The Plains caters to the visitor who wants to stop for lunch, coffee, or shopping on their way to a hike or a vineyard visit. Set among the hilly dales of the Virginia Piedmont, this region is known as Hunt Country because of the surrounding horse farms and acclaimed Great Meadows, an equestrian park that hosts the Virginia Gold Cup and the Twilight Polo Club. The Plains is tiny, just around 220 residents, but some townspeople are quite well-known.
Academy-award winning actor Robert Duvall (The Handmaid’s Tale, Apocalypse Now) owns The Rail Stop Restaurant. Sheila Johnson, owner of the Salamander Resort in Middleburg, and Jacqueline Mars, heiress to candy manufacturer Mars Inc., both have estates nearby. Expect to find upscale shops and an array of worthy eateries.
The Plains’ architecture is fetching, with repurposed historic buildings and a 150-year-old stone church perched along the sidewalks. There’s a jaunty signpost at the intersection of Main Street and Fauquier Avenue that captures the town’s humor and embrace of kindness. Since many of these stops have limited hours, weekends are the best time to visit The Plains.
1. Step inside this former firehouse to discover remarkable architectural pieces and upscale vintage finds. Baileywyck Antiques sells chic period furniture and opulent accessories. Look for dressing mirrors and equestrian-themed art among the items there. 4247 Loudoun Ave.
2. Whether you want to adorn your windowsill with succulents or find a statuary for your patio, The Bittersweet Garden offers an abundance of options. Celebrating its 25th year, this whimsical store in a two-story Victorian house stocks planters, sundials, seasonal potted plants, and more. 6472 Main St.
3. Zigzag Crafts Gallery & Shop operates not only as a gallery for regional artists, but also as a meeting space. There is a wide variety of media to purchase: paintings and photographs, handcrafted metalworks, and ceramics of whimsy and utility. We’re fans of the metallic-glazed teapots by The Plains’ David Newquist. 6477 Main St.
4. The Rail Stop restaurant has been a fixture in The Plains for decades, but in 1998, actor Robert Duvall bought the train-themed restaurant with chef Tom Kee. It’s often filled with regulars, and the sophisticated menu is influenced by the bounty of nearby farms. We like the housemade soups and fettuccini, and the three-course meal specials. 6478 Main St.
5. You’ll find generous portions at the Front Porch Market & Grill that are perfect for sharing. This urbane bistro is located in a 100-year-old Victorian house, with outdoor dining on the back patio. There’s a cheerful bar upstairs and a playful collection of art curated by the owners, who source from their gallery in the DMV. We recommend the grilled chicken club and Front Porch BBQ nachos. 6483 Main St.
6. The eclectic home furnishings at Peyton’s Place include Lee Industries upholstered furniture, alongside decorative items with an international flare. This store serves as a resource for the owner’s interior decorator business. Next door is Home in the Plains, which sells elegant antiques and collectibles. 6484 Main St.
7. The owner of Vallie’s Vintage Jewelry shops for her items at estate sales, and Cynthia Salamone has an exceptional eye. Her petite shop specializes in unique pieces like her collection of bejeweled insect pins, designer handbags, and feathered hats worn at Fauquier County’s equestrian events. 6484 Main St.
8. You can shop for Britannia-centric items at Crest Hill Antiques & Tea Room, but sitting down for a pot of Earl Grey and watercress sandwiches is the highlight of visiting this cozy restored Victorian house. 6488 Main St.
9. If you arrive early, fill up on the steel cut oats at Doppio Bunny Coffee’s oatmeal bar. Located inside Haymarket Bicycle Studio, this rustic coffee and juice shop is a fun place to grab a snack. 6485 Main St.
10. Archwood Green Barns Farmers Market has been a standout source for fresh produce and meats for 24 years. Located in a historic barn, it’s open Sundays from May to December. 4557 Old Tavern Rd.
Head to the International Gold Cup Races at Great Meadows on October 22, Halloween Family Fun at Pearmund Cellars Farmstore on October 23, and Astronomy For Everyone at Sky Meadows State Park on October 29.