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PaTrainFan

Conductor
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May 1, 2017
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Pittsburgh, Pa.
Taking a long weekend to WAS in a couple of weeks and thinking of using Saturday for a round trip using one of the Virginia Services which I've never done. The obvious choice is Ashland given the quaintness of the town and train watching. Thoughts of Fredericksburg? Evidently there is a nice restaurant in the station, but is the downtown worth seeing? Theoretically, it appears Williamsburg is doable in a day. Richmond? Staples Mill is in the middle of nowhere, right? How is the Roanoke trip? How about Charlottesville? Certainly lots of service. Thanks for your input.
 
Taking a long weekend to WAS in a couple of weeks and thinking of using Saturday for a round trip using one of the Virginia Services which I've never done. The obvious choice is Ashland given the quaintness of the town and train watching. Thoughts of Fredericksburg? Evidently there is a nice restaurant in the station, but is the downtown worth seeing? Theoretically, it appears Williamsburg is doable in a day. Richmond? Staples Mill is in the middle of nowhere, right? How is the Roanoke trip? How about Charlottesville? Certainly lots of service. Thanks for your input.
tl;dr: Basically, I recommend Manassas or Baltimore, among many good choices. But you can read on.

A day trip from DC to Virginia? Those are some good ideas. And yes, for Richmond, you'd want Richmond Main Street Station, RVM, which has less frequency. The segment from RVR to RVM is quite slow, and from there the train goes on to Williamsburg. Both destinations are in super walkable areas. Richmond has transportation stuff like the Triple Crossing tracks, and the Canal Walk, on the only class 5 rapids in a major city, it is said. Other parts of Richmond are a taxi ride from RVR, like the VMFA museum, not that you need an art museum coming from DC, but it is top 10 by some measure, and is in a more tree lined part of the city, the part above the Fall Line. The Science Musum is in a former train station. Williamsburg I guess you know about, and the station is right there, three quiet blocks away. There seem to be fewer people in costume lately, but restaurants are holding steady. You don't need a ticket for the crunchy pedestrian street. They don't know whether to raise ticket prices or lower them to deal with the drop-off in people doing history as a family vacation. Still plenty of visitors. The old breed horses are popular. Shopping is too.

Manassas is even closer to DC than Ashland. Walkable, food, etc. There are two or three music events outdoors every weekend in the summer. Roanoke has the transportation museum. Also go to the Roanoke Weiner Stand and the rest of Market Square. The park with the star on Mill Mountain is a taxi ride.

Lynchburg has places downtown, on the river. Culpeper has a few, not on a river. Charlottesville is the twin of Williamsburg, for visiting. A lot more restaurants, but you've got some steps to get away from street traffic. Mel's Diner is real for very casual, up the stairs from the station. Go west to the university Lawn and Rotunda, or east to the pedestrian mall and historic Court Square. Monticello is a taxi ride. Ashland is exactly how you describe it, and I think Fred is too.

I find Baltimore wonderful if you want to go the other way, quick and easy schedule since you also have MARC. I'd go southwest from the station, solid neighborhood, beautiful. Example, Dodah's Kitchen on Charles Street, you won't even know it's vegan. Also there's Little Italy or the Harbor. Taxis are very cheap in Balto.
 
tl;dr: Basically, I recommend Manassas or Baltimore, among many good choices. But you can read on.

A day trip from DC to Virginia? Those are some good ideas. And yes, for Richmond, you'd want Richmond Main Street Station, RVM, which has less frequency. The segment from RVR to RVM is quite slow, and from there the train goes on to Williamsburg. Both destinations are in super walkable areas. Richmond has transportation stuff like the Triple Crossing tracks, and the Canal Walk, on the only class 5 rapids in a major city, it is said. Other parts of Richmond are a taxi ride from RVR, like the VMFA museum, not that you need an art museum coming from DC, but it is top 10 by some measure, and is in a more tree lined part of the city, the part above the Fall Line. The Science Musum is in a former train station. Williamsburg I guess you know about, and the station is right there, three quiet blocks away. There seem to be fewer people in costume lately, but restaurants are holding steady. You don't need a ticket for the crunchy pedestrian street. They don't know whether to raise ticket prices or lower them to deal with the drop-off in people doing history as a family vacation. Still plenty of visitors. The old breed horses are popular. Shopping is too.

