[Note: This post was written by Erika Lloyd, a Washington, DC-based freelance writer and parent.]
Before my daughter’s birth, I was a big fan of road trips. Actually, I was a fan of any travel. Now, when I dream of traveling, I think about all the stuff I have to bring along — the pack-n-play, the diapers and wipes and creams, the sippy cups, the toys, the white noise machine, the nightlight, the loveys, the snacks, the extra snacks for when she inevitably decides she doesn’t like the first snacks offered, and all the other things that I have to write down or else I’ll forget them. Travel has changed quite a bit over the 19 months that I’ve been a parent.
I admit that it took me a while to realize that having a child doesn’t mean we can’t travel, it just means that we must take a new approach to travel, one with more planning and balanced expectations. A perfect example of this is our recent trip to Wintergreen Resort in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. As usual, I had grandiose plans to go hiking, biking, and canoeing. However, reality turned them into short walks, exploring the nature center, and swimming in the pool, which I’ve come to learn is pretty productive for a weekend away from DC with a toddler.
The drive to Wintergreen took us a little over three hours, partially due to traffic — we left after work on a Thursday (returning home on Sunday was a bit faster). New-ish parent mistake number 841: Starting a road trip at 7pm. When driving with a toddler, I highly advise leaving in the morning or mid-day (though every other parent probably already knew this). We were convinced she would sleep during the drive, but that didn’t happen. Fortunately we had the Kindle Fire prepped with PBS kids shows.
The hassle of packing and driving was immediately forgotten when we arrived at Wintergreen Resort. Even in the dark it has magical qualities — the fresh, cool air (a welcome break from DC’s humidity), the quiet, the stars (you can SEE the stars!). And we woke up to breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from our deck. Along with the outdoor space, the Wintergreen condo we stayed in had a beautiful living room with views of the mountains, a kitchen and dining room, washer and dryer, and separate bedroom.
With two full days at the resort we had plenty of time to explore the mountain, while also sticking to our daughter’s nap schedule. We didn’t leave the resort from Thursday evening to Sunday morning, as there are so many activities and restaurants to choose from on its 11,000 acres. The surrounding area has a lot to offer, but we decided that it would feel more relaxing for us to hunker down in one area and drive as little as possible. Of course, having a toddler makes it difficult to walk everywhere, especially on a mountain, so we used the car for short drives to many on-site attractions and restaurants.
We visited the Wintergreen Nature Center to purchase a trail map and get advice on child-friendly hiking trails. The Trillium House Trail was short and sweet, and we had a blast looking at all the plants and exploring an old gazebo in the woods. We stopped at vistas to take in the gorgeous scenery and ate at a number of restaurants including Devils Grill, The Edge, and Stoney Creek Bar & Grill. The Edge offered a very relaxing, family-friendly environment with a mix of pub-style food. Devils Grill features fine food in a romantic setting overlooking a golf course — it’s more adult-friendly, but they have high chairs and the wait staff was very sweet with my daughter. We didn’t hire a babysitter, although the resort offers a list of recommend local babysitters upon request so that you can have a date night during vacation.
Wintergreen Resort has so much to offer you probably won’t be able to experience it all in one visit. My family plans to return, especially once our daughter is old enough to participate in more of the activities offered. Discovery Ridge Adventure Center is a highlight of the trip for children, with a zip line, climbing wall, mini golf, inflatable bounce bot for toddlers, tubing park, and bungee trampoline. Lake Monocan Park, in the valley, offers swimming, kayak and canoe rentals, paddleboats, and biking trails. Children ages two-and-a-half through 12 can join one of the half- or full-day programs at The Treehouse. My husband and I treated ourselves to massages at the spa — we took turns swimming in the pool with our daughter, so one of us could sneak away for a bit. Overall, the weekend was a perfect mix of light activity and relaxation away from the city. I highly recommend Wintergreen for a family getaway.
Wintergreen Resort is located in Roseland, Virginia, about 30 minutes from Charlottesville. You can book a stay through the resort and take advantage of special packages that include resort activities, or DIY with VRBO and add the adventures on once you arrive. It’s full of fun activities during the summer and a ski resort during the winter for winter adventure, too.
*For more on Wintergreen, read about a KFDC experience on summer getaway there last year.