Exploring Virginia's Presidential Stomping Grounds

Posted October 26, 2009 by Jamie Moore

Va-montpeliar-def Election fever is upon us (even though this year's election season isn't quite as exciting as last year's), and we couldn't help but follow the campaign trail to some of central Virginia's best spots with historic head-of-state ties. Drive two hours south of D.C. near Orange, Virginia, to James Madison's newly transformed Montpelier estate, a country inn built by Thomas Jefferson's kin, and vineyards with a storied presidential past.

Montpelier: In September the historic home and estate of James and Dolley Madison reopened after a five-year renovation, bringing it back to its original appearance. Take a tour and find out what new insights the archaeologists and architects uncovered about the lives of the Father of the Constitution and one of the nation's first First Ladies. You could easily spend an afternoon wandering the mansion, gardens, historic buildings, old-growth forests, new visitor's center, cemetery, and freedman's cabin and farm. Admission is $14.

The Inn on Poplar Hill: Get swept away to another political era in this restored 1890s Queen Anne Victorian B&B built by Thomas Jefferson's great-granddaughter. Period antiques, handcrafted quilts, and claw-foot tubs grace the six charming rooms starting at $139 per night. Here you can awake to the aroma of a huge Southern breakfast with pumpkin pecan waffles, soak in the outdoor hot tub, or hike trails on the inn's 28-acre expanse in the heart of wine country.

Barboursville Vineyards: Even Virginia's wine country has presidential connections. On the grounds of Barboursville Vineyards are the ruins of early Virginia governor James Barbour's mansion, the last house Thomas Jefferson designed. The surviving columns and brick walls are a backdrop for Shakespeare theater in summer. Tours and tastings at the award-winning winery, in a Northern Italian-style farmhouse, are free on weekends. It's one stop on the 21-winery Monticello Wine Trail, which also includes the vineyard where Jefferson tried unsuccessfully to grow wine grapes.

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(Photo: Kenneth M. Wyner/The Montpelier Foundation)

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