Biking through History to Beaches and Breweries

83rd Annual Historic Garden Week

This spring features 30 different tours from April 23 through April 30. Tours in Richmond,

Norfolk and Virginia Beach have a unique and unusual aspect in common this year – they all allow visitors to bike the tours.

“For the first time ever, the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week, Historic Richmond.  Foundation and the Virginia Capital Trail for bikers and pedestrians come together this April through our tour along scenic Route 5 when we share our common commitment to honoring Virginia’s heritage,” notes Meg I. Clement, State Chairman for Historic Garden Week 2016-2017. The Virginia Capital Trail is a dedicated, paved pedestrian and bicycle trail that connects Virginia’s past and present capitals of Jamestown and Richmond. The Trail traverses approximately 52 miles and four jurisdictions along one of the first inland routes in North America. “This special tour of James River plantations, private homes, a historic church and a vineyard will bring the 400-year history of this scenic area alive to bikers and other visitors,” notes Clement.  Open in conjunction with Historic Richmond, an organization founded in 1956 with the goal of preserving Richmond’s distinctive historic character, visitors to the James River Plantations on April 27 will enjoy special access to these living links to our history, all of which are Virginia and National Historic Landmarks. Box lunches will be available for pre-order at Westover Episcopal  Church in Charles City. An upscale catered lunch with wine and a featured speaker at nearby Upper Shirley Vineyards is another option. “I can’t think of a better way to visit the historic Charles City County plantations than on the Virginia Capital Trail. You’ll feel so much closer to the breathtaking beauty and rich history of this very special place.” Says Beth Weisbord, Capital Trail Foundation.

This spring features 30 different tours from April 23 through April 30. In addition to Richmond, tours in Norfolk and Virginia Beach have a unique and unusual aspect in common this year – they all allow visitors to bike the tours. The Virginia Beach tour, also on April 27, highlights the Linkhorn Park and Bay Colony neighborhoods. All six of the featured properties are just a short bike ride to the beach and a slightly longer one south to the Boardwalk or north to First Landing State Park. These neighborhoods retain their friendly, small-town feel, a holdover from the days when Virginia Beach was a sleepy little resort that shut down after Labor Day.

“Bikes are part of life at the Beach,” says Emily Mills, Tour Chairman for the Virginia Beach tour who incorporated bike rentals as part of the event. “Locals ride to festivals on the Boardwalk or just out to breakfast.” Mills thought bikes would add a bit of local flavor as well as considerable convenience since parking is limited in the neighborhoods featured on the tour. Bikes can be reserved in advance and picked up at the Princess Anne Country Club, headquarters for the tour and the location of a buffet lunch. Tour-goers can take a spin down the three-mile-long Boardwalk (located two blocks east of the Princess Anne) or ride north to First Landing State Park’s 64th St. entrance and pedal under moss-draped live oaks to the Narrows, a spectacular little beach where Linkhorn Bay and Broad Bay meet. Fans of Historic Garden Week and biking can continue the fun in Norfolk on April 28 at the tour highlighting the West Ghent and Chelsea neighborhoods. West Ghent’s story began in the early 1920s following annexation by the City in 1897. This marked a second stage of urbanization as the City recovered following the decimation of one-third of its population by the 1855 yellow fever epidemic. Adjacent is the industry-based Chelsea district. Fronting deep-water access and rail lines, Chelsea continues to be called home by a shipyard and Norfolk Southern rail yards, but has grown to include a growing number of small, locally owned businesses such as restaurants, an art gallery, a floral design studio and a brewery.

From white gloves to bicycles and beer mugs, what kind of Historic Garden Week tour is this?” jokes Greta Gustavson, Tour Chairman for the Norfolk tour this year. “Harborfront Garden Club and the Garden Club of Norfolk are working hard to make the 2016 Norfolk tour have something for everyone – whether they are walking, cycling or driving,” she continues.  “Interested in flower arrangements? Traditional arrangements will be plentiful in the houses, while nature’s best will be used in the wildlife sanctuary, and a contemporary tablescape will be fabricated in a local brewery,” she tells us. Visitors will enjoy beautiful homes, observe practical ways to establish conservation methods in their gardens, and have the opportunity to enjoy a meal in the vibrant Chelsea business district.

Tour visitors can follow the newest section of the Elizabeth River Trail, a bicycle and pedestrian path that runs along the perimeter of Chelsea and West Ghent, which opened in September 2015. The Elizabeth River Trail–Atlantic City Spur runs for 9.5 miles between Harbor Park Stadium and the Norfolk International Terminals. The trail occupies a railroad right-of-way yet incorporates a sea-faring history as it follows part of Norfolk’s waterfront. Ships and barges, navy vessels and tankers in the waters of Hampton Roads are part of the scenery. The Elizabeth River continues to be an important adjunct to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic. Because of its location, bikers will observe plenty of seabirds, including cormorants, skimmers, ducks and sea gulls. The Elizabeth River Trail can be accessed from several places, including the intersection of Langley Road and Redgate Avenue; the intersection of Claremont and Raleigh Avenues; on Boissevain Avenue, on Warrington Avenue and on W. Olney Road (all near the intersection with Claremont Avenue). The trail also connects with many streets in West Ghent.

On-street parking is available all along the trail.

For nearly a century the Garden Club of Virginia has been committed to preserving the beauty of Virginia for all to enjoy. Garden Club of Virginia members were early leaders in conservation and environmental concerns. While these founding members might not have conceived of how Historic Garden Week tours have evolved, embracing social media to promote its tours and biking as way to enjoy three tours this spring, the mission remains solidly the same. “This largely volunteer organization has changed the landscape of Virginia, completing nearly 40 major restorations at some of Virginia’s most beloved historic sites. We’ve also embarked on an exciting Partnership with Parks, a new initiative supporting our state parks,” Meg I. Clement concludes.

Tour proceeds support the efforts of the Garden Club of Virginia as it works with experts at Poplar Forest to bring back Jefferson’s landscape near Lynchburg. From Ker Place on the Eastern Shore to Historic Henry County Courthouse in Martinsville; from Stratford Hall Plantation in Tidewater to John Handley High School in Winchester, the Garden Club of Virginia has raised millions of dollars to ensure the beauty of public gardens all over the state for generations to come. Nearly 30,000 visitors attend Historic Garden Week annually.

Tour Details and Bike Rental Information

James River Plantations

Wednesday, April 27

10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For tour information, contact

Virginia Beach

Wednesday, April 27

10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For tour information, contact

Bicycles available for rent at Tour Headquarters, Princess Anne Country Club (3800 Pacific

Avenue). Reserve by emailing or calling (757) 705-1743.

Bicycles available for $15 each or 4 for $40, including lock and helmet from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Norfolk: Ghent and Chelsea

Thursday, April 28

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For tour information, contact

Visit for a complete tour schedule, to purchase tickets and for details

regarding itineraries and Garden Club of Virginia current restoration sites.

Categorybike tours, Featured
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