7 of the Top Vineyards in the Shenandoah Valley

For a vacation that combines small-town charm and outdoor adventure, stay at Bluegreen Resorts’ Shenandoah Crossing, located in Gordonsville, Virginia, on the outskirts of the Shenandoah Valley. You can enjoy Gordonsville’s quaint Main Street, which offers unique shops and acclaimed restaurants, or explore the countryside on skis in the winter and by bike in the summer. While visiting Shenandoah Crossing, you can also get back to nature by staying in a cozy cabin, or even a yurt, surrounded by rolling hills and the clear waters of Lake Izac.

No visit to the area is complete without enjoying the fruits of the verdant Shenandoah Valley. Take time to visit one or more of its many vineyards, where you can savor a wine tasting and relax on a patio as the sun sets. Here are just seven of the many vineyards in the Shenandoah Valley:

Barren Ridge Vineyard

Barren Ridge Vineyard

Image courtesy Scott Dexter | Flickr

On what was once an apple orchard in Fishersville, Barren Ridge Vineyards planted a number of grape varieties that are responsible for award-winning wines. The owners of the vineyard preserved the property’s original 1890s apple barn and transformed the building into a cutting-edge winery that produces red, white, blush, blended, and dessert wines.

When you visit Barren Ridge Vineyard, you can sip handcrafted wines in the tasting room and explore the winery on complimentary tours. Conclude your day with a picnic on the winery’s outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard and distant hills.

Veramar Vineyard

With grape vines spanning 26 acres in Berryville, Veramar Vineyard produces a wide range of varietals, including the popular Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Seyval Blanc. Veramar’s wines are the product of grapes planted on east-facing hillsides that shield the vines from the hot afternoon sun. This helps the plants retain aromatic compounds for a more complex flavor.

At Veramar, you can choose between a number of different tastings and tours, such as the 30-minute classic wine tasting, which allows you to sample featured red and white wines from recent vintages. You can also schedule a picnic pairing between April and November to savor locally sourced food paired with Veramar’s handcrafted wines, served on a patio with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For a more in-depth tour of the vineyard, book a “Meet the Winemaker” tasting and hear the winemaker explain how the vineyard creates distinctive vintages as you sip on four different wines.

Bluestone Vineyard

Named after a type of limestone common in Shenandoah Valley soil, Bluestone Vineyard crafts Bordeaux-style, small-batch wines aged in climate-controlled conditions and bottled on site. According to Bluestone, the vineyard’s gentle hills and rocky soil are perfect for growing grapes, especially Cabernet varietals.

You can tour the state-of-the-art winery, or settle on the heated patio to enjoy a white, red, sweet, or reserve tasting. Bluestone also expanded its vineyards in 2015 to start producing a number of additional varietals, including Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Ox-Eye Vineyards

In Staunton, the owners of Ox-Eye Vineyards have been cultivating grapes for more than 15 years, aided by the Shenandoah Valley’s cool climate, relatively low rainfall, and deep limestone soil. The vineyard is named after the ox-eye daisies that grow wild on the property, but the tasting room is located off-site in the Historic Wharf District in downtown Staunton.

Ox-Eye provides suggestions on wine and food pairings to help you fully enjoy the varietals. For example, its Chardonnay 2014 is best with seafood and pasta, while its Traminette 2014 pairs perfectly with spicy foods. You can sample Ox-Eye’s food-friendly wines and tour the tasting room’s historic building, which was originally built in 1904 for a lumber and coal business.

Wolf Gap Vineyard

wine glassesSpecializing in small-batch wines, Wolf Gap Vineyard offers a diverse inventory, ranging from a Bordeaux-style Chambourcin blend to a semi-sweet rosé. Wolf Gap also produces a popular semi-sweet blueberry wine made completely from wild blueberries.

The vineyard hosts tastings on a large outdoor deck situated on a ridge with stunning views of the Great North Mountains. With a reservation, you can also experience private tastings and tours that provide a behind-the-scenes look at the vineyard and winery.

Hunt’s Vineyard

Founded in 2009, Hunt’s Vineyard currently produces three types of wine: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend. The small, family-owned vineyard is also cultivating heartier Chambourcin and Traminette grape varietals, which are better at coping with Virginia’s chilly winters.

Along with bottles of high quality wine, Hunt’s Vineyard offers a flavorful sangria made from its 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard invites visitors to bring a picnic and unwind amidst the relaxing grape vines and gardens.

