Poplar Forest, very near to Smith Mountain Lake, is a National Historic Landmark and Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat. Here you can visit, what is believed to be, the first octagonal home in America designed and built by Jefferson himself. Tour the home and visit the landscape, which was meticulously restore in 2011 back to Jefferson’s design using early 19th century techniques. It is such an interesting tour where you learn about architecture, preservation and live in the early 19th century. On the plantation, there is continuous excavation where they find artifacts from the plantation occupants that lived and worked at Poplar Forest. You will discover Jefferson’s vision for his gardens, ornamental plantings and farm at Poplar Forest as it emerges through archaeology.
This Landmark is open for visitors through December 15 (closed Thanksgiving Day). If you are visiting the lake with family and friends, you can arrange a group tour any time of the year. Next week is their annual event, Barrels, Bottles & Casks Summer Tours on July 27th and 28th. This is a great opportunity to get a refreshing look at history! This is a tasting tour that begins in Mr. Jefferson’s kitchen and progress through the villa with stops along the way to sample beverages while guides share insights about the foods and drinks that Jefferson and the enslaved residents consumed during the hot summer months. The tours conclude with an ice cream social in the lower level. Admission to the Summertime Barrels, Bottles & Casks tasting tour is $25 per person and reservations are required. You can purchase your tickets by clicking here.
Plan your stay at Mariners Landing Resort online at smlvaca.com and take a 30 minute drive to Jefferson’s Poplar Forest located at 1542 Bateman Bridge Road, Forest, VA 24551!
I don’t know about you, but I have always had a hard time keeping plants alive. My grandmother, on the other hand, had a naturally green thumb. Her passion was gardening and watching her plants flourish. Everything she touched grew and grew and grew! Unfortunately, that gene wasn’t passed down to me so I have look for plants that are hardy and, more or less, take care of themselves.
One thing I began to look for is “self-sowers.” These plants help maintain colorful floral throughout the summer without the hassle and expense of purchasing and planting annuals. They return year after year from the seeds they dropped the year before, unlike perennials that survive the winter through their roots. Now, most self-sowers aren’t able to survive the winters here, but the seeds survive the cold and begin to germinate once the soil and weather warms. What I love about them is that these seeds sprout and grow without planting or caring for them!
In fact, there’s still time to start planting self-sowers from seed, particularly ones that germinate and grow quickly, such as cosmos and zinnias. You can also consult your local nursery about the best self-sowers.
Here are some good self-sowers:
For many, The Fourth of July is a day filled with family, friends, good food, and fireworks. We often look at it as a fun summer celebration to celebrate our flag, enjoy a busy city parade and snack on cotton candy at local fairs, but Independence Day is so much more than that. It’s easy to forget the details behind the holiday, but we are here to help remind you. We have ten fun facts about the history of Independence Day so you can be reminded as to why we celebrate on The Fourth of July.
The Fourth Of July
The Fourth of July is more than just a celebration of summertime — it’s a time to celebrate our freedom and how far we have come.
This fairly new activity has a number of benefits! And we’re not talking about health boosters only here. Let’s have a look at what this outdoor activity can do for you and you can rent them right from Mariners Landing Resort or online at bwmarina.com.
1. It’s a great activity for EVERYONE!
The appeal of SUP is that it offers a variable level of intensity. Cruising on a paddle board can mean anything from a gentle drift across the glassy lake, to a heart-pounding paddle across wakes or against the current of a river. SUP is probably the only activity that can be equally enjoyable for both senior citizens and extreme sports junkies.
2. Stand up paddle boarding can be done anywhere.
Though it’s usually though of as a beach activity, it works just as well on a lake. This makes it popular with water-sports fans who live inland, as they can train on a local lake or river, than driving hours to the shore. Paddle boards are lighter than kayaks or canoes and easier to travel with.
3. It’s easy to pick up.
Another handy thing about SUP is that it’s quick to get started. The kit can be rented easily at Mariners Landing Resort at the Pointe pool office or online at bwmarina.com. And it doesn’t take much practice to master the technique – once you can stand up and turn your board around, there’s not much more to learn. You can control your speed easily, meaning it’s less intimidating for beginners than sports like windsurfing. And if you do fall off, it’s easy to get back on.
4. It’s an ongoing activity.
In fact, SUP stands out amongst water sports for being a very sociable activity. It’s easy to chat to a friend paddling alongside, and if you have small children, they can sit on the board with you. This makes it a lot more welcoming than sports like surfing or waterskiing, which are very much on-person activities.
