ANNUAL MANUAL- Outings: Daytrips
Scottsville- 30 minutes south
When you're tubing down the James River, living really is easy. Let James River Runners (286-2338) or James River Reeling and Rafting (286-4386) arrange the trip. Or let one of America's last poled ferries, the Hatton Ferry (call the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society at 296-1492), take your car across the James. Try the Dew Drop Inn (286-4114), for a beer and fries, or Lumpkins (286-3690) for home cooking and a great slice of pie. If you happen to visit on a Saturday or Sunday, you might catch the Scottsville Museum (286-2247) open.
Scottsville Chamber of Commerce: 286-6000
Madison County- 30 minutes north
Historic Madison is ideal for strolling and antiquing. For a more outdoorsy visit, there's fishing, hiking, and camping in the Shenandoah National Park– or climb up Old Rag Mountain. Check into Graves Mountain Lodge (540-923-4231) for some all-you-can-eat home cooking and horseback riding. The most typical shopping reasons for venturing up 29 north (and watch out for speed traps in Greene County): the Plow and Hearth Catalog Outlet (540-948-5412) and Prince Michel Vineyards (800-800-WINE).
Madison County Chamber of Commerce: 540-948-4455
Orange County- 30 minutes northeast
Historic Willow Grove Inn (540-672-5982/800-949-1778) in Orange is critically acclaimed for its gourmet southern cooking. And Barboursville Vineyards (540-832-3824) make some of the best Virginia wine. Orange County has its own presidential estate: James Madison's Montpelier (540-672-2728), which is undergoing renovation until 2008 to rip away the alterations of the previous owners, the DuPonts, and restore the landmark to the way James and Dolley knew it. But fear not, fans of the fourth president, the mansion is still open for tours.
Orange County Chamber of Commerce: 540-672-5216
Waynesboro- 30 minutes west
In all honesty, Waynesboro doesn't offer the seasoned traveler quite the bounty of some of the other destinations in the area. But for affordable housing, it can't be beat. Housing costs about half what it costs in Charlottesville. The Artisans Center of Virginia (540-946-3294 or 877-508-6069) is home to a retail sales gallery and two exhibition programs in Willow Oak Plaza, 801 W. Broad St. Hours for this official state center for fine crafts by Virginia artists: 10am-6pm Mon-Sat, 12:30-5:30pm Sun. The P. Buckley Moss Museum (800-343-8643) is world famous. About five miles away in Fishersville, the André Viette Farm and Nursery (800-575-5538) offers a wide variety of plants. Speaking of landscaping, Waynesboro boasts one of the best city parks around. Ridgeview Park (Waynesboro Parks and Recreation: 540-942-6799) sits right on the South River, complete with ducks. It has a terrific play area, shaded picnic tables, and a huge public pool that features a nearly extinct part of the swimming experience of people over 30: a high dive. On the way home, stop by the Tastee-Freeze for a visit to soft ice cream heaven.
Sidetrip: About 15 miles north lie the closest major caverns to Charlottesville: the Grand Caverns (888-430-2283). The site offers not just cave tours, but also features swimming, hiking, biking, picnicking, a haunted cave on Halloween, and a yearly bluegrass festival.
Waynesboro Tourism Office: 540-942-6644
Skyline Drive- 30 minutes west
This is the "main street" of the Shenandoah National Park (800-778-2851), the 105-mile-long road that winds along the ridges. Cost is $10 per vehicle to experience these charms, but you can stay longer than a day. The park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Choose your degree of roughing it from camping to rustic cabins, lodge rooms or suites at Skyland (800-999-4714) or Big Meadows (800-999-4714).
Blue Ridge Parkway- 30 minutes west
This mountain-top paradise is too close and too beautiful not to take advantage of, and unlike Skyline Drive, it's free. A nice one-mile hike with killer views is to Humpback Rocks, where you'll find an authentic pioneer farm that shows just how hard it was for settlers to eke out an existence. Fiddling, quilting, basket-making, and other crafts and arts are demonstrated at the farm on summer weekends. And up the road a few miles, Raven's Roost is perfect for rock climbing or picnicking. For general Parkway information, call 828-259-0358.
