Best of Virginia

I had a few people request some of my favorite restaurants and things to do in Virginia and DC, so I thought I would share a few. I've been putting off working on this because I knew it would make me miss all the food there so bad! But, here we go, I will torture myself to share with you the best places. This list is going to start from west to east, so these first locations will be rather far from DC, but worth a road trip if you are up to it! 

BBQ Exchange

102 Martinsburg Avenue Gordonsville, Virginia 22942

This place was voted #1 BBQ in Virginia. It's way out in the middle of nowhere, in a little town called Gordonsville, 2 hours from DC, but guys, it's so good! And the drive is so pretty! I never had anything I didn't like. But I recommend their brisket or their ribs. Since you made the drive all the way out there, get ALL THE SIDES. Everything is so good! Their slaw was simple but so yummy, tasty mac and cheese, perfect hushpuppies, and I was obsessed with their french fries! Seriously, so good. Check out what desserts they have too! They are always different, but always yummy.

Tony's Pizza
5361 Merchants View Sq HaymarketVA 20169

This place is a little hidden. It's right near a gated community and golf club, and if you didn't live there, chances are, driving by, you would have no idea it was there. But hands down, this is the place I have craved the most since moving away from Virginia. We lived really close, so we went just about once a week. The food is cheap and the portions are huge! I don't think I ever had something I didn't like. It seems to all be run by one family who yell orders at each other in Italian. If you think you love Italian and that Olive Garden is the best it gets, let me tell you, you are so wrong! You have to come here and be blown away. 

My go-to order was a slice of Caprese pizza. Funny story, the other night Dave was talking in his sleep and said, "Can I get a slice of Caprese, and um..." And then he trailed off and was quiet. Haha, but really guys, Caprese is the pizza of our dreams! And if I was hungry enough I would order their cheese ravioli with rosé sauce. I don't think it's even on the menu, I've looked and I can never find it. But order it, and they will know what you are talking about. I usually do not like ravioli, but theirs is so fresh and yummy, and their rosé sauce, OMG that stuff... I took some friends there and made them try it and they literally were scraping their plate clean, I'm not kidding. It's basically a mix of alfredo and marinara. So good. It must be a family recipe of theirs, because I can't find any recipes online that look even remotely close. The hunt for a copycat recipe continues... Their ravioli also comes with a side of garlic bread, and a salad. Ask, instead of the garlic bread, for cheese bread on focaccia. Trust me. Seriously, I can't rave about this place enough.

The Bone
8045 Stonewall Shops Sq GainesvilleVA 20155

This place is again, a little hidden in a strip mall, but is so worth checking out. Amazing BBQ; my favorites were their honey bourbon wings (OMG I'm obsessed with anything bourbon, cooked off, obviously.) Their mac and cheese is oh so creamy and so amazing. Dave doesn't normally like mac and cheese but he likes theirs. It's heaven. And lastly, their pulled pork nachos. Oh nelly. Those things are so good. Topped with their amazing pulled pork, queso, pico, sour cream, and guacamole. SO GOOD. Certainly, check this place out if you are in the area. And be sure to check out Wegmans while you are there since it's in the shopping area. Wegmans is the most amazing grocery store, I miss it so much! If you are foodie, or love cooking like me, you will love it. Check their bakery to see if they have coconut danishes (they sell out quick though, sometimes they are gone by 10am!) They often have cute seasonal home decor too. Some of my favorite home decor to this day came from Wegmans! 

Katerina's Greek Cuisine 
9212 Center St ManassasVA 20110

Lots of people think Manassas is sketchy. Some call it Manassty. But old town Manassas is downright adorable. There is maybe 4 or 5 blocks of cute shops and restaurants. Our favorite of which is Katerina's. This is another family owned place. The place is TINY. The seating is snug. And if you come on a Saturday for dinner, there is a good chance you will have to wait 30-45 minutes for a table. But guys, it's so good. Hands down the best bruschetta I have ever had, so flavorful and tasty. My favorite main course is their Tour of Greece; three mini pitas with chicken, lamb and gyro meat. So yummy, and so filling! Also, every time we go we ask if they have Ekmek Kataifi. They had it our first time we went there, and told us they rarely make it. I don't know why, maybe it's hard to make? But it was AMAZING. It is a Greek dessert made with layers of kataifi dough baked until crispy and golden, bathed in lemon syrup, topped with creamy thick custard, whipped cream and garnished with cinnamon and pistachios or almonds… So good. One day I will try to make it.

Great American Restaurants

This is a company with a number of Restaurants in VA, DC and MD. I don't think you can go wrong at any of their restaurants. Any that we went to had quality service and quality food. Our favorites were Sweetwater Tavern, Mike's Great American, and Carlyle. Lots of them have similar items on the menu, but all yummy food no matter where you go. I never had the chance to try it, but Carlyle supposedly has an amazing brunch as well. 

Melt Gourmet Burgers
521 East Market Street, Leeseburg, VA 20176

Honestly, I am not always a huge burger person. But these are unique, high quality burgers. Always try their burger of the month and their mac and cheese of the month! You won't be disappointed! Oh, and their burgers are MASSIVE! Ask them to cut it in half so you can share it with someone! 

