SPECIAL: Fit for a queen: HRH Elizabeth II decrees a great summer!

As you know by now, Queen Elizabeth II recently made the trip across the pond from Buckingham Palace to visit our fair Commonwealth. We tried to keep it a secret, but then she had to show up at the Jamestown 2007 celebration where every media outlet in the world converged and conspired to completely blow the surprise we had in store for Hook readers.

Yes, the real reason "Lilibet" came to Virginia was to experience all that Charlottesville has to offer this time of year and report on it for our annual summer guide. 

Oh, well. Now the royal cat's out of the velvet bag, we herewith publish her findings. Like the Beatles said, Her Majesty is a pretty nice girl, and she had quite a bit to say about all the wonders of summer in Charlottesville! 



Go tubing! The Thames is quite unsuitable for relaxation, so I delighted in floating lazily down the James. Take a romp down the river with James River Runners (286-2338) or James River Reeling and Rafting (286-4386) in Scottsville. Choose from a medley of personal watercraft, including inner tubes, kayaks, canoes, and rafts.

Take a hike!  Tie up your trainers and take a mile-long traipse to see breathtaking views from Humpback Rocks (540-377-2377), and enjoy arts and crafts demonstrations at the authentic pioneer farm along the Blue Ridge Parkway. My more sporty subjects will enjoy the strenuous hike to Virginia's largest waterfall, Crabtree Falls (540-377-2066), which also rewards hikers with stunning views of the Blue Ridge. 

Step on the gas! Skive-off some lovely afternoon on a free drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway (540-943-4716), or dish out some dosh ($10) to ride along the Skyline Drive (540-999-3500). Both wind alluringly along the spectacular crest of the Shendandoah Mountains, 30 minutes west.

Catch a fish! Rig up those rods and reels and venture to Walnut Creek Park, Sugar Hollow Reservoir, Beaver Creek Park (all at 296-5844, albemarle.org/parks), or that ace of a fishing hole, Lake Anna (lakeannaonline.com) for some summer angling whilst the biting's hot. Don your bathers and jump right in at any of those parks, or at Mint Springs Park (823-5889), Chris Greene Lake (973-3790), or any number of other county parks (albemarle.org/parks).

Up, up, and away! Steel yourself for a hot air balloon ride high over 'Hooville. Four separate operators are headquartered at the Boar's Head Inn: Blue Ridge Balloons (589-6213), Monticello Country Ballooning (996-9008), Bonaire Charters (286-7374), and Bear Balloon Corporation (971-1757).

Habitat's 2006 Building Blitz in Fifeville


Build a house! Your local Habitat for Humanity offers opportunities to volunteer your time and effort for many a worthy cause that also allows you to enjoy the beautiful weather. Warm your heart on the inside and your face on the outside! For more information about Habitat and other service organizations, log on to readthehook.com/discovercharlottesville.



You're never too young to know your history!


Soak up the sage! Only an old barmy would miss a tour of Mr. Jefferson's architectural masterpiece, the Rotunda and Academical Village (924-7969). On any given Saturday morn, satisfy your historical wanderlust on a Walking Tour of Downtown Charlottesville (296-1492). Take a mate to a mansion at James Madison's Montpelier (540-672-2728), James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland (293-9539), or that pinnacle  of presidential estates, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (984-9822). 

Another satisfied customer for Professor Cline!


Find a fright! I get so bored with all the stale formality of tedious touring! Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum is just the relief I need. This Natural Bridge-area fear-fest looks more like the set of a B-movie than a turn-of-the-century mansion– and proves the perfect tacky antidote to an overdose of Jeffersonian pomp. 540-291-2353.

Go underground! Who knew the Old Dominion has cathedrals to rival my own beloved St. Paul's? They're all underground, however. Visit the stately Grand Caverns (888-430-CAVE), hear the world's only "Stalacpipe Organ" at Luray Caverns (540-743-6551), and don't miss Endless Caverns (800-544-2283), an ancient romping ground of Wooly Mammoths.

The height of the Natural Bridge was enough to make my jaw drop when I saw this natural wonder in person.


