By Johanna Calfee
In winter, it seems the logical choice. Many a Central Virginian straps their skis, snowboards and tubes to the roof of the car and heads due north an hour to Wintergreen, Virginia, where a snowy playground awaits them. But what about now? Is there any reason to make that same short drive as the summer’s rays beat down upon land that has long absorbed the melted snow? As it turns out, there may just be more reason than ever to visit the Wintergreen area this July and August, starting with the resort itself.
Wintergreen Resort: A Mountain Full of Summer Family Fun
Though it appears that the Nelson County landmark now has a new leader at the helm—Jim Justice, who along with his family-owned firm, James C. Justice Cos. Inc., owns the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia—not much is changing in the way of the many family-friendly summer offerings at Wintergreen Resort this year. And there really is a lot to do there this season—almost too much to list.
“What we do is really special to the folks here at Wintergreen,” Rudy Strickland, Adventure Center Manager at Wintergreen Resort, said. “I have families that absolutely love the offerings here. That’s one of the reason that some choose to buy properties here because the activities that we have for their kids and the close proximity of where they are staying in relation to getting to those things.”
From taking the summer tubing “plunge” where riders fly ten stories down over three football fields in a tube atop a slippery material called Neveplast, to a zip line which rockets riders 900 feet in under 30 seconds, to the kid-centric area called the Discovery Ridge Adventure Center, there is plenty to keep the kids entertained, minus snow.
“At Discovery Ridge Adventure Center, we have bungee trampolines, climbing walls, inflatables and Dino Dig,” Strickland said. “The Dino Dig is a small area where we’ve planted dinosaur eggs for the smaller kids, we have brushes and sifters and they can go out and sift up three eggs and turn them in for dinosaur-themed prizes.”
Also for younger kids, there’s Ridgely’s Fun Park, complete with a tee pee and a place to watch movies outdoors. Older kids will get a kick out of a 25-foot climbing wall, miniature golf on the resort’s 18-hole course and the campfire facility, which has s’mores kits available for purchase. The best part for parents (beside the potential to wear their kids out with fun) is that almost all of these activities are $10 or less. A five-pack pass even scores families five $10 activities for $40 that can be shared among the kids.
Guests staying at the resort will receive one Wintergreen Passport per reservation, which gives them access to nearly all of the above activities and more for free—a $400 value. Additional passports may be purchased for $40 apiece. A complete list of passport benefits can be found by visiting www.wintergreenresort.com/The-Wintergreen-Passport.
Strickland says that while many of the resort’s current activities are offered year-round, there are also summer-specific games and events to look forward to.
“We do scavenger hunts, candy bingo and Capture The Flag,” she said. “We do campfire storytelling on Friday nights. We do pick-up soccer games and sand art, so there’s plenty to do here in the summer.”
There’s also Wintergreen’s facility at Lake Monocan, which is open to the public every day but Saturday. There, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and aquacycles are available for rent. Lounge chairs and picnic areas also beckon families to come down for the day.
For many people, the abundant hiking trails around the resort are also a draw and the resort offers its guests a free GPS Adventure Rental via the Garmin E-Trex Global Positioning System to help guide their way.
“We have lots and lots of hiking for short mile hikes for young families all the way up to the perimeter trail which is 14 miles around the mountain,” Strickland explained.
After taking advantage of the area’s stunning mountain views by day, the star-filled skies by night are the perfect backdrop for Movie Under the Stars on Wednesday and Sunday nights.
“We set up an inflatable screen outside to show movies on and it doesn’t start until 9 o’clock when it gets dark. We do popcorn and stuff—it’s a really fun atmosphere,” she said.
For parents visiting the Wintergreen area on business or looking for a daycare program that actively engages their little ones, the resort’s on-site daycare, The Treehouse For Kids, offers the Kids in Action summer childcare program from Tuesday through Saturday until September 2.
“From basically ages 2½ to 12, the Wintergreen Treehouse program features different daily activities, which include those at Discovery Ridge Adventure Center as a sort of ‘field trip,’ if you will,” Todd Clarke, Director of Mountain Operations, said. “They go down to the lake, they go on hikes. … They are introduced to many wonderful things throughout the day, from the time they arrive to the time they finish.”
All day rates, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., are $55, with $40 for each additional child. Half days, from 9 a.m. to Noon or 1 to 4 p.m., are $35. Clarke says the thing that draws parents to the program, whether they are staying at the resort or not, is the uniqueness of what The Treehouse has to offer.
