5 Weekend Escapes: Charlottesville
Just 2 1/2 hours from Washington, D.C., Charlottesville has always had natural beauty and history, with the Blue Ridge Mountains and the magnificent homes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe nearby. Now, a burgeoning wine industry is adding new life to the region.
What to Do
Most of Thomas Jefferson's extraordinary home is open only for tours, but you can linger in his 1,000-foot-long terraced vegetable garden, eight acres of fruit orchards and vineyards. Sangiovese wine made from Monticello grapes is occasionally available in the gift shop, along with locally-made foods, drinks, home goods, and an impressive array of heirloom seeds. (monticello.org).
University of Virginia Tours
The University Guide Service offers tours of the stunning Jefferson-designed Lawn and Rotunda on what's been voted the most beautiful campus in America by Best College Reviews. (virginia.edu) Afterward, stop for a beer and a burger at the city's oldest restaurant, The Virginian, a campus staple since 1923. (thevirginiancville.com)
Winemaker Luca Paschina makes exceptional wines from Italian grape varieties. Go for a tour and tasting, and stay for a meal at the winery's northern Italian Palladio Restaurant. (bbvwine,com)
Monticello Wine Trail
The Monticello Wine Trail Passport is your key to 40 active wineries in the Charlottesville area, and it's available right on your phone. Make sure to log all your stops along the way (everything is within 25 miles), because a special wine glass awaits you at your tenth destination. And don't worry—plenty of the wineries have cozy, heated outdoor seating if you'd like to stay put for a while, and guest rooms if you'd care to settle in for the night. (monticellowinetrail.org)
Where to Stay
Keswick Hall at Monticello
Set near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 600-acre English country manor has 48 antiques-filled rooms, formal gardens, an infinity-edged swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. Marigold by Jean-Georges is the resort's flagship restaurant featuring passionately seasonal cuisine, while the cozy Crawford's is the perfect place to unwind with small plates and a farm-to-shaker cocktail. (keswick.com).
200 South Street Inn
Two blocks from the excellent book and antiques stores along downtown's old Main Street, 200 South Street consists of two beautifully restored 19th-century houses (one was formerly a girls' finishing school and then a brothel). Many of the rooms are outfitted with canopy beds and fireplaces. (southstreetinn.com)
The Inn at Willow Grove
Half an hour outside Charlottesville, this restored 1770s home is the ideal place to stay while visiting nearby vineyards. With Vintage Restaurant & Pub and Forked on Main, the resort offers two distinctive dining options, as well world-class pampering at the property's new Mill House Spa. (theinnatwillowgrove.com)
Where to Eat
This downtown diner gets packed at lunchtime with University of Virginia faculty. The retro interior features red-leather booths and vintage movie posters. There's roasted chicken and grilled rib eye, but Bizou's specialty is its succulent homemade meat loaf with chipotle ketchup. (bizoudowntown.com)
The Ivy Inn
The restaurant has been owned and operated by the Vangelopoulos family since 1995, but the storied building has a much longer history you can contemplate over Virginia-proud, locally-sourced dishes and vintages, proudly called out on the menu. (ivyinnrestaurant.com)
Located in Charlottesville's Belmont section, Mas offers authentic and moderately priced Spanish tapas, like spicy potatoes with aioli and tender grilled squid with romesco. A concrete bar runs the length of the chic industrial space; seats there look into the open kitchen. (mastapas.com)