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Top 3 Charlottesville day trips for Saturday, Memorial Day Weekend 2014

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Get your Memorial Day Weekend going with these top 3 Charlottesville day trips. Take a country drive meandering down a 2-lane rural scenic by-way, southwest or northwest of Charlottesville and let the mountain glories found there rejuvenate your spirit. And then along the way, stop in and enjoy Virginia’s fine “local spirits”.

2014 Memorial Day Weekend celebrations are embracing beer, cider and wine, usually in a beautiful natural setting with live music performed by local artists. Whether beer, cider or wine is your pleasure, the Charlottesville area has got you covered, with a great big side of 360-degree mountain views, and pastoral scenes.

If libations are not on your list of favorite things to enjoy, no worries! There’s plenty of other ways to celebrate your Memorial Day weekend in and around Charlottesville. Grow your brain cells with a historic walking tour or take in an art show. Ride the Hatton Ferry in Scottsville or visit a local American castle. Pick strawberries or select other fresh produce at local farmers markets dispersed through the region. You can even attend a Mystery Dinner Theater, a local flea market or an antique car show.

But don’t dally! The spring weather is fine and the mountains are calling your name. Check out these top 3 Charlottesville day trip itineraries.

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Top pick Saturday Memorial Day Weekend 2014 activities southwest of Charlottesville
Top pick Saturday Memorial Day Weekend 2014 activities southwest of Charlottesville Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Top pick Saturday Memorial Day Weekend 2014 activities southwest of Charlottesville

Head out early on Saturday morning May 24, and experience the Hatton Ferry history in Scottsville. The hand pulled ferry runs April-October on Saturdays from 10:00a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and this piece of history is only $5 per person, or $10 per car load. Water levels of the James River impact the ferry’s ability to operate. Since this Winter and Spring have been so snowy and rainy, water levels are great this weekend, so why wait until tomorrow, or later, to do what you could do today? Scottsville is a short, meandering, beautiful drive down Route 20 from Charlottesville, and if you bring a good map, think of the adventures you might have meandering your way back to Charlottesville from the other side of the “rivah”. (There is a fully modern bridge back over the James River in Scottsville.)

After your historic Hatton Ferry experience, drop in on the Scottsville Farmers Market (9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) for fresh produce or a quick bite to eat before heading on over to Trump Winery for a touch of the rich and famous lifestyle. From 1:00-4:00 p.m., have a sip of Virginia, bask in the fresh rural air and warm sunshine, while experience a Virginia wine. Trump Winery, located at 3550 Blenheim Road in Charlottesville is open from 11 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (434.977.3895).

If all that hasn’t tired you out too much, or if you need one more something to do before you call it a day, take the short drive back down Route 20 to Charlottesville, and enjoy another kind of local spirit: The Maplewood Cemetery Tour. The cemetery walking tour starts at 3:00 p.m. at the entrance to the cemetery located on Maple Street at 8th Street NE, and will either focus on the Interred at Maplewood or the Iconography in Maplewood. Tickets ($5)  can be purchased online or at the start of the tour. Call 434.296.1462 for more information.

Night owl top road trip picks northwest of Charlottesville
Night owl top road trip picks northwest of Charlottesville Pamela Perkins Donnelly

Night owl top road trip picks northwest of Charlottesville

So you got a late start today. Be the night owl that you are. Try a Jeffersonian favorite: cider. Hit Interstate 64 for 20 minutes or so, get off at Route 250 in Crozet, and head west looking for Route 151 where you will turn left. Keep on 151 for a while and Bold Rock Cidery will be a small barn on your left. From 1:00-4:00 p.m., Gary Randal will be playing acoustic at Bold Rock Cidery in Nellysford. Tastings, tours, live music and cider “for here” and to go could make for a great holiday afternoon. Bold Rock Cidery is located at 1020 Rockfish Valley Highway (434.361.1030).

Needing something to do after Bold Rock Cidery tasting? The turn off for Wintergreen Resort is not that much further up 151, and the resort’s mountain location is perfect for Memorial Day Weekend celebrating. On Saturday drive up the mountain anytime 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. for a full day of activities: arts & crafts fair opens at 10 a.m. on the Blue Ridge Terrace; the Blues, Brews & BBQ festival kicks-off at 11:00 a.m.; and the kids can enjoy a Block Party from 1:00-4:00 p.m., while the adults listen to a full slate of music (Battle of the Bands). Wintergreen Resort is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at 39 Mountain Inn Loop in Wintergreen (434.325.2200).


For evening entertainment, post Wintergreen Resort merriment, there are two choices:  Devils Backbone Brewing or Wild Wolf Brewing Company. Both are located in proximity to Wintergreen, off Route 151, mere minutes apart. Both specialize in local micro-brews, offer mountain vistas, include outdoor patio seating and live musical performances.  

At 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, Devils Backbone Brewing partake of a local brew, the sunset, and dinner while listening to a live performance of Chase’s Lament. Devils Backbone is located at 200 Mosbys Run in Roseland (434.361.1001).

Or, drive a few more miles down the road, and you can enjoy The Tin Can Fish Band at Wild Wolf Brewing Company from 8:00-11:00 p.m., while having a late dinner and more local brews. Or just have the local brews and star gaze to the live music. Wild Wolf is located at 2461 Rockfish Valley Highway in Nellysford (434.361.0088).

Feel like staying a little closer to home and having a low key holiday while visiting an American castle?
Feel like staying a little closer to home and having a low key holiday while visiting an American castle? Pamela Perkins Donnelly

Feel like staying a little closer to home and having a low key holiday while visiting an American castle?

Not feeling a big to do holiday weekend? Stay a little closer to Charlottesville home-base by taking the short jaunt up Interstate 64 to the Afton Mountain exit. Get your back road by-way fix with the short trek down Route 6 to Afton Mountain Vineyards. The views are impressive, and the road winds down Afton Mountain in steep switchbacks. What’s at the end of the road, you say?

Afton After Hours at Afton Mountain Vineyards promises live music with Eli Cook, wine tastings, pizza from Blue Ridge Pizza Company and Southern Cajun from Delicious Dish food truck. Fantastic mountain views and a stellar sunset are probably on the agenda as well as the event starts at 6:00 p.m. and will run through 8:30 p.m., and the setting of the sun. Bring a picnic, lawn chair or blanket. Afton Mountain Vineyards is located at 234 Vineyard Lane in Afton (540-456-8667).

Also on Afton Mountain, on Saturday May 24, the general public has the rare opportunity to visit a local American Castle: Swannanoa. The grounds themselves, and the winding drive-way up to this old estate are beautiful, especially in springtime with the mountain views and cool breezes. Swannanoa is not in its hey-day glory shape, but the vestiges of the glory are still quite palpable. The palace and grounds will be open for public viewing (fee) from 11:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) at 497 Swannanoa Lane in Afton (540.942.5201). 

To get to Swannanoa is not that tricky, but might take few tries. On top of Afton there is an old visitor center and hotel. Driving directions will get your there, but you would have to get off the interstate, and stay on the top of the mountain to get to Swannanoa. And then to get to Afton Vineyards, you would come back down to the visitor, take a short 5 minute drive down Route 250 East, and turn right onto Route 6 to wind down the mountain to Afton Vineyards.