A Day Off in Natural Bridge

Editors’ picks for 24 scenic hours away from it all.

Photo courtesy of Va. Dept. of Conservation

The small town of Natural Bridge has more to offer than just the geological formation for which it is named. In 1750, George Washington allegedly surveyed the area for Lord Fairfax, the only resident peer in late colonial America. Legend has it that the initials “GW” are carved in the side of the bridge itself and in 1774, Thomas Jefferson bought the town site in a 157-acre purchase from King George III of England. In addition to its rich history, Natural Bridge offers many attractions and delicious eateries. Here’s an itinerary to get you going.

9:00 a.m. Enjoy a morning pick-me-up

Serving homemade food, including fresh meats and deli cheese, the family-owned Natural Bridge General Store and Natty B Cafe is the perfect local spot to start your day.. Enjoy menu items including breakfast staples like bacon and sausage, as well as  egg and cheese biscuits, biscuits and gravy, and biscuits with apple butter. Facebook.com/NaturalBridgeGeneralStore

10:30 a.m. Take a walk on the wild side 

On opening its gates in the spring of 2000, the Virginia Safari Park is the only drive-thru zoo in the Commonwealth. The 180-acre park also offers a walkable village, with a giraffe feeding area, tiger territory, budgie adventure aviary, penguin pool, kangaroo walk-about and petting zoo. VirginiaSafariPark.com

2:00 p.m. Grab some midday munchies

Once you’ve gotten your fill of the wildlife, stop by Archway Deli located inside The Visitor’s’ Center and Gift Shop at the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center. Grab-and-go style, Archway Deli offers a quick spot to refuel so you can get back to sightseeing. The menu features deli-inspired items such as specialty sandwiches, baked goods, fresh salads, savory soups and cheesy pizza.

3:00 p.m. I scream, you scream

In addition to the ‘50s vibe of Pink Cadillac Diner, the family-friendly restaurant is home to an ice cream parlor serving up delicious desserts and sweet drinks, including ice cream, root beer floats, shakes, sundaes, brownie supreme, cakes and pies. Look for the pink exterior just down the road from Natural Bridge State Park. PCDinerVa.com

3:30 p.m. Promenade in the park

A National Historic Landmark, recently acquired by the Virginia state park service, the 215-foot tall geological bridge at Natural Bridge State Park is a limestone gorge carved out by Cedar Creek. This scenic splendor is home to six miles of hiking trails, and the visitor center offers exhibits as well as a gift shop. DCR.Virginia.gov/state-parks

6:00 p.m. Dinner and drinks

The Red Fox Tavern has the décor of a hunt club with a cozy restaurant feel. The tavern offers a varied menu of signature cocktails, Virginia wines and craft beers in addition to domestic and imported options. The menu features hearty comfort food, such as French onion soup, burgers and molten chocolate cake. NaturalBrideVa.com

8:45 p.m. A cinematic ending

On your way out of town, stop off in Lexington for a movie at Hull’s Drive-In. The nation’s first non-profit, community-owned drive-in theatre projects movies every Friday and Saturday beginning 20 minutes after sunset. For 67 years, Hull’s Drive-In has been a staple in the Rockbridge community and even offers flea markets and theatre rentals. HullsDriveIn.com

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