The Holladay House Bed & Breakfast

155 West Main Street, Orange, Virginia 22960
Innkeeper(s): Sam & Sharon Elswick

Don Hughes – Officiant Extraordinaire 17 May 2016, 11:27 am

When getting married, your officiant plays a large role in the event. Here at the Holladay House Bed and Breakfast, we are proud to have Don Hughes perform ceremonies.


Don has lived in this area all his life, taking some time to move away, and then return. He was born in the neighboring town of Gordonsville, was married at the local Methodist church, and at one time had the keys to the county court house, sheriff station, and local service station. His roots are deep within the community and he has a sense of humor that will make anyone smile.

Don turned 74 this past year and has been married over 50 years to his wife, Lillian. Don loves to tease about the first time he met Lillian: “I met my wife in my bedroom” he says with a silly grin across his face.  The truth behind the “scandalous” story: Somehow Lillian ended up at his parents’ house before a local dance in 1962. Don was in his bedroom studying and his mother was giving Lillian a tour of the house. He remembers he was sitting at his desk in his room when his mother introduced them to each other. He finally got around to asking her to marry him in 1965. How’s it going?  “We are both Scorpio and haven’t killed each other yet.”

Working many jobs over the years, Don has been a paint store owner, a florist, a caterer, an EMT (where he helped birth a few local babies), and a funeral director.  As Don puts it, he “takes care of people from the womb to the tomb.” Don loves to celebrate life and people at all stages of their journey on Earth and appreciates all the people he has met over the years.

What is it about Don?

A big grandpa to everyone, Don is one of the most welcoming people we know, which is why we cherish him being a part of the weddings at the Holladay House.

Don performs about 100 ceremonies each year and no two are alike. Every time he makes the ceremony special. “I try not to sound like recording.”

Photo credit: Shalese Danielle Photography

And he always means what he says. His humor and charm enhances any ceremony or defuses any situation. He remembers one couple who were so nervous he told them “Don’t worry about it! It’s just one thing, we will get to it.” Don wants the couple and their guests to feel relaxed and enjoy every moment of their special day.  And being the couples’ special day, Don is adamant the couple is in the spotlight, not “Don the officiant”.


* Being on time and reliable is important to Don in his line of work; you can set the clock to Don. But, there was one time he was running a little late from the funeral home to the Holladay House (which really means he was right on time).  Don started the ceremony with his funeral director name tag on his suit jacket. Half way through the ceremony the nervous couple noticed and started giggling during the ceremony.  That little detail really lightened up the mood as Don said: “Now you can say you were married by the undertaker. You can say the undertaker took care of you before you died.”

* One day he had pronounced a couple “husband and wife” and after they kissed, the groom’s mother stood up and walked her son (the groom!) down the aisle and left the bride standing at the altar. Being the quick thinker he is, Don took the bride’s arm and escorted her down the aisle like it was a planned part of the ceremony.

* Having performed wedding ceremonies for over 30 years, Don has had the pleasure of performing some unique wedding services. One day, a young lady he knew called and wanted to have Don perform her wedding in a local cemetery. She told him that her grandmother was buried there and was promised to be at her wedding.  So he arranged permission from the cemetery while the bride bought two grave spaces next to her grandmother.  Don performed the ceremony under a trellis over the bride’s grandmother’s grave.  Don remembers the event being incredibly meaningful and tasteful.

* Don has even performed a surprise wedding ceremony! Who was the surprised guest you ask??? Well, it was the bride! Too nervous to ask her to marry him beforehand, the groom arranged for Don and some honored guests to be at his house for a surprise wedding.  When his girlfriend arrived at their home, Don walked up to the bride and said “I am here to marry you today.”  The groom-to-be revealed the gathering was for them to be married. After getting over the shock of the situation the bride gleefully agreed and Don performed a beautiful ceremony.

* December 12th, 2012 (12-12-12) is a day that sticks out in Don’s mind. He performed six ceremonies on that day and was asked to do a 7th. He knew six would be a lot and had to turn down the 7th request.


Why Elope? 27 Apr 2016, 1:22 pm

It’s a big decision to go small for your wedding day!  There are a ton of reasons folks elope:

* Family is spread out all over the USA/world and the logistics of getting everyone together would challenge the most seasoned international event planner.