“The thing that is entirely different about us is that, typically, if you were to take a child to a kid’s program, it’s not going to be mountain-oriented,” he explained. “And in our case, we have so many amenities and activities built in that I’m not sure there’s any other kid’s program in Virginia that has everything that we offer.”
Regardless of the activities a family chooses, Clarke says their central focus at Wintergreen Resort is to give its guests an unforgettable experience.
“The one thing that is important is that we love kids. This is a family resort and kids are a big part of it,” he said. “In many cases, they are the decision makers on a trip to Wintergreen, so we try our best to make the kids want to return for many years in a row.”
For more information about summer events at Wintergreen Resort, visit www.wintergreenresort.com/Activities-Home/.
Devil’s Backbone Brewery: Brewing Up Festivities
At the base of Wintergreen Mountain, a more adult-driven event will soon be drawing a crowd at Devils Backbone Brewing Company (DBBC): The Virginia Craft Beer Fest on August 25. Known as Devils Backbone’s “Basecamp” (their second location opened this year in Lexington), this Nelson County brewery is leading the charge in promoting Virginia-produced craft beers.
“It’s a festival with both camping and music in it,” Steven Crandall, Founder of DBBC, said. “We expect to have about 20 different breweries there, represented from all over the state and Washington, DC, pouring the beer. This will give the public the opportunity to come see and taste the wide variety and good quality beer we have in Virginia.”
The festival is hoping to fill a gap left by the Virginia Beer Cup when it stopped holding its event several years ago. But Crandall says that one winning tradition from that well-known event will live on at this year’s first Virginia Craft Beer Festival.
“There was an old trophy passed around and there was a tradition that when someone won it, the other breweries would take it upon themselves to steal it, and actually some guys in [Washington], DC, have the trophy right now,” Crandall explained. “It’s just like two kegs cut in half and glued together and painted. … So we’ve invited them to come, of course, because they have the trophy to give out.”
Awards will be given out to breweries in different categories with that coveted trophy going to the best overall.
“[The Festival] gives us not only the opportunity to sell a little beer but also to get together and collaborate. There’s an amazing amount of support from brewery to brewery, from techniques to problem-solving because we all realize that for our business to grow, craft beer needs to be good,” Crandall said.
DBBC’s craft beers are proving to be just that, thanks to growing distribution points, like the recently-added Lynchburg Hillcats Stadium, and a gold medal win for their Vienna Lager at the 2012 World Beer Cup, a global beer competition presented by the Brewers Association. Still, there’s a lot of room for growth in the craft beer market right now, Crandall contends.
Currently, he says that craft beers account for about a 5 percent market share in beer sales in the United States, but insiders in the business say that number will grow to 10 percent in the next three to four years. Couple that projection with a new law that went into effect on July 1 that allows breweries like DBBC to sell their beer by the pint on-site, and the industry is ripe for harvest.
“This [law] helps to bring more business in the community,” Crandall said. “We’re probably gonna have to hire more people to support this because now we’ll have a tasting room and more people coming to it and it will help our fledgling business to survive. The end result is that this will help create more breweries all across the state because it’s going to make it more economically viable, and that’s a good thing.”
Of course, beer is just one part of the equation at DBBC’s “Brewpub,” which opened in November 2008. Good food is another big driver to the on-site restaurant that struggles to keep an open seat on a warm summer’s evening. As the Brewpub’s General Manager, Chris Trotter puts it, “We are a full-service restaurant with a brewery thoughtfully attached.”
“In the summer time, it’s just beautiful out here and our food is just dynamic,” he added.
The Brewpub boasts 10 DBBC beers on tap, on-site gardens that grow fresh produce for the menu and a wood-fired smoker that cooks up fall-off-the-bone meats. Add three patio areas and live music on Friday, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons, and it’s the recipe for pure summer bliss.
“When you come out here and sit on those patios, it’s just a sense of escapism that people are looking for,” Trotter said.
For more information on Devils Backbone Brewing Company, visit www.dbbrewingcompany.com.
Wintergreen Summer Music Festival: Music and More on the Mountain
Imagine a professional orchestra playing classical music on top of a scenic mountain as the sun sets over the dazzling summer sky. This is just one of many reasons the 2012 Wintergreen Performing Arts Festival, which runs from July 6 through August 5, is likely to sell 11,000 tickets to 262 events in 31 days.
“You’re on top of a mountain, you’re looking out at the Blue Ridge Mountains and the quality of music is such that you would have to travel many miles to find it and here it is, right here in Nelson County,” Karen Quillen, Wintergreen Performing Arts (WPA) Director of Development and Marketing, said.
