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  Daytrip index

Blue Ridge Parkway
Sherando Lake
Madison County
Natural Bridge
Nelson County
Orange County
Skyline Drive
Warm Springs

Daytrips to the Hinterlands
(in order of the time it takes to get there from Charlottesville)

Scottsville- 30 minutes south- When you're tubing down the James River, living really is easy. Let James River Runners (286-2338) or James River Reeling and Rafting (286-4386) arrange the trip. Try Lumpkins (286-3690) for home cooking and a great slice of pie. If you happen to visit on a Saturday or Sunday, you might catch the Scottsville Museum (286-2247) open. Open 10am-5pm Sat, 1-5pm Sun.
Scottsville Chamber of Commerce: 286-6000

Madison County- 30 minutes north- Historic Madison is ideal for strolling and antiquing. For a more outdoorsy visit, there's fishing, hiking, and camping in the Shenandoah National Park-- or climb up Old Rag Mountain. Check into Graves Mountain Lodge (540-923-4231) for some all-you-can-eat home cooking and horseback riding. The most typical shopping reasons for venturing up 29 north (and watch out for speed traps in Greene County): the Plow and Hearth Catalog Outlet (540-948-5412; open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat and 11am-5pm Sun) and Prince Michel Vineyards (800-800-WINE).
Madison County Chamber of Commerce: 540-948-4455

Orange County- 30 minutes northeast- Barboursville Vineyards (540-832-3824) make some of the best Virginia wine. Orange County has its own presidential estate: James Madison's Montpelier (540-672-2728), which just finished a restoriation to tear away the alterations of the previous owners, the DuPonts, and restore the landmark to the way James and Dolley knew it.
Orange County Chamber of Commerce: 540-672-5216

Waynesboro- 30 minutes west- In all honesty, Waynesboro doesn't offer the seasoned traveler quite the bounty of some of the other destinations in the area. But for affordable housing, it can't be beat. Housing costs about half what it costs in Charlottesville. The P. Buckley Moss Museum (800-343-8643) is world-famous. Visit 10am-5pm Mon-Sat or 12:30-5pm Sun. About five miles away in Fishersville is the André Viette Farm and Nursery (540-943-2315), offering a wide variety of plants. Speaking of landscaping, Waynesboro boasts one of the best city parks around. Ridgeview Park (Waynesboro Parks and Recreation: 540-942-6735) sits right on the South River, complete with ducks. It has a terrific play area, shaded picnic tables, and a huge public pool that features a nearly extinct part of the swimming experience: a high dive. On the way home, stop by the Tastee-Freeze for a visit to soft ice cream heaven.
Sidetrip: About 15  miles north lie the closest major caverns to Charlottesville: the Grand Caverns
(888-430-2283).  The site offers not merely cave tours, but also swimming, hiking, biking, picnicking, an annual haunted cave on Halloween, and a yearly bluegrass festival. 
Waynesboro Tourism Office: 540-942-6644

Skyline Drive- 30 minutes west- This is the "main street" of the Shenandoah National Park (540-999-3500), the 105-mile-long road that winds along the ridges. Cost is $10 Dec-Feb and $15 March-Nov per vehicle to experience these charms, but you can stay longer than a day. The park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Choose your degree of roughing it from camping to rustic cabins, lodge rooms or suites at Skyland (800-999-4714) or Big Meadows (800-999-4714).

Blue Ridge Parkway- 30 minutes west- This mountain-top paradise is too close and too beautiful not to take advantage of, and unlike Skyline Drive, it's free. A nice one-mile hike with killer views is to Humpback Rocks, where you'll find an authentic pioneer farm that shows just how hard it was for settlers to eke out an existence. Fiddling, quilting, basket-making and other crafts and arts are demonstrated at the farm on summer weekends. And up the road a few miles, Raven's Roost is perfect for rock climbing or picnicking.  For general parkway information, call 828-298-0398.