* One or both of the spouses are in the military.

* The bride or groom is actually quite shy and doesn’t want to be put “on stage”.

* The idea of all the detailed planning gives the bride and groom hives.

* Saving $$ for the honeymoon or a big investment, like a house!

* Only two opinions and no family drama to manage.

* The couple believes exchanging wedding vows is a moment to be shared just between the two of them.

My husband, Sam, and I choose to elope in 2001 when the trend was secret scandalous elopement or big fat wedding.  So, we went through a lot of the emotions involved with choosing an elopement-style wedding even before “small” was a thing. We understand and believe: 1) going small is a tough decision to make and 2) a wedding of any size is a meaningful life event that should reflect both the bride and groom’s desires. For us, our choice was a Virginia Inn even before thoughts of owning one entered our heads.

If you think eloping is what you want to do, there are many ways of going about it. Here are three blogs I hope help you plan your perfect day:

1. Make sure you understand how to elope.
2. Research the cost to elope.
3. Celebrate your elopement or small wedding!

Let us know if you need any help in planning your big decision to go small!

How Much Does It Cost to Elope? 7 Apr 2016, 5:16 pm

The cost of eloping can be under $100 and it can be over $10,000. It really depends on what YOU want your special day to include. Here are some helpful hints from the Holladay House Bed and Breakfast.  Once you know the answers to these questions, you should be able to start planning your elopement.

Understand what is included in the price of the package

* What does the facility take care of?  What if you want them to take care of everything?  What if you want to customize and be more hands on?

* Does the package include the officiant? Sometimes finding the officiant is the hardest part – is that taken care of?  Does he/she allow customization of the ceremony if you want to include your own vows or traditions?

* Do you want to include guests? Some facilities see an elopement as just two people as opposed to a small wedding. If you want guests, including a four-legged member of your family, make sure your facility allows it. Here at Holladay House we can have 2-20 people and your pet.

Frilly Details (that can cost extra)

* What can the bride and groom wear? Ladies may wear anything from full length bridal gowns to colorful dramatic dresses to simple day dresses they can wear time and again!  Gentlemen may wear anything from business casual to suit + tie to a tux.  Wear what will make you the most comfortable on YOUR day! Need some ideas? Check out our photo album here.

* Cakes?  You bet!  Engraved tableware?  Sure!  Special items, like unity candles?  Absolutely!  Color scheme?  Certainly!  Do you need to do all this?  Nope – but make sure your facility will allow such additions if they are important to you.

* Do you want professional photos? There are fabulous pro photographers that specialize in small weddings and price themselves accordingly.  Not all photographers do small weddings/elopements so be careful about falling in love with a photographer before understanding their interest in shooting your wedding day.

Reception or After Party

* Many couples who elope have a big casual party to celebrate later on in the year – it takes all the stress out of a wedding event and leaves only the fun of planning a party!

* Go out for a special dinner to end your big day. Or rent a limo and enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting.

Now that you have done your research on the costs to elope, let’s say “I DO”! Click here to learn how to go about eloping – yes… the official stuff.

How to Elope 23 Mar 2016, 2:31 pm

So, you’ve made the big decision to go small! Congratulations! That is the first step in preparing for your dream day. But… now what do you do? Getting married in Virginia is quite easy! You need a license, an officiant and a location. Follow our check list on how to elope to make planning your special day easier.

You will need to visit a Virginia Courthouse to get your marriage license.  You must both be present, have your photo IDs, and payment for the fee ($30 in most courthouses). As most don’t take check or credit card, please bring cash. You don’t need a blood test, you don’t need a witness, and you don’t need your divorce papers (if applicable).

Before you go to the Courthouse, check the hours of operation, especially around Federal holidays. Some courthouses require the name of the officiant who will be marrying you, but most do not. For a comprehensive list visit:  Your license is valid that day for 60 days.

You must be married by an officiant that is licensed by the Virginia Court. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have someone unlicensed perform the ceremony – you just need to have your licensed officiate step in at the end to say the legal phrase that makes you official. The officiate takes care of signing the license and sending it back to the courthouse as well. Your Best Friend Brian, Uncle Larry or Aunt Martha can do the rest (PS: Holladay House works a great officiant, Don Hughes.)

