Imagine this perfect beginning to a weekend: on Friday, board the Amtrak train at DC’s Union Station (or in Alexandria, Manassas, Culpeper or Charlottesville), relax on the journey past farmsteads and mountains, arrive in time for the short walk to your lodging (Red Lantern Inn), where you freshen up before walking out to dinner at Café Michel for a perfectly cooked rib-eye or Alleghany Mountain trout. 

Nice, right?
Red Lantern Inn is perfectly placed in the charming small town of Clifton Forge (population 3,565), and it’s comfortable and casual enough that you can pack light. The seven reasonably-priced rooms range from $95 to $115 (one with private bath), and guests are welcome to use the full kitchen as well as the spacious living room and media rooms. 

If you’re not a fan of the be-on-time group breakfasts at most B&Bs, you’ll love the serve-yourself continental breakfast here. 

Outside, the front porch and private courtyard offer space for reading or chatting with a glass of wine. 

If you come by train, you’ll likely be interested in the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society Archives, and also the Smith Creek Yard where ancient (restored) rail cars await your boarding.

Try Jack Mason's Tavern for lunch or dinner and local brews.

Nearby wineries include Rockbridge VineyardBlue Ridge Vineyards, Lexington Valley Vineyards, and Virginia Mountain Vineyards – all within 45 minutes.

A short drive away is Douthat State Park, with miles of stream fishing, a 50-acre lake stocked with trout, a sandy swimming beach with snack bar, boat and bicycle rentals, and more than 40 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails. 

Find lots more outdoor and cultural activities here.