Photograph by Jack Looney
GPS: 38°02'N 78°29'W
"Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation." So said resident Thomas Jefferson, and no wonder—he had the Blue Ridge Mountains out back. Today, University of Virginia grads follow his advice in the lush hills of Shenandoah National Park, while city planners protect urban forest and build new trails.
While most visitors to Charlottesville come to explore its great history, including Jefferson's iconic home, Monticello, or James Madison's Montpelier, residents know there's another side of the city to explore. Head just out of town to Shenandoah National Park for a day of hiking or biking. Locals love to get out and ride Skyline Drive, a two-lane, 105-mile (169-kilometer) thigh-buster with stunning views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Hikers should try a piece of the Appalachian Trail. A hundred and one miles (163 kilometers) of the trail run through the park, offering short routes to scenic waterfalls, and more lengthy loops deep into the forest. For the latter, spend an overnight at a halfway-point campground and trek back out the next morning (www.nps.gov/shen).
When Thomas Jefferson announced his hopes for Charlottesville’s future, he included a dream to one day see the area become a center of viticulture. Today, dozens of wineries and vineyards spot the Blue Ridge hillsides, and one in particular, the Barboursville Vineyard’s Palladio Restaurant, offers a fantastic chance to enjoy an upscale wine-paired meal with some of the most scenic views around (www.barboursvillewine.net).
Tucked into the picturesque hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Inn at Sugar Hollow Farm is as sweet as its name. Just down the road from Shenandoah National Park, the Inn is the perfect Blue Ridge adventurer’s getaway—just don’t be surprised if, on your morning walk, a concerned wild turkey or a skittish doe greets you (doubles from $150, www.sugarhollow.com).