Staunton- 40 minutes west
Pronounced STAN-ton, it's an embarrassment of riches that begins with the architecture and doesn't end until you climb the highest hills and look out over this quaint antebellum city that escaped the ravages of the Civil War. Most fun is to arrive by train (problem: there's no train back, so plan to have a friend meet you there with a car), but if you go by car, you can take in more of the city's attractions, including Gypsy Hill Park (540-332-3945) with its dollar-a-ride Gypsy Express train (540-885-0513) and mammoth duck pond for kids, as well as tons of public recreation facilities. On the edge of town, the Frontier Culture Museum (540-332-7850) demonstrates life on four farms representing the Valley's original settlers, as well as Wright's Dairy-Rite (540-886-0435), an extremely kid-friendly diner that still has curb service. In the heart of town, there's soft-serve ice cream the locals swear by at Kline's (540-885-4664); the exact replica of England's Blackfriars Playhouse (540-885-5588), home of the American Shakespeare Center; Woodrow Wilson's birthplace (540-885-0897); and Mary Baldwin College (540-887-7019)– as well as lots of galleries, restaurants, and inns. But it's also a real town with hardware stores, cheap diners, and a big scary prison building. The Visulite theater has been restored to its original 1937 grandeur and shows art films as well as current releases (540-885-9966).
Stanton-Augusta Travel Information Center: 540-332-3972
Nelson County- 40 minutes south
The Blue Ridge Parkway (828-259-0358) runs through Nelson County, which also contains a chunk of two mammoth national forests: George Washington and Jefferson. One of the most popular area hikes is to Crabtree Falls, a 2.5-mile walk that rewards weary hikers with stunning Blue Ridge views (trust us, you'll want a frosty beverage when you reach the top). Classic TV fans from all over the country flock to the Walton's Mountain Museum (831-2000) in Schuyler, birthplace of Earl "John-Boy" Hamner. The other nifty thing in Schuyler is the Alberene Soapstone Company (866-831-5100), which once employed over 1,000 people to shape soapstone. Wintergreen Resort (325-2200) provides plenty of resort-type activities like skiing, snowboarding, and golf. The Wintergarden Spa (325-8562) is a daytrip in itself. The luxurious spa includes indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, steam room, fitness center, and hot tubs overlooking the mountains. And if you're in the neighborhood of Nellysford, don't miss a barbecue or turkey croissant at Blue Ridge Pig (361-1170). For wine aficionados, there are at least nine vineyards and wineries within the county.
Nelson County Convention & Visitors Bureau: 800-282-8223
Sherando Lake- 40 minutes west
Part of George Washington National Forest, the 24-acre Sherando Lake offers a sandy beach and the joys of swimming without a lifeguard tweeting his whistle for every suspicious move. An island is a tempting target to swim to (and indeed, a man drowned attempting it in 2004). The lake allows boats (without gasoline engines) and fishing, is surrounded by trails, and offers 65 campsites.
Glenwood and Pedlar Ranger District Office: 540-291-2188
Harrisonburg- An hour northwest
Home to the Virginia Quilt Museum (540-433-3818). On the way to this quasi metroburg, where horse-drawn buggies are still in style, stop by the Mennonite-run Dayton Farmers Market (540-879-3801) or the half-million books-strong Green Valley Bookfair (800-385-0099). Then, choose between the leprechaun-motif-ed Shenandoah Caverns (540-477-3115) and the cave with the longest tour, Endless Caverns (800-544-2283). Drive past the main campus of James Madison University (540-568-6211) and the Quad (much like The Lawn at UVA) into the heart of the city: Court Square. There you'll find shopping and dining as well as the fairly new Court Square Theater (540-433-9189), which hosts movies, plays, and music several nights a week. Next, take a jaunt to the New Market Battlefield State Park (866-515-1864) or to one of the most massive mountains in Virginia, Massanutten Resort (540-289-9441)– which offers skiing, mountain-biking, golf, and other activities, services, and amenities.
