Romance on a Budget in the Old Dominion State
Romance on a budget doesn’t have to be cheap. Mountains to the west in Virginia and the Atlantic Ocean to the east deliver opportunities to dip your toes in a cool forest creek or plunge them into warm salt water. Keep in mind when you’re planning a getaway that room rates are typically lower in the off-season at tourist spots. Small-town attractions are priced for the locals year-round. You may even be able to bring the kids along and still have a romantic time with your significant other.
Privacy in a Park
Shenandoah National Park (3655 U.S. Highway 211 East, Luray, VA), a 200,000-acre oasis an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C., holds many opportunities for an inexpensive romantic getaway. Hike to remote waterfalls or expansive views from rocky outcrops. Mossy shaded spots invite you to spread a cloth for a picnic. Take a leisurely drive through the park on Skyline Drive, a low-speed road that follows the ridgetops of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Accommodations in the park include lodge rooms, campgrounds, backcountry camping and rustic cabins. Small cities just outside the park have motel and hotel rooms.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore is bounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The landscape is mostly agricultural, but inlets and bays provide spots for a quiet canoe trip. Streets in small towns along the coast are paved with oyster shells, and waterfront restaurants serve the local watermen’s briny catch. Chatham Vineyards (9232 Chatham Road, Machipongo, VA) invites you to visit their tasting room. The small village of Cape Charles at the southern end of the Eastern Shore has a number of bed and breakfasts. Chincoteague, at the border of Virginia and Maryland, has inexpensive hotel options in the off-season.
Spend an Afternoon Sipping Wine
More than 280 Virginia wineries produce award-winning wines. Many have tasting rooms, tours and overnight accommodations. The one-day annual Shenandoah Wine & Jazz Festival in Staunton offers tastings from local vineyards, food and music. At Alexandria’s Vine on the Waterfront (100 Madison Pl., Alexandria, VA), restaurants compete for best dish and local wineries show off their vintages. The event is free to attend, but you must purchase tickets for food and wine tastings.
A Getaway Wrapped in a Getaway
If you’re at the beach for a family vacation, but want a couple of hours sans kids, tourist-oriented cities in Virginia, such as Virginia Beach, sometimes offer babysitting services, or are able to find a reputable sitter for the kids. Choose a restaurant with a waterfront deck for a sunset meal, or get romantic on the cheap with a sneak down to the beach for an afternoon of sunbathing with your sweetheart. Keep in mind that off-season hotel rates are lower, or consider camping at First Landing State Park (500 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach, VA). Farther down the coast, False Cape State Park (4001 Sandpiper Rd., Virginia Beach, VA) is so remote you have to hike in or take a shuttle to get to the campsites.
A Night at the Drive-In
In 1958, Virginia was home to almost 150 drive-in theaters, and a trip to an outdoor movie theater was high on anyone’s list of romantic evening ideas. That number has dwindled to fewer than 10 today. The Starlite Drive-In Theater (Roanoke Rd., Christiansburg, VA) has Flashback Thursday showings of older movies like "Jaws" and weekend double features of more current movies. In Lexington, Hull’s Drive-In (2367 N. Lee Highway, Lexington, VA) is a community owned, nonprofit theater that has Retro Movie Nights showing classics like “The Breakfast Club.“ Fold down the rear seats, spread out a quilt, and encourage the kids to nap while you enjoy the movie.
- National Park Service: Shenandoah National Park Virginia
- National Park Service: Shenandoah National Park Virginia-Lodging
- National Park Service: Shenandoah National Park Virginia-Waterfalls
- National Park Service: Shenandoah National Park Virginia-Driving Skyline Drive
- Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek
- TripAdvisor: Eastern Shore of Virginia, Virginia
- Statista: Number of Wineries in the United States in 2017, By State
- Vine on the Waterfront: What is Vine on the Waterfront?
- Wyndham Hotels: Hotels with Babysitting/Childcare
- TripAdvisor: Virginia Beach Romantic Restaurants
- Driveintheater.com: Virginia
- Starlite Drive-In Theater
- Hull’s Drive-In
Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.