Charlottesville & Albemarle County, Virginia
It would be tough to find a spot where food and drink are more celebrated and revered than in Charlottesville, Virginia. The area is known around the world for historic attractions like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland, but these folks also know a thing or two about eating — and their unabashed love for food and drink is embodied in countless festivals, a thriving local restaurant scene, and enough wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries to make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. So if you’re looking for a place to get some of the best cuisine in the South with the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains serving as a backdrop, then start planning your getaway to Charlottesville.
A trip to Charlottesville wouldn’t be complete without a leisurely stroll up and down the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall. This epicurean artery is to foodies what the yellow brick road is to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. The tree-lined avenue is sure to lead to culinary enlightenment and a very full belly. Chefs earn patrons’ loyalty here by using only the freshest ingredients, in a locale that lives by the farm-to-table approach to cuisine. That butternut squash on your plate was probably at a local farm earlier that very same day. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
Thriving crops of grapes, corn, hops, and apples are nurtured by the nutrient rich earth; supplying local wineries, breweries, and cideries which seemingly appear overnight. Dozens of vineyards dot the landscape in Albemarle County, giving you the impression that you have been transported straight to the wine country of Europe. The vineyards beckon you to stop in for a tasting of some of the finest Virginia varietals. If beer is more your speed the Top of the Hops Beer Fest in September will give you the opportunity to sample local craft beer with a few thousand of your closest friends.
With all of this eating and drinking, you might start thinking about ways to burn off the massive amount of calories you’ve been consuming. The neighboring Blue Ridge Mountains will come to the rescue providing plentiful hiking, biking, and trail-running opportunities. Closer to Charlottesville, the Saunders-Monticello Trail provides a few miles of hiking paths to explore, while simultaneously treating you to a dazzling display of central Virginia’s most vibrant fall foliage.
Central Virginia has a long history with apples, dating all the way back to Thomas Jefferson’s days, so it only stands to reason that there’s a festival to celebrate the crisp, tart fruit. The Apple Harvest Celebration takes place at Carter Mountain Orchard from September through October providing the optimal apple-picking experience. The apple cider doughnuts are divine and come highly recommended. Save yourself the trouble and just buy an entire dozen. I promise, you’ll thank me later.