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Montpelier has new program
New program called "Montpelier Excursions" combines history with inns, meals and more

 Horse races are one of the features held at Montpelier, the James Madison estate.
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 7/30/2009

By Rob Hedelt

WHEN Elizabeth Goeke and Jay Billie began welcoming guests to their Orange County bed-and-breakfast almost two years ago, they quickly realized they needed to be more than just innkeepers.

Sure, they provided sumptuous breakfasts, rooms decorated with beautiful flowers and luxurious linens, and pastoral views that include a paddock and rolling hillside at the Inn at Westwood Farm.

But they also became tourism advisors, helping guests work out visits to restaurants, wineries and historic attractions like James Madison's Montpelier.

As of this month, they and owners of inns and B&Bs near Montpelier will get help attracting and routing visitors to attractions in the county, courtesy of a program backed by the inns, Montpelier, the town and county of Orange and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

"We call it 'Montpelier Excursions,' and it works by letting visitors combine one of several unique, prearranged visits to Montpelier with a range of choices between local inns and restaurants," said Peggy Vaughn, director of communications at the historic home and attraction. "It simplifies things."

Several of the excursions are ones not routinely offered to Montpelier visitors.

"The Heart of Montpelier," provides behind-the scenes tours of Madison's home, Landmark Forest and the North Kitchen archaeological dig. The twist: Sessions are offered by experts ranging from Montpelier's director of restoration to its head curator to its top horticulturist.

If visitors want to get their hands dirty, they can sign on for "Dig in Style!" They get instruction and the chance to spend a week with a trowel alongside archaeologists in a working dig.

Other choices include a wine weekend, a history weekend and history weekdays.

After visitors pick their excursion on the Montpelier Web site, they choose one of the participating inns, and eventually get to choose between several restaurants during their stay.

Said Billie, "It's a lot like what we and other innkeepers were doing on our own, helping visitors decide how to fill their days, and working out the details for them."

Vaughn said the effort began when the various partners realized it would make sense to work together to bring more visitors to Orange, something that would benefit all involved.

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WHAT: Pre-planned visits that give visitors their choice of activities at the home of James Madison, along with choice of inns, restaurants and more. WHEN: Ongoing, though some have specific dates and seasons. INNS: Inn at Westwood Farm, Holladay House, Inn on Poplar Hill, Mayhurst Inn, Ridge View Bed & Breakfast, Inn at Meander Plantation, Ebenezer House and The Old Mill House. RESTAURANTS: Inn at Meander Plantation, Restaurant Pomme, Toliver House, Elmwood at Sparks, Mario's, Silk Mill Grill and San Marcos, Palladio. WINERIES: Barboursville, Horton, Keswick, Burnley, Sweely Estate and Pearmund Cellars.

INFO: Events are explained at montpelier.org/excursions. Visitors make reservations by calling the inn of their choice.