Cover Story

Cooperative Living Readers' Choice Awards

And the winners are ...

If it’s August, it must be “Best in Virginia” time.

For the sixth consecutive year, Cooperative Living readers have weighed in on their favorites in selected categories for our annual “Best in Virginia” readers’ choice awards.

This year’s picks range from favorite Virginia-bred U.S. president (who else but George Washington?) to most scenic Virginia byway. Our readers also picked their favorite shopping outlet, trout stream, Civil War site, and Virginia artist. This issue’s cover, in fact, features an original painting by the winner of that category, the Eastern Shore’s Willie Crockett.

And this year, for the first time, we had a double-winner: The Homestead in Hot Springs was chosen as the best honeymoon location and the best meeting/convention facility, suggesting that — in some places, at least — perhaps you can mix business and pleasure?

So please take a moment, sit back and enjoy learning all about our readers’ favorite places, people and things in this year’s installment of the Cooperative Living Best in Virginia awards!

Best Virginia Honeymoon Destination and Best Virginia Meeting/Convention Facility

The Homestead Resort, Hot Springs

Tucked away in the mountains of Bath County, The Homestead Resort traces its roots back to the first visitors who traveled there 10 years before the American Revolution to bathe in the healing warmth of the springs. Through its storied history, the hotel has hosted a litany of the famous, from presidents to princes to kings and queens and captains of industry. It is a true spa in the finest European tradition, with a host of activities from ballroom dancing to bowling, from skeet shooting to skiing, from horseback riding to golf on one of three spectacular championship courses. Interestingly, Cooperative Living readers not only voted The Homestead as their favorite honeymoon destination, they also consider the luxurious resort as their favorite place to attend a meeting. Let’s hope readers don’t mean doing both at the same time, because as any true Virginia Gentleman knows, business and pleasure should never mix! Get the whole story at www.thehomestead.com.

Best Virginia Shopping Outlet:

Prime Outlets, Williamsburg

To history buffs, mention Colonial Williamsburg and names such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry come to mind. But to bargain hunters, Williamsburg also means names like Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Bahama. This is because just a few miles from the center of town on Richmond Road are the over 120 brand-name retail stores that comprise Prime Outlets Williamsburg — one of the top shopping destinations in the United States. Opened in 1988, over six million people each year flock to this huge shopping mecca that claims savings of 25-65 percent off everything from shoes to designer clothes to sound systems to gourmet chocolates to designer purses (the Coach outlet is the #1 most-visited store). New at Prime Outlets Williamsburg this year are 25 additional stores,

Additional parking and a food court. Hours are Mon. - Sat., 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. (hours subject to change on holidays); closed Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For more information, visit www.primeoutlets.com.

Best Virginia Trout Stream:  

Tye River, North fork Near Crabtree Falls

Crabtree Falls is renowned for having the longest vertical drop — over 1,500 feet — of any waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It’s located in the George Washington National Forest on State Route 56, about 19 miles west of U.S Route 29 in Nelson County between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, and just six miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Crabtree Falls is a haven for nature lovers. People from all over the United States come to camp, hike the trails, bird-watch, and canoe in the Tye River. Readers of Cooperative Living rate the North Fork of the Tye near the Falls as the Commonwealth’s best place to fly fish and catch a passel of pan-sized trout from the cool mountain waters. For directions, accommodations and more information, check out these Web sites: www.crabtreefalls.com and www.visitva.org.

Favorite Virginia Civil War Site:

Ellwood House, Locust Grove

This two-story frame house on the Wilderness Battlefield, situated on the Spotsylvania/Orange county line about 15 miles west of Fredericksburg, is perhaps most famous for the fact that the amputated arm of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is buried in the family cemetery nearby. But as writer Lee Woolf noted in a cover story in the October 2005 issue of Cooper­a­tive Living, Ellwood is significant in that the home, built circa 1790 by William Jones, has witnessed over 200 years of American history and played host to some of our history’s most famous personages from the Marquis de Lafayette and “Light Horse Harry” Lee to his son, General Robert E. Lee, and Union Army generals U.S. Grant, Ambrose Burnside and George Meade. Ellwood, which is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, is being restored to its original glory through funds raised from private donors. It is open 1 a.m. - 5 p.m., weekends and holidays from the first weekend in May through the last one in October. For directions and more information, visit ww.fowb.org.

Favorite U.S. President from Virginia:

George Washington

At his funeral at Mt. Vernon on December 14, 1799, his fellow Virginian and neighbor, Henry Lee, said of George Washington that he was “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” These words still hold true for this Founding Father who was born in Westmoreland County in 1732, worked as a surveyor in the Shenandoah Valley for Lord Fairfax, was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the French and Indian Wars, then returned to manage his estate, Mt. Vernon, while serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he formed the Continental Army and spent six grueling years before achieving victory at Yorktown. After the Constitution was ratified, he was unanimously elected president and reluctantly agreed to serve the new nation. Washington left office after two terms, warning his countrymen to avoid divisive party politics and long-term foreign alliances. Perhaps those elected politicians who reside in the city named for him today would do well to heed his sage advice.

Favorite Virginia Artist:

Willie Crockett, Onancock

Born on Tangier Island, Willie Crockett’s love for the land that lies between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is elegantly evident in his beautiful paintings of the seascapes, landscapes, waterfowl, boats and docks of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Crockett is nationally known for his glowing watercolors and more recently, his work in oils and acrylics as well. When he isn’t traveling around the country to exhibit his artwork or holding workshops to teach other aspiring artists, Crockett can be found at his studio and gallery at 39 Market Street in the town of Onancock, where visitors are always welcome to enjoy his original paintings and limited-edition prints on display. There’s a good chance that Willie will be there to meet you and swap a few stories about fishing, duck hunting, bird-watching and the history and lore of “the Shore.” To see why our readers voted Crockett their Favorite Virginia Artist and for directions to his studio, visit his Web site at www.williecrockett.com.

Most Scenic Virginia Byway:

Blue Ridge Parkway, Afton & Points South

The Blue Ridge Parkway is called “America’s Favorite Drive” and that title certainly rings true for Cooperative Living readers. Stretching 469 miles from the south end of the Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Park at Afton Mountain in Virginia to the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Sweetwater, Tenn., the Park­way offers motorists a beautiful drive through the Appalachians. Eleva­tions are as high as 6,000 feet and offer a variety of spectacular views of the valleys below. Along the way, visitors find plenty of recreation areas, campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails and even restaurants to stop and enjoy. Built during the 1930s as a public works project and now part of the National Park System, the Blue Ridge Parkway was the first, and remains the longest, rural parkway in the United States. Get more details and

Directions on the Web at www.blueridgeparkway.org.

 

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