5. It improves your balance.
The unstable board is what makes it such an effective workout. Although it might feel like you’re standing still, the wobbling of the board means that all your muscles are constantly working to keep your body upright. With regular practice, you’ll find that your balance is better even when you’re off the water. This can improve your performance in other sports, and it’s fantastic for seniors, to offset the loss of balance.
In the end, SUP is all about exploration, both on the water and in your own mind. On the board, you can get closer to nature and see things in a new way. You can practice on any stretch of water. The lapping of the water and the tug of wind, lull you into a state of total focus, melting away the worries you feel on land!
The lake has become a very popular place to celebrate Independence Day…actually, Independence Week! There are so many places that have amazing fireworks that you can enjoy either by boat or by land. And they start this Saturday, June 30th in Downtown Moneta and go through next Saturday at Mitchell’s Point Marina!
On Saturday, June 30th, the Moneta Volunteer Fire Department will host a “FireWorx” Fest Event in Downtown Moneta. You can go and enjoy a family friendly evening with live music by The Worx and then see the spectacular fireworks show. There will be food, drinks, children’s games and more and all proceeds benefit the Moneta Fire Department. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and there is a $10 admission except for kids 10 and under who get in for free. For more information, visit the Moneta Fire Department’s Facebook page.
On Tuesday, July 3rd, you can go to the 35th Annual Independence Day Festival, presented by the Rocky Mount Rotary Club, at Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount. They have the event on the football field and the whole family can enjoy a fun-filled evening featuring live music performances, great food, inflatables, children’s activities, games, contests and much more. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the big fireworks show begins after dark. This is one that you want to bring a blanket or lawn chair to as well as your camera!
On the actual holiday, Wednesday, July 4th, Parkway Marina puts together a family friendly day of celebrating that begins at 3:00 pm and goes to 10 p.m. The SVFC (Saunders Volunteer Fire Company) Annual 4th of July Fireworks Celebration is their main fundraiser and charge $10 per car for parking. If you’re not familiar with Parkway Marina, it is located on Smith Mountain Lake just a couple of miles past the State Park. There will be plenty of food vendors, a beer garden and activities for children. Some of the activities include live music by The Worx, arts and crafts vendors, and the 1956 working carousel…definitely a kid and adult pleaser. Be sure to bring a blanket or chair so you can lay back and enjoy the fireworks show.
On Friday, July 6th, Mariners Landing Resort puts on amazing, and FREE, fireworks show from the docks located on the Pointe lawn, brought to you by CALM, Inc., This is a place where you can have dinner at Heath’s Waterfront Grill, either in their dining room or on their newly renovated deck, listen to some local music and then put your blanket or chair on the lawn and enjoy the professional fireworks display that will begin just after dark. There are also condos available to rent and then you could watch the show right from your private balcony! If you are interested in renting a condo, you can call Mariners Landing Hospitality at 540-297-4100 or go to http://www.smlvaca.com.
And last but not least, On Saturday, July 7th, there is the Mitchell’s Point Marina Fireworks, sponsored by Mitchell’s Point Marina & RV Park. This is an annual event and the entrance fee is $10 which is donated to the Semper Fi Fund, one of America’s highest rated charities dedicated to providing urgently needed resources and support for post 9/11 combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. There is limited parking so consider watching this fireworks show by water!
This time of year is a very popular time for weddings and completing the planning process, especially when it comes to the receptions. They don't always have to be formal and stuffy...have fun! Here are thirteen ideas on how to have fun with your reception.
1. Walk Down Memory Lane
Make the guest feel like integral parts of the day by incorporating them into the décor — in a gallery of meaningful photos. You can call it something like 'memory lane' and hang pictures of the bride and groom with friends and family along the walk from the ceremony to the reception. It's a fun cocktail party conversation starter. As guests take a leisurely stroll and find pictures of themselves with you, they can reminisce and socialize. Even yard signs are good if your guests are walking outside.
2. Break the Ice Creatively
When you enter your reception for the first time as husband and wife, don't just take a conventional arm-in-arm stroll...run, skip or dance! Brainstorm with your groom about the most creative, appropriate way to make a big impression. This is a great way to break the ice and set up for a fun vibe for the rest of the event.
3. Play Party Games
A cool idea is to make the menus puzzles, so each person gets one piece of the puzzle at their place setting, then everyone had to put the pieces together to get the full menu description.
4. Be Entertaining
Guests always love the energy of a live band but tend to want to hear the original artist sing their favorite tunes. As a compromise, a bride may hire a dance band but also play DJ'ed music during the breaks, or she'll arrange to have live music during some parts of the event and recorded music during others.