The festival is a huge compilation of the musical, culinary, artistic, theatrical, visual arts and outdoor events rolled under one theme: Innovation. WPA’s Artistic and Executive Director, Larry Alan Smith, says this theme is about celebrating the innovators of the past century and a half.
“The idea of Innovation—I like the idea of being able to explore it, not just for the current moment but also for the past 1,500 years,” he said. “It’s looking at things that were new throughout history, so we have music, dance, theater, visual arts within that. We try to make it very large scale and expansive.”
Many of the festival’s events are free, while those with a fee range from $10 to $50 apiece. The line-up is an eclectic mix, from orchestra concerts and jazz performances to seminars, kids programming, cooking classes, nature-related events and more.
“You hear the catchphrase, ‘Something for everyone’ and that’s really true of this,” Smith explained.
Several of the events, like the cooking classes, the Five-Sense Fête and the field trips with The Rock Barn, are so popular, they often sell out early. For tickets to these specific events, those interested in attending need to call the WPA office at (434) 325-8292 as they will not be sold online. Tickets to all other events are available at www.wintergreenperformingarts.org/tickets. Those wanting to attend multiple events benefit from Festival Season Passes, FlexPacks and 3-Day passes, which give access at a discounted price.
Quillen says the popularity of the cooking classes in particular is not surprising when you look at the unique format.
“The second series of cooking classes are classes that follow the farm-to-fork trend in food and you actually go to the place where the food is produced or raised,” she said. “There’s a vegetable farm, a winery, a brewery and a craft butcher company. So you actually go on-site where the food is produced and then watch it being used to create this meal and you get to taste the food and the wine paired with it.”
Other exciting events this year include watercolor classes, the world premiere of “Where Chaos Sleeps,” a play written just for this festival about the Italian composer, Gesualdo, and performances by the Bowen McCauley Dance company.
“I’m excited about Bowen McCauley Dance coming back. This is their third year coming and they’ve developed quite a following,” Smith said. “They will be doing dance classes during their downtime with young kids from the Lynchburg and Charlottesville areas.”
There’s also the purposefully unexpected event, Music in Unusual Places, where quartets and quintets go out and “pop up” to play in the community—from mountain overlooks to coffee shops and grocery stores.
“It just exposes people to classical music who think they don’t know what it is or think they don’t like it,” Quillen said. “But when you are right there seeing live, classical music that is of the quality that it is, it’s an amazing thing!”
With the festival’s growing popularity, Smith and Quillen say that they are seeing more families coming to Wintergreen for a longer stretch of time, with some even renting a house for the whole month. Kids programming is one part of the festival that has also grown, thanks to a partnership with Wintergreen Nature Foundation, which offers everything from easy hikes to special days for children.
“In terms of music, we have these Coffee Concerts on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. They are extremely popular,” Smith said. “I remember the first time we tried it, we were thinking there would be maybe 20 people that would show up but there were 120 who showed up for that very first one. It’s fun because everyone gets a cup of coffee and enjoys the concert … those are good things for kids to come to.”
Though the focus of the festival is not just on music, Quillen believes that the quality of the symphony performances that are offered every year draws people back for more.
“People say, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s like the Kennedy Center’ and really we are becoming known nationally and some internationally for the quality of the music that is here,” she said.
For more about The Wintergreen Performing Arts Festival and a complete schedule of events, visit www.wintergreenperformingarts.org.
Upcoming Events at Wintergreen
Fourth of July Jubilee
Wintergreen Resort, Wintergreen Drive, Wintergreen, VA
Guests will enjoy music, a block party, movie under the stars, chairlift rides, games for the entire family and of course, fireworks! See the mountain light up on July 4th. More information, call (434) 325-2200.
July 6 through August 8
2012 Wintergreen Summer Music Festival—Innovation 2012
Presented by Wintergreen Performing Arts, 262 events in 31 days that include music, dance, theatre, film, food, wine, and the visual arts. More info at www.wintergreenperformingarts.org.
7th Annual Blue Ride Mountain Music Fest
The Evans Center at Wintergreen Resort, Wintergreen, VA
Noon to 7 p.m.
Presented by Wintergreen Performing Arts. Celebrate the mountain heritage with traditional music. More info at www.wintergreenperformingarts.org.
The Virginia Craft Beer Fest
Devils Backbone Brewing Company, 200 Mosbys Run, Roseland, VA
Devils Backbone Brewing Company will be hosting the first Virginia Craft Beer Fest. Visit www.dbbrewingcompany.com for more details.
If you don't have an account, please click here to register. Registration is FREE!