One advantage of living in NOVA is that you’re never very far from a beach vacation. Rehobeth, Virginia Beach, and Ocean City are all within a few hours. Having visited VA Beach last year and Rehobeth the year prior, we decided to try a different flavor and visit Lake Anna, VA for a long weekend at the encouragement of a co-worker.
Vacations can be periods of growth and we learned a lot about ourselves this trip. We reconfirmed we are city people. We realized we don’t really like lakes. And I realized that I can’t stay in an Air BnB for constant fear that the host will murder us in our beds. Or should I say their beds. They are the owners, after all.
We left on a Saturday morning, already feeling we weren’t going to get our money’s worth since rain was in the forecast for the entire trip. Sick with the same virus that landed me with bronchitis, Paul coughed and hacked and we drove with an industrial size bag of Hall’s cough drops in the middle console.
We decided to stop for breakfast at Panera where they made both sandwiches incorrectly. On that less than auspicious start, we hit the road for what I mistakenly thought was a 45-minute trip that was actually more like an hour and 45-minute trip.
Since the Air BnB didn’t allow check-in till 3:00, we decided to stop at Lake Anna Winery. As we pulled into the drive, we were confused by the crowds. Turns out, the VA Renaissance Festival sat in the winery’s backyard and a steady stream of traffic ran in and out. The winery also did a brisk business and the woman pouring our tasting forgot about us a few times. It gave us plenty of time to linger over the selections and we both fell in love with the Concerto, a red wine infused with tart Michigan cherry juice. Smitten we bought three bottles and one of their sweet blush wines. We purchased a glass and sat indoors, looking at the vines. We attempted a selfie when a nice couple took pity and snapped a picture of us.
The winery being relatively close to civilization, we stopped at the local grocery store for supplies. By supplies I mean chips, combos, and a bottle of cava, which we thought would make an excellent drink when combined with our recently-purchased cherry wine (we were right about this). Because we still had a few hours until dinner, we also stopped for a slice of very suspect-looking pizza from the town’s only pizza place.
We finished our pizza at just about 3:00 and made our way to the Air BnB. Deb, our host, was perfectly lovely and the place was clean and well-decorated. But I didn’t like being in the downstairs of a house, while her son lived upstairs.
Capitalizing on the current lack of rain, we headed straight to the lake. Sinking in the rocky muck, we immediately regretted not buying lake shoes. Paul cut his foot on a jagged rock. We swam past the hordes of lake bugs, earning some bites and red welts along the way, only to get to calmer waters and be interrupted by a flock of geese chasing us back to shore. Since we prefer waters that feel less like Biblical plagues, we made our way back to the dock and sunned ourselves in the loungers.
For dinner, we booked a reservation at Tavern on the Rail. The outside looked like an old-timey general store and the inside was a peculiar mix of dark wood, semi-formal dining, and shelves of abandoned kitschy antiques.
We had read great reviews but found the meal lackluster. We ordered crab stuffed mushrooms and bang bang shrimp. The mushrooms had become bloated and flavorless steaming in their own juices in the oven. The homemade blue cheese dressing had a refreshing tang, if light on actual blue cheese. My fried oysters arrived plump and golden. Paul’s soft shell crab was fried and seasoned nicely, but, like with everything else he had at Tavern, he ate it with a distinctly grim expression. Toward dinner’s end, he told me in muffled tones that everything he’d eaten had a vague unpleasant aroma and taste of semen. I wouldn’t have characterized it quite that way, but the meal definitely had a funk to it.
We decided to go to the restaurant Tim’s to enjoy some drinks, waterfront views, and music. The band was serviceable, the drinks were great, and we enjoyed the last few hours of sunshine before the rain came.
Sunday dawned grey and dreary and the rain fell in pelting torrents by the time we left for brunch. Paul awoke with a worsened cough and it was clear he had developed bronchitis. The hits kept coming as we realized the deck above our Air BnB, the deck we’d so hoped to sit under in comfy Adirondack chairs and listen to the rain, wasn’t weatherized. The seating area was soaked and any hopes of enjoying the outdoors, despite the rain were dashed.
