Cover Story

Virginia's 2005 

Delightful Dozen

Again this year, we asked our readers to choose Virginia’s best in 12 selected categories.

The votes are in and we’re pleased to present the 2005 lineup ...


Best Bed & Breakfast

Winner: Brunswick Mineral Springs, Lawrenceville.

Tucked away on a former plantation in Virginia’s Southside is Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed & Breakfast. The main house was built around 1785 and has been fully restored by its owners and innkeepers, David and Nanette Spears.

There are three suites and a hospitality cottage, and guests enjoy a full country breakfast and a three-course gourmet dinner each day.

There are walking paths throughout the 27-acre property and the Inn is only 20 minutes from Lake Gaston.

Brunswick Mineral Springs has achieved the “3 Diamond” rating from the American Automotive Association. It is located at 14910 Western Mill Road (Hwy. 670) in Lawrenceville and easily accessed from I-85 or I-95.

For more information, call (434) 848-4010 or visit them online at

Other B&Bs receiving votes included the Inn at Riverbend, Pearisburg and Jordan Hollow Inn, Stanley.

Best Annual Sporting Event

Winner: Virginia Tech vs. UVA Football Game, Charlottesville or Blacksburg.

The rivalry between the boys from Blacksburg and those from Charlottesville has a long tradition. Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia first met on the gridiron in 1895.

The Cavaliers won the first eight meetings but since then the Hokies hold the overall series advantage with 44 wins against 37 losses and five ties.

With Tech joining UVA in the ACC in 2004, the Big Game has gained even more significance as the results count for league standings, too.

This year’s clash is scheduled for Saturday, November 19 at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.

Two great Web sites to visit whether you’re a Hokie or Cavalier fan are and

Other events receiving votes included the Gold Cup Races, The Plains; the Strawberry Hill Races, New Kent; Oatlands Point-to-Point Races; and the CBES Bike Tour, Eastern Shore.

Best Barbecue

Winner: Mill Valley BarbeQues, Madison County.

If you want to taste the barbecue voted Best in Virginia by our readers, you have to be lucky enough to be invited to an event catered by Mill Valley Barbecues. As owner and chef Rodney Lillard says, “We bring the restaurant to you.”

Lillard runs Mill Valley Barbeques out of a former general store in the tiny community of Hood in Madison County. Readers voted his pork barbecue the Best in Virginia, but Rodney also offers everything from barbecued chicken to prime ribs and steaks and shrimp.

Check out his Web site at or call him at (540) 948-3020. His mailing address is Mill Valley Barbeques, General Delivery, Graves Mill, VA 22721.

Others receiving votes included The Smokie Pig, Ashland; Jammin’ Joe’s, New Baltimore; Johnson’s BBQ, Chesapeake; and The Log Cabin, Massanutten.


Winner: Green Valley Book Fair, Mt. Crawford.

Technically, the Green Valley Book Fair no longer sells “used books.” It sells new books at 60% to 90% off retail. Book lovers come from all over to browse through over 500,000 books at the fair, about halfway between Staunton and Harrisonburg.

Started in 1971 by Leighton and Kathryn Evans, the Green Valley Book Fair is still a family affair with son Michael, daughter Michele and their mother still actively involved in day-to-day operations. The fair is open for two-week periods six times each year. For the rest of 2005, the schedule is August 20-September 5, October 8-23 and November 25-December 11. Daily hours run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit

Others receiving votes included the Culpeper Library Friends Used Book Store and the Wounded Bookstore, Fredericksburg.

Best Bird-watching Location

Winner: Assateague Island, Eastern Shore.

Assateague Island off Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of the finest places for bird-watching on the East Coast. It is part of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors to Assateague can experience an island that literally teems with bird life.

From ducks to loons to cranes to sandpipers, from bald eagles to gulls to finches to cuckoos to pelicans, Assateague is a bird-watcher’s paradise.

Because only limited areas of the island are accessible by automobile, those in the know often choose to travel by boat along the inland waters.

For more information on Assateague Island National Seashore and bird watching tours, visit or telephone toll-free 1-866-766-9794.

Other favorite bird watching areas recommended included Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park near Luray and the Jamestown-Yorktown Ferry.

Best Holiday Display

Winner: Colonial Williamsburg.

Williamsburg welcomes the Christmas season with The Grand Illumination, a magnificent spectacle of candles, fireworks and music held on the first Sunday of December. The practice of placing single lighted

candles in windows, a Colonial tradition, was revived in Williamsburg after the village was restored in the 1930s. This tradition has since spread across America. Williamsburg also revived the art of decorating with greenery and other natural materials available in the 1700s. 

