Hunt Country Estates Open their Stable Doors to the Public!

How can you not feel energized by new green leaves and grass, colorful bulbs, pink and white dogwoods, azaleas and all the brilliant beauty of spring in Virginia? Although the Blue Ridge Mountains are perhaps more famous for flaming fall colors, spring is equally spectacular and with lengthening days, there’s no better time for a day trip than now. With so many events to choose from, you don’t want to miss the Hunt Country Stable Tour in and around Upperville and Middleburg May 24th and 25th, Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. This is a self directed driving tour, so you can visit some or all of a dozen of the most beautiful farms and estates rarely open to the public. Mostly horse oriented, it appeals to both city slickers and horse lovers that enjoy watching or interacting with horses. Whether you’d prefer watching and petting mares and their new foals destined for the race track, or would rather see horses in sport including jumping, polo, racing or carriage driving, or you just want to see the estates themselves, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Tickets are only $20 in advance for one or or both days, and picnic lunches are available. Visit www.TrinityUpperville.org for a complete list of the farms and time of special events..

Don’t forget May 3rd, the first Saturday in May, isn’t just Kentucky Derby day; here it’s Virginia Gold Cup day, the Granddaddy of steeplechasing and tailgating fun, now even with pari-mutuel betting,  or the many other, smaller events throughout the month that make ideal day trips just down the road where you can enjoy the drive as much as the destination. Most events are less than an hour’s drive from Alexandria.

Hunt Country Stable and Farm Tour’s 55th Anniversary
Originally organized as a fundraiser for Trinity Episcopal Church outreach programs, every May some of the grandest farms and estates of Middleburg and Upperville open their doors to the public to see how the other half lives—the horses, that is. Trinity Church in Upperville organizes this Memorial Day weekend tradition that’s been held since the early 1960s. Organizers promise this tour will be the best yet. “Well, I think [previous year’s organizers] might disagree,” chuckled one church official who added that many parents that attended as children, are now bringing their own children or even grandchildren back to the event.  The barn doors open to the public this year on May 23rd  and 24th.

Perhaps the most famous spread on the tour is the newest, the Salamander Resort & Spa. On 340 acres in the heart of Middleburg, and originally the Harriman Estate, Salamander Resort &Spa is designed to blend into its natural environment. It has 168 luxurious rooms and suites, a 23,000-square-foot lavish spa, a full-service equestrian center, Virginia Piedmont-inspired dining, a dedicated cooking studio, wine bar and a unique array of conference and banquet facilities. The Equestrian Center is comprised of a 22 stall Stable, 120 x 240 Outdoor Arena with Thor-Turf footing, miles of trails and nine turnout paddocks.  Resort Owner Sheila C. Johnson has created an environmentally sensitive destination by placing a majority of the resort’s acreage into a conservation easement, and registering to become one of the first luxury destination resorts in the United States to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Other featured farms include the M.A.R.E. Center in Middleburg, a research facility for equine nutrition which has Thoroughbred race horse foals and their dams grazing in the fields, Banbury Cross farm just east of town, a polo and foxhunting estate that will have both polo and jumping demonstrations, Trappe Springs Farm in Upperville that will have equine swimming demonstrations, and the Middleburg Training Track, a training facility for race horses, among others. You can take a leisurely two days to see them all, or pick and choose the ones that most interest you since this is a self-directed tour. Tickets in advance are $20 for both days with children 12 and under free. After May 16, tickets are still a bargain at $25. They come with maps of the farms’ locations printed right on the back. You can pack a picnic or buy a fabulous box lunch at Trinity Church on Rt. 50 in Upperville.  Trinity will also host a country fair with lots of equestrian art, pottery, ceramics, homemade ice cream and baked goodies, and more both days. Save the dates May 24 & 25 for the best-ever Hunt Country Stable Tour, Trinity Episcopal Church, 9108 John Mosby Hwy, Upperville, VA 20185. Tickets $25 each or just $20/person if purchased before May 16th, children under 12 free. For more info., call (540) 592-3711 or betsy@trinityupperville.org or www.middleburgonline/stabletour

Horsing Around at the Races
Few events signal springtime like thoroughbreds jumping over fences at top speed in steeplechase or point to point races. This year the jewel of Virginia’s steeplechase season, the Virginia Gold Cup, is held on May 2. There’s another big race on the first Saturday in May—the Kentucky Derby—but for Virginians, the Gold Cup is “the” springtime event. It’s not too late to get tickets, but by the time you read this it may be too late to get any early bird discounts. General admission car passes are $85; Member Hill passes are $55. The helpful staff at the Gold Cup office are the ones to call if you want to book a last-minute tent or party rental—call them at 540/347-2612 or visit www.vagoldcup.com

More May Events in the Blue Ridge
Flying Circus Air Show in Bealeton opens for the season Sunday, May 4th. Every Sunday, the show starts at 2 pm and features daring pilots performing stunts in vintage biplanes, parachuters, wing walkers, and more. Hot air balloon rides available, too. Bring a picnic and Grandpa, he’ll love it! Gates open at 11 a.m., call 540/439-8661 or visit www.flyingcircusairshow.com.

Twilght Polo at Great Meadow starts on May 17th and continues every Saturday throughout the season. Gates open at 6:30pm; first (of 2) match begins 7 pm at 5089 Old Tavern Road, The Plains. Great Meadow, host to the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase races, has a world class International polo field described as one of the best playing surfaces between New York and Aiken. Great Meadow Polo Club has over 75 playing members, making it one of the largest in the region. During the summer the twilight series attracts a varied crowd of fans; young professionals as well as families to enjoy the games with tailgates and picnics. Stay after the polo matches for moonlight music and dancing. Tickets at the gate: $30 per carload. For more information, call their event line at (540) 253-5001, or visit: http://www.greatmeadow.org

Written by: Julie Reardon

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