5. Surprise 'em!
Pablo Neruda is the world's most romantic poet, and a modern, pretty paperback edition of his love poems makes a wonderful, lasting guest favor that's much more meaningful that a bag of Jordan almonds! If you buy in bulk, you might get a discount — contact your bookseller directly. And don't forget to add a personalized bookmark thanking your friends and family for sharing your big day with you.
6. Offer a Dessert Buffet
You can assume most people have a sweet tooth, so have guest get involved in creating their very own dessert. A cupcake-making station is a reinvention of the popular hot fudge station. Have abundant trays of different flavors and colors: a guest might pile crushed Oreos on a chocolate buttercream cupcake or top a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese. This sort of do-it-yourself treat is absolutely guaranteed to bring out the kid in everyone! If you're planning a warm-weather wedding, feel free to get really playful with refreshments. Consider serving up a nostalgic and fun Sno-Cone station. It's easy to rent a shaved-ice machine from the caterer or a party rental company. Add a choice of colorful syrups and even your favorite apres-dinner liqueurs. Think frozen White Russians, Orange Shaved Ice with Grand Marnier, or Ruby Port and Berry. This will be the hit of the party.
7. Be More Entertaining
Consider unexpected, untraditional entertainments, like tarot card readers, magicians and flip book stations (booths where guests create quick movies and make mini books). Ask yourselves what sorts of activities the two of you like to do. You can use your shared interests as surefire wedding inspiration. (Did you meet at a comedy club? You may want to hire a stand-up comic.) Or you can use your heritage as inspiration: We've had couples surprise their guests with ethnic dancers or musicians who share a set with the band. You could hire square dance instructors. Have them teach guests to do a line dance — they'll have a blast.
8. Host Those Stations
Guests love having a chef prepare a dish just for them. Chef-hosted stations of single items are very popular like an heirloom tomato salad bar with local tomatoes and cheeses. We've also seen gazpacho made to order. Look to your region's specialties. If out-of-town guests can't get it at home, it's a special treat. Display a '100 Mile Table', filled with local produce and artisanal foods, all from within one hundred miles of your celebration — handmade cheeses, homemade pickles — and great local beer!
9. Try a Wine Tasting
Looking for a fun, interactive cocktail hour idea? Provide "flights," or 1- to 2-ounce tastes of three different wines. Everybody can get a little notebook with information about the flavor notes. Another plus: As long as you can supply your own wine without being charged corkage fees, this option may cost less than some speciality bars.
10. Hire the Local Food Truck
Long after dinner's over, and guests are still out on the dance floor, serve up a surprise snack. Arrange to have a local mobile food vendor pull up his truck outside your event. Give guests a wrist band or a ticket so they can walk up to the truck and get a snack, then come back inside and start dancing again!
11. Personalize Your Guest Book
Photo booths have been done at many weddings. If you'd like to try something new, give guests dry-erase boards and markers and set up a colorful curtain as a backdrop. They write messages to the happy couple, and are photographed with them in front of the curtain. It's interactive, inexpensive — you can even appoint a friend with an iPhone to take the pictures — and when you put the photos in an album, it makes a one-of-a-kind guest book.
12. Make a Special Toast
Instead of a pricey tasting bar, make one toast with a favorite liquor. Maybe a tequila toasts, if it's special to the couple. Then you can limit the amount everyone drinks, which allows you to serve better quality liquor.
13. Choose a Sweet Treat
In lieu of a traditional favor, you might send guest off on their merry way with a midnight snack. Give them milk and mini donuts served in takeaway boxes. Or hand out packages of cookies iced with your monogram or beribboned boxes holding two artisanal chocolates or even small tins of a speciality tea.
Have you ever woken up early in the morning, looked out your window and the lake looks like glass? That’s the time to wake up the boat driver in the house, a spotter, your skis and jump in the lake! There is a group called the Smith Mountain Lake Water Ski Club that started in 1989. It is an organized group of water skiers interested in promoting the sport of water skiing at the lake. They accomplish that by sponsoring ski clinics, local competitive tournaments, ski exhibitions along with recreational and social activities.
The goal of this group is to:
There is actually a public slalom course that’s available to all skiers and encourage donations if you’re not a member. The course is set up in a cove formed by Bull Run Creek. From the Roanoke River channel or Dam, go northwest (up) the Blackwater River channel past markers B2, B4, B6 and B8. From the upper end of the Blackwater River channel, go southeast (down) the Blackwater River channel past marker 89.
