Interested in a family getaway in Virginia? My kids were thrilled to be getting in the car for a weekend getaway to Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, VA. I had planned an itinerary with stops along the way and we were all excited for our adventure.
After driving about an hour from DC, our first stop was in downtown Culpeper to a new toy store called Lollipop Station (opened April 2014). The owner was raised in Culpeper and is full of enthusiasm and excitement. This was shown in all the details of the store from the puppet theater, toys on display and a darling bathroom. She has chalkboard walls, chalk on the sidewalk and a large room in the back. This party room had a cotton candy machine, arts and crafts on display and a large table for classes. Story time is 11am every Saturday and features toy demos and a puppet show. This is a great place to stop for a bathroom break and a new toy for the car ride.
Across the street was “a candy bar” that we had to visit. My Secret Stash is a full out candy store with some antiques and a garden area in the back. Lining one entire wall of the store are large jars full of every imaginable chocolate and candy. The employees are extremely generous with samples, LOVE children and are happy to help customers choose their treats. My children all left with a bag of various candies for about $2.50 each. The store also sells homemade popsicles with unique flavors that sell out quickly ($3/each).
Culpeper could be a destination all to itself, but we had to move on to Graves’ Mountain Lodge. The Lodge is a large property located 30 minutes beyond Culpeper. If you are looking for a Disney experience or Ritz Carlton accommodations, this will not be the place for you. Don’t let this scare you away. This place is perfect for children, easy for parents and an exceptional value.
The property is centered on the face of Graves’ Mountain. The main buildings include the lodge for registration and dining, the motel style accommodations and the pool. The lodge has a small game room with a ping pong table, books, games and puzzles. Also dispersed throughout the property are cabins and houses available for rental. Across the street are facilities for horses, an apple orchard and processing center, and a working petting zoo.
We chose to stay on property at their Ridgecrest Motel ($100/night for the room) because we wanted a wonderful view. The room was spacious with two queen beds and strong AC but does show age in the furnishings and linens. From the door of our motel room, we could see a spectacular scene. We loved to pull the rocking chairs outside our room and look over the valley in the morning. There is plenty of space on the floor if you need to bring a sleeping bag for an extra child. The bathroom is fine – similar to a Holiday Inn.
For our meals, we brought picnic food and ate only a hearty breakfast at the Lodge ($10/adult, $3-5/child). Graves’ does offer all-inclusive meal plans with 3 home-style, heavy and hot meals. The meal plan prices include the room and are very economical if you have a small family ($99 per adult, $40/child, toddlers are less).
We took advantage of the weekend hayride that is offered in the evenings on Friday and Saturdays ($5/person). The hayride took us through the apple orchards; we saw deer, looked for bears and roasted marshmallows over a bonfire. Here, we met families from other states that visit Graves’ yearly and make it a tradition.
The beautiful stream that runs through the property is clean and refreshing. I couldn’t keep my kids out of it. There are picnic tables available near the stream where we ate dinner and watched our kids play. If you follow the stream towards the fields, you will see a small waterfall. The pool is similar to many community pools however it is spring fed. The pool has an extensive snack bar and lifeguards. Our family was the only one at the pool on Saturday morning until noon (open daily from 10am to 9pm).
Graves’ also has a farm with pony rides ($5/ride), horse trail rides (ages 8 and up) and barn yard animals. We enjoyed seeing the animals but it is a bit run down. It is a working farm with a lot of broken down farm equipment, sagging barns and mud.
The reason we love Graves’ Mountain Lodge is that it is an easy getaway with no crowds at a great price. Graves’ is a rustic, secluded retreat where you are welcome to freely roam and explore. The property has aged and some areas are dingy and run down but our children didn’t notice this at all. It is very safe and the folks are friendly. (Note: There is spotty cell phone coverage.)
On the way home, we stopped at Yoder’s Country Market in Pratts, VA for lunch. The highlight for our family was the barnyard petting zoo and playground. The playground is surrounded by Amish made tables and chairs for picnicking. The small barnyard petting zoo is clean with plenty of friendly animals. We got the biggest kick out of the 15 foot high goat walk that you must see to believe. Bring quarters!
The last stop on our trip was for ice cream at Moo-Thru in Remington, VA. It is a great ice cream stand (and drivethru) where all ice cream is churned on the premises and children can milk a pretend cow. There is plenty of outdoor seating but it was very crowded. Waffle cones were hot and fresh and the smallest scoops ($3) were huge.
Photos by Andrea Verwys.