“The first minutes of 2020 were unlike any other New Year’s celebration I had experienced — standing in the chilly Florida night beside my family and watching a spectacular fireworks display over the lake at Universal Orlando Resort, my right hand clutching a 17½-inch magic wand.
The magic started a year ago, after my son Will remarked that his favorite New Year’s had been a decade earlier, at Disney World with his high school marching band. When my wife, Juli, said she had long wanted to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Will suggested that the entire family gather the following New Year’s.”
A weekend stay last month at the Blackburn Inn in Staunton, Va., gave my wife Juli and me an appreciation for a freedom we usually take for granted — the ability to come and go as we please.
After checking in, we were free to leave the premises to stroll around Staunton’s bustling downtown and enjoy an hour of virtuoso performances at a Bach festival. Later, after dinner in the hotel’s bistro, we returned downtown to enjoy some local brews.
This freedom to leave the grounds was something that thousands of people who had once inhabited the historic hotel and neighboring buildings did not enjoy.
Many Americans are aware that George Washington lived at Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, Va., a historic site where they can walk in the footsteps of our nation’s foremost founding father, Revolutionary War hero and first president.
What’s less well-known is that Washington grew up 40 miles south of there, at what is now called Ferry Farm, near Fredericksburg, and the site — the setting for such mythical events as chopping down his father’s cherry tree and throwing a coin across a river — can be visited as well. Both locations provide a fascinating window into Washington’s life. And this year, both have something new to offer visitors.
The thought occurs to me as I’m led down the long, gloomy corridors of the building known as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, which housed thousands of patients over its 130-year history as a hospital for people with mental illnesses and disabilities.”
As a student at the Loudoun Academy of Science, Andrea Mares has mingled with residents of remote Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. She has traveled to Austria to work with a company that manufactures solar panels, and she has presented the results of a collaborative research project to judges in Singapore.
In the eyes of our pilot, it was a bit too windy to fly. The winds had been diminishing, he said, but if they didn’t come down some more, we might have to scrap the flight. And the window of opportunity was closing rapidly. If our flight didn’t start in the next half-hour, there wouldn’t be enough time to complete it before dark.
More than 100 people gathered July 18 for the unveiling and dedication of the replacement marker. Positioned on the Route 15 Bypass, just north of Battlefield Parkway, it gives a brief description of the Oct. 21, 1861, Civil War battle that was waged along the Potomac River, less than a mile away.
In one block on Main Street in Marion, Va., you can enjoy first-rate barbecue at Wolfe’s, watch live bluegrass performances at the historic Lincoln Theatre and rest your head at the equally venerable General Francis Marion Hotel.