Looking to create new holiday memories? I recommend spending some time at Airlie Center, a luxury resort in Warrenton, Virginia that manages to be vintage and modern at the same time. Formerly a working farm, Airlie was transformed into a conference center in 1956, where heads of state, business people and scientists could meet in a distraction free environment.
In the last few years, the conference center opened to leisure guests and has since transitioned to a full-service resort. A few miles from the charming town of Warrenton, Airlie is one hour from Washington D.C. and 33 miles from Dulles Airport, making it an ideal weekend getaway for both D.C. Area residents and out-of-town visitors looking for a pastoral landscape to reinvigorate and relax.
The Airlie property is surrounded by 1,200 acres of natural preserve, so it feels like a village in the country. Once you’ve arrived, you won’t need your car until you leave. This year, Airlie is hosting several special holiday events, like Breakfast with Santa, an Open House to see the lovely gardens and decorations, as well as a New Years Eve package.
Through the recent revitalization of historic buildings, like the silo, post office, stables, lodge and the Swan Pub, Airlie has seven different housing units with luxurious bedding and comfortable amenities.
Instagrammers will find lots of picturesque sites to feature including Airlie’s Spanish Steps at the Lodge, the banks of Lake Stanley with swans swimming in the background, and Airlie’s new “LOVE” sign, which debuted on Earth Day in conjunction with the Virginia Tourism Bureau. Virginia’s motto “Virginia is for Lovers” comes alive with the use of recyclable materials: letters are made from empty wine bottles, the O is a giant tractor tire, and the V is made out of vines.
Airlie’s food is superb, and Chef Hector Cruz outdoes himself for Christmas Eve buffet. What makes Airlie’s dining experience so exceptional is that their produce and meats come from thirty nearby farms and Airlie’s own garden.
“It’s trendy to say ‘buy local,’ or ‘farm-to-table,’ but Airlie’s been doing that for 25 years,” says Carol Smith, Airlie’s director of sales. “We aren’t working off a set menu. The farms are so close that chefs go pick it out themselves, and we don’t have to pass the expense onto the customer.” Airlie even offers marshmallows to roast for s’mores by their flickering outdoor fire pit. If it’s warm enough, you can borrow one of the complimentary bikes or try your hand at skeet shooting.
For our family it was one of our best Christmas celebrations ever. Happy Holidays! For those looking for the perfect gift to give your outdoorsy friends and family, consider my new book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Washington DC.
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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.