You can almost elope at any location. Your backyard, at a park, in a hot air balloon, at your favorite restaurant, at a venue or at a great Bed and Breakfast! Look online for places that perform small weddings and elopements.

If you choose a venue, find out what the facility takes care of. What if you want them to take care of everything- can they do that? What if you want to customize and be more hands on?

Also, make sure your location is large enough to host the special occasion. Do you want it to be an intimate event for yourselves or would you like to invite a few special people?

The Best Place to Elope in Virginia 4 Mar 2016, 4:07 pm

Eloping or having a small wedding isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It is still an important day in your life that you will cherish for the rest of your life. The best place to elope or have a small wedding in Virginia is Holladay House Bed and Breakfast in Orange, VA – Voted as one of USA Today’s top hotel fireplaces in the USA to get married.

Personalized experience
As of the beginning of 2016, Sharon at the Holladay House B&B has helped 196 couples say “I Do” and not a single ceremony was identical to another. You want someone who really cares about your day as much as you do and someone who understands all the reasons you chose to “go small” — like an old friend you don’t have to explain “the whole story” to because they know you so well.

With a smaller event, little details mean a lot and stand out more. Sharon and Sam believe that just because a couple decides to “go small” that doesn’t mean they have to let go of including important details, and people or pets, for such an important life event. That’s why we encourage customization and allow for some guests to be included at no extra charge.

All-Inclusive Elopements
The Holladay House has made it easy to have an elopement. Whether it is just the two of you or a small group of 20 of your closest family and friends, our customized all-inclusive packages include what you need.

Our Traditional Elopement package is $599 (plus tax) and includes:
• A large and relaxing fireplace suite
• Exclusive use of the 1830’s parlor
• Use of music equipment
• Digital photos of the ceremony (using our own camera)
• Up to 4 additional guests at the ceremony
• A licensed officiant
• Bride’s bouquet and Groom’s boutonnière
• Sparkling wine for the toast
• Full gourmet breakfast for the bride and groom the next morning, and early check-in and a late checkout

The Luxury Elopement package is $899 (plus tax) and includes:
• A whirlpool suite with Bath Bliss upgrade
• Personalized wedding cake, sparkling wine for the toast, the Bride’s bouquet and Groom’s boutonnière
• Dinner for two at a local restaurant
• Up to 6 additional guests at the ceremony
• Plus: use of the parlor, music equipment, a licensed officiant, digital photography, breakfast, early check-in and late checkout

An Intimate Wedding package is the opportunity for you to fill the Holladay House with the people and things you love! $1250 (plus tax):
• 2 nights in a romantic whirlpool suite with a full breakfast each morning and late check out
• Use of the property and all common areas for your private event
• A wedding day keepsake to take home with you
• Day-of wedding planner
• Cake, flowers and sparkling wine
• Music equipment, a licensed officiant, digital photography

To have full use of the Holladay House, we ask that your guests rent available rooms for the ultimate intimate occasion.

Are our all-inclusive packages missing something important to you? Let us know – Sam and Sharon LOVE helping couples elope! Give them a call today to start planning!

PS: Did you know Sam and Sharon, owners of the Holladay House Bed and Breakfast choose to elope in 2001? They truly understand how to make your day special.

What Holladay House and The Ritz Have In Common……. 7 May 2015, 5:08 am

The Holladay House parlor fireplace is a little bit of a celebrity around here. During its long life, it’s witnessed a lot a history–and created a little of its own. Like making the cut as one of USA TODAY’s Top 40 Hotel Fireplaces in the US. Or providing an elegant backdrop to the beginning of many long, happy marriages. Or even participating in a tragic scene in which one Shadow Elswick, aged about three years, caught her whiskers on fire in a moment of cat foolhardery.

………OK, so Shadow hasn’t actually caught her whiskers on fire (yet). Still, if she keeps poking her face into the fireplace when the flames are doing their thing, the kitty who greets you at the inn could be a sadder, wiser, and less bewhiskered girl than she is today.

That being said, the bit about the USA Today is true, which means that the Holladay House fireplace falls in with fireplaces found at places like, ahem, The Ritz-Carlton. In the world of pyromania, I think that makes us part of the cool crowd (or, you know, since it’s a fireplace, the “not-cool” crowd. But whatever.)

