Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Beginner's Guide to Charlottesville

“This post is my entry into the TBEX Blog Carnival Contest sponsored by Choice Hotels International Services Corp.”
One of the things that I love about traveling around the world is that I get to experience new places & explore new cities. However, as I discover every time I leave home for the summer one of the downsides is that I miss out on all of the amazing things Charlottesville has to offer—especially during the summer. When I saw that TBEX was having a contest with Cambria Suites about how to have a staycation, I wanted to put Charlottesville in the running for a fantastic place to have a small weekend getaway.

While Charlottesville is relatively tiny, there’s never a lack of things to do. If you’re lucky enough to get a three-day weekend in the area this is the best way to experience some of the very best that Charlottesville has to offer:

Friday: Get Schooled

-Tour of Monticello
-Lunch: Revolution Soup
-Tour of University of Virginia
-Fridays after Five
-Dinner & Drinks: Mas Tapas

You can’t come to Charlottesville and ignore the town’s history. Start your day off with a tour of the place that started it all-Monticello. Tours run every hour, and the guides are well informed about both Jefferson’s life and the history of the house itself. Luckily, the tour guides keep the information varied for each tour as I’ve been on the tour three times in the past year. Once you’ve seen Monticello, head down the mountain to see Mr. Jefferson’s university (as the students call UVA) where you can see the famous rotunda as well as Edgar Allan Poe’s room. While on grounds (call it campus and an angry freshman…I mean first year will tear your head off) grab some lunch at Revolution Soup, a small shop on The Corner that serves excellent soup (try the Senegalese Peanut) and sandwiches.

Monticello features plenty outdoor activities for children during the summer.

When you’ve had enough history & brick laden architecture, head to the Downtown Mall for Fridays After 5, the weekly event that runs from the end of April until mid September. Follow the crowds and the music to the amphitheater at the end of the Mall for free music, a decent selection of beer and plenty of locals. You’ll find half the town relaxing there after the workweek.

If the crowds on the Mall get to be too much for you, head over to the section of town called Belmont for dinner at Mas Tapas. A favorite with locals, the restaurant offers an ever-changing selection of tapas dishes that feature seasonal and local ingredients. The bacon wrapped dates are a must, trust me.

Saturday: Get Local

-The City Market
-Winery tour of the area: King Family, Veritas & Cardinal Point
-Dinner: The Local

This is your day to enjoy Charlottesville like a local. One of the best things about Charlottesville is the strength of the local food movement. Head down to the Downtown Mall and check out the weekly City Market. Grab breakfast and a fresh cup of coffee from local vendors at the market as your stroll through organic and local veggies and herbs, and maybe pick up a souvenir from nearby artists. The goods and vendors at the City Market range from homemade pumpkin pasta to edible flowers to face painting. There’s something for everyone. On your way out grab some cheese & homemade bread for a picnic at your next stop—the wineries.

View from Veritas.

Head just outside of Cville to the neighboring town of Crozet where you’ll find some of the heavy hitters of Virginia’s wine region—Veritas and King Family. Both offer top notch local wines as well as unbeatable views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Buy a bottle of wine & have a picnic at the beautiful outdoor seating areas that both wineries supply.

Not a wine drinker? Microbreweries are scattered throughout wine country. Check out Starr Hill, Blue Mountain Brewery or newcomer Devil’s Backbone.

For dinner head back to the Belmont area to the aptly named restaurant-The Local. Here you’ll find the freshest of ingredients mixed with an excellent selection of both wine and beer. The short ribs here cannot be beat.

Sunday: Get Active (or watch others get active)

Breakfast: Blue Grass
Hiking—Either Darden Towe or Rivanna Trail

Local wineries also feature free events such as polo matches on Sundays

For breakfast be sure to check out Blue Grass right off of the Downtown Mall. No matter what time you get there, you’re going to have a wait, but trust me, it’s worth it. If your wait is more than a half hour, take a stroll down to the Mall to check out local used bookstores like the Daedalus Bookshop to fill that time. When it’s finally time for breakfast check out any of the daily specials which include everything from vegan dishes to chocolate covered bacon.

Now by this time you’ve experience some of the very best restaurants Cville has to offer, and no doubt your waistband is getting uncomfortably tight. It might be time for a little physical activity. Head to any one of the hiking trails surrounding Charlottesville. For leisurely strolls there’s Darden Towe Park. More experienced hikers can find more challenging hikes just a few miles out of town.

Not in the mood for physical activity? Swing by UVA’s campus instead and grab the sports’ schedule. Depending on the season you can check out everything from football to baseball (where UVA is currently kicking some serious behind).

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, glad you won the Cambria Suites contest.