Taco Bamba

This place had the best, most unique tacos. I have yet to find a place that compares, even in Texas! They were our faves and our go-to taco choice. Each location has a slightly different menu. One of them had a swordfish taco that was honestly the best taco I have ever had! So good! Seriously miss that place! 

Dumpling Queen

If you think you have had good dumplings, think again. This place is dumpling heaven. Their dumplings are MASSIVE and so delicious! Everything there is so good! Normally I am not a huge fan of Asian cuisine but their food is excellent quality and the service was always so friendly! 

Founding Farmers

Now I never actually got to try this place, we just never made the time. But most friends said it was their favorite place for brunch and would be high on my list anytime we visit there again!

Astro Doughnuts

And last but not least, Astro. Their doughnuts were always so yummy and unique! Can't go wrong, but certainly, try their seasonal flavor and their famous creme brulee doughnut! At least when we lived there, they would often sell out of their most popular flavors so try to get their early!

Good Stuff Eatery

Melt had good burgers, but this place probably was my ultimate favorite burger shop in all of VA and DC. Their burgers were just so dang good. And be sure to try their village fries and all their yummy and unique dip choices! The mango mayo, as strange as it sounds, was my fave! Don't forget to try their seasonal milkshake flavor as well. You can't go wrong! 


There were so many more places I wish we would have tried! There is so much amazing diversity there that I really miss! We often found our favorite places thanks to Yelp or foodie accounts on Instagram;  eatthecapital ,  dcfoodporn , thetufftruffle , bestfoodDC , YelpDC , DCfoodsters 

What To Do

Now that we are past the important topic of food, hahaha, on to what to do! Honestly, this list could get soooo long. I checked out lots of local Instagrammers and bloggers for ideas of things to do. But here are some of our favorites and some things I wish we did but never made time for. 


Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive

A must visit, especially in the fall. Just the most gorgeous national park to hike and explore.

Richard Mckays Used Books

Maybe the oddest item on this list, but easily our favorite. We visited this place every single week. They have amazing deals on books! I collected so many great and beautiful books thanks to this place. Even beautiful leather bound books don't run more than $5-$7! Great vinyl collection too! We started quite the little personal library thanks to this place.

Blue Bell Trail
At the heart of the Bull Run Regional Park, you will find a beautiful tree-lined trail, that, in the early spring will be lined with fields and fields of the most darling little bluebells. This was such a hidden gem that I only discovered at the tail end of our time in Virginia but I miss visiting so much! Very few people seemed to know about it and I always had the trail to myself. The mornings there were especially beautiful! 

Chincoteague and Assateague Islands

We always made a few trips each year to Virginia Beach and always had a really fun time. But I wish we had visited these places. Considered some of the most beautiful beaches along the Atlantic, and best known for the many wild horses that call the islands home! 


National Mall

I think all of this is a given... But obviously, a must visit! Parking in DC always stressed me out, but I found you could often snag free parking along Ohio dr and it wasn't a far walk from there! We loved to visit early in the morning or later at night when it was less crowded. Summertime becomes pretty chaotic so I preferred visiting all the museums in the fall or spring. Clearly, I am not a fan of crowds, hahaha. My favorite of all was to visit during the cherry blossom festival! So many tourists come into town so it can become crazy crowded, so we always tried to go as early in the morning as possible! I also loved visiting towards the end of the season, when the cherry blossoms floated down like snow! So pretty! 
Library of Congress
The largest library in the US!

International Spy Museum 
Home to the largest collection of international espionage artifacts! 

Renwick Gallery 

Art gallery often featuring unique and beautiful works! 

Great Falls National Park

Very close to DC, technically it's half in Virginia and half in Maryland! 

Yards Park

Such cool architecture! The perfect place to spend a hot summers day! 

DC LDS Temple 

Technically in Maryland, but always worth visiting, especially in the spring! 
Dumbarton Oaks

Probably the #1 place I wish we had made time to see. A beautiful historic estate and garden now open to the public! 

Antietam National Battlefield

It's hard to put into words the feelings this place inspires. Home to the bloodiest battle in American history. A beautiful reverent place, my favorite battlefield to visit. 

George Peabody Library 

Opened in 1878, described as a "cathedral of books", a must visit for any book lover.

Maryland Rennaissance Festival 

The #1 thing I miss most about living in VA! We went every year, usually towards the tail end of the season when the weather had cooled off and the fall leaves were beginning. This place has been going since 1977. A 25 Acre English Village with 140 craft and specialty shops, 42 food and beverage emporiums, games, attractions, displays, 11 stages of ever-changing entertainment with shows repeated throughout the day, and a 3,000 seat live jousting arena. Has repeatedly been voted as one of the top ten Ren Fests in the US. It's as epic as it sounds. Put this on your bucket list.

Other great articles and pages to check out; 

Eater's Guide to Dining in D.C.

Trip Savy 12 of the Best Things to Do and See in Virginia 

Trip Savy The Best Things to do in West Virginia 

Planet Ware 15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Virginia  

16 Amazing Camping Locations in Virginia

The Ultimate DC Bucket List
The Ultimate Antiquing Tour 

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