Six new Virginia tourist attractions to visit in 2012

Demonstrations by skilled artisans, Civil War attractions, an amazing new treehouse, and a historic home that will make you feel (or at least sing) “crazy;” visitors to Virginia in 2012 will find several new vacation experiences. Throughout the next year, here are some of the new reasons to travel to the state.

Abingdon, Virginia
Billed as “Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway,” this new facility adjacent to I-81 is home to regional artisans working in music, crafts, food and wine. There are also galleries and interactive exhibits, a shop, restaurant, and coffee/wine bar.
Winchester, Virginia
If Patsy Cline makes you “fall to pieces,” then this new historical site is worth the trip. The modest white house that the music legend lived in from ages 16 to 21 is now open to the public. Furnished with period pieces and some originals, it has been revamped to look almost exactly as it did when Patsy Cline lived there. Guided tours are available for those who want to know all the details on where Patsy Cline lived while beginning her music career.
Hampton, Virginia
After more than 150 years as an army post, the largest stone fort ever built in the United States officially became part of the National Park System on November 1, 2011. Nicknamed “Freedom’s Fortress,” the fort provided a safe haven for hundreds or runaway slaves during the Civil War. In 2012, walking tours of the fort will be available during the summer.

Appomatox, Virginia
The buzz surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Civil War brought new opportunities for the Museum and White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, which will expand its presence with a secon facility in Appomattox set to open in Spring 2012. The $7.5 million museum will focus on the end of the Civil War, the surender at Appomattox, and the reunification of the country.

Williamsburg, Virginia
Known simply as “the Pottery,” Williamsburg Pottery has been a shopping destination since 1938. This April, the site will be reborn with a half-mile of new buildings–including a new cafe, restaurant, and bakery.

Meadows of Dan, Virginia
One of the world’s top treehouse architectural firms has designed a new, unique lodging experience at Primland Resort. Built on the boughs of one of the resort’s oldest and most beautiful red cedar trees (without the intrusion of a single nail), the treehouse overlooks the Dan River Gorge. Inside is a king bed, enormous deck, and other luxurious amentities.
The state will also host several new exhibits, including welcoming the Space Shuttle Discovery at the National Air & Space Museum in Chantilly and hosting a show of Andy Warhol Portraits at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach.

San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House

This past weekend I found myself in San Jose, California. As far as Bay Area tourism is concerned, San Jose has always been the red-headed stepchild to more well-known destinations like San Francisco, the Napa Valley and Berkeley. However, during my stay I discovered a great reason to make the hour-long drive down to San Jose from San Francisco – the Winchester Mystery House.

This sprawling, ornate Victorian mansion sits just a short distance from the city’s downtown. Spanning a property of over 4 acres, the mansion contains more than 160 rooms, 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms and 3 elevators. But it’s not just pretty to look at – the Winchester Mansion boasts a mysterious history thanks to its late resident Sarah Winchester, heiress of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Sarah’s husband William Wirt Winchester amassed great wealth through the sale of his company’s most famous product – the Winchester rifle. The gun was responsible for many deaths in the late 1800’s, which weighed heavily upon Sarah. She was convinced she was being haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles. In an effort to confuse these spirits, Mrs. Winchester began construction on a massive estate near San Jose. From 1884 until her death in 1922, the house underwent 38 years of continuous, non-stop construction, taking on a confusing and labyrinth-like floor plan. Stairways were built that led to nowhere and many doors open onto blank walls. All of this a tribute to the madness and persistence of its reclusive owner, Sarah Winchester.

The next time you’re in the Bay Area, why not swing by San Jose for a visit? For what you paid for that bottle of Napa Cabernet you’ll get to experience a real piece of Americana and a house that truly has to be seen to be believed.