The part about the weddings is true as well. Over a hundred couples have said their vows in front of the parlor fireplace over the years, exchanging their rings in the glow of the candlelit mantle. Still others have curled up on the parlor sofas nearby, drinking locally brewed coffee and fine wines, playing board games, and catching up with old friends in the warm comfort of home-away-from-home.

So, let’s talk about the fireplace. What makes it special-er than your average run-of-the-mill firepit? Where did it come from? Why does it matter? And (depending on your age and the time of year) is it Santa-friendly?

The fireplace is made of Port d’Oro marble, which was once, per the wisdom of The New American Cyclopedia of 1861, “the most popular and the best known foreign
marble in all parts of the United States.” The gold-veined black marble was mined in Porto Venere, Italy—probably on the island of Palmaria. It was then imported to the US, where an Orange County family looking to give their home a facelift decided to (seriously) upgrade their parlor fireplace. (Local architectural historian Anne Miller believes that the original wooden fireplace was moved upstairs into what is now the John Madison Chapman Suite, where it’s still functional today.)

The family who splurged was probably the Chapman family (who preceded the Holladays in house-ownership.) There’s a certain aura of mystery around when this splurge occurred, because no one can pin down an exact “when” for that. Still, Sam’s research reveals that most of the Port d’Oro marble fireplaces around the country (and in Orange) were installed in the mid-nineteenth century, placing the fireplace’s birth at sometime approximately between 1840 and 1860. And it’s still in fabulous shape, notwithstanding its advanced age. (Actually, Sharon shares that the biggest part of the “restoration” they had to complete upon moving in involved a 3-hour task of pulling candy wrappers out of the grate.)

As for Santa? Well, let’s just say that Sharon’s cookies have lured him back year after year, and if he’s coming in through the back door now rather than risking scratching the black marble with his sled keys, you didn’t hear it here.

……And More From Shadow Elswick 21 Feb 2015, 7:06 am

Following Shadow Elswick’s internet debut (where we got a glimpse into some of Shadow’s daily exploits) her fan base has been clamoring for more interaction with her whiskered mug. I caught up with her again recently to get a better perspective on this sly cat—what she’s thinking and feeling, what she wants out of life, and all the fascinating (and unexpected!) things that make her tick. She spoke candidly with me via “kennel-phone” (that’s cat-speak for “cell”) a few weeks ago, demonstrating that there’s more to this little cat than mere kibble and claws.

Me: What was the last book you read?
Shadow: I’m fascinated by cookbooks right now—I just finished Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Wow, it’s amazing all the different ways you can prepare squirrel—baked, roasted, fried. I’m just blown away. There’s a Creme Bavaroise recipe I cannot wait to try. I’m trying to convince Mom to let me try out my paw on some breakfast dishes for the guests, but she says it’s unsanitary and also that I’m not strong enough to lift a cast-iron skillet (or tall enough to reach the stove). So far I haven’t been able to find any cat-sized sterile gloves, so we’ve moved that discussion to the back burner, you might say.

Me: If you could have a sit-down discussion with one person from the past, who would it be?
Shadow: Oh, Katherine Hepburn. For one thing, I feel like I’m her living feline embodiment—all that graceful athleticism and sparkling wit in one lithe package. It’s hard work being this charismatic all the time, so I’d like to know how she maintained that classic appeal for all those years. Also I’d want to chat about Spencer Tracy. Yum.

Me: Where do you come down on the political spectrum?
Shadow: All the major parties are represented by animals vastly inferior to cats. Elephants? Donkeys?….what the hey. Let’s just say that when a party comes along with a Lion mascot, a pro-Speuter platform, and a willingness to bribe me with tuna treats, I’ll be all over it.

Me: How did having kittens change your life?  
Shadow: They humbled me and made me realize that there’s a great big world outside of just me, me, me. (That’s what my manager told me to say.) Otherwise, I mean, not much, I’m still a cat, but for a second or two I maybe felt a little humbled. All I remember is that Mom & Dad were really impressed with my kitten care-taking skillz.

Me: Any chance of getting one?
Shadow: Oh, no, they’re all away in college now. Kits these days grow up so quickly.