Harrisonburg Tourism and Visitors Center: 540-432-8935
Lynchburg- One hour southwest
Clearly, this is a city that used to gleam. Besides such fabulous bits of urban artistry as Monument Terrace, we know of no city in Virginia– with the possible exception of Richmond– with so many Victorian mansions. Find a copy of the Historic Districts brochure, and check out a formerly industrial city that's just now beginning to be polished for tourists. After cruising through the scratchy neighborhoods, another eye-popping historic treat awaits if you drive out to the suburbs on Rivermont Avenue toward Randolph College (947-8000), formerly Randolph-Macon Woman's College before it went co-ed this year and royally chafed about 90 percent of its graduates. There, early 20th century houses are the equal of almost any neighborhood in America. Head back downtown to catch a show at the recently renovated Academy of Music Theater (528-3390). Then check out Amazement Square (845-1888) an interactive children's museum that offers history, science, art and more in an old warehouse on the James. A huge climbing tower offers lots of fun in the center of the building. Also downtown is the Old City Cemetery (847-1465) which now also includes a medical museum, arboretum, and station house museum.
Sidetrip #1: On your way, you can check out one of the state's newest parks, James River State Park.
Sidetrip #2: Can't get enough TJ back in Charlottesville? Just in the outskirts of Lynchburg, in Forest, is Jefferson's octagonal summerhouse, Poplar Forest. 525-1806
Lynchburg Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau: 845-5966
Lexington- One hour southwest
Home to many historical monuments and traditions. While trying to get its financial house in order, Theater at Lime Kiln (540-463-7088) this summer offers concerts by Robin and Linda Williams, and productions of The Crucible and, ironically, The Winter's Tale. Bring a picnic. Those bastions of southern culture Washington and Lee University (540-458-8400) and Virginia Military Institute (540-464-7230) dominate with stunning architecture, history, and verdant green space, as well as the must-see Lee Chapel (540-458-8768) with its famous "recumbent Lee" statue. The VMI Museum (540-464-7334) has memorabilia of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who's buried, if you can believe it, in Stonewall Jackson Cemetery on Main Street. Before you head to Downtown's enticing array of shops, see a Nobel Peace Prize and other World-War II memorabilia at the George C. Marshall Museum (540-463-2083). For a fright, try Haunting Tales: Lexington's Ghost Tour (540-464-2250). And for a real bit of Americana, go to Hull's Drive-In (Movie Info Line: 540-463-2621) and see movies the way your ((great)grand)parents did.
Lexington and the Rockbridge Area Visitor Center: 540-463-3777
Richmond- One hour and ten minutes east
This is such a big and historic city that to try to pick out just a few attractions would not do it justice. There's a world-class park called Maymont (804-358-7166)– a daytrip in itself, whether you go for its Italian, Japanese, or butterfly gardens, or the kids' trip: the farm where tots can pet goats, sheep, and rabbits. There are also wildlife exhibits and a new nature center. Maybe you'll take in the 12,000 square-foot Gilded Age Maymont House. Heck, you may even want to get married there. Vestiges of the town's days as the Confederate capital are commemorated on Monument Avenue, where the brouhaha over Arthur Ashe's statue once embroiled the River City. With its opulent townhouses, sumptuously wide median, and monuments to heroes, it can't be beat for jaw-dropping beauty. And it isn't necessary to go to Washington to find good museums. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (804-340-1400) has a far more impressive collection than you'd expect to find in a city of Richmond's size. The city is home to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum (804-648-5523), the Museum and White House of the Confederacy (804-649-1861), and the Science Museum of Virginia (804-864-1400). Carytown on Cary Street is a shopping mecca of funky shops and restaurants. For excellent Southeast Asian fare, try upscale French/Vietnamese at Indochine (804-353-5799) and the "best of"-rated Thai Diner & Cafe (804-353-9514). Two amazing historic neighborhoods stand out: The Fan District, with its array of eclectic shops and cafés, and Church Hill, which surrounds St. John's Church (804-648-5015), site of Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. Even the standard rich-folks suburb, Windsor Farms, has a couple of historic houses one can tour: Virginia House (804-353-4251) and Agecroft Hall (804-353-4241). Don't miss the Virginia State Capitol, designed by Charlottesville's favorite son and war-time governor, Thomas Jefferson, which recently underwent a major restoration. A hot attraction is the canal locks downtown, and they now have water taxis (804-649-2800). A typical shopping trip to Richmond for Charlottesvillians? Forty-five minutes to the Short Pump exit to the Short Pump Town Center featuring all kinds of swank boutiques.
Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau: 888-RICHMOND
Farmville- One hour 15 minutes south
Once an authentic tobacco town, Farmville's old warehouses have found a new use as furniture and rug emporia, thanks to Green Front Furniture (392-5943), a discounter of fine household goods that seems to occupy about half the town's storefronts. (Important note for daytrippers: It's closed on Sundays.) Other major attractions include the dive-y Walker's Diner (392-4230) and two colleges, Longwood University (395-2000), a former teachers' school, and Hampden-Sydney College (223-6000), founded in 1776 and one of only three men-only colleges left.
Sidetrip: About 30 minutes west is Appomattox Court House National Historic Park (352-8987x26), a village that looks much as it did on April 9, 1865, when U.S. Grant accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender there.
Farmville Chamber of Commerce: 392-3939
Fredericksburg- One hour 15 minutes northeast
Soon to be home to the United States National Slavery Museum, this treasure-box of Virginia history includes a quaint downtown with a historic mansion you can tour called Kenmore (540-373-3381). Four major Civil War battles raged around this river city, and you can visit the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville (site of Gen. T. J. "Stonewall" Jackson's death), Spotsylvania, and Wilderness battlefields by going to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (540-372-3072). Outside, go canoeing or try some big-boat cruises (804-453-2628) on the scenic Rappahannock River.
Fredericksburg Visitor Center: 540-373-1776
Natural Bridge- One hour 20 minutes southwest
Many roadside tourist dreams comes true thanks (originally, at least) to a natural wonder once owned by Charlottesville's own Mr. Jefferson. The 215-foot-tall limestone arch of Natural Bridge (800-533-1410) can be seen for $12– or along with its own Caverns, Wax Museum, and Toy Museum for $28. (Or, if you're particularly flush, the whole shootin-match is for sale.) Outside the gates are other great bits of Americana like Virginia Safari Park (540-291-3205) and Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum which costs $7 for adults, $5 for kids and includes admission to Dino Kingdom. If you get a kitsch overload, the old-school authenticity of nearby Lexington and the historic river pass of Goshen, with fabulous picnicking and some sweet swimming holes among the boulders, might provide some respite.
Luray- One hour 40 minutes northwest
Made famous nationally by the 1878 discovery of majestic caverns, this Page County burg is an easy daytrip for a couple or family. Kids will be thrilled by the Luray Zoo (540-743-4113), a reptile and petting zoo that just happens to have one of the East Coast's biggest snake collections– not to mention giant fiberglass dinosaurs for kitschy thrills. Then there's the big attraction, Luray Caverns (540-743-6551), where people pay $19 (kids pay $9) to walk around underground, trying to remember which are stalagmites and which are stalactites.
Sidetrip: About 20 minutes west over the mountain is New Market (540-740-3432), where 10 VMI cadets died in 1864 in a futile charge against invading Yankees. Today you'll find the New Market Battlefield Military Museum (866-515-1864), which claims it has the largest collection of antique military memorabilia on display anywhere.
Luray Visitor Information Center: 540-743-3915
Warm Springs- One hour 40 minutes southwest
Sure, Warm Springs is beautiful, but the real reason to take the twisty drive to Bath County is to soak in the Jefferson Pools (540-839-7547), the only historic landmark that allows skinny dipping. The men's pool was built in 1761, the women's in 1836. Cost: $15 for one hour. Water temperature: a perfect 98 degrees. Grab an après-spa burger at the Springs Grill.
Roanoke- Two hours southwest
It's a bit of a hike from these parts, but more than train junkies know it's worth the drive for the O. Winston Link Museum (540-982-5465). If you're not into Link's night-time photographs of locomotives, you can feast your eyes on the real deal at Virginia Transportation Museum (540-342-5670) or perhaps drive to Mini Graceland at 605 Riverland near the iconic Mill Mountain Star. Speaking of which, there's probably no zoo in America with such an interesting mountaintop location– and such a little train for the kiddies– as the Mill Mountain Zoo (540-343-3241). Like Staunton, it even has an outdoor frontier museum called Explore Park (540-427-1800/800-842-9163).
The Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau: 540-342-6025/800-635-5535