most popular cavern in eastern America, Luray Caverns, has been designated a Registered Natural Landmark. We have toured many caverns in our travels, and Luray had some unique and impressive features. Hear the world’s only Stalacpipe organ play a tune. And gaze into the impossibly still and magnificent Dream Lake, where reflections of the cavern’s formations create an optical illusion.
4. We loved the historic charm of small towns
Virginia has some of the prettiest, historic, revitalized small towns we’ve seen, and quite a few of them are close together, so you can easily explore a few in a day.
The tiny town of Sperryville has a very cute and very short main street with lovely little buildings, shops and homes. It’s a sweet place to stretch your legs and take a short stroll. Start at the Happy Camper Equipment Store by the creek and read the signs to learn about the history of the town. Note: many of Sperryville’s small businesses are open only Friday through Sunday
The vibrant and lovely town of Culpeper revitalized its historic downtown district, putting it on the map as a popular destination town. We started at the Culpeper Depot Visitor Center to get some tips from a local expert. West Davis and Main Streets were perfect for browsing specialty, art and antique stores, and boutiques. There’s plenty for history lovers too, with historic homes, civil war stories, and Colonial era churches. And outdoor activities like hiking and biking. We could have easily spent an entire day (or two) exploring Culpeper. Next time we’ll book a stay at a B&B or inn, like Suites at 249.
Warrenton is another lovely, historical town that would be an easy drive whether you are coming from Front Royal or Reston. We spent most of our time exploring the peaceful, relaxing grounds of the 300 acre event center known as Airlie. Take a bike ride, try archery, play tennis, walk the nature trails, visit the farm, or sit by the lake with a picnic and watch the ducks and geese. You can even stay in one of their guest rooms. The LOVEwork at Airlie is made of recycled farm related materials, and sits up on a grassy hill, overlooking the pond and water fountain. Tip: Take your photo in the morning for optimal lighting.
At the southern end of Skyline Drive, we found Waynesboro. We took a drive down the small historic main street, and strolled along the river where we also found the river-themed LOVEwork. Check their summer event calendar as that’s where they host their music festivals in Constitution Park.
The beautifully preserved, historic town of Staunton (pronounced STAN-ton by the locals) was voted one of the “Best Small Towns” in America, and now we know why. Steeped in culture, history and natural beauty, it’s conveniently located between Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. An attractive, walkable town, Staunton is perfect for exploring by foot.
Stop in at the local Co-Art Gallery, to see the work of local artists. Step into the lovely corner building that houses the Black Swan Books and Music store. You can even pick up a signed copy of our book there. Stroll down to the old train depot, and take the steps above the rail station, for an overlook view of the town and its architecture. You can really see and feel the pride Staunton takes in preserving its history and natural beauty. Being a college town, it also has an edgy, youthful vibe that makes you want to stay longer.
5. We loved the food, wine and other drinks
Did you know that Virginia is one of the top 5 USA states for wine? It is also very popular among foodies. We did our share of wine tasting and enjoying local culinary delights!
But where to start? Loudoun County in Northern Virginia, is home to Purcellville and historic Leesburg. Located an hour from the nation’s capital, the area is known as DC’s Wine Country, with the famous Wine Trail offering 40 wineries and tasting rooms.
Doukenie Winery in Hillsboro (a short drive from Leesburg) is an award-winning winery with a lovely tasting room. It overlooks 425 acres of beautiful grounds and wines. This is a place to take a picnic and take your time! After tasting a variety of red and white wines, we bought a bottle of their delicious Cabernet Franc. They also offer a charcuterie selection, with a variety of cheeses, fruit, crackers and more. Head down to relax by the pond with your wine, snacks or picnic, while watching the ducks, geese and turtles. This was an easy drive from our RV campsite at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, VA.
While in Leesburg, we discovered Melt, diner-style burger place. Renowned for their gourmet burgers, fries and shakes, Melt’s obsession with creative burger ideas sits alongside their love for animals. Their walls are plastered with photos of furry friends up for adoption. And we LOVE that they donate their tip jar to a local animal rescue.
We were introduced to the excellent wines and beautiful property of Linden Vineyards by friends who live locally. After our wonderful wine tasting, we sat out on the deck with a bottle of rose and a delicious plate of salmon, cheese and bread. As we looked out at the vines, a huge rainstorm hit. This was followed by an incredible double rainbow spanning the vineyards. The end of the rainbow touched down right in front of us. Pot of gold, anyone? Linden was an easy drive from our campground at Shenandoah River State Park.
Downtown, Thyme Market is a great place to stop for casual bite to eat or pick up some gourmet goodies to take home. We bought a huge and delicious sea salt caramel brownie and a tasty cheese spread that the locals call “Culpeper Crack”. They didn’t last long! We also stopped at Old House Vineyards, a 74 acre 1800s farmhouse property with a wine tasting room, as well as a distillery for spirit tastings (Fri-Sat-Sun). Being a weekday, we missed out on a tasting. But we did get some photos with the wooden LOVEwork on the property.
We finished up another big drive day with an amazing dinner at Claire’s at the Depot. It’s a fabulous, former turn-of-the-century train station turned fine dining restaurant that serves up both quality and quantity. We sat out in the courtyard to enjoy the weather, a glass of wine and an outstanding roast chicken dinner. Yum!
Hungry after our scenic Skyline drive, we grabbed a beer and toasted sandwich at a great little corner cafe called The By and By. They have comfy seating inside and a nice little courtyard out back. We then took a stroll around town, and found a wine tasting room at Ox Eye Vineyards on our way back from the railway depot.
We finished up our big day of exploring with a spectacular Mediterranean meal and cocktail at the highly rated Aioli.
Everything from the bread to the appetizers, entrees and drinks were beautifully presented and a great way to refuel before our drive back to our RV at Shenandoah River State Park.
Wine, beer, pizza and puppy love
Fauquier Wine Trail has over 26 wineries, though we only got to visit one.
Barrel Oak Winery (aka BOW) in Delaplane offers wine tastings and craft beer tastings, food, gifts, entertainment and pretty much guarantees a good time! BOW is not only dog-friendly, it’s dog focused. A sign at the entrance says “Dogs Welcome, People Tolerated!” so yes you can bring your fur babies (inside and out). The place exudes puppy love.
On weekends, the place jumps with wine and beer tastings, a wood fired pizza kitchen, food vendors (BBQ, oyster, cake pops). BOW even has dog gelato for your pups! They have live music on weekends, and the place gets packed, so arrive early to get a spot! It’s a very fun place to spend an afternoon. Relax inside or grab a table outside overlooking the vines.
We loved our time at BOW, and consumed more wine, beer, and wood fired pizzas than we are willing to admit! Luckily we were able to spend the night in our RV (as part of our Harvest Hosts membership). BOW also has a gift store called “WAG” that sells dog and wine themed gear. You can even pick up a signed copy of our book Living the RV Life.
The staff were amazing, and we were made to feel very welcome. We definitely felt the LOVE at BOW.
Thanks for the love, Virginia!
We are SO glad we took the time to really immerse in and explore these Virginia gems. There is so much to see, do and love! And while we covered a lot of ground, it still wasn’t enough. I guess that means only one thing…we’ll be back, Virginia!
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