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Hit the Road: Best Day Trips from Kingsmill Resort

From a lively beach to small town life to big city culture, a variety of attractive spots are just a day trip away.

Kingsmill Resort,

Those dramatic sunsets over the James River, the pampering of the spa and the countless activities from golf to tennis to biking mean you may never want to leave Kingsmill Resort.

But...when the road beckons, the good news is that Kingsmill is centrally located within easy driving distance of a variety of enticing spots. Here are a few easy trips — all within an hour’s drive — when those two lanes beckon.

Hit the Beach, Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach is just 45 minutes down Interstate 64. Pack a cooler, grab some towels, and head for the sand.

Leave either before or just after the morning rush to avoid traffic. Take the Shore Drive exit to the oceanfront and stop by Taste on the way to grab sandwiches, snacks, and drinks or Leaping Lizard, the funky spot in the woods featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Find a parking spot along Atlantic Avenue between 83rd Street and 70th Street and carry your picnic over a boardwalk and the dunes. Why there? The beach is wider and less crowded. You'll often see dolphins frolicking in the surf at the north end of Virginia Beach.

Make a day of it. When the sun gets too hot in the afternoon, grab a few bottles of water and drive back up Shore Drive to First Landing State Park, so named because the Jamestown settlers stopped here first. It’s the state's most popular park with everything from cypress swamps to maritime forest to secluded beaches. There are 19 miles of trails for hiking and biking.

If you prefer air conditioning to breezes off the water, head to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center for the afternoon where you can tour the Bay and Ocean Pavilion, which features animals from oceanic marine environments, and the Marsh Pavilion, which hosts a variety of river and marsh creatures. The two pavilions are connected by an outdoor hiking/walking trail that runs alongside Owls Creek Salt Marsh and features The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium, with an eco-friendly zip line and other aerial adventures in the trees.

After your nature afternoon, head to the beachfront and drive farther south on Atlantic Avenue to the heart of the oceanfront, the boardwalk, a three-mile biking and walking path lined with restaurants, entertainment, a small amusement park, and benches for people watching. Relax at Neptune Park where there is often evening entertainment. Next door is the sophisticated patio bar and restaurant, Catch 31, in the Hilton Hotel. There are plenty of other dining options for every taste and pocketbook from Waterman's Surfside Grille to Tautog's Restaurant, a laidback locals' favorite.

Explore City Culture, Norfolk

Turn right off of Interstate 64 instead of left and you'll end up in Norfolk, just up the expressway from Virginia Beach.

Norfolk offers a quilt of culture, nature, and history from the Chrysler Museum of Art to Nauticus, a science, technology, and history museum that also features tours aboard the Battleship Wisconsin, the last U.S. battleship with 16-inch guns that launched shells the weight of Volkswagen Beetles. Be sure to stop by the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio for the noon daily demonstrations showcasing the hypnotic appeal and magic of glass making.

It's a short walk from the Glass Studio to Nouvelle, one of the best and most adventurous restaurants in town, for lunch. Not your taste? Lunch choices abound. There's the hipster favorite, Handsome Biscuit, with concoctions like the Hella Fitzgerald — fried chicken with bacon, cheddar, and red eye sausage gravy. For something less artery clogging, there's Pasha Mezze, healthy takes on Turkish cuisine or the straight-up sandwich and salad favorite, No Frill Grill.

Walk off that lunch at the Norfolk Botanical Garden on 12 miles of trails that criss-cross the waterways and collections of azaleas, camellias, roses, and much more on 155 acres. If you lean more towards indoor browsing, head to MacArthur Center, a sprawling indoor mall, or the shops along Colley Avenue and 21st Street in Ghent.

The emerging foodie culture in Norfolk means there are plenty of dining options. For local, inspired food try LeGrand Kitchen. For a casual take, slip into the booths at A.W. Shucks. For filling, adventuresome Latin American fare, check out Luna Maya.

Enjoy Culture and Dining, Richmond

Head north from Kingsmill and you'll find a different experience in Richmond, Virginia’s capital and a city rich in art, architecture and the outdoors.

Looking for an arts day? Start at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and spend the morning in the diverse galleries spanning 5,000 years of world history. Step into the cafe and enjoy a snack outdoors by the water feature.

If you're more a fan of history, Richmond has plenty of it, especially if you're interested in the Civil War. The American Civil War Museum includes two sites in Richmond: White House & Museum of the Confederacy and Historic Tredegar, a facility on the James River perfect for a family outing.

Science buffs will love the Science Museum of Virginia, a modern, hands-on museum sure to keep the kids engaged for the morning.

After your morning fun, visit Carytown for the shopping, the people watching and lunch. The Daily Kitchen & Bar has a cool outdoor space and an extensive menu of healthy options. Mellow Mushroom will fill your need for pizza. And Can Can is the classic Carytown spot, a traditional brasserie.

Spend your afternoon walking the shops in Carytown, a street crowded with bookstores, quirky boutiques, and galleries. If you have time, slip away to Maymont, a 100-acre estate with stunning gardens, a mansion, and a farm.

For dinner, head to the Fan area. Heritage is a hidden gem for foodies. Joe's Inn is an unpretentious local’s favorite with huge portions. Helen's is a little place with a big reputation and the flavors to back it up.

Sample Small Town Life, Smithfield

The town of Smithfield is just across the river and is a great place to take a deep breath. First, the castle. Windsor Castle Park is 208-acre riverside park in downtown, which features four miles of trails, orchards, a kayak and canoe launch, and Windsor Castle Farm and Windsor Castle Manor.

For architecture fans, nearby is St. Luke's Church, the oldest in the state, a 17th-century building and 100-acre site with guided tours daily.

Once you've taken that deep breath and relaxed, you can get in a workout in nature with Windsor Castle Park outfitters, which offer kayak and paddleboards for rent. Make reservations online if you're there during the week. Or shop and stroll through the antiques shops, galleries and other specialty stores downtown.

For a bite, there's waterside dining at Smithfield Station or the intimacy of the historic Smithfield Inn downtown, featured on the Travel Channel's Food Paradise show.

Wherever you choose to venture, it's a short hop back to the luxury of Kingsmill and the coddling of this AAA Four Diamond resort.

For more information and reservations, visit kingsmill.com or call 800-832-5665.

Written By: Jim Morrison

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