“Virginia is for Lovers” is the commonwealth’s familiar tourism slogan, yet it can be tempting to dismiss Greater Williamsburg, which includes Jamestown and Yorktown, as an overrun school field trip destination, the last place lovers would go for a quiet getaway.
It’s true that every year thousands of students flock to Colonial Williamsburg, one of the world’s largest living history museums, to delve deeper into early American history. But look past the musket-firing demonstrations and you’ll find that Williamsburg offers fine dining, wine tastings and other activities that set the stage for romance.
Here are a few ways to enjoy Williamsburg with the one you love.
Café Provencal is an elegant French restaurant at The Williamsburg Winery helmed by chef David McClure. His signature dish is a a pan-seared Chesapeake Bay diver scallop beautifully arranged on a bed of rice pudding made from locally sourced black rice and topped with a handful of lush microgreens.
McClure dresses up this simple shellfish with crispy pork belly for a delightful crunch and a pleasant contrast to the meaty texture of the scallops. Blistered shishito peppers create smokiness but little heat. Instead of the expected sliced lemon, McClure takes his citrusy accoutrement to the next level with dollops of bright lemon curd that could be the filling for a lemon tart.
“My culinary philosophy is to evoke emotions from food using French technique and Virginia products,” McClure said. “Making artfully presented food that people understand and brings back good memories is my goal.”
Half the fun of dining here is finding the perfect wine to complement your meal. This is a winery, after all. Those who have sampled the bounty of award-winning vintages in the outdoor wine pavilion overlooking the 42-acre vineyard may already have something in mind.
For a well-balanced white, try the Virginia Chardonnay Acte 12 of 1619. Yeah, it’s a mouthful in more ways than one. The wine gets its name from a decree passed in 1619 that required Virginia colonists to plant vineyards in the name of King James. Crisp acidity and fruity undertones mean it’s a winner with almost any seafood dish.
Early attempts at growing European grapes in the Virginia heat and humidity didn’t go well, but wine makers have learned a few things in the last four centuries. Today, Virginia is one of the largest wine- producing states in the country. Nobody cares if King James would be proud or not.
Red wine lovers looking to try something outside their repertoire of old standards may go for the 2017 Petit Verdot Reserve. One of the five Bordeaux varieties, the late-ripening grape is typically used for blending, but Williamsburg Winery owner Patrick Duffeler II calls petit verdot “the varietal of the future for Virginia,” and he loves introducing it to guests.
“People have preconceived ideas about other wines,” Duffeler said.” When you’re talking about a varietal that is not as well known, people are more open-minded about it.”
A complex, tannic wine with aggressive notes of oak, black currant and vanilla, it’s best enjoyed with McClure’s rack of lamb or filet mignon.
If you like your romance with a side of history, set out on the Alliance, a 105-foot gaff-rigged schooner, for a two-hour sunset cruise on the York River.
Sail the same waters as explorer John Smith, famous for helping settle Jamestown, England’s first permanent colony in the new world.
You’ll cruise past the 84-foot-tall Yorktown Victory Monument that commemorates the 1781 surrender of British Gen. Charles Cornwallis to Gen. George Washington, effectively ending the American Revolutionary War, and the Moore House, where negotiations for Cornwallis’ surrender took place.
When you’ve had your fill of history, kick back with a Virginia beer, and just enjoy the dolphins playing in the orange glow of the setting sun.
For cuddle-soft skin, indulge in a soothing “century treatment” at the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg. The invigorating 18th century orange ginger scrub and massage exfoliates the skin until it glows, while also promoting circulation and toxin elimination. It may also help ease muscle and joint pain.
The 17th century detoxifying herbal wrap and hot stone massage takes its cue from healing rituals of the past. A potpourri of aromatic herbs cocoons the body, while the mind drifts to a peaceful place. Smooth, heated river stones warm tight muscles, enabling the therapist to massage deeper and get clients to a state of relaxation faster. The stones are rubbed gently over the body, fostering a sense of calm and well-being.
Both services are available as a couple’s treatment.
Afterwards, have a long soak in a whirlpool tub or relax in the steam room.
Unpack a picnic basket provided by Sweethaven Lavender and enjoy the meal on a seven-acre carpet of fragrant purple flowers. This fairytale-like spot nestled in rugged farmland is a favorite with couples celebrating anniversaries.
Buttery croissants stuffed with honey-roasted turkey accompanied by fruit salad make a simple but delicious lunch. Decadent brownies baked with lavender have a surprising minty punch.
This is a u-pick lavender farm, so take some lavender home to jazz up your cooking or for the aromatherapy benefits.
Farm owner Kerry Messer says visitors flock to the farm in the spring when the lavender is at its peak to unwind and disconnect.
“They love that there’s nothing technological here,” Messer said. “They can leave behind their devices and appreciate nature.”
By the time you wrap up your romantic getaway, you’ll understand why the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan has resonated with America for more than 50 years.
If you go
Williamsburg, Virginia, is 550 miles northeast of Atlanta. Direct flights are available from Atlanta to Newport News, Virginia, which is 30 miles southeast of Williamsburg.
What to do
Williamsburg Winery. 5800 Wessex Hundred, Williamsburg. 757-229-0999. www.williamsburgwinery.com
Yorktown Sailing Charters. Sunset Sail $39. Cruise departs from Riverwalk Landing Piers in Yorktown. 757-639-1233, www.sailyorktown.com
Sweethaven Lavender. $20 per person for picnic lunch. $8 per u-pick lavender bouquet. 2301 Jolly Pond Road, Williamsburg, Virginia. www.sweethavenlavender.com
Spa at Colonial Williamsburg. Orange-ginger scrub and massage $525 per couple. Detoxifying herbal wrap $525 per couple. 307 S. England St., Williamsburg, Virginia. 757-220-7720, www.colonialwilliamsburghotels.com/spa
Where to Stay
Wedmore Place. An upscale boutique hotel at The Williamsburg Winery. $155-$395. 5810 Wessex Hundred, Williamsburg, Virginia. 757-941-0310, www.williamsburgwinery.com/wedmoreplace
Williamsburg Lodge. Historic upscale hotel that’s close to many top attractions. $185-$325. 310 South England St., Williamsburg, Virginia. 855-231-7240, www.colonialwilliamsburghotels.com
Where to Eat
Café Provencal. Entrees $26-$42. 5810 Wessex Hundred, Williamsburg, Virginia. 757-941-0317, www.williamsburgwinery.com/cafe-provencal
421 N. Boundary St., Williamsburg. 757-229-6511, www.visitwilliamsburg.com
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