Linger Longer - Culpeper, VA
The town of Culpeper is no longer just a day-trip destination from Richmond - it offers a range of attractions and activities that will entice all ages.
Traveling with kids? Hit up Rockwater Park, where the splash pad, disc golf course, 14-foot climbing boulder and multiuse trails are family-friendly. Little ones can explore an expansive playground, and teens will enjoy a ninja-style obstacle course.
For more outdoor activities, you can rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard and fish at the town’s Lake Pelham Adventures.
Or drive just a bit further west to Shenandoah National Park, where you can camp, hike or just take in the sights of wildlife and waterfalls.
The Cameleer provides a colorful retail experience featuring aboriginal art and handcrafted items from artisans in 80-plus countries. Nearby, you’ll find Taste Oil Vinegar Spice and its fresh varieties of olive oil, vinegar and spices, as well as Reigning Cats and Dogs, a pet-themed specialty boutique.
A must-stop for cinephiles is the 205-seat theater at the National Audio-Visual Center’s Packard Campus. This vast facility is where the Library of Congress houses the world’s largest collection of films, programs and sound recordings in climate-controlled vaults with over 90 miles of shelving. It’s also a film theater with a quirky lineup of films, all shown at no cost.
History buffs will enjoy a scenic drive out to Cedar Mountain Battlefield for a self-guided tour of the Civil War site. American Red Cross founder Clara Barton tended to soldiers wounded during the battle there in 1862.
On your way back to town, stop along Route 29 at Brandy Station Battlefield, where in 1863, soldiers fought the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War. Schedule a tour at The Graffiti House, which was used by both Union and Confederate troops and as a Confederate hospital after the intense cavalry battle at Brandy Station. View autographs, drawings and inscriptions left by troops on the plaster walls; they were rediscovered in 1993 when wallpaper was removed during a home renovation.
Be sure to stop by the Culpeper Tourism & Visitors Center in the train depot (it’s served by Amtrak). Visit the attached Museum of Culpeper History for a robust collection that includes the Civil War Gallery; the Triassic Gallery, which contains a set of dinosaur tracks uncovered at Culpeper Stone Co. in 1989; and the Native American Gallery, which highlights stone tools and weapons of the Manahoac confederation that were unearthed in the area.
Diverse overnight lodging options are available. I made the most of my time by staying in the luxurious Suites at 249, where six unique king suites are available at a conciergeless boutique hotel on Davis Street in the heart of downtown Culpeper. In addition to chain hotel options, Culpeper boasts a range of lodging choices, including inns, guest cottages, farm stays and B&Bs.
For morning coffee, walk up the block to Raven’s Nest Coffee House, with a community living room environment and cozy sidewalk seating that are welcoming for either an intimate breakfast or an afternoon meeting. Cycling aficionados may want to start the day at upscale 18 Grams Coffee Lab for a beautifully crafted espresso drink and a warm, house-made scone. Enjoy lunch at It’s About Thyme, and take in Culpeper’s downtown ambiance in the charming covered-alley space, where string lights and exposed brick give off small-town Europe vibes. For dinner, check out local favorite (and mine) Pinto Thai, where the tom yum soup is to die for. Looking for libations? Old House Vineyards offers the trifecta — a winery, a distillery and a brewery — and its restaurant, Green Ribbon, features a menu offering sustainable, green-friendly options. Beer Hound Brewery is a mainstay of downtown Culpeper, offering music, trivia and snacks in addition to IPAs, ales, hard seltzers and other brews.
If you make the same mistake I made of trying to fit everything into two days, you may find yourself — as I am — planning a return trip.