Wondering What to Do When Visiting Essex County? Read On.
You’re in Tappahannock for a day, an overnight stay or better yet, a weekend. With so much to do, don’t forget to savor a few of Essex County’s most special offerings.
Water in every direction transforms a minute into a moment worthy of a pause in this historic town. While it’s been said that nothing is more beautiful than a river awaiting a sunset, we encourage you to also experience the dawn of a new day with one of our special sunrises — no filters necessary.
While the Rappahannock River is our jewel, don’t overlook the glorious Chesapeake and Mobjack bays and surrounding waterways that include the York, Mattaponi, Pamunkey, Piankatank, North Severn and Ware rivers along with Dragon Run.
Canoe or kayak, fish, bird watch or simply experience the calm that comes with watching the water move.
Essex Inn Breakfast
When you spend the night at the beautifully restored Essex Inn, your day will start with a three-course breakfast magnificently prepared by Owner and Innkeeper Greg Huff. Breakfast begins with warm pastries or muffins followed by a middle course typically with a fruit base. The third course is the largest with choices that range from a goat cheese and spinach omelet to cinnamon French toast to crab quiche. The leisurely pace encourages morning conversation with fellow guests. Coffee lovers will be over the moon with the gourmet self-service machine that offers cappuccino with extra froth, double espresso, latte or whatever combination suits you best in the a.m.
Antiquing and Ice Cream
What sounds like a strange combination really is one of the draws of Tappahannock. You can’t drive by Acme Antiques on the main drag, Church Street, without craning your neck in awe of the oversized figures outside. Before you go into the 22,000 square-foot antique mall, admire the oversized toys, reminiscent of a circus and carnival. If kids are in your party, they’ll love climbing on, in or around the attractions that are all for sale. It’s fun indoors, too, where the collectibles are too massive to list. A sign reads, “Adventures found here,” a testament to a spot that resembles a theme park. Afterward, visit Acme Ice Cream Parlor next door, with 36 hand-dipped flavors, soft serve, sundaes, smoothies, hotdogs and nachos. Sit at the fountain, inside one of the vintage booths or at a table outdoors. Fonzie and Elvis are in the bathroom. You can’t help but smile after spending some time here.
Exhibits of interest inside this historical building include a retrospective on 100 years of St. Margaret’s School and Rappahannock Voyage – The Story of Essex and the River. The museum also houses a civil war diorama, “Ft. Lowry.” Continuing exhibits highlight prehistoric fossils, Native American artifacts, colonial relics, steamboats and life working the water. Items from the American Revolution, Bacon’s Rebellion, the Civil War and World War II are on display. An 1864 Civil War cannon is an imposing yet impressive addition. Research room and gift shop are on-site.
Transport yourself back in time between the years of 1680 to 1850 while exploring the town’s historical buildings on a self-guided tour. The trek includes 13 buildings in and around the water. Some highlights:
- Beale Memorial Baptist Church, formerly the 1728 courthouse
- Old Debtors Prison built prior to 1769, today the Essex Treasurer’s Office
- The lovely riverfront campus of St. Margaret’s School
- St. John’s Episcopal Church built in 1849 (the only purely Gothic Revival structure in the nation. Shown by appointment.)
- Derieux-Scots Arms Tavern, today a private home, was built circa 1680, making it the oldest house in town
Feel and taste the water on a classic wooden commercial fishing boat. Lifelong pals Richard Moncure and Nate Parker offer fishing, oystering, bald eagle watching and history-oriented trips on the lower Rappahannock in their Deadrise, built by hand and initially used for oyster tonging. Full and half-day trips available. Launch point is June Parker Marina.
A Special Toast
How do homemade donuts and fresh cider sound? Or live music while sipping on a glass of wine made from the surrounding vineyards? Enjoy Monster trucks? Wind Vineyards offers all of that and more. Check out the Calendar for an eclectic mix of entertainment options that are all family-friendly.
The owners at Caret Cellars love showing folks around and introducing new wines made from only the healthiest grapes. The winery is both child- and dog friendly, and open noon-6 p.m., on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Wines range from a true White Merlot to a dry, Tuscan-style Rosato di Sangiovese. Annual events include a barrel tasting, spring and fall oyster crawls and a wine and chocolate pairing. Stop here and you’ve checked off one of the nine wineries on the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail, voted the No. 1 wine trail in the Commonwealth by the readers of Virginia Living Magazine.
Would you like a Freakshake with that?
How good can a hamburger be? Drop in NN Burger for the best burgers in Virginia (as voted on by Virginia Living Magazine). Pair these amazing burgers with fries or onion rings, or if you’re in the mood for seafood, NN’s Famous Lobster Roll comes warm with butter and lemon or Maine style, chilled with a touch of mayo. If you’re still hungry, order a Freakshake. You won’t be anymore if you manage to finish it. Bonus: You get to keep the cup.
Tappahannock Farmers’ Market
Stroll the downtown streets on the 3rd Saturday of the month from April through November. Shop for fresh produce, homemade baked goods, fresh meats and local seafood along with plant and garden essentials. Live music, entertainment, onsite dining and fun activities for the entire family.
Every 3rd Thursday from May through October, meet up at Rappahannock River Park on Newbill Drive for a concert series, vendors and a farmers market on the shores of the Rappahannock River. Food trucks onsite. Hours are 6-9 p.m.
Christmas on Prince Street every December features a holiday parade and the lighting of the community tree. The 2nd Annual Tappahannock Winterfest will be Dec 10, 2022, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.