Sprawled out comfortably along the banks of the Rappahannock River as it meanders through northeastern Virginia, the town of Fredericksburg is easily missed by travelers bound briskly along Interstate 64, which edges the town to the west. But home to several important sites associated with the life of George Washington, a number of historic Civil War sites and an intriguing clutch of antique shops, this college town begs more attention than just a passing wave from the busy freeway.
Centered on the west bank of the river find Fredericksburg's downtown, laid out over a tidy grid of streets, a good bit of it steeped in 18th and 19th-century history and boasting more than 350 buildings centuries-old, which can be viewed on a horse-drawn carriage tour (or on a walking foray). Sites of note include the Rising Sun Tavern (owned by George Washington's brother Charles), the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop (which will make you feel grateful for your dentist's modern equipment) and the Mary Washington House, the last home of Washington's mother.
For more on presidents past, visit the James Monroe Museum, which explores details of this former president's life. The Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center includes Civil War artifacts, and nearby Kenmore Plantation and Garden is the 18th-century mansion of Washington's sister. George Washington's Ferry Farm, the boyhood home of the president, is also open for tours. Get a dose of history with some fresh air exploring the expanse of Fredericksburg National Battlefield, an important Civil War history site, and gain new perspective on the area paddling the waters of the Rappahannock in canoe (and kayak); it's also possible to enjoy a cruise on the water without the effort on the 100- foot paddle wheeler, the City of Fredericksburg. Nearby Lake Anna State Park offers boating, bicycle trails and horseback riding.
From a casual meal at a pub to fine French dining, Fredericksburg has options for any palate. For those who want to take home a piece of history, antiques and Civil War artifacts are available to shoppers on Caroline Street.
Fredericksburg is located in Eastern Virginia, halfway between Richmond, VA and Washington, D.C., off I-95.