| Daytrip index
Blue Ridge Parkway
Daytrips to the Hinterlands
(in order of the time it takes to get there from Charlottesville)
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 Charlottesville Albemarle Historical Society at 296-1492), take your car across the James. Try Lumpkins (286-3690) for a 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 (540-317-1206) 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 has recently been restored from alterations of the previous owners, the DuPonts, to the way James and Dolley knew it.
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) houses a retail sales gallery and two exhibition programs in the 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 is the André Viette Farm and Nursery (540-943-2351) 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: a high dive. On the way home, stop by the Tastee-Freeze for a visit to soft ice cream heaven. The cool Zeus Digital movie theater is also worth checking out, too, for its great screens and resonablly priced movie food. Then, of course, there's Eastside Speedway, where you can get your fill of fast cars and demo derbies.
Sidetrip: About 15 miles north lie the closest major caverns to Charlottesville: the Grand Caverns (888-430-2283). The site is not merely cave tours, but also features swimming, hiking, biking, picnicking, an annual 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 $15 per vehicle, and it's good for seven days. 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 Rock, 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- Forty 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 athletic 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 (540-851-1733), 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 favorites (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 the mammoth George Washington & Jefferson National Forests. One of the most popular area hikes is 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 (866-831-1051), 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 sports access to the 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.
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 not-so-safe 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 home-town 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-motifed Shenandoah Caverns (540-477-3115) and the cave with the longest tour, Endless Caverns (540-896-9494). 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 a mass of 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 is 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. 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 offers 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, Romeo and Juliet and,A Midsummer Night's Dream. Bring a picnic. Those bastions of southern culture Washington and Lee University (540-458-8400) and Virginia Military Institute (540-464-7207) 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 the stuffed horse (and final raincoat) of Gen. Stonewall Jackson. 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 (540-463-7103). 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 you 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) is far better 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 the "best of"-rated Thai Diner & Cafe (804-270-2699). 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 (804-649-7938), 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. 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, its 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 schools 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 bastion 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. "Stonewall" Jackson's death), Spotsylvania, and Wildnerness 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) of 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. Outside the gates are other great bits of Americana like Virginia Safari Park (540-291-3205). If you get a kitsch overload, the old-school austerity of nearby Lexington and the historic pass of Goshen might provide some respite.
Luray- One hour 40 minutes northwest- Made famous nationally by the 1878 discovery of the Luray 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 in New Market (540-740-3432), where 10 VMI cadets died in 1864 in a futile charge against invading Yankees, today you'll find the 300-acre New Market Battlefield State Historical Park (540-740-3101). Also check out the Virginia Museum of the Civil War located in the park.
Luray Visitor Information Center: 540-743-3915
Warm Springs- One hour 40 minutes southwest- Sure, Warm Springs is beautiful, but the real reason one takes the twisty drive to Bath County is to get soaked 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: $17 for one hour. Water temperature: a perfect 98 degrees. .
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