Muse Vineyards

A farming site since the 1700s, Muse Vineyards is located on the banks of Shenandoah River’s North Fork, and its owners favor the artisanal wine-making principles developed by wineries in Italy and France. Every aspect of the production process is handled on site, from growing the grapes to fermenting to bottling, in order to create hand-crafted, classically styled wines.

Unlike many vineyards, Muse Vineyards has cultivated 15 grape varieties over the years to see which grapes thrive best in the Virginia climate. The vineyard currently produces a rosé from Gamay grapes, a red wine made from four Bordeaux varietals, a Grenache-based red wine, a Roussanne, and a Chardonnay. In addition to experimenting with grape varieties, Muse Vineyards supports a more natural production process with minimal chemical use and no mechanical pruning or harvesting.

5 of the Best Art and Design Museums in Chicago

As one of the most popular cities to visit in the United States, Chicago offers an array of attractions, ranging from exclusive shopping to fine dining. Staying at Bluegreen Resorts’ Hotel Blake in historic Printers Row perfectly positions you to explore the city’s unique destinations, such as the Shedd Aquarium in nearby Grant Park, Navy Pier, and the Magnificent Mile.

On top of these attractions, Chicago is renowned for its diverse art and design scene, which can be appreciated at the many museums scattered throughout the city. You can savor fine art at the Art Institute of Chicago, discover local artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and study Gilded Age design at The Richard H. Driehaus Museum. Here is more information about five of the best art and design museums in Chicago:

The Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

Image courtesy JanetandPhil | Flickr

Founded in 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue has been deemed one of the top fine arts institutions in the country, and it currently features around 300,000 pieces of art. Both the knowledgeable art lover and the casual museum-goer can find something to enjoy among the museum’s many collections.

At the Art Institute of Chicago, you can examine Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” if you favor impressionism, explore works by René Magritte if you like surrealism, or investigate architectural drawings by William Ferguson. The museum is especially well-known for its collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works by famous artists like van Gogh and Monet.

After exploring the African wing or immersing yourself in the European Painting and Sculpture collection, you can take a break at the on-site Italian restaurant, Terzo Piano, for lunch or dinner. You can also commemorate your visual journey by buying wall art or decorative pieces from the museum’s gift shop.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

Located in a 12,000-square-foot facility on North Milwaukee Avenue, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art is dedicated exclusively to displaying outsider art, or art created by self-taught artists and people uninfluenced by the mainstream art scene. Intuit highlights how artists and collectors in Chicago have played an integral role in encouraging interest in outsider art.

The center includes two galleries, a gift shop with unique outsider art, and a performance space. Additionally, Intuit offers a non-circulating collection at the Robert A. Roth Study Center and a permanent collection with more than 100,000 pieces in its Henry Darger Room Collection. Here you can explore a replica of the apartment of Henry Darger, an artist and hospital custodian in Chicago who became famous posthumously for his drawings, paintings, and manuscripts.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

contemporary art museum chicago

Image courtesy Gosia Malochleb | Flickr

Showcasing new and experimental artists, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA Chicago) displays visual, stage, music, and film artwork at a center located between the Magnificent Mile and Lake Michigan. MCA Chicago is among the largest contemporary art museums in the United States, and it contains some of the most impressive works created since 1945.

The museum works to preserve contemporary art for generations to come with a carefully curated permanent collection comprising more than 2,000 pieces, as well as special exhibits featuring local artists and well-known names. In the permanent collection, you can discover art by celebrated contemporary artists, such as Kerry James Marshall and Roy Lichtenstein.

Along with the permanent collection and special exhibits, you can relax at MCA Chicago’s bookstore, restaurant, and terraced sculpture garden with views of Lake Michigan.

National Veterans Art Museum

In 1981, several veterans of the Vietnam War founded a touring art exhibit that elicited a strong emotional reaction around the country and led to the creation of the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in 1996. The museum later became the National Veterans Art Museum (NVAM), which is now committed to preserving and displaying art by all United States veterans.

Situated in Portage Park’s Six Corners Business district, the NVAM maintains a permanent collection with more than 2,500 pieces by over 250 veterans, whose work provides insight on the impact of war on survivors and the psyche of veterans. NVAM artists examine and share their experiences through sculpture, paintings, music, photography, and poetry.

The museum’s permanent exhibit is based on Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried, and it explores the notion of storytelling in relation to communicating veterans’ Vietnam War experiences. A visual complement to the novel, the exhibit includes photography and fine art pieces by Vietnam veterans.

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum

To learn more about design in Chicago’s Gilded Age, visit the Richard H. Driehaus Museum on East Erie Street for an immersive experience. The museum allows visitors to explore one of Chicago’s finest 19th century residential buildings, which was once home to entrepreneur Samuel M. Nickerson.

