Sitting 13 miles from Washington, D.C., Tysons, Virginia, is easily dismissed as an edge city. Yet its location is one reason that travelers should take notice. Sandwiched between the capital and the countryside, Tysons is well-situated for a trip that dips between both areas so that you can sample the best that D.C. has to offer and explore an undiscovered wine region.
Tysons is in the midst of a rapid growth spurt. Farmland blanketed it up through the 1950s. But the community transformed in the ’60s with the construction of the Capital Beltway, Tysons Corner Center mall and Dulles International Airport. The new highway and proximity to two major airports drew businesses to set up shop there in the ’80s and ’90s. (Now the nation’s 12th-largest business district, it’s home to a number of Fortune 500 companies, including IBM, AT&T, Boeing and Capital One.)
Then in 2014, five new stations were added to the Tysons/McLean areas on the new Silver Line extension of D.C.’s Metrorail system. The Silver Line’s second phase will debut in 2020, enabling direct access to Dulles International Airport and making it easier than ever to visit the Northern Virginia town.
Forbes Travel Guide ventured to Tysons to explore the region. Follow along to see why the burgeoning area gives you the best of the city and country.
Start your getaway by checking into Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, the best hotel in town. While the property is popular for business travelers (thanks to its proximity to D.C. and meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 1,350 attendees), the leisure offerings are not to be overlooked.
We opted to wander through Virginia wine country. As part of The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner’s package with RdV Vineyards, a chauffeur scooped us up at the hotel for the hourlong ride to the Delaplane boutique winery. Perched on a green hilltop in the foothills of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, a white house and matching silo look like a part of a picturesque farm, but the surrounding 16 acres of vines reveal its true identity.
We received VIP treatment at the appointment-only winery. Bypassing the tour groups, we had our own private guide show us around. Winemaker Joshua Grainer brought us outside among the grapes to tell us about Rutger de Vink, who ditched his 9-to-5 investment banker job to become a winemaker. After an apprenticeship at nearby Linden Vineyards, de Vink, who grew up in the Netherlands and France, became convinced that fine wine could be produced in Virginia. RdV was born in 2004 and made its first wine four years later.
Grainer explained that the hill’s granite rocks provided excellent conditions for the Bordeaux-style blends. While Bordeaux, France’s wines taste earthy and savory, and California’s veer more fruity, he said that Virginia’s wines mitigate the two, carrying brambleberry flavors with more warmth than a typical Bordeaux.
He led us through the other facilities, including the tank and barrel rooms, a wine library and a small lab (that silo ended up being an architectural highpoint in the connected structures: look up to see a grid of cables form a star while the windows let in light).
The grand finale was a blind tasting. We received entry to the exclusive members-only tasting room, a bright, modern-rustic space with cathedral ceilings, walls of windows, a stone fireplace, wood floors, a buttery brown L-shaped sofa, wood and leather chairs with concrete tables and the occasional cowhide-patterned throw. While the weekend crowd bustled in the rest of the winery, we pretty much had the lounge to ourselves.
For the blind tasting, we sipped top-notch 2015 wines, including Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac, Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, RdV Rendezvous and RdV Lost Mountain. Among RdV’s selections, we favored the latter, a velvety pour bursting with berry notes.
To accompany our wine, RdV served an excellently curated charcuterie plate. We’re still dreaming about the flavorful duck rillettes and pâté de champagne from D’Artagnan, rich wild boar salami from Olli Salumeria in Virginia and the smoky ham from Benton’s in Tennessee.
If you want to pair RdV with a meal, head about 30 miles east to The Inn at Little Washington. Tucked into the unassuming rural town of Washington, Virginia, the Five-Star restaurant is a must-visit destination for foodies. Chef Patrick O’Connell puts a whimsical spin on French fine dining, from the box of popcorn with truffle oil, parsley, Parmesan and black truffles preceding the multicourse menu to the cheese course that arrives on the back of a cow-shaped cart.
Book a Club Level room at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner to get access to the 24th-floor Club Lounge. There, you can fuel up on everything from bagels and lox to eggs and turkey sausage at the complimentary breakfast buffet.
