Anybody that has taken a road trip thru Virginia on the interstate 95 corridor probably has experienced gridlock around the Fredericksburg area. I like to think of Fredericksburg as the city that welcomes visitors to the Northern Virginia region and all the great food and attractions in the area. Known for being the third most authentically colonial town in the United States, I wanted to explore not only the historical aspects of this city, but the locally sourced food and drink establishments. Let’s get ready to learn, see and do in Fredericksburg, VA.
- Chatham Manor: This historical site is maintained by the National Park Service and at the time of my visit COVID-19 protocols were in effect. Chatham Manor was a former plantation that was occupied by the Union troops during the Civil War. After taking a stroll of the manicured gardens that were maintained by enslaved African Americans. Throughout the property there are placards that give you a brief history of the people who owned and maintained the home. As I headed to the back of the main house you can see why this home was chosen as Union camp during the war. The scenic view of the Rappahannock River is literally in the backyard of the manor. This is a great vantage point to see the beautiful bell tower of the Fredericksburg church located in the heart of the city and to take plenty of pictures while you’re at it..
Munch Tip: Got a National Park Service passport book? Ask the ranger to stamp your book for you so you can collect your one of a kind stamp.
- Fredericksburg Battleground – Sunken Road: This is the first stop on the National Military Troop Loop that has been identified by the National Park Service. This sprawling space was one of the borderlines between the south and the north during the Civil War. When you walk down the dirt road you can see the home of the current President of Mary Washington University. There are also several remnants of the foundation of homes that dotted this war zone on the confederate side. At the bottom of the trail there is a statue of a confederate soldier administering aid to a fallen union soldier. This statue represents the humanity that can be displayed even during the high points of war. This is not to say that the original purpose of the Civil War should be forgotten or ignored.
Munch Tip: Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. The trail is full of loose rocks and you could easily encounter a fall without wearing the proper shoes.
- James Monroe Museum: James Monroe was the 5th president of the United States and famously known in American history for the Louisiana purchase and the Monroe Doctrine. However, I wanted to visit the museum to see who he was as an elite Virginian. The museum was founded in 1927 by Monroe’s descendants and located on the land where his law firm was located as a young man. There were tons of artifacts spanning from clothes to furniture, but the most interesting artifact to me was the Betty Lamp that was built by a blacksmith that was enslaved at Monroe’s final home, Oak Hill plantation. The ingenuity to build this item and the practicality of it was awe inspiring. Overall, the museum was very unassuming and could be easily missed. I would encourage the museum to expand the contributions of the enslaved African American experience and not just put this vital historical relevance in the back corner of the museum. By expanding this part of Monroe’s history it would allow the visitors to get a full picture of the man. It was during his tenure he was instrumental in facilitating and financially supporting the colonization effort of sending African Americans back to the newly formed country of Liberia, Africa. Due to his support the capital city was named Monrovia in his honor. Admission for this presidential relic will only cost you $4.50 if you have a AAA card.
Munch Tip: There is free two hour parking located in front of the museum. Since this museum is relatively small, this provides you with plenty of time to see everything inside without getting a parking ticket.
- Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg: This classic tourist attraction is a great way to get an overview of Fredericksburg. The 75 minute tour takes you on a loop in the downtown area of the city. The tour guide, Jim, informed the group that after 26 years of the same interpretation the outline was going to be revamped to include more stories of the African American citizens. One story in particular that stood out was of the freedom riders who made their first stop on their way to New Orleans in Fredericksburg. While in the city, the Freedom Riders staged several sit-ins and peaceful protests. I particularly liked seeing all the historical homes and the creative flair that was displayed. I could easily see why it is recognized as one of the three most colonial cities in the nation. I found the $20 price to be reasonable for the amount of information that was given and the time limit of the tour. Discounts are available if you are in the military or a student.
Munch Tip: There are only two city tours available; they run at 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM Thursday-Monday. I highly suggest you take the earlier tour to ensure you get a seat on the trolley.
- A.Smith Bowman Distillery: Did you know that in order for a certain type of liquor to be named bourbon, it must be made in the United State? This is just one of the many mind blowing facts that I learned on the FREE one hour tour. A brief history of the distillery explained the barrel making and liquor distilling process. David, my tour guide was very knowledgeable about the whole liquor business. Even through the required mask mandate, you could smell the powerful aroma of the whisky and bourbon penetrating throughout the factory. At the end of every good beverage tour there is always an opportunity to taste the product and this tour delivered on this tradition. I got to try one vodka and three bourbons which all had a kick to them. My favorite was the J. Bowman ($50) which ended up being one of the most expensive bottles in the collection. The J. Bowman has a smooth taste with slight notes of toffee that packed a punch. Make sure before you leave, checkout the gift shop and bring some of your experience home with you by buying a few bottles.
Munch Tip: Make reservations prior to your visit online. Once you arrive they will check your temperature. Due to the new CDC guidance, this may have been lifted.
- The Battlefield Country Store: This store is a throwback to a time where you could get 5 & dime candy and obscure jellies and jams. You could easily browse this store for over an hour, but you must keep your eye on the prize and order the main attraction, the milkshake. Anytime that there is butterscotch on the menu, I’m definitely going to order it. The milkshake was filled with butterscotch ice cream, morsels and actual butterscotch hard candies. To top it all off, a blondie brownie was placed on top of the mason jar glass. This speciality milkshake was a little pricey ($15) but at least you can keep the souvenir mason jar.
Munch Tip: There are several unique jams & jellies and the one you must purchase is the moonshine jelly. It comes in small and large versions which would make perfect gifts for your loved ones.
- Foode: Foode is the newest black owned food establishment in Fredericksburg. Located right in the middle of town, this restaurant is housed in the old Fredericksburg National Bank. You can even eat in the vault of the bank! Famously known for their fried chicken, so you know that I had to order a fried chicken sandwich with french fries. And to wash it all down, I ordered the very popular spicy margarita. The food was very fresh and delivered in a timely manner. Prices were very reasonable and the ambiance and service was impeccable.
Munch Tip: There is no bad seat in the house. But I would recommend that you ask for a seat outside to enjoy your meal among the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Munch Travelogue Quick Guide
This quick guide provides you with a central location for all the address and website information for all the locations listed in the Fredericksburg, VA travel guide.
- Chatham Manor
Address: 120 Chatham Ln Fredericksburg, VA 22405
Hours of Operation: Grounds are open Sunrise to Sunset
- Fredericksburg Battleground – Sunken Road
Address: Sunken Road Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Hours of Operation: Grounds are open Sunrise to Sunset
- James Monroe Museum
Address: 908 Charles Street Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Hours of Operation: Monday-Saturday 10AM – 5PM & Sundays 1-5PM
- Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg
Address: 706 Caroline Street Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Hours of Operation: 11:30 AM & 1:30 PM Thursday-Monday
- A. Smith Bowman Distillery
Address: 1 Bowman Drive Fredericksburg, VA 22408
Hours of Operation: 10AM-5PM Monday-Saturday & 12-4PM on Sundays
- The Battlefield Country Store
Address: 6150 Plank Road Fredericksburg, VA 22407
Hours of Operation: 6 AM-7PM Monday – Saturday
Address: 900 Princess Anne Street Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Hours of Operation: 8:30 AM – 9PM Monday-Thursday, 8AM-10PM Friday & Saturday and 8AM-3PM on Sundays