Where: King George, Va.

Why: Tattoos, cheap golf and birds of prey overhead.

How Far: 70 miles, or about 11/2 hours from Centreville.

Thirty years ago it was a rare event to see an American bald eagle anywhere near Washington's cacophonous landscape. These days, thanks to habitat conservation efforts and a 32-year ban on DDT (an environmentally harmful insecticide), it's relatively easy, particularly if you take a walk in Virginia's Caledon Natural Area -- a summer nesting place and winter roosting site. The park strictly limits access while eaglets are fledging (April 1 to Sept. 30), but come fall, some of the protected habitat is opened to the public. The 3.4-mile loop made by the gentle Boyd's Hole and Flats trails leads through hardwood forest to the banks of the Potomac, where the eagles hunt. Look for them in flight between the water and the tree line; generally, they fly from point to point, not in arcs like the similar-sized vultures. With their white heads and tail feathers, mature eagles are easy to spot, especially with binoculars. Immature eagles will be mottled brown and white, and may have white striations on the underside of their wings.

Hard-core eagle lovers will want to start this trip in Manassas at Good Times Tattoo & Piercing, where the artists can indelibly stitch a raptor into the fabric of your being. A chest-spanning work can run $400 and up, depending on the detail, while a more discreet rendering can be had for less than half that.

If a walk on the not-so-wild side is more your style, there's still time to get a round in at Manassas Hill Golf Course. It sits on a former pig farm, wrapping around the old farmhouse, so it's like playing golf in someone's front yard. And unlike at the big signature courses, the par 3's at Manassas Hill won't intimidate first-timers (the longest hole is 168 yards). For the next month or so, while they revamp the course, the cost to play nine holes is just $5 (plus $4.50 if you need to rent clubs) -- that's putt-putt prices.

Finally, crafty folks will want to stop by Beads on Parade in Fredericksburg. There, you'll find racks of holiday-themed baubles and brightly colored agates that you can turn into gifts for everyone on your list.

Stuart Kelly

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