Ideas for vacation in Charlottesville and Asheville?
July 18, 2014 4:00 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are planning a vacation to Charlottesville, VA and Asheville, NC at the beginning of August. We plan to stay three nights in each city. We plan to do some hiking as well as city stuff. What are your favorite places in that area, and what would you recommend doing?
posted by sgo to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Humpback Rocks is a fairly easy hike about a 30-minute drive from Charlottesville. It's on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a lovely drive in and of itself (with plenty of places to pull over and look out over the Shenandoah Valley).

Plan to do the Downtown Mall, but probably not the Corner (it's dead when the kids aren't here). Explore the side streets off of the Downtown Mall, as well, there's plenty of little stores and restaurants that aren't "on" the Downtown Mall. Monticello is always interesting the first time. If you like architecture in the style of the Rotunda at UVA/Monticello, a brief tour of The Grounds is nice.

EDIT: There's a free trolley bus that runs between the UVA area and the Downtown area, so don't feel like you have to walk between the two! A 20-minute air-conditioned ride can be a thing of beauty.

Caveat: it can be somewhat hot/humid here in August. This week has been fairly pleasant due to the dip in temperatures across the midwest and eastern US, but it can be not-fun when it's 92 and near 85-90% humidity.
posted by kuanes at 4:57 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed checking out the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville. Go there and have a drink, wander around. F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed there.

Also, take a drive down Montford Ave. and check out the historical houses.

My friend took me to the dine-in movie theater, Asheville Brewing Co.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:51 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Monticello, even if you're not a Jefferson fan - lower down the hill is the Michie Tavern and its restaurant, which offers old-timey, groaning board Southern cooking. Also recommending Lexington, just over the mountain (it was one of the sites that the state considered for the University - Jefferson was the decider, though.) It is famous as the home of Washington & Lee and of VMI, two very different campuses, but also its gorgeous countryside and nearby Goshen Pass. You could see the town itself in less than a full day.
posted by mmiddle at 6:14 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you have accommodations planned yet, but the last time I was in Asheville we stayed at the Sweet Biscuit Inn and I can't recommend it highly enough. The owners are Germans who used to run an inn in France and moved here a few years ago to be near their son. They are really friendly and interesting people and the breakfasts were out of this world. Our room was the smallest one in the house and it was still wonderful, impeccably decorated and with a huge claw-foot tub.
posted by something something at 6:45 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Charlottesville: Go to Bodos and eat some of the best bagels ever.

Asheville: Go to Tupelo Honey Cafe and have a delightful meal.
posted by Flamingo at 6:45 AM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Again with the Bodos, Flamingo? Give it up. One good bagel place won't save Charlottesville. Its day is coming.

I have strong feelings about Charlottesville, but until I manage to secure the power to wipe it from the face of the earth, there is a pretty nice pedestrian shopping area downtown, with a lot of good restaurants and shops. I think it might be the "Downtown Mall" that Kuanes talks about. I can concur that it's a nice place to spend an evening. And for me with Charlottesville, that's saying something.

For hiking, you can drive out 64 West and get to the Parkway or the Skyline Drive. They meet at the gap through the Shenandoah that the highway passes through headed west. The hike to not miss while you're in the area is Old Rag.

If you don't have accommodations in Asheville locked down yet, consider the Sourwood Inn. Technically a B&B I guess, but it seems more like a tiny little hotel tucked way back into the woods on a mountain outside of town. Great place!
posted by Naberius at 7:42 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Crozet Pizza is a nice place to stop on your way back from Humpback Rocks. Great pizza and atmosphere.

Roan Mountain is a nice AT day-hike around an hour's drive from Asheville. The balds on top of the mountain are unique and give great views. (Also blueberries if you hit the right time window.) And it's a nice escape from August heat.
posted by joeyh at 7:44 AM on July 18, 2014

If you're going to be in Asheville and haven't visited the Biltmore Estate, do. It's a shining paragon of Gilded Age excess, and well worth doing the tour of the house and grounds. (Also, the Inn at Biltmore Estate, while terribly pricy to stay at, has a fantastic breakfast buffet.)
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:23 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personally, I think the Biltmore is an overpriced nightmare. But if you're big Downton Abbey fans, it's the closest thing you'll find on this continent. The NC Arboretum, on the other hand, has gardens designed by Olmstead and is right on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you can find lots of great hikes short and long.

If you like beer, there are lots of great local breweries: Asheville Pizza and Brewing has movies, as stated above. But many have live entertainment check out Highland, Hi-Wire, Wicked Weed ... there are too many to keep up with.
posted by rikschell at 9:23 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Dupont State Park has great waterfalls, including the one from the movie Last of the Mohicans, that are the shortest, easiest hike imaginable from where you park.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2014

Sounds like a fun trip! I agree with what people said above but here are a few more ideas. If you like history and architecture, there's Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and the more understated Poplar Forest. If you like nature and don't mind a bit of a drive, there's Natural Bridge. If you like wineries, there are so many in the area. I second Bodo's for bagels and recommend Splendora's for their delicious gelato. Mellow Mushroom has great pizza, salads, beer, and a fun atmosphere. Just walking around the UVa campus is worthwhile, too. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the area but I will mention that Charlottesville can be surprisingly sketchy at times so please stay aware at night and ask if you're unsure.

A caveat: I do like Cville but actually prefer some of the nearby cities and towns, such as little Staunton off of 81, the ever improving and hidden gem of Lynchburg, which is an hour south on 29, as well as neighboring Nelson County that is both rural and liberal. If you are a yoga buff, there's also Yogaville: visit the shrine and stay for a class but skip the bland lunch.
posted by smorgasbord at 12:10 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

bit of a drive, but a great day splashing about. if you're a little ambitious, hike to Jump Rock/Jump Mountain or Laurel Run first, then cool off in the Pass.
posted by j_curiouser at 2:10 PM on July 18, 2014

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