Me: If I turned on your music playlist right now, what would I hear?
Shadow: I listen to Astrud Gilberto’s “Girl From Ipanema” a lot, I feel like it really describes the way people react to me best. “Aaaaah”. I like Superchick’s “One Girl Revolution” when I’m on the hunt. And when my kitten-daddy comes around, I just like to turn on some Taylor Swift and remind him that those days are over for me. This time, hon, we are never, ever, ever, getting back together. Spaying—it’s the quickest way to ensure permanent success for your breakup. I’m a big advocate for it.

Me: What’s the perfect day to you?
Shadow: Any day I can freak Mom and Dad out is a pretty good day, but I can be playful, too. Lately we’ve been playing this game–my parents call it “peek-a-boo”. (I don’t know why, I don’t really understand that name myself.) Basically, Mom or Dad or Grandma Cathe will poke their heads around a corner, look at me, and say “peek-a-boo!”, which is some kind of human phrase (Aboriginal, perhaps?). I’m not sure what it means yet, so each time they say it, I go hunt them down, just to make sure they aren’t in a “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” type scenario. When I find them, they act all delighted and praise my cleverness. I can’t really roll my eyes, so I swat them with a paw to say that I think they’re being silly (no claws, though, because it’s a good silly).

Me: If you had to pick one thing to take with you to a desert island, what would it be?
Shadow: Probably a little lipstick—being well-groomed isn’t just about sitting around licking your paws all the time, you know. You probably can’t tell I’m wearing it now–it’s very subtle. I’m all about snazzy-but-subtle. And I’d take my collar, so if a “dog-jail” person wandered by, they’d know I am Owned. And I mean Owned in the loosest sense. Mom & Dad & I like to think of ourselves as being in a “mutually beneficial relationship by consent of all parties”. We’re a very modern family.

Me: What’s your biggest fear?
Shadow: Warriors fear nothing and no one. But dragons are pretty scary. I’ve encountered a couple named Dyson and Hoover who were just plain evil. There’s a new one called Electrolux roaming the area these days, so I’m on high-alert.

Me: What would you do with today if it was your last day?
Shadow: I’d slap some marinated squirrel meat on the barbie, sit back with a cold one, and munch some fish-shaped tuna treats as I caught up with the drama on DVR.

Me: When was the last time you told a lie?
Shadow: Just now. You can’t trust cats. Frankly, I wouldn’t really sit back with a cold one. I actually don’t like liquids and refuse to drink out of my water bowl, so Mom has to mix it in with my food just to keep me from, like, dying. Or at least getting dehydrated. Fun fact of the day.

Me: What changes should we be looking for you to implement at the inn in the future?
Shadow: I feel like I’m being spread too thin right now—greeting duties, around-the-clock watch-cat duties, bell-hop duties. A girl really can do too much. I’m trying to get Mom and Dad to invest in a new security system so I can keep an eye on all parameters from a high-tech control room, but so far that’s also a “no”. And they refuse to change the name of the inn to “Shadow’s Lair”. So I can’t really say what will happen, they’re clearly not working with me.

Me: Do you have a dream career in mind for your second life?
Shadow: ….you mean my third, actually. This girl has some miles on her paws (if only Mom & Dad knew!) I think I’d like to get into forensics next time, maybe go back to school to get my degree in criminal justice. I had to drop out before when the babies came, but I’ve landed on my paws. And I’d like to sing professionally (sometimes I’ll sing a few bars for my guests when they’re here—gotta keep the public entertained.) I’m quite the acrobat, so I might try that for awhile.Dad just brings out my blue feather toy, and I come alive. It’s part of what keeps me so svelte. I’ve got a lot of lives left in my deck, so we’ll see what happens.

Me: One last question before we go–what are you thinking of all the snow we’ve been getting lately?
Shadow: Cold. Wet. Yuck. Physically I hate going out in it, but there are perks–it’s much easier to spot intruders and track my prey. So, you know. I try to look on the bright side.

Antiques to Junktiques 4 Feb 2015, 6:21 am

My mom is the queen (or at least reigning princess) of junk-shopping, and goes to thrift stores the way most people pop into the grocery store: weekly making her rounds to check on new arrivals. One of my earliest memories involves trotting along behind her as she assembled my entire wardrobe with yard-sale purchases (I vividly remember neon-colored, lightning-patterned shorts–but then, it was the 90’s, and I was still young enough to feel pretty cool about it.) As I grew older, she taught me that junk-store shoppers need not feel burdened to keep the same furniture forever, and it became a running joke–“always check for a chair before you sit!” as my mom cruised through a never-ending cycle of refinished kitchen tables/dressers/couches/bedframes/anything not nailed down. Consequently, when it came time to write about a junk-shop & antiquing trip around Orange, I knew who my Go-To Chick would be.         