Staunton- Forty minutes west- Pronounced STAN-ton, it's an embarrassment of riches that begins with the architecture and doesn't end until you climb the highest hills and look out over this quaint antebellum city that escaped the ravages of the Civil War. Most fun is to arrive by train (problem: there's no train back, so plan to have a friend meet you there with a car), but if you go by car, you can take in more of the city's attractions, including Gypsy Hill Park(540-332-3945) with its dollar-a-ride Gypsy Express train (540-885-0513) and mammoth duck pond for kids, as well as tons of public athletic recreation facilities. On the edge of town, the Frontier Culture Museum (540-332-7850) demonstrates life on eight farms representing the Valley's original settlers, as well as Wright's Dairy-Rite (540-886-0435), an extremely kid-friendly diner that still has curb service. In the heart of town, there's soft-serve ice cream the locals swear by at Kline's (540-885-4664); the exact replica of England's Blackfriars Playhouse (540-851-1733), home of the American Shakespeare Center; Woodrow Wilson's birthplace (540-885-0897); and Mary Baldwin College (540-887-7019)-- as well as lots of galleries, restaurants, and inns. But it's also a real town with hardware stores and cheap diners. The Visulite theater has been restored to its original 1937 grandeur and shows art films as well as current favorites (540-885-9966).
Staunton-Augusta Travel Information Center: 540-332-3972

Nelson County- 40 minutes south- The Blue Ridge Parkway (
828-298-0398) runs through Nelson County, which also contains a chunk of the mammoth George Washington & Jefferson National Forests (540-265-5100 or 888-265-0019). One of the most popular area hikes is to Crabtree Falls, a 2.5-mile walk that rewards weary hikers with stunning Blue Ridge views (trust us, you'll want a frosty beverage when you reach the top). Classic TV fans from all over the country flock to the Walton's Mountain Museum (831-2000) in Schuyler, birthplace of Earl "John-Boy" Hamner. The other nifty thing in Schuyler is the Alberene Soapstone Company (434-831-1051), which once employed over 1,000 people to shape soapstone. Wintergreen Resort (325-2200) provides plenty of resort-type activities like skiing, snowboarding, and golf. The Wintergarden Spa (325-8185) is a daytrip in itself. The luxurious spa sports access to the indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, steam room, fitness center, and hot tubs overlooking the mountains. And if you're in the neighborhood of Nellysford, don't miss a barbecue or turkey croissant at Blue Ridge Pig (361-1170). For wine aficionados, there are at least nine vineyards and wineries, plus Blue Mountain Brewery (540-456-8020) for beer lovers!
Nelson County Convention & Visitors Bureau:

Sherando Lake- 40 minutes west- Part of George Washington National Forest, this 24-acre lake offers a sandy beach and the joys of swimming without a lifeguard tweeting his whistle for every potentially risky move. An island is a tempting target to swim to (and indeed, a man drowned attempting it in 2004). The lake allows boats (without gasoline engines) and fishing, is surrounded by trails, and offers 65 campsites. 
Glenwood and Pedlar Ranger District Office: 540-291-2188

Harrisonburg- An hour northwest- Home to the Virginia Quilt Museum (540-433-3818); open 10am-4pm Tues-Sat. On the way to this home-town metroburg, where horse-drawn buggies are still in style, stop by the Mennonite-run Dayton Farmers Market (540-879-3801), open Th-Sat, 9am-6pm, or the half-million books-strong Green Valley Bookfair (800-385-0099). Then, choose between the leprechaun-motifed Shenandoah Caverns (540-477-3115) and the cave with the longest tour, Endless Caverns (800-544-2283). Drive past the main campus of James Madison University (540-568-6211) and the Quad (much like The Lawn at UVA) into the heart of the city: Court Square. There you'll find shopping and dining as well as the fairly new Court Square Theater (540-433-9189), which hosts movies, plays, and music several nights a week. Next, take a jaunt to the New Market Battlefield State Park (866-515-1864) or to one of the most massive mountains in Virginia, Massanutten Resort (540-289-9441)-- which offers skiing, mountain-biking, golf, and a mass of other activities, services and ameneties.
Harrisonburg Tourism and Visitors Center: 540-432-8935

