On the Rappahannock fall line, where the Piedmont begins, this historic downtown offers something for everybody
Text and photos By Cassandra Brown
Halfway between Richmond and Washington D.C., lies the historic city of Fredericksburg. Located at the fall line of the Rappahannock River, Fredericksburg was originally created in 1728 as a river port for trade goods such as tobacco. The vibrant streets are paved with the history of over 200 years and countless tales of war, ghosts, and the George Washington family. Like George Washington, you too can experience all the endless delights this once sleepy Southern town has to offer. Caroline Street, the busiest street in the downtown section, is bursting with fine clothing boutiques, antiques shops, restaurants, bars, specialty shops, art galleries, and museums. They occupy historic buildings in the form of Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival and early 20th century styles. Nearby you will find Civil War battlefields, including the historic ground of Marye’s Heights and Chatham. Spending a weekend — or any 48-hour period — in downtown Fredericksburg is sure to be full of adventure. Fredericksburg is approximately an hour from Charlottesville, Leesburg, Richmond, or Washington D.C. Drive down for a weekend or take Amtrak or the Virginia Railway Express (VRE). There is plenty of parallel parking on both sides of the streets as well as additional parking lots and a parking garage.
Caroline Street and William Streets
10:30 a.m. Start out with a tour of the Historic Downtown on a horse and carriage tour with Marriage, Carriage and More, LLC (www.oldetownecarriages.com) or a trolley tour (706 Caroline Street, www.fredericksburgtrolley.com).
12 p.m. For lunch, visit Sammy T’s (801 Caroline St., www.sammyts.com) an American style restaurant serving burgers and a variety of sandwiches with many vegetarian and vegan selections. Another option is to pack your own picnic and visit Chatham (located across the river over Chatham Bridge, www.nps.gov/frsp/chatham) an historic Georgian mansion with beautiful gardens, with views of the Rappahannock River and downtown. Located right on the other side of the river, Chatham is a short drive away. On your way to Chatham, visit the Old Stone Warehouse (Photo 3) (located on the corner of Sophia and William Streets, right before crossing the Chatham Bridge). This four-story building, which dates back to the 1700’s was once believed to be used as a warehouse or jail.
2 p.m. Tour a variety of museums, including the Rising Sun Tavern (1304 Caroline St., www.washingtonheritagemuseums.org) for an 18th Century tavern life interpretation, built in 1760. A few blocks away, the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop (1020 Caroline St., www.washingtonheritagemuseums.org) offers a peek into popular medical treatments in Colonial times. For more history about the area, visit the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center (1001 Princess Anne St., www.famcc.org).
6 p.m. Made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, the food at Bistro Betham (309 William St., www.bistrobethem.com) is described as modern American cuisine with a Southern accent. The menu changes daily for the freshest ingredients.
8 p.m. Ask any local and they will tell you one of the best desserts in town is Carl’s Fro – zen Custard, (2200 Princess Anne St.) serving only a few classic flavors. (Cash only.)
10 a.m. Get to Foode (Photo 2) (1006 Caro line St., foodeonline.com) early for a delicious brunch and you will be guaranteed to find a dish that just might revolutionize your palate. Foode is wedged between Civil War era buildings at the end of a narrow brick-lined alley. With a daily changing menu, Foode “sources between 85% to 90% of the food we serve from the local farms and merchants.” Featuring organically grown vegetables, organic beef, free-range chickens, hormone-free eggs, and heirloom produce, all grown and harvested locally. Grab a table outside in the cozy alleyway with a rainbow of umbrellas overhead, or at the community table inside. You can always try the delicious Southern treat of chicken and waffles and Southern sweet tea.
11 a.m. Downtown Fredericksburg has an array of antique shops, perfect for any collector. Buy a Civil War bullet found in the nearby battlefields at R&R Antiques Shop on (1001 Caroline St.). The shop is split between a variety of vendors selling memorabilia, antique glassware and china, furniture and more. Browse through more antique shops scattered about Caroline Street.
2 p.m. Stop by Riverby Books (photo 4) (805 Caroline St., www.riverbybooks.com), which sells rare and antiquarian books and also re-binds books. The shop contains comfortable nooks and crannies where customers can curl up with a classic. Another local favorite, Griffin Books (723 Caroline St.) carries modern bestsellers and is complete with an in-house coffee shop. Browse a large selection of local and imported wine and beer at The Virginia Wine Experience (Photo 1) (826 Caroline St., ejosephwines.com). Purchase a bottle of wine from a variety of Piedmont vineyards and breweries. Visit Art First Gallery (824 Caroline St., artfirstgallery.com) and peruse local artwork including acrylic, oil and watercolor paintings, pastels, jewelry, and more.
6 p.m. For dinner, head to Olde Towne Steak and Seafood (1612 Caroline St., www.oldetownesteakandseafood.com) located a short drive away. Known for their prime rib, steak, and seafood, this classic restaurant is popular among locals. For traditional, elegant French cuisine head to La Petite Auberge (311 William St., www.lapetiteaubergefred.com) featuring escargot, fish, veal, lamb, and more.
Ulman’s Jewelry (903 Caroline St., www.ulmans.com). Familyowned fine jewelry shop, since 1928. Ulman’s is known for not only their fine but also estate jewelry.
Picker’s Supply (902 Caroline St., pickerssupply.com). Supplying the Fredericksburg area with vintage and rare acoustic instruments, including bluegrass, folk, and country.
Whittingham (1021 Caroline St., shopwhittingham.com). Pop into Whittingham for an array of interior design products: home furnishings, glass, china, silver, fine linens, cookware, and more.
A Place in Time (804 Caro line St., www.facebook.com/pages/A-Place-In-Time). Offering home accessories, fashion, fragrances, and fine gifts, including brands such as Vera Bradley and Crabtree & Evelyn.
There are a number of local inns and bed-and-breakfasts in the Fredericksburg area. Here are a few accommodations located within a short distance of downtown:
Kenmore Inn (1200 Princess Anne St., www.kenmoreinn.com). Originally constructed in 1824, the Kenmore Inn features an elegant main dining room, nine guest rooms, pub, restaurant, and beautiful gardens. Located on Princess Anne St. within walking distance of Historic Downtown. 540-371- 7622. (Rooms range $130-195.)
The Schooler House B&B (1303 Caroline St., www.schoolerhouse.com). This Victorian era house, built in 1891, features two guest rooms, parlor, dining room, and four fireplaces. Located within walking distance of the heart of downtown. (540) 374-5258. (Rooms $160-175.)
Richard Johnston Inn (711 Caroline St., therichardjohnstoninn.com). This bed and breakfast, housed in a historic building constructed in 1770, is located in the heart of downtown. Offering seven guest rooms and two suites, located conveniently across the street from the Fredericksburg Visitors Center. (540) 899-7606. (Rooms $125-225.)
Inn at the Olde Silk Mill (1707 Princess Anne St., www.innattheoldesilkmill.com). This 27-room, historic inn features antique fur – nishings and is a short drive from the main downtown scene. (540) 371-5666. (Rooms $89-169.)
Courtyard by Marriott (620 Caroline St., courtyardfredericksburg.com). Conveniently located in the heart of downtown within walking distance of dining and shops. (540) 373-8300. (Room rates vary.)