Manassas is even closer to DC than Ashland. Walkable, food, etc. There are two or three music events outdoors every weekend in the summer. Roanoke has the transportation museum. Also go to the Roanoke Weiner Stand and the rest of Market Square. The park with the star on Mill Mountain is a taxi ride.

Lynchburg has places downtown, on the river. Culpeper has a few, not on a river. Charlottesville is the twin of Williamsburg, for visiting. A lot more restaurants, but you've got some steps to get away from street traffic. Mel's Diner is real for very casual, up the stairs from the station. Go west to the university Lawn and Rotunda, or east to the pedestrian mall and historic Court Square. Monticello is a taxi ride. Ashland is exactly how you describe it, and I think Fred is too.

I find Baltimore wonderful if you want to go the other way, quick and easy schedule since you also have MARC. I'd go southwest from the station, solid neighborhood, beautiful. Example, Dodah's Kitchen on Charles Street, you won't even know it's vegan. Also there's Little Italy or the Harbor. Taxis are very cheap in Balto.
Thank you for the complete guide. I've seen Manassas and agree it is beautiful and am quite familiar with Baltimore. To do Colonial Williamsburg justice I would need more time than I can give in return day train trip. I guess that'll be another trip.

I am now giving serious thought to Monticello, but the challenge, as you point out, is getting there from Charlottesville*. Hopefully it is not a terribly pricey taxi or Uber ride. Certainly. Roanoke provides a nice long train ride and the transportation museum seems compelling, though its website isn't functioning well and I cannot get a complete vision of what I would see there.

*Edit: this is very doable.
 
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Fredericksburg: I lived in a neighboring county, Spotsylvania, for 35 years and spent much time in Fredericksburg. If you are interested in Civil War or colonial history, there's a lot within walking distance, such as the Fredericksburg battlefield and the Fredericksburg Museum, each about half a mile from the Amtrak & VRE station (in different directions). The restaurant in the former station is expensive but the owners did host a 100th birthday party for the station. There's a less-expensive restaurant in a former (Virginia Central?) station near the Amtrak & VRE station. I used the Fredericksburg station thousands of times when I was a VRE commuter; unless it has improved in the past 7 years, there is no inside waiting area and no bathroom, and the nearest public toilets were in the city visitor center two blocks away or porta-potties in the park by the river, a s similar distance.
 
Fredericksburg: I lived in a neighboring county, Spotsylvania, for 35 years and spent much time in Fredericksburg. If you are interested in Civil War or colonial history, there's a lot within walking distance, such as the Fredericksburg battlefield and the Fredericksburg Museum, each about half a mile from the Amtrak & VRE station (in different directions). The restaurant in the former station is expensive but the owners did host a 100th birthday party for the station. There's a less-expensive restaurant in a former (Virginia Central?) station near the Amtrak & VRE station. I used the Fredericksburg station thousands of times when I was a VRE commuter; unless it has improved in the past 7 years, there is no inside waiting area and no bathroom, and the nearest public toilets were in the city visitor center two blocks away or porta-potties in the park by the river, a s similar distance.
May I second Fredericksburg? And also suggest Brocks on the river as another possible restaurant? It’s a short walking distance from the station. It’s not cheap, but if you can get a seat on the deck, you get a lovely river view with the train bridge thrown in for good measure. (Ask for the deck off the main dining room, not the one off the bar.)
 
Ended up doing Fredericksburg on Friday, dinner at Brock's. It is indeed a delightful restaurant with a beautiful view and a delicious meal.

The return trip was an adventure, which included someone lighting up a joint in an ajoining bar followed by an altercation so police became involved at Quantico. Quite a delay there.

Charlottesville and Monticello were terrific. Turns out Mel's is closed and I found another delightful place on the same street called Maya.
 
Ended up doing Fredericksburg on Friday, dinner at Brock's. It is indeed a delightful restaurant with a beautiful view and a delicious meal.

The return trip was an adventure, which included someone lighting up a joint in an ajoining bar followed by an altercation so police became involved at Quantico. Quite a delay there.

Charlottesville and Monticello were terrific. Turns out Mel's is closed and I found another delightful place on the same street called Maya.
I’m so glad you had such a great trip (except for the annoying part at Quantico). A couple of lovely towns and good restaurants!
 
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