I've been asked to share my recommendations for visitors to Charlottesville many times via private message on Weddingbee. When I learned about the "Honeymoon in My Hometown" tradition among Weddingbee bloggers, I was excited to write my own edition.
First of all, know in advance that if you visit Charlottesville, you will always want to return. People call it a boomerang town because everyone who leaves will wind up coming back.
Where to stay
There are plenty of wonderful hotels and inns around Charlottesville. We also have several companies that serve as clearinghouses for people who rent out vacation properties, carriage houses, or second homes to visitors. Mr. Mink and I agreed that if we were honeymooning in Charlottesville, we'd stay at Keswick Hall, a small resort on the outskirts of town.
Just an afternoon at Keswick's infinity pool can make the office feel a million miles away. An extended stay would be wonderful!
Keswick Hall / From Keswick.com
What to see
A visit to Charlottesville isn't complete if you haven't stepped foot on a property with historic significance. Thomas Jefferson's vision for higher education was realized in the University of Virginia and his "Academical Village," where students and faculty lived and learned side-by-side as a community of scholars is still the heart of the school. I think every visitor has a spine-tingling moment when they realize that they are walking the where Mr. Jefferson walked years ago.
Across town, Jefferson's Monticello sits on a beautiful hill. It isn't as grand as many expect and I think it's approachable scale makes Jefferson seem like more of a man (and imperfect one, at that).
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello / From Monticello.org
James Madison's home, Montpelier, is also nearby and James Monroe's summer home, Ash Lawn-Highland, is a short drive as well. The fact that Virginia was home to many U.S. Presidents isn't a surprise and if you're a history buff, there is a lot to see here.
Charlottesville is also perched on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and many outdoor enthusiasts are attracted to the region. You can hike the Appalachian Trail, visit Shenandoah National Park, ride down the James River, and even ski nearby.
Where to eat
The food scene in Charlottesville is worthy of a book. Suffice it to say the locavore movement has thrived here and we are serious about great, locally sourced food. We always rave about Brookville, where Mr. Mink can satisfy his inner carnivore, so that's is a natural first stop on a food tour around town.
There are a few "districts" to consider when choosing restaurants. The Corner is the shopping area next to the University. There are a few blocks of shops and restaurants that serve the University community. For a quick lunch, we often like to stop by Take It Away for great sandwiches (always get the house dressing), Sushi Love for bento boxes, Boylan Heights for burgers, and Mellow Mushroom for pizza.
The previously mentioned Brookville is located on Charlottesville's pedestrian-only Downtown Mall along with many, many other restaurants. There are just too many fantastic spots to list them all! We tend to stick to restaurants with tables on the mall so we can bring Junior Mink with us.
Junior Mink with his favorite hostess on the Downtown Mall (sadly, this restaurant closed) / Photo by Mrs. Mink
The Belmont and "Midtown" areas of Charlottesville have some amazing restaurants as well. I put Midtown in quotes because we live there and that's a new name. It's the area between the UVa Corner and the Downtown Mall. Midtown has a great string of restaurants that we love - L'Etoile, Maya, Horse & Hound Gastropub, Continental Divide, One Meatball Place, Moto Pho Co, and Zinc are just a few of the great options.
It's hard for me to write the names of these places without mentioning the wonderful people behind them. We don't just go to these restaurants, we consider many of the people who work in them to be friends.
If you come to Charlottesville, please come hungry. We will feed you well!
Charlottesville's Downtown Mall / Photo by Roy Van Doorn / From the Charlottesville Facebook Page
Where to drink
Drinking gets its own category in this post because the Charlottesville area has an amazing number of wineries, breweries, and cideries. You may already know that we were married at a vineyard called Pippin Hill Farm, but you might not know that we had dozens of options when we decided that we wanted a vineyard wedding. The Monticello Wine Trail is a fairly comprehensive list of the wineries in the area. Our favorites are Pippin Hill (of course), Barboursville, Veritas, Blenheim (owned by Dave Matthews), and King Family Vineyard, which hosts polo matches on Sundays. I recently visited Early Mountain Vineyards as part of a blogger event and thought it was stunning. I can't wait to take Mr. Mink there.
The Brew Ridge Trail covers many of the craft breweries in our area. We love Starr Hill Brewery and Devil's Backbone Brewing Company. Mr. Mink selected some of their beers to be served at our wedding.
Lastly, there's a growing cider scene in Charlottesville. We've had the apple orchards for years, but hard cider seems to have become very popular more recently. There are so many cider houses opening that Mr. Mink suggested that the organizers of a local beer festival to have a tent dedicated just to cider this year. One of our favorites is Bold Rock Cidery.
What to do
Between meals and tastings, I think every visitor should take advantage of the thriving creative community in Charlottesville. We have wonderful galleries and an amazing music scene. A great day in Charlottesville, to me, always includes music. We have scores of talented local musicians, but we also attract major touring acts.
Some local musicians (props if you know the guy in the glasses on the left) / From Charlottesville's Facebook Page
If you plan to come to Charlottesville, please comment below. I'd be more than happy to tell you more!