Lynchburg- One hour southwest- Clearly, this is a city that used to gleam. Besides such fabulous bits of urban artistry as Monument Terrace, we know of no city in Virginia-- with the possible exception of Richmond-- with so many Victorian mansions. Find a copy of the Historic Districts brochure, and check out a formerly industrial city that is just now beginning to be polished for tourists. After cruising through the scratchy neighborhoods, another eye-popping historic treat awaits if you drive out to the suburbs on Rivermont Avenue toward Randolph College (947-8000), formerly Randolph-Macon Woman's College. There, early 20th century houses are the equal of almost any neighborhood in America. Head back downtown to catch a show at the Academy of Music Theater (434-528-3256). Then check out Amazement Square (434-845-1888) an interactive children's museum that offers history, science, art and more in an old warehouse on the James. A huge climbing tower offers lots of fun in the center of the building. Also downtown is the Old City Cemetery (847-1465) which now also offers a medical museum, arboretum, and station house museum.
Sidetrip #1: On your way, you can check out one of the state's newest parks, James River State Park (434-933-4355).
Sidetrip #2: Can't get enough TJ back in Charlottesville? Just in the outskirts of Lynchburg, in Forest, is Jefferson's recently renovated octagonal summerhouse, Poplar Forest. 525-1806
Lynchburg Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau: 434-847-1811 or 1-800-732-5821

Lexington- One hour southwest- Home to many historical monuments and traditions. While trying to get its financial house in order, Theater at Lime Kiln (540-463-7088) this summer offers concerts by The Seldom Scene, Love's Labours Lost and A Playground for the Imagination. Bring a picnic. Those bastions of southern culture Washington and Lee University (540-458-8400), with its must-see Lee Chapel (540-458-8768) with its famous "recumbent Lee" statue, and Virginia Military Institute (540-464-7230), with its castle-like buildings, dominate the town with stunning architecture, history, and verdant green space. The VMI Museum (540-464-7334) has the stuffed horse (and final raincoat) of Gen. Stonewall Jackson. Before you head to Downtown's enticing array of shops, see a Nobel Peace Prize and other World-War II memorabilia at the George C. Marshall Museum (540-463-2083). For a fright, try Haunting Tales: Lexington's Ghost Tour (540-464-2250). And for a real bit of Americana, go to Hull's Drive-In (Movie Info Line: 540-463-2621) and see movies the way your ((great)grand)parents did.
Lexington and the Rockbridge Area Visitor Center: 540-463-3777

RichmondOne hour and ten minutes east- This is such a big and historic city that to try to pick out just a few attractions would not do it justice. There's a world-class park called Maymont (804-358-7166)-- a daytrip in itself, whether you go for its Italian, Japanese, or butterfly gardens, or the kids' trip: to the farm where you can pet goats, sheep, and rabbits and visit wildlife exhibits and a new nature center. Maybe you'll take in the 12,000-square-foot Gilded Age Maymont House. Heck, you may even want to get married there. Vestiges of the town's days as the Confederate capital are commemorated on Monument Avenue, where the brouhaha over Arthur Ashe's statue once embroiled the River City. With its opulent townhouses, sumptuously wide median, and monuments to heroes, it can't be beat for jaw-dropping beauty. And it isn't necessary to go to Washington to find good museums. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (804-340-1400) is far better than you'd expect to find in a city of Richmond's size. The city is home to the  Edgar Allan Poe Museum (804-648-5523), the Museum and White House of the Confederacy (804-649-1861), and the Science Museum of Virginia (804-864-1400). Carytown on Cary Street is a shopping mecca of funky shops and restaurants. For excellent Southeast Asian fare, try upscale French/Vietnamese at Indochine (804-355-3320) and the "best of"-rated Thai Diner & Cafe (804-353-9514). New rage: Can-Can Brasserie at 3120 W. Cary St. (804-358-PARIS). Two amazing historic neighborhoods stand out: The Fan District, with its array of eclectic shops and cafés, and Church Hill surrounding St. John's Church (804-648-5015), site of Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. Even the standard rich-folks suburb, Windsor Farms, has a couple of historic houses to tour: Virginia House (804-353-4251) and Agecroft Hall  (804-353-4241). Don't miss the Virginia State Capitol, designed by Charlottesville's favorite son and war-time governor, Thomas Jefferson. A hot attraction is the canal locks downtown, and they now have water taxis (804-649-2800). A typical shopping trip to Richmond for Charlottesvillians? Forty-five minutes to the Short Pump exit to the Short Pump Town Center featuring all kinds of swanky boutiques (804-360-1700). Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau: 888-RICHMOND