In 2003, Richard H. Driehaus established the museum and launched a five-year restoration project to preserve the historic home and its unique interiors. The museum captures the design philosophies and styles of the late 19th century with original furnishings, restored woodwork, and exhibits featuring historically relevant pieces.

How to Enjoy Arizona in Every Season

When people think of a desert vacation in Arizona, they often picture rounds of golf and poolside relaxation in the middle of the winter when temperatures are mild. It may be surprising to find out that there are plenty of ways you can enjoy Arizona in every season, especially when you stay with Bluegreen Resorts at the Cibola Vista Resort and Spa in Peoria.

Located just 10 minutes from Phoenix, the resort is the perfect starting point for a variety of unique Arizona adventures that you can undertake based on the season, such as a trip to Lake Pleasant on a scorching hot day or a visit to Native American ruins in the refreshing winter air. The following describes some of the activities that will help you enjoy a desert vacation in Arizona at any time of the year:

Summer

It’s possible to enjoy Arizona’s desert landscape during the summer because it’s just a short drive from the Cibola Vista Resort and Spa to Lake Pleasant, where you can cool off while boating, skiing, and fishing. You can also splash around on jet skis or explore the lake’s many coves in a kayak. An ideal destination for the experienced angler, Lake Pleasant offers the best bass fishing of all the lakes surrounding Phoenix and it contains a variety of other sport fish, including tilapia and channel catfish. Anglers also report that a warm summer night is the best time to catch fish in Lake Pleasant.

cardinal desert

On a hot summer day in Arizona, one of the best ways to escape the heat is to book a spa day, which is particularly easy when the spa is located at your resort like it is at Cibola Vista. The spa offers a wide range of treatments in a tranquil environment to help refresh the mind, body, and spirit. When you visit the spa, you can savor treatments like the 50-minute Swedish massage, the anti-aging corrective facial, and the 80-minute hydrating body wrap. The rejuvenating effects of a day at the spa at Cibola Vista will give you a whole new appreciation for this oasis in the Sonoran Desert.                                        

Fall

bisbee az

Image courtesy Mr.TinDC | Flickr

When the air starts to cool in the fall, you can more easily immerse yourself in the beautiful desert scenery around Arizona, including the Lavender Pit in Bisbee. The 950-foot deep pit is an abandoned mine with rugged tiers that stretch across 300 acres, an impressive sight that can be observed from rim viewing platforms. After the pit was abandoned in 1975, the town of Bisbee transformed into a historical tourist destination and artist community that draws visitors from around Arizona and the country.

Closer to the Cibola Vista Resort and Spa, you can appreciate Arizona’s arid landscapes at the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, a desert oasis surrounded by city views. The preserve offers miles of serene trails through the Sonoran Desert, as well as a number of peaks to climb. From the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, hikers can reach Camelback Mountain, the highest summit and one of the most popular hikes in the preserve.

Winter

Amid Arizona’s mild winter air, you can enjoy some of the state’s most unique sites. One such destination is the Pueblo Grande Ruin, located just 40 minutes from Cibola Vista. A National Historic Landmark, the ruin is an expansive prehistoric Hohokam Indian village that was inhabited from 100 to 1450 A.D. The Hohokam constructed caliche-brick dwellings, a ball court in the Central American style, and a 20-foot high masonry platform that covers more than 3 acres. When you visit the park, you can take a self-guided trail to the ruins and visit displays on the Hohokam people at the Pueblo Grande Museum. Visit on a Sunday for free admission to the park.

To enjoy more of Arizona’s cultural heritage, visit Taliesin West at the base of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale. The national historic landmark currently houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and it was once the winter home of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Founded in 1937, Taliesin West was hand-built and maintained primarily by Wright and his apprentices. The architecture was inspired by the desert landscape, and the simple design fosters a connection to nature. Over the years, the campus has expanded to include performance spaces, studios, a dining hall, and living quarters.

Spring

Peoria Sports Complex

Image courtesy Clintus | Flickr

Springtime in Arizona is best known for spring training or the preseason series of professional baseball games between February and March, when players gather at complexes around the Phoenix area to practice and earn positions. While teams play around Phoenix, Peoria has its own sports complex that is shared with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. After watching a game, you can easily access the nearby shopping and entertainment options in Peoria.

