It would be tough to find a spot where food and drink are more celebrated and revered than they are in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Charlottesville area is known around the world for its historic attractions, like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Highland, but it has quietly grown into a place where the local culinary reputation rivals the historic past. With countless food, art, and music festivals, a nationally recognized locavore movement, the Monticello Wine Trail, and craft breweries and distilleries, the region is a food lover’s ultimate escape.
Nurtured in the region’s rich earth, thriving crops of grapes, corn, hops, and apples supply local wineries, breweries, and cideries, which in turn have garnered numerous awards for their work. Countless vineyards dot the landscape in Albemarle County, giving you a front row seat to enjoy the “birthplace of American wine” along the Monticello Trail. The finest Virginia varietals are enjoyed in unique tasting rooms, which are equaled by the view shed of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Top of the Hops Beer Fest in September offers beer lovers an opportunity to sample local craft beer with other enthusiasts from the area. The region’s apples are also celebrated with the Apple Harvest Celebration at Carter Mountain Orchard from September through October. Pick your own and grab some apple cider doughnuts as well – some say, they alone. may be worth the trip.
A trip to Charlottesville wouldn’t be complete without a leisurely stroll up-and-down the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall. Chefs earn loyalty here by using only the freshest ingredients. In a locale that lives by the farm-to-table culture, the butternut squash being served for dinner probably came from a local farm earlier that same day. The music scene is just as organic as the food in Downtown Charlottesville. Before or after any memorable meal, experience performances by local and national recording artists throughout the year at iconic venues, such as the Paramount Theater, the Sprint Pavilion, and the Jefferson Theater. Just down the road, the John Paul Jones Arena hosts larger shows, earning it a reputation as one of the jewels of East Coast concert venues.
The great outdoors has always been the calling card of Charlottesville, whether as the resource for the local tables, or as the stirring mountain backdrop surround. Walk the Saunders-Monticello Trail on curving paths that lead to our third President’s Monticello home. And, if you feel like wandering further afield, the Blue Ridge Mountains provide world-class hiking, biking, and trail-running opportunities (the Albemarle Tourism and Adventure Center in Crozet provides a new outpost to plan every detail in person). Share in the tooth Anniversary of the National Parks celebration this year and head for the mountains and streams. Take a drive to the Shenandoah National Park and find your trail. In the end, the choices are only limited by appetite and your sense of adventure.