Au Natural Bridge! Higher than Niagara, older than the Monarchy, this 215-foot-tall, 90-foot-wide limestone arch is a mystery of geology and the wonder of many an enraptured spectator. Natural Bridge (800-533-1410) also boasts its own Caverns, Wax, and Toy Museum, and a "genuine" inscription by George Washington. Added plus: It's for sale! I might even consider expanding my Holdings.

Starlight Express co-founder David New aboard one of the buses in his fleet.


Get starry! When you want some big city flavour and the carriage is clapped-out, hop aboard the Starlight Express to New York City, a luxury non-stop shuttle bus from Charlottesville to New York City. Trips to and from the Big Apple run just about every day this summer. 295-0782.



A Midsummer Night's Dream runs at Staunton's Blackfriars Playhouse until just short of midsummer (June 16).


See a play! Just as in my hometown of London, the theater appears to be alive and well here. Take in the plays of The Bard just over the Blue Ridge Mountains at the American Shakespeare Center at Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton (540-851-1733), listen to live English-language opera at the Ash Lawn Opera Festival (293-4500), more musical fare at Play On! (296-2238) and (my personal favourite) operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan at New Lyric Theatre (The Mikado this summer, 977-7478). Watch more modern fare from Four County Players (540-832-5355) or Live Arts (977-4177). Experience the theater outdoors at Lexington's Lime Kiln Theater (540-463-7088). A robust assortment of the dramatic arts, indeed!

Rock on at the Pavilion!


Fridays After 5! I had been under the impression that the only musician of note from your area was this Dave fellow, but the free live music at your Pavilion on Friday evenings is quite a lovely exhibition to see and hear. The weekly concert festival is well under way, and the schedule for this year's season can be found at charlottesvillepavilion.com.

Economize on your books! I do enjoy a good read on a lazy summer's eve, but pin money being in short supply these days, I'm watching my spending. Fortunately, I found this book fair in nearby Mt. Crawford– one hour's drive to the west– that sells new books at a discount on certain days of the year. The Green Valley Book Fair is open now through Monday, May 28, and then June 30-July 15 and August 18-September 3. 1-800-385-0099.

Drive-in! While I certainly do not condone the "necking" and other public displays of affection that I've heard occur at so-called "drive-in" cinemas, I delight in the novelty of watching a film under the stars on a warm night. There are two such places in this area: the Fork Union Drive-In (842-3624) in Fluvanna County and Hull's Drive-In (540-463-2621) near Lexington.

Culture lovers Jeff Saine and Terri Allard revel in the monthly art-fest that is First Fridays


Gallery hop! I've kept the United Kingdom's National Gallery free to the public as long as I've sat on the throne, so I'm happy to see that your local private galleries have all been kind enough to open their doors to the public each first Friday evening of the month. Three cheers for the visual arts!



Go explosive! We call it Wednesday, but July 4 seems to be a grand affair in your country for reasons I won't mention. As I understand it, the McIntire Park Fireworks display is your town's Big Bang, as it were. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket and– if you'd like to hear the Star Spangled Banner later in life– a pair of earplugs. 817-2393.

Savor immigration! The Monticello Naturalization Ceremony is one of the most heartwarming displays of patriotism beyond England's shores. Immigrants are sworn in as U.S. citizens in the shadow of one of your great Founding Fathers' homes. Past keynote speakers have included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, architect I.M. Pei, and large-scale artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. 984-9828.

Carnival in Crozet! Held in Claudius Crozet Park, this event packs the kinds of rides, games, live bands, and general small-town fun that's as American as driving on the wrong side of the road. It's put on by the town's volunteer fire department.

Parade through Scottsville!  The little river town puts on a big and brassy annual parade. Arts and crafts vendors, food, an antiques fair, a flea market, and live music keep the mood lively into the night, when it's time for fireworks.



Albemarle County Fair! I had a bit of trouble locating the site of this annual festival, for North Garden is neither in the northern part of Albemarle, nor a garden! For rural fun, nothing beats my own Balmoral Castle in Scotland, but it seems this year's merriment from July 31-August 5 could be a distant second.

