When Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician, opened Widewater State Park in Stafford County, Va., last winter, he playfully signed a prescription calling for a mythical patient to hike 20 minutes at the park three times a day. The idea was that spending time in nature improves your physical and mental health, and a ParkRx program emerging nationally.
Widewater, Virginia’s newest state park and Stafford’s first, is just the kind of place to get your blood pumping on its 1-mile hiking trail.
Situated on a wooded 1,100-acre peninsula between Aquia Creek and the Potomac River, Widewater is where you might spot a bald eagle, picnic with your family, teach your students about ecology or local history, or put in your canoe or kayak at the car-top paddle launch.
“You notice right off the bat how quiet it is,” said Andrew Sporrer of the Eastern Region Virginia State Parks. He said it’s a “nice little reprieve” for people, away from the hustle and bustle of Interstate 95 and U.S.1.
“You feel like you’re really in the country,” agreed manager Paul Anderson. He said this park differs in that some residences predated the park, so visitors should use care to respect the neighbors.
From American Indians to U.S. presidents, Widewater has attracted hunters and fishermen. Today, there are four duck blinds for rent and managed deer hunts.
The park in the first phase of development, with up to 150 acres accessible. A visitor center, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, restrooms and paddle-in campsites are available. There’s a small parking fee.
More picnic shelters and a motor boat launch are envisioned by the end of 2019 or early 2020. Long-range plans call for additional hiking trails, cabins and campgrounds.
The park is but one offering this spring to lure you to the Fredericksburg region of Central Virginia south of Washington, D.C. A regional tourism partnership promotes the historic city and adjacent Stafford and Spotsylvania counties. Information about area attractions, lodging, restaurants, and shopping can be found at visitfred.com.
Races and rodeos
Thousands of runners and spectators from across the country will converge on Fredericksburg for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon on May 19.
Kicking off the weekend May 17-18 will be a free healthy lifestyle expo with 60 vendors at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center at Central Park, a huge retail complex off Interstate 95.
Starting and ending at the expo center, the 13.1-mile footrace winds through town streets. Spectators line the route to cheer on the runners, whose challenges include the notorious Hospital Hill. Also offered that day will be Semper 5ive (a 5-mile race) and Devil Dog Double races (the Semper 5ive and the half-marathon).
Runners pay a registration fee, but watching is free. Parking is available at Central Park. Shuttles will be available race day between the expo center and Hurkamp Park downtown.
While runners are in the spotlight, “it turns out to be a lot of fun for the spectators,” according to Danelle Rose, who promotes Fredericksburg. Some residents set up tables by their houses, handing out doughnuts or drinks. An area in the 800-900 block of Caroline Street near the visitor center known as Thunder Alley — about the halfway point of the race — has a party atmosphere, with live bands, coffee stations, cowbells, and costumed characters. Some businesses have specials.
Rose said the event, now in its 12th year, has a positive economic impact on the Fredericksburg area.
“It’s kind of a win-win for everyone,” she said. “Everyone looks forward to it.”
Less-vigorous pleasures await at the Spotsylvania Courthouse Village Food Truck Rodeo on April 6. Rain date is April 7 (visitspotsy.com/food-truck).
No one will go hungry as the roundup of 20 food trucks, competing for People’s Choice awards, offer a variety of fare. Among the options are hamburgers, barbecue, tacos, chicken, fish, pizza, kabobs, funnel cakes and ice cream. There are a few picnic tables, but you’re encouraged to bring your own chair or blanket.
You also can listen to music, visit crafts vendors, see ballet, theater, zumba,and martial arts demonstrations, and watch the kids enjoy activities during this fourth annual affair. Bring the dog, too. Admission is free, except for the food.
“It’s not just a community event,” said Debbie Aylor, who promotes the county. Some of the 1,500 visitors attend from as far away as Maryland, Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., and Richmond, Va.
“They come and relax and have a good time,” she said.
The courtyard village, a frequent site for public occasions, is a complex of shops, restaurants, government buildings, residences, and the Spotsylvania Museum. Upcoming county events include an outdoor art show in August and the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Spotsylvania June 22-23.