Middletown: 13 miles S of Winchester, 174 miles NW of Richmond, 76 miles W of Washington, D.C.; Strasburg: 6 miles S of Middletown

On U.S. 11, essentially flanking the intersection of I-81 and I-66 south of Winchester, the hamlet of Middletown and the small town of Strasburg are collectively one of the best places in Virginia to browse for antiques and collectibles. This is especially true of Strasburg, which justifiably calls itself the "Antiques Capital of Virginia." The sprawling Great Strasburg Antiques Emporium is one of the state's largest collections of dealers. Both towns have exceptional country inns offering antiques-filled accommodations and fine dining, and Middletown's Wayside Theatre will entertain anyone who loves live theater.

In between Middletown and Strasburg stands Belle Grove Plantation, the 18th-century home of President James Madison's sister and later the site of a fierce Civil War battle. The house and battlefield now comprise a national historic site. Also in the Civil War, Gen. Stonewall Jackson rolled the railroad locomotives he stole from the Union during his daring Great Train Raid on Martinsburg, West Virginia, down the Valley Pike to the existing station at Strasburg, which is now a local museum.

Except for Belle Grove Plantation, the museums here are not as interesting as are others in the valley. Consequently, I would stop in Middletown and Strasburg either to hunt for antiques and collectibles or to stay in one of two inns in order to catch a show at the Wayside Theatre.