Hello, 2015! After dancing, celebrating, and drinking a little too much champagne last night, it’s been a slow morning. But that doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten the promise you made to yourself as the countdown to the new year began. For once, your new year’s resolution doesn’t involve deprivation. Just the opposite. You’re going to travel more—a lot more.
This weekend, being a long weekend, is the perfect time to start. You’re heading to Northern Virginia, less than an hour outside of Washington, D.C. This area is known as horse country. It’s full of large horse farms, acclaimed vineyards, tree-lined streets, and historic little towns. The Bull Run Mountains stand in the background. Equestrians, Olympians, and even a few politicians call the area home. Middleburg is the center of it all.
Quaint Middleburg was established in 1787 by a lieutenant colonel of the Revolutionary War. Two minor battles were fought here during the Civil War. Soon after, it became known as the country’s horse and hunt capital. Fox hunting, that is. It’s home to the National Sporting Library—a research center, art gallery and museum for field sports—and the Red Fox Inn, the oldest continually operating inn in the country.
Spend the day browsing through the shops that fill the 19th-century buildings in the center of town. The Christmas Sleigh has handmade gifts. The Home Farm Store sells gourmet and organic food items. While Books & Crannies stocks titles by local authors. Stop at the Red Fox to see the historic inn and eat lunch in the tavern. A bowl of Virginia peanut soup and a St. George Porter will warm you up. Then check out the vineyards on the outskirts of town. Your favorite is Chrysalis, which focuses on Norton, a native Virginia grape.
On the edge of town, you’ll also find the Salamander Resort & Spa. The country estate is surrounded by 340 acres, an equestrian center, paddocks, and wildflower-filled meadows that currently have a dusting of snow. The Living Room overlooks the Grand Lawn and the woods in the distance. The Library looks comfortable, with two massive stone fireplaces and leather chairs. The spa’s softly babbling fountains and indoor pool are just as relaxing. While another fireplace and horse photos decorate your dog-friendly room.
Go on a horse-drawn carriage ride. The trail may be covered with snow, but you’re warm and toasty under a thick blanket. Sip another glass of local wine—this time Chardonnay—at the Gold Cup Wine Bar. Move into the adjacent Billiard Room to play a game of pool. Eat dinner in the octagonal-shaped dining room. Harrimans has broiled Chesapeake oysters, Ayrshire Farm coq a vin, and panoramic views. Then go outside to the stone fire pit to watch the crackling fire and the starry sky. Your resolution is off to a great start.