We headed to Callie Opie’s Orchard for brunch. A huge, beautiful, cavernous building made of pine, the atmosphere felt like an 1840s country meeting house turned restaurant. A few peculiar art pieces, like a pen and ink drawing of a man tearing off his face, competed with the down home charm and gave brunch a slightly sinister feel.
Understaffed that day, the usual treats like homemade desserts weren’t on offer, and simple condiments like jelly for the biscuits were unavailable. The pimento croquettes were the highlight—the cheese cut with just the right amount of heat. My biscuit sandwich with fried chicken, pickles, and pimento cheese was rich, but satisfying with just a few additional shakes of hot sauce. Paul’s bacon, egg, and cheese proved to be fat and rich on top of the already butter soaked biscuit. Paul’s cough in full on Captain Tripp’s glory, we quickly left, dodging more rain, and made our way to CVS to fortify with more meds and cough drops.
Somewhat defeated we returned to the Air BnB and strategized if we should just abandon our plans and return home. Not ones to give up that easily, after some reading and relaxing, we felt a second wind and made our way to the unfortunately-named Coyote Hole Ciderworks.
The cidery proved to be a trip highlight. The staff was friendly, the cider excellent. We shared a sampler and decided on a 4 pack of sangria cider and a growler of their Bel-Hole (Granny Smith cider aged in whiskey barrels) to take home.
Because the only activity available to us was drinking, we drove on through the rain to Fifty-Third Winery. People say DC traffic is rough but the back roads of Lake Anna had me longing for 395 in rush hour. Every twisting, turning , narrow road had 18 wheelers flying 75 miles an hour, hugging the yellow line and had our Nissan Sentra literally shaking from their force as they plowed past us.
A few years shaved off our lives, we arrived at Fifty Third Winery and split a tasting. The wine on offer was better than Lake Anna’s for overall quality, but the only one that really grabbed us was their bright, acidic Albariño.
We returned back to the Air BnB and rested till dinner. We returned to Tim’s for more delicious cocktails and to try their seafood. Paul had never picked crabs and their 29.99/person All-You-Can-Eat Crab was too good to pass up. Since crab picking moves at a glacial pace and hours of effort only yield about a crab cake’s worth of meat, we supplemented with crab balls and steamed Old Bay shrimp. The plump, spicy shrimp were the perfect way to fill up stomach space as we painstakingly picked crab. Paul wounded his finger on a crab shell and, with a man down, I picked for the both of us. Never leave a soldier behind. Or without crab.
Injury aside, this was hands-down my favorite part of the trip. It felt like the first chance we’d had to relax, enjoy a delicious meal, listen to music, and just appreciate some downtime sans rain or other irritants.
Hours later we returned to the Air BnB to pack and rest and catch up on The Great Food Truck Race.
We departed early the next morning hoping for Paul’s favorite Waffle House breakfast. In true to this trip fashion we struggled to find the exit, and despite being 10 am on a Monday, the place was so busy we had to wonder if the entire town at exit 126 had staged a mass walk out to Waffle House. We finally managed to get seats at the counter and the food was consistent and delicious as always, despite the place being the filthiest Waffle House I’ve ever seen (and that’s saying A LOT. The average Waffle House is already grosser than a gas station bathroom).
Our last stop before heading home was to Crooked Run Brewing in Sterling, VA. We hit traffic the entire ride and the range of complicated turns and exits and entrances required to get to Crooked Run had me feeling pretty over the whole trip. But we had had their Raspberry Empress brew the Friday prior and were on a hunt to stock our fridge with its crisp, berry tartness.
We were about 3 sips into our flight when the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the brewery. Undaunted, we took our beers and headed to the door. We weren’t about to let good beer go to waste. The fire trucks came and fireman did a walk through to find that the beer tanks had a malfunction that set off the alarm. Happy to avoid a blazing inferno as our last memory of this less-than-stellar trip, we quickly bought our Raspberry Empress and their quirky key lime pie flavored beer and made our way home, before disaster could strike.
This brings us to the end of our weekend at Lake Anna. Head on over to our Travel Page to read more of our adventures.