Northern Virginia has a number of quaint restaurants and inns that can make for pleasant, overnight pseudo staycations — think places like The Ashby Inn in Paris, Va., or the Goodstone Inn in Middleburg. But one area that tends to be a bit more overlooked are the neighboring towns of Marshall and the Plains. Neither is bustling, but you can put together a delicious 24 hours (an overnight stay is recommended) with just a little guidance.
8 a.m. Breakfast at Red Truck Bakery
This Southern-influenced bakery from Brian Noyes is worth the hourlong (without traffic) trek from D.C. alone. Expect exceptional cakes, pies, and muffins — the caramel pecan bundt-shaped cake is a particular favorite, and be sure to bring something home with you.
Alternate option: Red Truck is really the move here, but you can get a respectable breakfast at the Marshall Diner as well.
10 a.m. Activity: Morning Hike
This is a good area for hiking; you’re only about a 15-minute drive away from the gorgeous Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, but that will likely be a commitment; the even closer Northern Faquier Community Park has a 1.7-mile paved trail.
Door #1: Stick around Marshall, and hit the wineries
Noon: Lunch at (or from) The Whole Ox
This butcher shop and market is impressive in its offerings — find a ton of cheeses, a wide selection of meats, impressive prepared food options from meatballs to stews, and even an excellent vermouth and amaro section. There are two lunch routes you could go here: assemble the makings of a picnic to take out to the wineries, or stick around for a burger (they grind the meat themselves, of course).
2 p.m. Head to the wineries
You’re in the heart of Virginia wine country here, with more than a half dozen options within easy driving distance. The closest to Marshall, though, are Blue Valley Winery (which has great views) and the well-regarded (and both family- and dog-friendly) Barrel Oak Winery, both in Delaplane and less than 10 minutes away (further out, Delaplane is also home to the acclaimed RdV Vineyards, but you should know what you’re getting into with their pricey tasting).
Door #2: Learn all about bread in The Plains
One lesser-known secret of the Plains (less than 10 minutes from Marshall) is that it’s home to the area’s premiere bread class, Knead & Know. Baker Melinda Friend offers classes in everything from croissants to Japanese milk bread to baguettes; her fundamentals of bread class is the best way to get started. These are serious classes, spanning over 4 hours, so might not be the most relaxing vacation activity for everyone, but they’re definitely a reason to travel to this area. For lunch, either stick with The Whole Ox or venture to the charming Front Porch Bar & Grill before class.
5 p.m. Check into your lodging and relax for a bit
Marshall’s a sleepy town; be sure to take some time to just chill before whisking yourself off to dinner.
7:30 p.m. Dinner at Field & Main
This is destination dining in Northern Virginia; since 2016, Neal and Star Wavra have been impressing diners with their seasonal, often vegetable-centric dishes. They’re one of the more affordable tasting menus around at $95, and also offer a la carte dishes that might look like wax beans and potatoes spiked with Calabrian chile oil, or a lamb merguez kebab with carrot hummus. The wine list, some (but not all) of it local, is excellent.
Alternate option: This is Marshall’s premiere attraction, so it feels strange to send folks anywhere else. But if some weird circumstances make it impossible to book, the lovely Hunter’s Head Tavern, a homey British pub serving meats from Ayrshire Farms, is about a 20-minute drive away.
Where to Stay: The Rooms Up There historic property is the main game in town. AirBnB offers a few more options, including this charming place on a horse farm where the owner is often around to share a dram in his on-site whiskey bar. Knead & Know also offers an AirBnB in the Plains as well. Field & Main’s website also has several other ideas if you want to stay somewhere a little further, say in Middleburg, Warrenton, or Upperville.