Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO) Although oft-scorned for its puddle-jumpers, CHO has been gain traction with direct jets to several busy hubs. Located about 20 minutes north of downtown in a scenic place called Earlysville, CHO offers 20 daily departures and the same number of arrivals.
Direct service and daily departures:
Charlotte - 7
D.C. Dulles - 6
Atlanta, Philly, Chicago - 2 each
New York - 1
Carriers: United Express, U.S. Airways Express, American Airlines, and Delta Connection.
Parking: Really close and costs $8/day for long-term and $2/hour short-term.
Amenities: Snack bar, stunning mountain views, free wi-fi
In its terminal-hugging short-term parking lot, CHO offers a free hour with purchase at the snack bar/gift shop, and it offers a free half-hour just for being you.
With gobs of flights to near and far places, Washington Dulles (IAD), two hours north of town (unless Interstate 66 is backed up), draws many travelers who might otherwise depart from Charlottesville.
A comfortable mid-size airport, Richmond International (RIC) often offers competitive fares to domestic cities, and unlike the unpredictable traffic around Dulles, the drive is a 75-minute shot east of Charlottesville on the rarely-jammed I-64.
Two other airports Charlottesville travelers might use include these two rail-served gems: Reagan National (DCA) (2hrs;15min) and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) (2hrs;45min). Less likely to have what you need is the nearby (45 minutes) but skimpily served Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD), aka "Weyers Cave."
The Charlottesville Amtrak station (CVS) Even if the railroad is always teetering on the edge of financial disaster, the rails score points for romantic, affordable, kid-friendly travel. And this town is incredibly blessed as one of America's smallest cities getting passenger service in three directions and nearly five daily departures.
Location: 810 West Main in the heart of midtown
National reservations: 800-872-7245
Charlottesville ticket window: 296-4559
Counter hours: 6am-9:30pm
Parking: onsite lot (recently paved!)
The Crescent - links New York and New Orleans daily
The Cardinal - which runs between New York and Chicago 3x per week,
The Northeast Regional - links Lynchburg all the way to Boston daily. Now with wi-fi.
Richmond's Staples Mill Station (RVR)
Location: 7519 Staples Mill Road in western Henrico County
Drive time: 1 hour. Go east on I-64 to Staples Mill Road, but don't look for a grand place– it's a shoebox hidden behind a parking lot. But it does have 16 daily departures.
Parking: onsite lot
Bonus: Richmond actually has a second Amtrak station, the historic 1901 Main Street Station (RVM) in Shockoe Bottom, with four daily departures.
Washington's Union Station (WAS)
Location: Four blocks from the U.S. Capitol and too many departures to count.
Drive time: 2 hours (if you're lucky)
Parking: adjacent garage
Phone: 202-371-9441 (undependable)
Greyhound. Located midway between the Amtrak station and the Downtown Mall on West Main, the station has curtailed both its hours and its service in recent years.
Washington: $23-38 each way to Washington D.C.'s Union Station with the bus leaving Charlottesville at 8:45am and 5:05pm and arriving about three hours later.
New York: $75-95 each way takes a little over 10 hours with an 8:45am departure time.
National reservations: 800-231-2222
Charlottesville station: 7:30am-5pm & 8:30-9:30pm daily; 295-5131
Parking: none onsite
Starlight Express. A Charlottesville original, this luxury nonstop motorcoach connects Charlottesville to NYC at the ultra-competitive speed of about seven hours and the ultra-competitive price of $49-69 each way. Based downtown at the Frank Ix complex (about three blocks south of the Downtown Mall) and on the northside at the K-Mart garden center. With triple freebies: drinks, snacks, and wi-fi.
Parking: $1/day downtown
Getting-to-New York-and-back from Charlottesville offers something for everyone. Often, the trick that optimizes your time in the Big Apple while minimizing cost is to buy an advance-purchase (read: cheaper) Amtrak ticket for the ride up and the Starlight Express for the southbound return.
One-way fares (found online July 2012):
Amtrak: $60-$161 - 6.5 hours (buzzkill: Crescent & Cardinal often late)
Starlight Express: $49-69 - 6.75 hours (buzzkill: mostly weekends)
Delta Airlines: $180-445 - 1.4 hours (buzzkill: TSA-screening and wallet-emptying)
Greyhound: $75-95 - 10.25 hours (buzzkill: slow and expensive)
Taxis & Towncars - The typical taxi ride from CHO to downtown to CHO is $25, but the metered fare can get up over $40 if you need to reach a spot out in the county. Typical towncar ride to RIC can be over $175 including gratuity with a typical towncar ride to IAD costing over $235. Prices for limos may be nearly double these.
Shuttles - All of the pricier hotels have free airport shuttles in Charlottesville.
Rental cars - Inside Charlottesville's airport terminal, we have Avis 434-973-6000, Hertz 434-297-4288, and National 434-974-4664. Enterprise also has two locations: 151 Seminole Court, 434-974-7488, and Pantops Shopping Center, 434-979-5566, plus various indie rental services elsewhere in town.
The biggies nearby are I-64, which is nice, rural, and rarely crowded (except in the Tidewater); I-81, which is terrifyingly full of tractor-trailers exceeding the speed limit; I-66 to the north, which is almost always traffic-jammed; and I-95, which seems to be packed all the way from New York to Florida. Other major highways include U.S. 29, which, although it slows down considerably in the commercial strip in Albemarle County called Seminole Trail, is actually a pretty speedy way to get north and south. Ditto for U.S. 250 east and west. You can check road conditions by dialing 800-367-ROAD or simply 511.