Living in the Washington, DC area is a dream come true for day-trippers. Venturing less than 100 miles in any direction will bring you up close and personal with Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields, Atlantic coast beaches, George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, Virginia wineries, and a host of pick-your-own orchards. There is also an array of historic colonial-style villages that hearken back to a quieter time in East Coast life. Replete with riding stables, locally-run cafes, shops and markets, friendly residents, delectable restaurants and plenty of adorableness to go around, small towns provide a unique and refreshing day trip experience. Looking for exactly that after a couple of weeks in the nation's capital, I reserved a Zipcar and headed out to Middleburg, Virginia; population 600, charm factor, infinitesimal.
Originally established in 1787 by Levin Powell, a Revolutionary War hero who purchased the land from one of George Washington's first cousins, the area had served as a rest stop for traders since the early 1730s. Located halfway between Alexandria and Winchester on a well-traveled trading route, Powell chose "Middleburg" as a perfectly descriptive town name. Today, the village's historic main street is lined with shops selling antiques, high-end clothes, locally produced edible goods and fine housewares. As a wealthy enclave for area elites, Middleburg has welcomed such famous residents as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor. But don't let the rich façade dissuade you from visiting. Beneath it all is a welcoming atmosphere, friendly townspeople and activities suited to any budget.
With so many good day trip possibilities surrounding DC, deciding on a destination is no easy task. And while I'm tempted to keep trying new cities, sites and activities, a part of me can't wait to get back to Middleburg. I don't think it's possible to tire of browsing the stores, admiring the surrounding landscape or enjoying a hot chocolate at a local coffee shop. Middleburg feels like a complete escape from DC. It's almost like entering a different world; one where life moves a little slower and with plenty of class. Battlefields and presidential estates will just have to wait.