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Spotsylvania is peaceful now, but it wasn’t always that way. Union and rebel soldiers fought hard and often across these lands, and Stonewall Jackson suffered the shots that would cause his arm to be amputated (and buried here), and ultimately lose his life.
Make it a long weekend. This three-day itinerary is packed with history, but also daily libation breaks and plenty of entertaining diversions.
Check in to Stevenson Ridge for the weekend, and choose your lodging depending on how sporty, fancy, or Daniel Boone-y you’re feeling; the Inn offers a choice of nine restored antique structures for your stay, ranging from an elegant two-bedroom Plantation Home to a rustic 1830’s log cabin. Owners Dan and Debbie Spear restored them all personally, and they’re happy to share some history with you.
Ready to hit the road? Head a few miles to the Spotsylvania Visitor Center, pick up brochures, and get directions.
Recommended first stop: Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Four major battles of the Civil War were fought in the region: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse. For info and images, stop by the Visitor Center and museum located at Chancellorsville.
In the afternoon, Wilderness Run Vineyards is the spot for a wine tasting and visit with a bunch of turkeys – along with chickens, horses, donkeys, llamas and rabbits.
For dinner, Harry’s Alehouse in Fredericksburg gives you 24 choices of mostly local beer on tap. The “Scratch Kitchen” – that is, everything is made fresh, in house – leans Southern, but doesn’t let artificial geographical boundaries get in the way of a tasty Chicago Italian Beef Sangwich, “wurst” platter, or pizza.
Order an early Breakfast Basket from the inn, or whip up your own quick meal – all lodgings at Stevenson Ridge come with a refrigerator, coffee maker, and microwave/toaster.
Continue to explore the battlefields around Spotsylvania with a visit to Historic Ellwood, where much of the Battle of the Wilderness was fought. Get a guided tour of the house and explore the family cemetery, where Stonewall Jackson’s arm was buried. (Don’t know that story? Read about it here.)
Feeling ready to mount your own battle? Head over to Wilderness Presidential Resort to try out their rope course and climbing wall.
Or, if you've had enough of military history, spend an hour at the Shannon Air Museum, which recently re-opened. The Shannon Airport has an interesting history - it was founded in the 1950s by Sidney Shannon Jr., as part of his love for aviation and to honor his father Sydney Shannon Sr., who was one of the founders of Eastern Airlines with World War I flying legend Eddie Rickenbacker. Over the years, the on-site museum was closed and its planes disbursed, until a group of passionate locals brought it all back. (Open Thursday - Saturday.)
Have lunch at the Museum's retro Robin's Nest Cafe, or head to the Cajun-themed C'est Bon Cafe and Patisserie enroute to a relaxing afternoon at the “Tasting Post” at Mattaponi Winery, where your wine tasting can double as dessert. The Odeimin strawberry wine is a perennial award-winner and the “Pow Wow” will make you think of chocolate-covered strawberries. Not sweet enough? The “wine & NY-style cheesecake” pairing is one-of-a-kind.
Take a break and see some of the countryside with a ride out to Lake Anna Winery, one of Virginia’s oldest wineries. In warm weather – assuming you’ve got energy to spare – top off your weekend with a stand-up paddleboard adventure at Lake Anna Outfitters, or just head to the lake for a swim. Lake Anna is one of the largest inland freshwater lakes in Virginia.