A more scenic alternative to taking the short route via U.S. 340 south from Front Royal to Luray is U.S. 522 across the Blue Ridge, then U.S. 211 west across Thornton Gap. This route takes you into the eastern Blue Ridge foothills, which are a southern extension of the Hunt Country. The northern entry to the Shenandoah National Park's Central District is on U.S. 211.
Going this way will give you a chance to tipple the vintages at Rappahannock Cellars, on Hume Road (C.R. 635) between U.S. 522 and the village of Hume (tel. 540/635-9398; www.rappahannockcellars.com), whose owners moved their winery here from California. It's open Sunday through Friday 11:30am to 5pm, Saturday 11:30am to 6pm.
Just off U.S. 211 you'll come to the two-street village of Washington, better known in these parts as "Little Washington." George Washington, then a surveyor's assistant, helped lay it out in 1749. Today it's dominated by The Inn at Little Washington, but we common folk can walk across the street and grab a bite at the plain and inexpensive Country Cafe (tel. 540/675-1066). It's open Monday to Thursday 8am to 8pm, Friday and Saturday 8am to 9pm. We can also catch chamber music, jazz, drama, or a film at the Theatre at Washington (tel. 540/675-1253; www.theatre-washington-va.com).
Rather than forking over a king's ransom to stay at The Inn at Little Washington, we can retire at the Heritage House Bed & Breakfast (tel. 888/819-8280; www.heritagehousebb.com) or the more expensive Foster Harris House (tel. 800/874-1036 or 540/675-3757; www.fosterharris.com), whose owner, John MacPherson, has written a cookbook with his breakfast recipes. Both are on Washington's Main Street.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.