Category Archives: fun things to do

On the Wine Kick: 2007 Virginia Wine Festival

Now that I’m stuck thinking about the great, cheap fun Virginia wineries can offer, I have to let you know about a not-so-kept best secret: the Virginia Wine Festival.

I missed it in 2006. The 2007 Virginia Wine Festival won’t take till September next year but it’s worth marking your calendars for now. When I went, I wasn’t expecting anything huge but it exceeded my expectations.

For just about $20, plus the cost of shmoozing your designated driver with water bottles and/or food items, you can literally taste every Virginia wine made and then some! The festival takes place about 2 hours from D.C. in Great Meadows, Va. in a large field, surrounded by the mountains.

Similar to the Linden Vineyards experience, this one is a great way to get out of the city for a day and enjoy the beautiful views (and tasty booze). Okay, a little corny. Wines come in flavors I didn’t even realize existed, like blueberry.

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Living the Good Life in Virginia Wine Country

Overlooking Linden Winery vines
Upon first moving to Northern Virginia, my roommates at the time insisted they were going to spend every Sunday touring the wineries in the area. At first, I was a little leary, having often thought any winery worth visiting must certainly exist in Califorinia or Italy but not in Virginia.

After some manipulation, I jumped on the bandwagon only to realize I was completely wrong about Virginia wineries (well, most of them). Not long after a couple of Sunday drives out into the countryside, I discovered my favorite winery so far: Linden Vineyards. Linden is only a little over an hour from D.C. but it’s shocking the relief from the city life you feel as soon as you arrive. I simply cannot describe it! You must go!

Wine tastings are free. During most of my visits, we go through about 3 red and 3 white wines…each about a 1 ounce pour. Since you’re buying the wine on the premises, it’s much cheaper than it’d be in the store, somewhere in the neighborhood of $15. Select cheeses and meats are a little pricey ($6 for a small block of cheese) but you can bring your own picnic as long as you eat it on the tables in the grass.

From Linden’s site: “For those interested in greater depth, on the weekends we offer a special reserve cellar tasting ($12). You can sign up for it when you arrive. We taste our special single vineyard wines and older vintages. It happens every 45 minutes beginning at 12:15.”

There are plenty of great opportunities at Linden; they often offer seminars and such. Just start with the free wine tasting and lovely ambiance. The photo that accompanies this entry was taken by me when I brought visiting family to Linden. They loved the views.

Education Through Free Museums, Monuments

D.C. is great for a variety of reason but one of the biggest selling points for this city is the “free museum” access. People fly in from all over the U.S., heck, the world, to see these museums and monuments and they’re in our backyards. Take advantage! Plus, save yourself some money by touring a few museums on Saturday afternoons. Check out the full list of museums from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Here are some I’ve been to and would recommend:

9:30 Club: Live Music Under $30

A lot of great artists can be seen at the 9:30 Club for less than $30. Though tickets to the best known acts usually sell out in a matter of hours, lesser known or niche artists can be enjoyed for less than $30.

The venue is small and somewhat prone to smokiness at certain shows but its size is an advantage if you get there early enough to get a good spot near the front by the stage or near the edge on the balcony. The 9:30 Club is one of the few venues in the area where big acts come through and perform in that personal manner not accesible for under $30 at others.

Check these other venues regularly for cheap tickets: The State Theater, The Black Cat, IOTA.

Read Bethesda Magazine’s article on live music in the Maryland area.

Ski For Less When You Don’t Sleep Over

If you’re into skiing, tubing or snowboarding, this winter, check out Liberty Mountain Resort in Carroll Valley, Pa. It’s only about 1.5 hours from D.C. so it’s great for a day trip, allowing you the joy of the slopes minus the cost of lodging.

A 4-hour bout of hitting the slopes with your own gear costs about $37-46 for a lift pass, depending on the day of the week. Ski rentals for the same time period will cost $31; Snowboard rental, $35.

One thing I’ve learned after embarking on the “snowboarding is my new hobby” as of late, is that by playing it right, one can buy an entire snowboarding set-up and have it pay for itself after 10 4-hour visits to a resort like Liberty.

Visting the extremely helpful and snowboarding dumby-friendly staff at Ski Chalet in Arlington last year was the first in realizing how to go about winter sports equipment in a financially feasible manner. Every year, sometime in September, the Ski Chalet hosts its annual Dilly in Chantilly. The sales are really unbelievable, staff exceptional and lines plentiful. Get there as early as possible to avoid the rush.

A Day in the Park With a Twist

One day last fall, I set out determined to explore the U.S. Botanic Garden. Growing up near Pittsburgh, Pa., my parents often took me to the Phipps Conservatory (also a botanical garden) and upon moving to D.C. I was determined to revisit the wonder that day last fall. Plus, D.C. museums are free-well, some of them.

After convincing a friend to join me in my quest, I set out driving to try to find the U.S. Botanic Garden. After what seemed like hours of being lost, I realized all to late that I had confused the Botanic Garden with the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast D.C. Nonetheless, I discovered another free hidden treasure that day.

I’ve since gone to the Botanic Garden too, also free, and really enjoyed it almost as much as I enjoyed Phipps as a child. Check them both out for free fun. Try the Botanic Gardens if you’re in the mood for the a refreshing, tropical experience (you can also smell bountiful herbs, scented oils and spices) and the Arboretum for a “day at the park,” experience outside.

  • Botanic Gardens: plant collections, herbs, special exhibits, walking garden (outdoors)
  • Arboretum: 9-miles of walking, biking or bus toursMap of Arboretum
  • Get Outta Town: Harper’s Ferry, W.V.

    Harper’s Ferry, W.V. makes for a short, affordable day trip from the D.C. area. I consider it best in the fall (colorful leaves, mild weather) or summer (outdoor fun) but any time of year, cheap fun can be had in Harper’s Ferry.

    Two less expensive things I’ve done in Harper’s Ferry that I’d do again: Took a free, walking, self-guided tour of the historic downtown area and the Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park and tubed my way down the Shenandoah River with a group of friends!

    The walking tour of the HFNHP was great exercise to say the least. Bring your walking shoes for a 5-mile “learning hike” about the Civil War and John Brown’s Raid.

    Harper’s Ferry is about 1.5 hours from D.C. Look at the Mapquest directions from D.C. to Harper’s Ferry.