For additional springtime entertainment outside of the baseball diamond, you can visit the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, located an hour east of Phoenix. The park is Arizona’s largest and oldest botanical garden, featuring a streamside forest, specialty gardens, and a desert lake. Managed in part by the University of Arizona, the arboretum was established by mining magnate Colonel William Boyce Thompson in the 1920s. The park currently strives to offer recreation, conservation, and research opportunities related to arid-land plants. At the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, you can stroll beneath the shade of towering trees, including Eucalyptus and Palo Verde.

Best Sites to Visit for a Look at the Past in Gulf Shores

Are you looking for a vacation destination with soft sand beaches and plenty of leisure activities? Then set your sights on the Gulf Shores, the serene community on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where Bluegreen Resorts offers Shoreline Towers and Paradise Isle Resort. In Gulf Shores, you can listen to the gentle waves while relaxing on the beach or go deep-sea fishing, parasailing, and dolphin sightseeing.

History enthusiasts and Civil War aficionados are also drawn to Gulf Shores by the many historical sites in the area. Here are some of the top sites to visit if you want to experience the past in Gulf Shores:

Fort Morgan

fort morgan

Image courtesy nola.agent | Flickr

Constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1819 and 1833, Fort Morgan is situated on Mobile Point at the tip of the scenic Morgan Peninsula, where the bay and the Gulf of Mexico intersect. The Third System masonry fort was named after Revolutionary War hero General Daniel Morgan and it went on to become a crucial battle site during the Civil War.

Seized by the Confederate Army in 1861, Fort Morgan was retaken by Union naval forces in 1864 after one of the most powerful Union attacks on a single fort. In the years after the Battle of Mobile Bay, Fort Morgan was refortified and adapted for intermittent use during the Spanish American War and both World Wars.

Along with fort tours, you can explore the Museum at Fort Morgan to witness 200 years of artifacts, including uniforms and artillery, or enjoy the surrounding landscapes with beach access.

Swift-Coles Historic Home

Located just 20 minutes from Gulf Shores in Bon Secour, the Swift-Coles Historic Home allows you to experience the charm of historic Southern architecture and learn about the area’s history. The structure was initially built as a four-room home along the Bon Secour River in 1882. After Charles and Susan Swift purchased the home in 1898, they expanded it in 1902 and 1908 to raise their 11 children. The family also started a lumber business that still operates in southern Alabama. Over the years, much of the white, two-story manor house has been preserved in its early state.

The Swift-Coles Historic Home is currently maintained by the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission, and visitors can take guided tours of the house on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Fort Gaines

At Fort Gaines, you can take a step back in time by taking fort tours conducted by knowledgeable guides dressed in period uniforms. You can explore the fort’s original blacksmith shop, cannons, tunnels, and kitchens, which are all situated on the eastern end of Dauphin Island. During the Civil War, Fort Gaines played a key role in the Battle of Mobile Bay and it’s where the renowned Union leader Admiral Farragut famously commanded “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” To bring the past to life, Fort Gaines also provides blacksmithing and cannon firing demonstrations.

Fort Gaines’ well-preserved ramparts have defended Mobile Bay for more than 150 years, and the Fort has been listed as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in America because of persistent shoreline erosion.

Gulf Shores Museum

The Gulf Shores Museum showcases artifacts and local treasures that tell the story of Gulf Shores. For example, the museum houses a 1950s steeple from Oyster Bay Baptist Church and a 1940s ship mast donated by a local boatyard. The building that houses these historic pieces also has a past, as it was originally a beachfront cottage constructed before World War II. Donated to the city of Gulf Shores more than 35 years ago, the home has additionally served as a community center and library. The Gulf Shores Museum, which is free to the public, is open between Tuesday and Saturday every week.

Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail

For more Civil War history, you can tour the Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail, which features more than 12 sites of action from the Battle of Mobile Bay and the following Overland Campaign. In addition to Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, the trail includes sites like Blakeley State Park and Magee Farm. Magee Farm is the last original Civil War surrender house and Blakeley State Park contains miles of pristine battlefields and parapets.

Many of the sites on the trail provide interpretive signs with firsthand accounts and detailed illustrations that tell the stories of Civil War ship captains, average soldiers, and fort commanders.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

USS Alabama

Image courtesy Paul Newton | Flickr

When you visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, you get to explore the 680-foot war ship known as the “Mighty A,” which weathered almost 40 months of active duty in World War II and garnered nine Battle Stars. The ship was part of Pacific and Atlantic Ocean campaigns, but did not sustain any major damage or casualties.

In 1947, the USS Alabama was retired in Washington, and the Navy planned to scrap the ship in the 1960s. Alabama soon launched a campaign to save the USS Alabama and relocate her off the coast of Mobile. Since 1965, the ship has been open to the public, and more than 14 million visitors have discovered her decks. Another World War II vessel, the USS DRUM Submarine, was added to the park in 1969.