During December, there are guided walking tours of the homes and public buildings, and even workshops on how to create these beautiful decorations yourself for use at your own home. For more information on Christmas in Williamsburg, visit

Other holiday displays receiving votes included the Virginia Beach Boardwalk and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

Best Community Theatre

Winner: The Westmoreland Players, Callao.

The Westmoreland Players is a welcome cultural diversion for Northern Neck natives and weekend visitors alike. Formed in 1979, the Players produce first-rate comedies, dramas and musicals, and play to sold-out houses.

“We existed as a nomadic troupe playing in school gyms, churchyards and historic homes, but we purchased our own building, a former banquet hall, in Callao in 2000,”says Glenn Evans. He and his wife, Joy, are artistic directors of the Players. The Players are conducting a campaign to raise $200,000 to turn the old banquet hall into a legitimate theatre.

The Westmoreland Players are “always searching for new talent and more audience members” and invite you to join them. For tickets and directions, call (804) 529-9345 or visit

Others receiving votes included the VSA Festival Players, the Theater at Lime Kiln, and Swift Creek Mill Playhouse.

Best Campground

Winner: Smith Mountain lake State Park, Huddleston.

Situated on the second-largest body of fresh water in Virginia, this 1,248-acre park is not just for water enthusiasts. Although many visitors come to enjoy swimming, fishing and boating, Smith Mountain Lake State Park also has miles of hiking trails, housekeeping cabins, primitive camping, picnicking and a visitor center with educational programs. There are 20 furnished, air-conditioned and heated cabins available for weekly rentals. There are campsites available with in-ground grills and picnic tables, and a full-service bathhouse with hot showers.

The park is approximately 40 miles from either Lynchburg or Roanoke. Reservations are required for cabins and campsites. For info and directions visit or call 1-800-933-PARK.

Others receiving votes included First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach; Westmoreland State Park; and Cherrystone ESVA, Cherito.

Best Public Garden

Winner: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond.

Established in 1984, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden strives to bring visitors the best in horticultural displays all year.

The more than 30 acres of gardens include one of the largest and most diverse perennial gardens on the East Coast, an elegant Victorian-style garden, an exotic Asian garden, and a wetland environment with stunning displays of pitcher plants, water irises and lotuses.  There are also a children’s garden, a study garden filled with daffodils and daylilies, and a conifer garden.

The park is located in Henrico County at 1800 Lakeside Avenue, just a few miles from downtown Richmond. For directions and more information, call (804) 262-9887 or visit

Other gardens receiving votes included the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Eyre Hall at Cheriton, and Richmond’s Maymont Park.

Best Fishing Spot

Winner: The James River.

Perhaps Cooperative Living readers would rather not reveal their favorite personal fishing spots: The choice for this category was the entire James River. The James begins in the western highlands of Alleghany County and makes its way to Jamestown and the Chesapeake Bay.

The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries divides the river into the Upper and Lower James with Richmond at the midpoint.  The Upper James features smallmouth bass, catfish, bluegill, rock bass and redbreast. In the Lower James, there are largemouth bass, blue catfish, black crappie and striped bass.

For more info on the James River, visit the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries Web site at

Other fishing spots receiving votes included the Rappahannock and Nottaway rivers, Walker Creek, Smith Mountain Lake and Buggs Island Lake.

Best Museum

Southampton Agriculture & Forestry Museum, Courtland.

To get a realistic glimpse of what life was like in rural Virginia over the past centuries, check out the Southampton Agriculture & Forestry Museum and Heritage Village in Courtland. The museum is spread over 10 acres of land and features many restored buildings including a grist mill, a saw mill, an ice house, a country store and a one-room school, even two outhouses.

It is located at 22376 Linden Street in Courtland, and is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, March-November. For directions and information, call (757) 653-0754 or visit online at or

Other museums receiving votes included the Tobacco Museum, South Hill; the Old Brick Hotel Museum, New Castle; the AAF Tank Museum, Danville; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.

Best Seafood Restaurant

Winner: Sting-Ray’s Restaurant, Cape Charles.

On the Eastern Shore, folks love the steamed crabs and fresh-from-the-water seafood at Sting-Ray’s. Located nine miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on Highway 13, Sting-Ray’s Restaurant has been a popular stop for travelers and Shore residents alike for over 40 years. 

Owners Michael Ioanou, a developer, and Angelo Manuel, a financial planner, in 2004 bought the restaurant from owner Ray Haynie with the goal of continuing its tradition of quality food and “most of all, a meeting place for family and friends to share the day’s events.”

Sting-Ray’s is located at 25607 Lankford Avenue, Cape Charles. Visit their Web site

( for directions and more photos of their delicious food and happy customers enjoying themselves.

Others receiving votes included Backfin, Williamsburg; Captain George’s, Williamsburg; Driftwood, Coles Point; Armando’s, Onancock; and Lowery’s, Tappahannock.


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