Watch Barnstormers! Every Sunday, there's an old-time air show up in Beatlton at the Flying Circus. Like our dear RAF pilots, they'll keep the Red Baron at bay. And then on September 1, you can watch the Louisa County Air Show at Freeman Field for free! I might have to sack my royal pilot were he to try any of the death-defying stunts, but these pilots are professionals, and are sure to provide a rollicking thrill of a good time. flyingcircusairshow.com

Nurture a Nelsonian! With petting zoos, country cooking, a marketplace, and wine tasting for parents, the two-day Nelson County Summer Festival guarantees mirth and good cheer. This year's festival takes place June 23-24. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the gate, and are available at numerous locations in central Virginia or online at nelsoncountysummerfestival.com. 

Pole the James! Though you inexplicably borrow and then misspell the French word for boat, I ascertain that this James River Batteau Festival celebrating a river named after another English monarch to be quite the good show. This year's watery affair includes colonial subjects– er, re-enactors– dressing up as in days of yore. Mural painting and that sort-of sport of kings– pig racing– add to the fun.

Bounce with big trucks! While we British consider our Bentleys and Rolls Royces the finest automobiles in the world, some of you Americans seem to be fascinated by rather large– some might say monster– trucks. For those devotees, the three nights to watch these smoke-spewing behemoths turn old cars into bangers and mash are May 26 and July 27-28 at Fishersville's Augusta Expoland.

Watch the Dems! Like Britain, Charlottesville is a democracy, and like me, the Democrats reign above all. At the time of this report, five candidates were running for three seats on City Council. Come to the Democratic "mass meeting" in the County Office Building on June 2 at 1pm to do your civic duty and decide which you'll have no choice but to vote for in November. 



Her Royal Highness enjoys an ice cream cone on the mall.


Charlottesville City Market


Get your fill of tasty greens! Turn just any Saturday morning bimble into a fruitful affair at the City Market (970-3371), where you can stock up on all manner of home-baked, -made, and -grown goods. Feeling peckish on a Wednesday afternoon? Stop by Farmers in the Park for au natural fare in Meade Park. Pick your own apples at Carter Mountain Orchard (977-1833) or find strawberry fields forever, along with peaches, cherries, and nectarines, at Chiles Peach Orchard (823-1583). 



Sate your sweet tooth! On the Downtown Mall are two main options for cold sweet treats. At Chaps (977-4139), indulge in custom flavoured, gourmet ice-cream. Or, a lovers' summer stroll can be topped off in style with authentic Italian espresso, desserts, and gelato in 24-35 divine daily flavours at Splendora's (296-8555).  

Wet your whistle! Partake of the grape at one of nearly two dozen vineyards in the "Wine Capital of Virginia" (check out readthehook.com/discovercharlottesville/wine.html for more) For slightly more bourgeois beverages, pick out a pint at one of Charlottesville's two microbreweries, Starr Hill (823-5671) or South Street  (293-6550). If those don't please your palate, Queen City Brewing (540-213-8014) in Staunton will help you brew your own batch. It might not be Foster's, but it'll be good.


Afton Mountain Vineyards 540-456-8667

Autumn Hill Vineyards/Blue Ridge Winery 985-6100

Barboursville Vineyards 540-832-7572

Blenheim Vineyards 293-5366

Burnley Vineyards 540-832-2828

Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery 540-456-8400

Christensen Ridge 540-923-4800

Cooper Vineyards 

DelFosse Vineyards and Winery 263-6100

First Colony Winery 979-7105

Gabriele Rausse Winery 296-5328

Green Springs Winery at Gioiosa Vineyards 540-967-9463

Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery 361-1266

Horton Cellars Winery 540-832-7440

Jefferson Vineyards 977-3042

Keswick Vineyards 244-3341

King Family Vineyards 823-7800

Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard 977-3895

Mountain Cove Vineyards & Wine Garden 263-5392

Old House Vineyards 540-423-1032

Oakencroft Vineyard & Winery 296-4188

Prince Michel Vineyards 540-546-3707

Rockbridge Vineyard 1-888-511-9463

Stone Mountain Vineyards 990-9463

Veritas Winery 540-456-8000

White Hall Vineyards 823-8615

Wintergreen Vineyard & Winery 361-2519



The Queen at bat.


