When lovers of the great outdoors come to Virginia, they have high expectations – and deservedly so! Exploring Virginia means adventures ranging from combing the beaches of the Atlantic coastline to trekking the lofty Blue Ridge Mountains to exploring a host of inspiring scenes in between.
You can enhance your Virginia travel experience by supporting travel-related enterprises leading the way in sustainable practices that preserve the land and waters of this vibrant state. This doubles the good times, soaking in Virginia’s natural splendor while maintaining its beauty for those who come after you.
Virginia encourages this blend of responsible and sustainable business practices and tourism in ways that respect the environment via the Virginia Green Travel Alliance. The organization recognizes and works with restaurants, lodging operators, wineries, parks and ecotourism businesses, helping them to be ecologically responsible while serving Virginia visitors.
Create your sustainable vacation using one of the following establishments that are outstanding examples of ecotourism found only in Virginia.
Want to pair a waterfall hike with a visit to a winery? DuCard Vineyards is located in the shadow of Shenandoah National Park near the wild waterfalls of Shenandoah’s Whiteoak Canyon. DuCard Vineyards sets the standard for green wineries. This leading producer of organic wine uses cutting edge biodynamic procedures (utilizing the land’s natural qualities with minimal inputs and a long-term approach to conserving the land and environment). DuCard Vineyards simply wants to be a good steward of the land when they compost grape waste byproducts and filter wastewater through a wetland of their own creation, among other practices. Be sure to visit the tasting bar, enjoying vineyard samples plus new release wines. Up your game with a wine flight combined with tasty platters of locally made gourmet cheese or a homemade dessert.
Mountain Lake Lodge
The historic Mountain Lake Lodge – where the iconic movie "Dirty Dancing" was filmed – is part of the non-profit Mountain Lake Conservancy, protecting 2,600 acres of picturesque Appalachian highlands. The untamed forest ecosystem safeguards stream water quality while protecting lesser seen flora and fauna, including the wide lip orchid and sought-for bird species like the Northern saw-whet owl and yellow-bellied sapsucker. The land, laced with enticing hiking trails leading to overlooks such as Bald Knob and Butt Mountain, is also used for scientific research. After a rewarding hike on the conservancy property, enjoy locally sourced farm-to-table dining at the on-site restaurant, Harvest. Then you can overnight at the Main Stone Lodge, a rustic cabin or modern mountain home, all set at 4,000 feet on Virginia’s highest lake.
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
Photo Credit: Todd Wright, @toddwrightphoto
Would you like to mix a relaxing float down the Potomac River with a dining experience at one of America’s first organic farm eateries? The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, located near Lovettsville, will do it for you. Their motto is to “nourish the soul and excite the palate.” They do this using freshly cultivated products from their own farm – along with other local ingredients – and combine them for a stellar dining event. One of Virginia’s first certified organic farms, they take a long-term, healthy farming view, rotating crops and using smart conservation while protecting the soil. On your way to Patowmack Farm, first paddle the legendary Potomac River through island-studded easy waters from Point of Rocks to Whites Ford Regional Park, then spend the evening at Patowmack Farm with an entertaining meal you won’t forget.
Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace
Photo Credit: Kalen Collins
Want to support art and artisans working their craft in ways that help the environment by repurposing materials and turning them into works of beauty? Come to Abingdon and explore the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Marketplace. Admire locally handcrafted fineries such as glass works, pottery, jewelry and clothing. Check ahead for live artisan demonstrations. The center also sustains area farms by selling homegrown products and hosting agritourism events such as grape stomping and apple butter making. And when in Abingdon, a bicycle ride on the gorgeous Virginia Creeper Trail – a repurposed rail trail running through lovely terrain – is a must.
No matter your chosen Virginia outdoor vacation – whether you paddle the coast, hike the mountains, bicycle a rail trail or camp somewhere in between – you can visit Virginia parks, accommodations, wineries, restaurants and artisans that combine their unique specialties and services with a genuine love and respect for their surroundings. It’s the Virginia way.