Don sneakers and comfortable clothes for the day’s first stop, Glenstone (while admission is free, Thursday-to-Sunday tickets must be reserved online months ahead of time). About 15 miles from the hotel, the Potomac museum aims to fuse art, architecture and nature into a single experience. Glenstone unveiled its expansion in October 2018, which cemented it as one of the world’s largest private museums. New additions include the 204,000-square-foot Pavilions building; an extra 130 acres of rolling meadows, woodlands and streams; an arrival hall and bookstore; and two cafés.
Inside the museum, you’ll see modern and contemporary works from Sol LeWitt, Jackson Pollock, Ruth Asawa, Mark Rothko, Barbara Kruger and many more artists. Robert Gober’s Untitled (1992) takes over a room with thought-provoking details: hand-painted forest murals are juxtaposed with barred prison windows, boxes of rat poison sit alongside constantly gushing sinks, and piles of newspapers announce headlines like, “Vatican Condones Discrimination Against Homosexuals” and “It’s War, Party Says, and the Press Is the Enemy.”
The Pavilions’ exhibit space feels minimalist and stark with its gray concrete-block walls. But then you encounter the tranquil half-acre courtyard pond with water lilies, irises and seasonal plants.
The bucolic setting is just as much part of Glenstone as the art. Stroll through the nearly 300 acres dotted with outdoor sculptures like Jeff Koons’ Split-Rocker, where two different flowering rocking horse heads meld into one larger-than-life piece whose disjointed eyes peer over a hill.
Plan to spend at least three hours here, perusing the art and meandering along the trails to immerse yourself in nature.
Once done, return to the hotel to have lunch at Entyse Bistro. Go straight for the Maryland-style crab cakes. Resting on a bed of corn and snow peas, the patties are barely breaded so that the fresh crab shines. A drizzle of cilantro crema gives it a touch of extra flavor.
You will have a couple of hours before heading back out. Pop into the adjoining Tysons Galleria mall to browse shops like Cartier, Gucci, Prada and Burberry; visit the spa for a HydraFacial, which uses a painless suction tool to deeply clean pores; or retreat to your sleek slate, white and aquamarine accommodations for a nap.
Just be sure you’re refreshed and ready to hit up D.C. come evening. Begin at Columbia Room, a stellar cocktail bar tucked in an alley. Sit in the alfresco rooftop with a refreshing Old Grogham (Columbia Room Navy Strength Rum, Earl Grey tea, spiced golden syrup, lime and a fun garnish of a floating lime wheel topped with a star anise, mint sprig and a Union Jack flag on a toothpick).
Another round will be temping, but dinner awaits at the brand-new Punjab Grill just a mile away. Opened in March, the fine-dining restaurant specializes in traditional Punjabi cuisine from northern India. But executive chef Jaspratap Bindra keeps it modern by swapping in unexpected ingredients here and there, like burrata with badal jaam (spiced eggplant and heirloom tomatoes) or Petrossian caviar with tandoori naan, onion, chives, nimbu-pani (Indian spice lemonade) foam, white butter and egg white.
Kick off the meal with the fruity and frothy A Rose for Maryam (Ultimat vodka, Lillet Blanc, strawberry, peach, egg white and rose water) as well as the chutney flight (six sauces, poppadum, dosa crisps and naan grissini) and the gol gappa (crispy shells stuffed with avocado, yogurt, berries and passion fruit water spheres). The chicken tikka sampler offers three large pieces of meat accompanied by a dipping sauce. Our favorite dish was the kathal kofta, succulent jackfruit dumplings swimming in a warm, enveloping lebabdar sauce. This dish alone will keep us coming back to the restaurant.
Just as Punjab Grill seeks to elevate the regional cuisine, it needed a fitting setting. Drawing inspiration from maharaja, the entire structure was built in India and shipped to D.C. The results are bold and distinctive: gold and blue damask wallpaper in one dining area and one with wood cutout panels, booths and an ornate wood ceiling that’s reminiscent of the maharaja’s railway coach. But the real sparkler is the private dining room. Coated in 150,000 handcrafted convex mirrors, it has a black marble mother-of-pearl table that’s set with Hermès plates.
After the meal, return to The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner and pause for a nightcap at Entyse, Wine Bar & Lounge. Sit in the lively lounge with a glass of the 2009 Steindorfer Cuvée Klaus Eiswein and take in the sweet, apricot-forward wine and the sounds of the live jazz for a smooth end to the trip.