Like most families, this past fall was particularly busy. Our son plays soccer on a traveling sports team and for nearly three months, our lives were dedicated to work, school and soccer fields. Most weekends were spent traversing from city to city and field to field which were quickly followed by a fair share of laundry. Given that we burned up the I-40 corridor during the soccer season, I was vying to see something new. Nearing the end of the season, I mapped out a quick trip traveling north on Hwy 29 into Virginia. We had never been to Charlottesville and with only being 3 hours from the Triad, it made for a great weekend with plenty to see along the way. My plan was to put us close to the historic Downtown Mall for sightseeing on Saturday and then head home Sunday morning.
If visiting local wineries, breweries and distilleries is of interest, then this area will not disappoint. Along the way to Charlottesville, Hwy 29 has many offerings which make the expedition even more interesting In Danville, VA you can visit Dry Fork Fruit Distillery, north of Lynchburg you will run into four respected distilleries: Devils Backbone Distilling, Woods Mill Distillery and one of my favorites, the Virginia Distillery Company.
Virginia Distillery Company is right off Hwy 29 which made for an easy visit and rest stop. As you drive up to the property you are welcomed with a manicured entrance reminiscent of any fine winery. The buildings are modern industrial, with easy parking and walking. The tasting room is both large and welcoming with friendly and knowledgeable staff. Their American Single Malt Whiskey is ever evolving. Having partnered with local wineries and breweries they offer many other options for non-traditionalists. The Brewers Batch Virginia-Highland Whiskey is made from 100% malted barley and combines both Old World and New World whiskey making. I recommend experiencing a whiskey tasting to understand what it takes to make this sophisticated beverage. To learn more about the distillery, whiskeys, tours and hours of operations, visit www.vadistillery.com.
After pairing a picnic lunch with a few quick stops to sightsee, we arrived in Charlottesville midafternoon. Our hotel was located just on the outskirts of the mall and after a quick respite we continued our adventure. We strolled through the pedestrian only, tree-lined brick paved streets taking in the sights. The historic Mall is lined with more than 120 shops, art galleries, movie theaters, music venues and a seasonal skating rink. The best thing about the Downtown Mall is that nearly all businesses are locally owned. Hot spots include the Saturday Farmer’s Market, Art Walk and free concert series.
For dinner we settled in at the Public Fish & Oyster bar on the west end. This east coast seafood restaurant delights in the freshness of its food and incredible raw oyster bar. Dependent on the season and availability, the oysters come from various locations along the east coast. Servers are knowledgeable and patient with their guests that may be either a novice or seafood veteran. The dining experience is upscale with limited seating so I recommend to either come early or call ahead for reservations.
The following morning, we left in search of the most important meal of the day…breakfast! After weighing several recommendations, we chose Moose’s by the Creek. Mostly known only to locals for breakfast and lunch, its unassuming exterior was only masking its true personality of satisfying patrons with its menu of southern comfort food. Being undecided on my order, the server recommended the most popular item (the “Main Moose) and a side of biscuits and gravy. Believe me, I was not disappointed! Simply put, authentic southern breakfast foods are often imitated and mass produced (like Cracker Barrel) but originality always lies within the heart and soul of the cook. After visiting each table, the owner introduced herself and spoiled our son; she was thrilled to have us and her sincerity was heartfelt. Before parting ways, we found ourselves giving her a hug in the packed dining room as if we were family!
Our next destination was nearby Monticello, home of President Thomas Jefferson. The remainder of our morning was spent walking off breakfast with a tour of the home and property. We finished our visit with the nearby Carter Mountain Orchards (another recommendation by locals) whose orchards can be seen from Monticello across the valley! You will find a large visitors center featuring arts and crafts from southern Virginia along with fresh apples (in season), local brews and fresh cider. From atop the observation deck overlooking Monticello, we enjoyed ice cream for lunch along with plans of our return visit.
Following our adventures, we arrived home early enough Sunday afternoon to mow the yard and prepare for the week ahead. As thoughts were shared over dinner of the weekend, we agreed it felt as if we squeezed three days into a quick two-day weekend and all felt renewed and excited. Discovering that by adding “mini-vacations” to our lives it broke up the stress and drudgery of the weekly routine along with providing more balance in our lives.
I hope you continue to join along as we discover the world both near and far and just how easy it can be to find your work-life solutions through planning, spontaneity and balance.