Farmville- One hour 15 minutes south- Once an authentic tobacco town, its old warehouses have found a new use as furniture and rug emporia, thanks to Green Front Furniture (392-5943), a discounter of fine household goods that seems to occupy about half the town's storefronts. (Important note for daytrippers: It's closed on Sundays.) Other major attractions include the dive-y Walker's Diner (392-4230) and two colleges, Longwood University (395-2000), a former teachers' school, and Hampden-Sydney College (223-6000), founded in 1776 and one of only three men-only schools left.
Sidetrip: About 30 minutes west is Appomattox Court House National Historic Park (352-8987x26), a village that looks much as it did on April 9, 1865, when U.S. Grant accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender there.
Farmville Chamber of Commerce: 392-3939

Fredericksburg- One hour 15 minutes northeast- Soon to be home to the United States National Slavery Museum (540-548-8818), this bastion of Virginia history includes a quaint downtown with a historic mansion you can tour called Kenmore (540-373-3381). Four major Civil War battles raged around the city, and you can visit the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville (site of Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson's death), Spotsylvania, and Wildnerness battlefields by going to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (540-373-6122). Outside, try some big boat cruises (804-453-2628) of the scenic Rappahannock River.
Fredericksburg Visitor Center: 540-373-1776

Natural Bridge- One hour 20 minutes southwest- Many roadside tourist dreams comes true thanks (originally, at least) to a natural wonder once owned by Charlottesville's own Mr. Jefferson. The 215-foot-tall limestone arch of Natural Bridge (800-533-1410) and the Wax and Toy Museums can be seen for $18-- or along with its own Caverns for $26. Outside the gates are other great bits of Americana like Virginia Safari Park (540-291-3205) and Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum which costs $9.95 for adults, $5.95 for kids ages 5-12 and includes admission to Dino Kingdom. If you get a kitsch overload, the old-school austerity of nearby Lexington and the place where the Maury River enters famous Goshen pass might provide some respite.

Luray- One hour 40 minutes northwest- Made famous nationally by the 1878 discovery of the Luray Caverns, this Page County burg is an easy daytrip for a couple or family. Kids will be thrilled by the Luray Zoo, (540-743-4113), a reptile and petting zoo that just happens to have one of the East Coast's biggest snake collections-- not to mention giant fiberglass dinosaurs for kitschy thrills. Then there's the big attraction, Luray Caverns (540-743-6551) where people pay $23 (kids pay $11) to walk around underground, trying to remember which are stalagmites and which are stalactites.
Sidetrip: About 20 minutes west over the mountain in New Market (540-740-3432), where 10 VMI cadets died in 1864 in a futile charge against invading Yankees, today you'll find
The New Market Battlefield Military Museum (866-515-1864), which claims it has the largest collection of antique military memorabilia on display anywhere.
Luray Visitor Information Center
: 540-743-3915 

Warm Springs
One hour 40 minutes southwest- Sure, Warm Springs is beautiful, but the real reason one takes the twisty drive to Bath County is to soak in the Jefferson Pools (540-839-7547), the only historic landmark that allows skinny dipping. The men's pool was built in 1761, the women's in 1836. Cost: $17 for one hour. Water temperature: a perfect 98 degrees. Grab an après-spa burger at the Springs Grill.

Roanoke- Two hours southwest- It's a bit of a hike from these parts, but more than train junkies know it's worth the drive for the O. Winston Link Museum (540-982-5465). If you're not into Link's night-time photographs of locomotives, you can feast your eyes on the real deal at Virginia Transportation Museum (540-342-5670) or perhaps drive to Mini Graceland (540-765-9559) at 605 Riverland near the iconic Mill Mountain Star (540-853-1133). Speaking of which, there's probably no zoo in America with such an interesting mountaintop location-- and such a little train for the kiddies-- as the Mill Mountain Zoo (540-343-3241). The Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau: 540-342-6025/800-635-5535







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