Recently I had the feeling that I was a million miles away from home, yet I had not even left the neighborhood. I was not daydreaming or meditating. I was tucked away in a private poolside oasis at Clay Corner Inn in downtown Blacksburg. For the first time in the bed and breakfast’s 30+ years, locals can reserve the pool area by the hour for private parties. Also provided are an on-site suite for changing and private restroom access, along with catering and bar services.
So there I was, a mere two miles from home, yet finally able to relax and forget about the world’s problems for a few blissful hours with my family. We had the idyllic spot all to ourselves. Local businesses are getting creative, working hard to keep us safe, yet give us the feeling of a nice, normal summer, and maybe, just maybe, transport us to a place in time when things were not so complicated. Ah, the good ol’ days when we could hug our friends.
With everything going on, it’s no wonder that animal shelters are reportedly running out of adoptable pets. Animals give us that simple feeling of comfort and companionship, where we don’t have to worry about wearing masks and staying six feet apart. But it’s not just dogs and cats that need our love. Winterfrost Farm in Radford offers horse adoption and leasing, as well as horseback riding on rehabilitated rescue horses through their “Ride-A-Rescue” program. In addition to trail rides and riding lessons, they host birthday parties, which could be a fun social distancing activity for those celebrating quarantine birthdays.
Summer brings longer days and more daylight for outdoor activities like hiking, camping and water sports. Back Country Ski & Sport in Blacksburg is open (by appointment only when this went to print) and can outfit you with the perfect tent, kayak or canoe for your outdoor needs. If you’re not fully ready to take the plunge, they offer equipment rentals. It’s a great way to brave the wild and test the waters without breaking the bank.
It’s easy to experience a summer state of mind with one of Gardner’s Frozen Treats in Christiansburg. Boasting shakes as thick as a brick and soft serve swirls as tall as your head, this place has it all. Their newest menu addition, “Watermelon Italian Ice,” is a sugar-free, dairy-free concoction that will have you carefree and stress-free in an instant.
If wine is your dessert of choice, you can head out to Beliveau Estate Winery to soak up the scenery, enjoy a lite meal, and bask in the aroma of luscious lavender. Their back fields will be open for unpopulated hiking, running, skipping and jumping. Dogs welcome! There has never been a better time to shop small and stay local. Checking out what’s new in the retail shops is the best way to support them and bring a smile to the faces of small business owners, even behind a mask.
The best local amusement parks might be in NRV treetops. Treetop Adventures at Mountain Lake offers “two and a half hours of an intense course that demanded concentration and the use of all our muscles and balance,” says a recent conqueror of the course. Buffalo Mountain Ziplines in Floyd County boasts the largest zipline in Virginia. We just might have the next best thing to ziplining in Costa Rica.
Outdoor orienteering involves navigation with a map and a compass where you go from point to point in diverse terrain. The Blue Ridge Orienteering Club was founded five years ago by locals as a chapter of Orienteering USA. Look for their course maps for Mountain Lake and Heritage Park on their website: Blueridgeorienteering.org. They also produce a course map for the Virginia Tech campus, which takes you to some undiscovered campus spots while subtly teaching you about the university’s history.
Music festivals, street fairs and outdoor concerts are not quite a thing of the past. There are swim-up concerts at Claytor Lake. Rent a paddleboard or kayak from Mountain2Island and paddle on over to The Rock House Marina to get a live music fix. Raise your knowledge of our history by visiting all or a few of the 11 museums throughout the New River Valley.
If you’re itching to explore a totally new place, take a day trip. Burke Gardens in Tazewell has been described as “God’s Thumbprint” and the “Garden Spot of the World” because it offers the most breathtaking scenery this side of New Zealand. Set aside plenty of time for this piece of paradise carved into the highest valley in Virginia, because once you get there, you won’t want to leave.
So don’t worry about any summer plans outside our region. There are wonderful B&Bs and hotels, back roads, photo opps, camping, water recreation, restaurants, trails and interesting places to discover, visit and re-visit right here. Go to nrvbook.com for ideas that will carry you through this summer and next summer in the New River Valley. And drop in on some of those advertisers plus ones in this magazine issue. They spend hard-earned money to get your attention and offer neat products, merchandise and services. The local economy is vital to the region’s success.
Text by Emily Kathleen Alberts
Photos courtesy of Clay Corner Inn
Emily Kathleen Alberts is a freelance writer and NRV resident who’s traveled far and wide and can safely say: There’s no place like home.