A Valley League of their own! Though I prefer sticky wickets to curve balls and the tea interval to the seventh-inning stretch, there is some exciting baseball to be seen just over the mountains. College players seeking to hone their skills for the pros come from all over to play for the likes of the Waynesboro Generals, the Front Royal Cardinals, and the Staunton Braves in this high-caliber summer league. The season begins June 1; a complete league schedule is available at valleyleaguebaseball.com.  

Watch polo ponies! In spite of what you've done to cricket, it's good to see Charlottesville hasn't mucked up this sport we stole from India. Each Friday at 5:30 from Memorial Day to Labor Day, polo in its purest form plays out at Forest Lodge Farm on Old Lynchburg Road. Bring $4 for admission and a picnic for tailgating! 977-7656.

See women run! Since I'm always under the wraps of royal garb and trailed by a security detail, most people don't know what pride I take in keeping myself in shape. I do like to get the royal blue blood pumping with a brisk jog, and were I here on September 2, I would most certainly take part in the Women's Four Miler, an annual competition and breast cancer fundraiser. For more info, ring the Ragged Mountain Running Shop at 293-3367.

Jump out of a plane! Sometimes my charmed life in Buckingham Palace can get a touch staid, so I've become quite the thrill-seeker over the course of my reign. That's why, upon arriving to your area, I was delighted to find two skydiving options nearby! Skydive Orange (877-DIVE-SKY) and Skydive Virginia (540-967-3997) will both gladly meet your hurtling-toward-earth-at-an-unfathomable-speed need.

Dig the dirt track! Ever since my days as a truck driver in the British Women's Auxiliary Service during World War II, I have had the utmost respect for those who know what they're doing behind the wheel of a fast automobile. In this region, it seems nobody goes faster than these weekend warriors at Eastside Speedway. A complete schedule of dirt track stock car and drag races is available at eastsidespeedway.com. Ring 540-942-1219 for more racing information.

Skate on ice! Not only is it vigorous exercise, but a few laps around the at the Charlottesville Ice Park at the east end of your Downtown Mall is the surest way I know of to get relief from your unbearable humidity. Public skating schedules are available at icepark.com and at 817-1423. 



Ride the tiny train! London's tubes may be faster, but never have I had such fun on the rails as I did aboard the Gypsy Express in Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park. One dollar for admission gets a seat on this Shenandoah Valley institution, which this summer celebrates 50 years of putting smiles on the faces of children of all ages. 540-885-0513.

Live like a pioneer! To those who hear the name Frontier Culture Museum and think it's nothing but damsels in period dress churning butter, I say poff-poff! This enclave of living history speaks to America's greatness as a nation of immigrants. The houses on site are not replicas but actual transplants from England, Ireland, Germany and elsewhere. Plenty of friendly animals for the children to pet, too. Hours and ticket prices can be found at frontiermuseum.org and 540-332-7850.

Earl Hamner


Join John-Boy! Nearly every time I've found myself in an American hotel looking for something to watch on the telly, I've come across at least one rerun of The Waltons. Now, after a brief jaunt to Nelson County, I see why it's such a popular program. A bygone era of both television and America lives on at this replica of the Walton house, across the street from where its creator, Earl Hamner Jr., spent his youth. Learn more at waltonmuseum.org or 831-2000.

Go to a yard sale! One's appreciation of history need not be limited to names and dates. Summer is the season for the time-honoured tradition of the yard sale, and there's many a bargain to be found picking through a complete stranger's personal history. 

Go sidesaddle! Usually, the only use I have for horses is to drive my carriage or to place a mild wager, but I went horseback riding in your Blue Ridge Mountains, and I must say that for experiencing nature in the open mountain air, sitting atop a sturdy steed cannot be topped. This being horse country, places to saddle up and ride are not hard to find, including Wintergreen (325-8260), Graves Mountain Lodge (540-923-4231), as well as Skyland, and Big Meadows (1-800-999-4714 for both). 


Special thanks to:

Boomie Pedersen


Live Arts


Ladies and gentlemen, the Queen.



This story is a part of the Summer Guide 2007 special.