Small Town Cool in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fredericksburg has long drawn visitors for its history; as the boyhood home to George Washington and host to several Civil War battlefields where Southern grit and Northern ideals clashed. If history and antique shops are your thing there’s still plenty of that here but the past few years have brought a renewed energy to this small town. I’d been hearing a lot about Fredericksburg so on a recent weekend I paid a visit to see what all the buzz was about.
As with most small towns staying at a B&B is the way to go; not only do you get comfy digs but you also get to know the innkeeper, who is often deeply invested in the local area and can give great advice. My home for the weekend was the sunny Lavender Heights Bed & Breakfast, located a short 5 minute drive away from downtown Fredericksburg. This charming 4 bedroom inn features spacious suites and a tranquil garden where I could have easily whiled away an afternoon with a glass of wine and a good book.
First on the agenda was a trolley tour through town where I passed by Civil War Battlefields, B&B’s, and historic homes; this was the Fredericksburg I expected. Where was the new Fredericksburg I’d been hearing about? Turns out I was about to get my first taste at Spencer Devon Brewing Company. This is the brew pub we all want in our neighborhood-an inviting restaurant and bar with modern-rustic decor and creative bar fare. I grabbed a seat at the bar and perused the extensive beer menu featuring a number of German and Belgian-style brews made in house, deciding on a flight to sample what was on tap. My personal favorite was the Chalice Belgian Amber Ale which paired perfectly with one of the best burgers I’ve had- the truffled goat cheese burger was creamy, savory with a hint of heat from the tabacco spiced crispy onions. It was a delicious mess of a burger that goes great with any one of Spencer Devon’s drafts.
After dinner we wanted a sweet ending to the evening and there was one place we had to go-Carl’s Frozen Custard. This charming art deco ice cream stand has been churning out frozen custard focusing on the classics-vanilla, strawberry and chocolate are the only flavors you’ll find here. Featured on many “Best Ice Cream” lists with lines wrapped around the block Carl’s is a must for any summer visit to Fredericksburg.
The next morning we were off to an early start to meet the team at River Rock Outfitter. Situated in downtown Fredericksburg on the banks of the Rappahannock River owners Keith and April and the rest of the team at River Rock are eager to share their love of the outdoors. Whether you want to hit the trails on a mountain bike, scale a nearby cliff or explore the Rappahannock by paddleboard (or all three in the same day), Fredricksburg is poised to become the adventure capital of Central Virginia. We met with Bailey, our guide whose enthusiasm for all things outdoors was infectious, for a morning of stand up paddleboarding on the Rappahannock. Aside from teaching me a few new tricks( I SUP at home and even have my own board) she mixed in some good historical tidbits about Fredericksburg as well.
Did someone say bourbon? A.Smith Bowman has been distilling the South’s favorite spirit since 1935. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to tour the distillery to find out how bourbon was made. From the two-story copper brew pot to the aging room heavy with the scent of oak and whiskey, I was fascinated learning about the history of bourbon and I can now proudly say I know the difference between the angel’s share and the devil’s cut. What we really came for was the tasting. Exceptionally smooth with overtones of smoke and oak, the single barrel John J. Bowman bourbon was the standout of the afternoon.
Fredericksburg’s charm and proximity to local farmers attracted Top Chef Joy Crump to put down roots at her eatery FOODE. Southern classics get a modern twist like shimp and grits with lemongrass and all-too-addictive pickled shitake mushrooms. Like any good Southern restaurant, the desserts at FOODE are amazing. Get the peach cobbler with spiced pecan crumble and thank me later.
What struck me the most during me short time in Fredericksburg is that this was a place that people truly loved to live. Throughout the day life was lived outside, whether it was joggers out for a run, families playing in the park or people enjoying the Rappahanock by SUP or kayak. Fredericksburg’s main street is lined with independent boutiques shops and art galleries; and while other towns this size seem to close up after 6pm, you can find many people out for an evening stroll or enjoying an open air concert. Fredericksburg surprised me in all the best ways and I’ll definitely be back.
I was graciously hosted by Visit Fredericksburg but as always all opinions are my own.