Gypsy Willow

The little-bit-of-everything shop! Just when you think you’ve reached the end, you find another cubby to explore. Quaint ceramics, eclectic framed art, clothing (some vintage), clocks, saddles—you don’t know what you’ll find in this “previously enjoyed” gift shop. A fun shop to explore, located at 212 Byrd Street.

The Painted Lady

Hand-painted furniture, knickknacks, and art—this store feels a bit like an antique store, but with a twist. All painting is done by the owner, who updates classic furniture into unique and personal works of art. Located on East Main Street.


Melrose Antiques

Huge gallery-style antique store, filled to the brim with quality 18th & 19th century furniture (much of it imported from England), statues, and upscale decor. The store also furnishes a huge collection of Oriental rugs–the owner, Gale Danos, is an internationally known rug dealer.  Located at 101 & 107 East Main Street.


Shabby Love

Lots of things you’ve seen before, but probably never before like this. This store offers proof that with a little imagination and elbow-grease, even the most unassuming things can be spruced up into something special. Located at 112 East Main Street.

D&J’s Thrift Shop

There’s arguably nothing you can’t find here if you look long enough. A huge, multi-room inventory includes aisles jam-packed with furniture and antiques, clothing and accessories, linens, cds & dvds, tools, baskets and rugs, cooking utensils and dishware, books, and “dust collectors” of every variety and description. Allot a little extra time to spend exploring this “picker’s paradise”. Located at 266 Butler Place.


J.S Mosby Antiques & Artifacts

Canteens & whisky flasks, belts & tassels, sabers & flintlock pistols, original paintings & sculptures, reference books & musical instruments—J.S. Mosby’s stocks not only artifacts for the Civil War enthusiast, but inventory from many of the other great conflicts as well. (Luftwaffe helmet? Check. WWI mess kit? Check.) For the less military-minded, there’s a collection of civilian wares, including antique jewelry. The owner, Stephen W. Sylvia, runs one of the largest annual Civil War trade-shows in the country, and publishes “North South Trader’s Civil War” magazine. Located at 125 E Main Street, next to the train tracks.


Friends of the Library Bookstore

Find a great mix of new(ish) and antique books from all genres, shelved in a little shop  that has that classic used-bookstore feel: books everywhere you look, for prices that allow you to take home an armload without breaking the budget. Located at 120 Chapman Street.

Austin’s Alley

Used furniture and home decor, some sold “as is” and some refurbished with chalk paints and other improvements. Some really cute stuff with a more modern flair than your average “junk shop”. Loved the license-plate topped coffee table, the bench cleverly made out of an old GMC tail-gate, and the purple china cabinet! Check out the great photos, along with pricing info, on their website. Located at 129 B Berry Hill Road.


Holladay House Celebrates 25 Years 19 Jan 2015, 5:12 pm

To a house that’s been around almost 200 years (witnessing, in the course of its long life, Civil War battles, weddings, and generations of residents) its latest gig as a bed & breakfast is practically still in its infancy. Still, time passes quickly, and, this year, the Holladay House will celebrate 25 years of running with the “inn-crowd”.

Two and a half decades ago, Pete Holladay decided to re-purpose the old Federalist-style family home/doctor’s office into a bed & breakfast. Flash forward through a few years, a few owners, and a few renovations, and you’ll find the inn still operating, stronger than ever, under the care of owners and innkeepers Sharon & Sam (and Shadow, a crack security team of one). This year, it looks forward to hosting a steady stream of old friends and newcomers as it hits the 25th anniversary of its latest “inn-deavor.”

In celebration, the innkeepers have put together a year-long “thank you” to the guests who have made it possible. On the 25th of each month, visitors staying at the Holladay House will receive (or be invited to participate in) the following activities.