At this point, from either direction, you will be at the mouth of the Bull Run cove. There will be a large island with many pine trees on it know as Christmas Tree Island. Go southwest into Bull Run cove past markers BU1, BU3, BR1 and Bu5. Continue past marker BU5 for about ¾ mile and the cove will make a sharp turn to the right. The cove continues for about ¼ mile and make a sharp turn to the left. Follow to almost the end of the cove and you will see the slalom course on the left. There is no land access to the Bull Run Ski Site.
If you are interested in joining or finding out more information, you can visit www.Smlwaterski.org or contact Todd Rowland at 540.427.0025.
With all the changes in elevation and accessible Blue Ridge Mountains, there are numerous options for finding spots to go on a climbing adventure as part of your Blue Ridge Day. Smith Mountain Lake caving and rock climbing while staying at Mariners Landing Resort is just one of many outdoor things to do near the lake.
Whether you’re looking for traditional rock climbing in the outdoors, the growing activity of bouldering, or an incredible climbing gym, all those activities are available in the Roanoke Valley. Smith Mountain Lake caving is a unique program Roanoke Parks and Recreation offers that takes participants into wild caves, anytime of the year.
If adventure is on your mind, here are some natural rock climbing spots like Barney’s Wall, Bozoo, Dragon’s Tooth, Fools Face, Hanging Rock, Iron Gate, Tinker cliffs, and Tunstall’s Tooth. They all provide incredible challenges and jaw-dropping views. Fools Face is located in the McCoy area outside of Blacksburg, while trails like Tinker cliffs can be found along the Appalachian Trail. Dragon’s Tooth is located on nearby Cove Mountain. Both Tinker Cliffs and Dragon’s Tooth are extremely popular trails that are best hiked during the weekdays if you want to avoid crowds and park your car in a designated area where you won’t be towed.
Caving and spelunking are best enjoyed at places like Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing just outside of Roanoke, Dixie Caverns in Salem, or natural Bridge Caverns near Red Mills. Natural Bridge Caverns, in particular, includes cool features like the Colossal Dome room, Mirror Lake, the WellRoom, and the Canyon Room’s magnificent stalagmites and stalactites. All in a day’s drive from Mariners Landing Resort at Smith Mountain Lake!
With a chorus of seasonal hometown festivals and country store jams nearly every day of the week, the lake soulfully combines the charm of casual venues, musicians by the dozens, and the authentic soundtrack of the Blue Ridge Mountains for an unrivaled, toe-tapping experience. With sentimental country songs, fiddle and banjo dance tunes, heartfelt ballads, crisp bluegrass harmonies and joyful black gospel singing, The Crooked Road in Franklin County is all about real music, real people and real memories for the making.
Between jams, take an intermission in heritage at the Blue Ridge Institute and Farm Museum at Ferrum College. Just a short drive from downtown Rocky Mount, it’s the first of eight major venues along The Crooked Road, home of the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival and also recognized as Virginia’s Center for Blue Ridge Folklore.
One of our newest additions to the local music scene is the Harvester Performance Center – a mid-size music venue in historic downtown Rocky Mount. The venue officially opened in 2014 and showcases 175 shows annually from comedy to country, bluegrass to blues, reggae to rock, and more! Shows feature an impressive list of entertainers – from world-class artists to local rising stars. It features a main room with seating for up to 475 people or 700 standing, and another lower level music room with seating for up to 200 people or 350 standing. The 40-foot wide stage in the main room, and state-of-the-art audio, lighting and video systems make every show an intimate and unforgettable concert experience.
On Friday, June 15th, don’t miss Nikki Hill. Those who have seen this Carolina girl sing her you know what off—this isn’t just another newcomer on the scene, this is a “whiplash” moment. Where did this fireball come from? Why haven’t you heard of her before? If you haven’t heard of her yet…you will very soon. And once you see her perform, you won’t forget her!
Mention Franklin or Bedford County, Virginia just about anywhere and you’re sure to hear a story or two about the bootleggin’ past. This area is a haven for hometown music as the Eastern Gateway to the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, and home to the region’s newest music venue, the Harvester Performance Center. Smith Mountain Lake is a scenic area that offers some of the region’s best outdoor experiences!
There is a White Lightning Artisan Trail that is all about unique, handcrafted treasures and where the storied agricultural heritage is celebrated. Discover this and more hidden gems when you come to visit. Stop by the Smith Mountain Lake or Bedford Area Chambers to help plan your visit.
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