What do a historic hand poled ferry, a small town with big festivals, wineries, the home of the 5th president of the United States, and tubing have in common? Each are part of a one day itinerary featuring off the beaten path attractions in Charlottesville Virginia.
When most people think of visiting Charlottesville Virginia, they think of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the campus of the University of Virginia. While it is true that this southern town is home to both, it is also home to many other adventure attractions that make Charlottesville a perfect road trip destination for mid-Atlantic families.
One Day Itinerary for Charlottesville: Off the Beaten Path
To start the day, skip Monticello and make your way to Ash Lawn-Highland. While Thomas Jefferson made his home up the hill at Monticello, James Monroe, the fifth and forgotten president, made his home at Ash Lawn-Highland. His life and contributions can be explored through a historical tour through the 1880 building. Children that have studied the life and work of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison will learn that Monroe was the architect of the trio, believing in bringing people to the table. Monroe’s home reminds visitors of his vast travels and of his commitment to finding ways to make things work. Moms and children will appreciate the docents and tour guides that enjoy bringing Monroe to life with fun anecdotes and stories.
Next, drive to the town of Scottsville, on the bank of the James River. This town, which is home to many parades and festivals, is a perfect destination for families. During the Fourth of July weekend, the volunteer fire department sets off fireworks from the levy and hosts a parade with old-fashioned fire trucks along Main Street.
On weekends and special events between April and October, families can cross the river on the Hatton Ferry, the last hand poled ferry in the United States. Crossing the river on the ferry that runs along cables between the banks of the river, brings you back to the “olden” days of 1870, where this ferry was used by locals to get to a country store. Children (and adults) will love watching how the ferry moves across the river.
Assuming the family is hungry, make your way to the Tavern on the James for lunch. Tavern owner and Chef Spencer Marshall brings the experience of kitchens like the Inn at Little Washington and the Boar’s Head Inn to main street in Scottsville offering tavern tastes that are fit for foodies. From tuna bites to burgers, flat breads, and decadent desserts, this taste of the south will be one of the highlights of your day.
If you are a water loving family, rent a kayak or tube to spend some time floating down the river. This part of the river is an easy float for families and is the perfect way to spend two hours outdoors. There are two outfitters that can help organize your float trip: James River Reeling and Rafting and James River Runners.
With happy and fed children in tow, head back in the direction of Charlottesville with a stop at Blenheim Vineyard. This low key, relaxed winery offers delicious wine tastings while keeping the kids engaged in a children’s corner. Nothing about Blenheim is fussy, making it a perfect winery for families that want to experience a Charlottesville tradition while traveling with children.
If you are hungry for dinner, make your way to the Downtown Mall that is filled with restaurants for every taste. If you are looking for southern comfort food, grab a seat at The Whiskey Jar. You might get lucky and find a festival or live music to end your day. At the very least, treat the family to gelato at Splendora’s Gelato. After all, what could be better to end a day of adventure than with a taste of the dolce vita?
Disclosure: I was a guest of Visit Charlottesville during my trip. All opinions are my own.