Last-Minute Virginia Day and Overnight Trips for the Perfect Fall Weekend

Last-Minute Virginia Day & Overnight Trips to Take Before School Starts

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

By Aila Boyd

August 18, 2023

Smith Mountain Lake

With 500 miles of shoreline, it’s safe to say that Smith Mountain Lake has plenty to keep you busy. Upon arriving at the lake, take note of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, which make for a stunning backdrop.

A good place to start if you’re new to the lake is the SML Visitor Center, which publishes an SML Newcomer and Visitor Guide every year. To make the most out of your time at the lake, rent a boat or personal watercraft from Bridgewater Marina.

You can also explore the 1,500-acre Smith Mountain Lake State Park on the north side of the lake. The park offers swimming, boat rentals, boat ramp, fishing pier, and amphitheater. If you have kids with you, they’ll likely enjoy the numerous programs the park presents.

After a day of fun, feast on a scrumptious meal at Mango’s Bar & Grill, where you can try the signature cocktail, the Mango Hurricane. Check out the event schedule on Facebook to see what kind of entertainment is happening each night, including trivia, karaoke, and live music.

Those who want to spend the night have several options, including Westlake Waterfront Inn in Hardy and cabins at the state park.

Lake Anna

Last-Minute Virginia Day & Overnight Trips to Take Before School Starts

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Although it’s smaller, with 200 miles of shoreline, Lake Anna still has a lot to offer.

“The lake area is continuously growing and more modern conveniences are arriving by the day,” the Lake Anna Visitor Center said. “Lake Anna is the perfect spot for fishing, lake boating, and much more.”

Lake Anna State Park offers plenty of activities to keep you and your family occupied, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and fishing. If you want to tie in an educational component, consider going on a guided tour of the Goodwin Gold Mine. Spend the night in one of the cabins, some of which feature lake views.

If you’re looking to splash in the water and soak up some sun, spend the afternoon at Pleasants Landing on the south end of the lake. Shaped like Florida, The Beach Park offers 2,600 feet of lake frontage.

When you get hungry, consider stopping in at Tim’s at Lake Anna Restaurant & Crabhouse for a lakefront dining experience. They serve every kind of seafood you can imagine, but you can’t go wrong with the steamer tray, which comes with 2 pounds of snow crab legs, 1 pound of spiced shrimp and 12 hushpuppies. After dinner, enjoy some “real ice cream from real dairy farmers” at Moo Thru. The locally owned shop is in the same building at The Boardwalk on Lake Anna.

Buggs Island Lake/John H. Kerr Reservoir

Last-Minute Virginia Day & Overnight Trips to Take Before School Starts

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

When it comes to lakes, Buggs Island Lake and the John H. Kerr Reservoir can’t be overlooked, given that it’s the largest lake in the commonwealth.

“The lake offers some of the best fishing on the East Coast and is a haven for outdoor recreation including boating, sailing, skiing, and swimming,” according to the Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce.

Those who want to go swimming should check out the two designated beach areas—Rudd’s Creek Recreation Area and Longwood Campground. Or if you’d prefer to spend the day on the water rather than in it, consider renting a boat or personal watercraft from either Clarksville Marina or Clarksville Water Sports. Pontoons are a great option for families as they accommodate up to eight passengers.

The 2,698-acre Occoneechee State Park offers plenty of trails to explore along the shores of the lake. You can also rent one of the 13 cabins with a view of the water.

After spending all day on the water, treat yourself to a cold pint of the German-style Kolsch “Kerr Lake” beer and a fried catfish po’boy at Buggs Island Brewing in Clarksville.

Tangier Island

Last-Minute Virginia Day & Overnight Trips to Take Before School Starts

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Dreaming of an island getaway but don’t have the time or means to travel to some far-off destination? Consider a weekend getaway to Tangier Island. The remote island, 12 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay, is only accessible by air or sea.

“See the narrow streets, traveled mostly by bicycles and golf carts, the unspoiled beach, quaint gift shops and ice cream shops,” the Virginia Tourism Corporation said. Be sure to rent a bike or golf cart so you can get around. To learn about the island’s unique past, spend an hour at the Tangier History Museum.

Crab lovers will also be thrilled to hear that the island is considered the “Soft Crab Capital” of the United States. Enjoy the soft-shell platter at Lorraine’s Seafood Restaurant. The crabs are prepared Tangier-style and seasoned with a special blend of Chesapeake Bay spices.

Since you’ll want to stay the night, consider The Brigadune Inn, which overlooks the bay.

Historic Jamestowne

Last-Minute Virginia Day & Overnight Trips to Take Before School Starts

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

A visit to Historic Jamestowne is ideal for those with curious kids or Virginians looking to learn more about their home state. A normal visit will last about half a day. Kids and Disney lovers will get to learn about the real-life Capt. John Smith, Pocahontas, and colonists who established England’s first permanent settlement in North America in 1607.

“See archaeology in action as the Jamestown Rediscovery team continues to excavate parts of the island,” the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation said. “Listen as an archaeologist or education specialist tells the story of the first colonists or describes the most spectacular archaeological discoveries.”

Don’t forget to stop by the Glasshouse, a recreation of a colonial glasshouse where artisans produce glass by hand using techniques colonists did 400 years ago. Have lunch at the Dale House Café by the water’s edge. Ask about the daily specials.

If you plan to spend the night, consider Wedmore Place, a European-style country hotel in nearby Williamsburg. You’ll then be able to wake up the next morning and spend the day roaming around Colonial Williamsburg.

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area

Last-Minute Virginia Day & Overnight Trips to Take Before School Starts

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

The Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is the ideal destination for those looking for a mountain adventure, as it is the highest point in the commonwealth. The 5,000-foot-high area features large rock formations, mountain balds, and spruce-fir forests.

Hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts will be delighted to hear that there are 400 miles of trails, along with four wilderness areas. While exploring, keep an eye out for wild ponies and bears.

While there are three rental cabins in the area, your best bet is to camp at one of the 11 campgrounds.

Plan to bring your food and picnic at one of the designated areas, like Whitetop Station Visitor Center.


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  • Aila Boyd

    Aila Boyd is a Virginia-based educator and journalist. She received her MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.



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