You should allow at least two hours to see everything at the park, and cameras are encouraged. Active duty members of the U.S. military and senior citizens can also get into the park for free.

Top 3 Reasons to Visit Marble Hill, Georgia

Although it’s a lesser-known vacation destination, the North Georgia countryside is an optimum retreat for travelers who want to experience small-town charm and striking scenery. In Marble Hill, Georgia, you can explore the area while staying at either Bluegreen Resorts’ Golf Club Villas at Big Canoe or the Petit Crest Villas at Big Canoe. The resort grounds give you access to more than 7,500 acres of forest at the base of the North Georgia Mountains.

From Marble Hill, you can easily trek to the surrounding towns to discover historic attractions and cultural events. Also nearby is a wide range of natural wonders, such as breathtaking rivers, falls, and lakes. In this scenic landscape, you can enjoy water activities such as fishing and kayaking.

Here are the top three reasons to visit Marble Hill and the North Georgia countryside:

1. The History and Culture

Just 15 minutes from Marble Hill in Jasper, the Tate House is one of Georgia’s most unique landmarks, offering a history rich in the marble trade that drove growth and development in North Georgia. The Tate House is a stunning mansion made from the pink marble sourced from local quarries owned by the Tate family, who operated the Georgia Marble Company.

tate house

Tate House | Mark Chandler | Flickr

Colonel Sam Tate completed the 19,000-square-foot Tate House in 1926, and the home, sometimes known as the “Pink Palace,” has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Deemed one of Georgia’s “must see” landmarks by Georgia Magazine, the Tate House is open to the public through guided tours. The first-floor summer kitchen still features the original tin sink, butler’s pantry, and triple oak iceboxes. On the second floor, the mansion has four bedrooms with their own fireplaces and marbled bathrooms.

In Jasper and the nearby Talking Rock, you can also find a variety of cultural events and historic buildings. Talking Rock, the third-smallest town in Georgia, features a historic school house museum and hosts an annual Heritage Day Festival in October. While in Jasper, you can explore the region’s Cherokee heritage and enjoy quality dining options, including local wines from Sharp Mountain Vineyards and signature dishes at the Woodbridge Inn.

2. The Nature

Located 12 miles from Marble Hill, Amicalola Falls State Park is considered one of Georgia’s seven wonders. The park offers numerous hiking trails and remarkable scenery in the Chattahoochee National Forest. In addition to day hikes in the park, you can access the 8.5-mile trail that goes to Springer Mountain, which is the southern tip of the renowned 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail. Amicalola Falls State Park is also home to the 729-foot Amicalola Falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. To experience Amicalola Falls, you can hike a trail with staircases or view the flowing waters from an accessible pathway.

Along with Amicalola Falls State Park, there are two reservoirs, one state wildlife management area, and a total of 15 state parks in the Northeast Georgia Mountains region. There are a number of other falls located within 20 miles of Marble Hill, including Padgett Falls and Clay Creek Falls.

Vogel State Park, located less than 30 miles from Marble Hill, includes a 22-acre lake with a mountain-view beach. One of the oldest state parks in Georgia, Vogel is especially popular in the fall, when the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains turn yellow, red, and gold. You can explore Vogel State Park by walking one of its many trails, such as the challenging 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail, or the tranquil trail around the lake that passes Trahlyta Falls.

3. The Water Activities

For more outdoor fun around Marble Hill, find some water and go kayaking, fishing, or paddle boarding. At Big Canoe, you have access to three pristine lakes that allow boating and fishing. The 111-acre Lake Petit is regularly stocked with rainbow trout and is also home to indigenous fish, including bluegill and brim. Lake Sconti is ideal for more laidback fishing, while Lake Disharoon is the preferred spot for paddle boarding and recreation.

Nantahala River

Nantahala River | J. Stephen Conn | Flickr

With local outfitters, such as Appalachian Outfitters in Dahlonega, you can experience river trips that vary in difficulty and length. Take a canoe or kayak down the Chestatee River to experience gentle rapids or travel down the Etowah River for a more demanding journey.

You can also raft down the many rivers in the area with groups like Rolling Thunder River Company in McCaysville. To ensure predictable and consistent water flows, the company only operates on dam-controlled rivers, such as Nantahala River and Ocoee River. Nantahala River rafting is perfect for first-time rafters, with mostly class I and class II rapids. On the Ocoee River, you can raft down the longest continuous segment of class III and class IV rapids of any river in the United States.