Sunday, January 25, 2015: Rename the Garden Room contest
Wednesday, February, 25, 2015: Craft VA beer and cheese reception for guests at the inn.
March 2015: Celebrating your own anniversary? Take 25% off your second night stay.
Saturday, April 25, 2015: ½ price appetizers at Elmwood at Sparks
Monday, May 25, 2015: Free kayaking ride with Rapidan River Kayaking Company.
Thursday, June 25, 2105: A gift basket filled with local treats.
Saturday, July 25, 2015: Free 2-hour Montpelier tour.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015: A copy of the Red Chair visits the Holladay House photo book.
Friday, September 25, 2015: Free jam class with Berrywood Crafters at Honah Lee Tasting Room.
Sunday, October 25, 2015: A “book basket” filled with books about local history.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015: Free one-hour horseback ride with Oakland Heights Farm.
December 15th: Free Holladay House mug with your stay

Another landmark this big won’t happen for another quarter-of-a-century (2040, if you’re looking to schedule ahead) so if you miss out this round, you’ll be living with that for a very, very long time. Save yourself 25 years of regret–pick your date and call for reservations now…

New Year’s Resolutions…. 8 Jan 2015, 10:09 am

I think it goes without saying what New Year’s Resolution #1 was this year (as usual). If you need a hint, linger in the checkout line of your local grocery store for about five or six seconds. The magazine racks and book displays have rectified their philandering ways from over the holidays (evidenced by cutesy cookies sprinkled with colored sugar, six-layer coconut cakes, and beautifully decadent chocolate cream pies.) Now reformed and back on moral high ground, these same magazines are now promoting (with grins bent into grim, determined cheerfulness) how to make all the joyous calories you inhaled over the past month “just go away”.

OK. So, like the rest of us, you’ve avowed to lose weight/get in shape. In which case, you need to make it interesting–make it count for something more worthwhile and life-affirming than merely how bikini-ready your buns are by Beach Week. When you’re ninety, looking back at your life from a creaky pinnacle that stretches for miles in hindsight, you’ll realize there are better memories to be made than huffing and puffing along with a workout video. Here are a few ideas, all located an easy drive from the Holladay House.

#1: Hike Old Rag
This is a multi-terrain trail that will challenge your stamina, your mountain-goat moves, and your view of the world at once. Not for novices nor for the faint of heart (as the saying goes) though I once hiked it while possessed of both unfortunate accoutrements. Prep your hike with tips and helpful info here.

#2: Play Paintball
I think anyone who’s ever watched a war movie (or the Hunger Games) has wondered how they’d hold up in combat. (For the record, I’ve always suspected I’d be the recruit credited at the end as “Body #1”.) Try out your mettle at WarPlay Paintball. This fantastic course is set back into a wooded environment replete with bunkers, sandbags, and “bombed out” buildings. Walk-on prices start at $60 for 500 paintballs, including gear and field fees.

#3: Go Skydiving
Skydive Orange is the largest tandem-jump skydive center in the region, featuring USPA-certified instructors, jumps from 13,500 feet, videos & photos to prove to the family that you did it, and the reputation as one of the oldest “club-operated drop zones in the country.” Tandem jumps start at $255, and licensed skydivers can jump for as little as $20.

#4: Ride
There’s nothing like horseback riding for relaxing, bringing out your inner cowboy, and getting that bowlegged walk down pat. Guided trail rides are available 7 days a week out at Oakland Heights Farm, for $45 per person.

#5: Kayak
Enjoy a three-hour, 4.5 mile kayak tour of the Rapidan River, courtesy of the the aptly-named Rapidan River Kayak Company. Negotiate not-too-crazy rapids and peaceful flats while taking in the wildlife and birds lurking in the treeline. $65 per person for groups of 2-4, or $75 for loner cruises.

#6: Bike Skyline Drive
Or at least part of it. The views into the valley are gorgeous throughout, rarely obscured by trees. Just make sure your gear is in good working order (particularly your brakes!) as the entire route is challenging: uphill, winding climbs and long downhill descents. Find out more here.

#7: Dig at Montpelier
Take a week-long archaeology class at Montpelier. Participate in one of four intense (but beginner-friendly) expeditions: “Locate” (metal detect around the grounds), “Excavate” (dig, sift, and scavenge in the dust, side by side with the pros), “Analyze” (learn about and repair ceramics found onsite), or “Recreate” (help build the period-accurate log cabins and timber frame structures that populate the grounds).

Now those are some stories to someday share with the grandkids.