With D.C. receiving barely a dusting of snow so far this winter, it might be time to head out in search of some of the powdery stuff. And since Massanutten Resort sits about an hour and a half north of Charlottesville and Wintergreen Resort can be found about an hour southwest, we think the perfect solution is to hit the slopes — then hit this mountainous town filled to the brim with great shopping, bucket-list historic sites and outstanding restaurants. Charlottesville is located about two hours west of D.C., making it the perfect après ski stop for Washingtonians.
Where to stay:
If you’re a city dweller, sometimes nothing beats the calm and peace of a remote spot surrounded by woods. We stayed at Clifton Inn this time of year a few seasons ago and loved taking a walk through the trees to peek at the lake, the snow-tipped leaves and the little details of a wintry forest that can only be seen when you take the time to look closely. The rooms in this historic structure are gorgeous and comfortable, so you’ll feel good and pampered after traipsing around outside in the cold.
Where to eat:
Charlottesville restaurants take full advantage of their proximity to local farms, so it’s easy to find chefs inspired by and using meats and produce grown and raised nearby. We recently checked out Mas Tapas, beloved by locals and travelers alike for its extensive roster of both mainstay and seasonal dishes. Favorites included the tortilla espanola, the bacon-wrapped dates, the boquerones and the chocolate and olive oil mousse sprinkled with sea salt for dessert.
Another great option for post-skiing rations include Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria, which serves wonderful pizzas and antipasti — including a better-than-average beet salad and tender meatballs — plus great zeppole and a wonderful play on chocolate pudding served with salted hazelnut brittle.
Timbercreek Market is perfect if you’re strapped for time and want to pick up provisions for the ride home. There’s a lunch counter where you can order a burger made with excellent local beef, a grilled cheese or a breakfast biscuit along with chips and snacks lining shelves in a pantry area. If you have time to linger, dinner is served from 6–9 PM Thursday through Saturday, when dishes like steak that you can pick from the case and a chicken liver mousse that inspired a cult following.
What to do:
Some might argue (and we stand firmly in this camp) that you can’t visit Charlottesville without a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Indeed, this is something every American should do at least once, and we’re so lucky to live so close to this pivotal part of our nation’s history. Visitors park near the welcome center, where you can purchase tickets, grab a quick bite, browse the killer gift shop and hop on a shuttle to the get to TJ’s manse. There, you’ll get a tour of the main house and learn about the man and how he lived, but you can also take the highly recommended Hemmings family tour to learn about the lives of slaves as filtered through what is known about Sally Hemmings, a house slave and Jefferson’s mistress. Resolve to return in summer to walk around his vegetable gardens and again in fall when the leaves on the Blue Ridge Mountains are gloriously vibrant.
If you don’t have time for a few hours at Monticello, you must take an hour or so to ramble along the Downtown Mall, an eight-block pedestrian area filled with shops, restaurants and diversions like art galleries, theaters, a children’s museum and an ice rink.
Wine buffs will want to spend any extra time in C-ville visiting its premier vineyard, Barboursville, which is known for making some of the best wines coming out of Virginia. The winery also boasts a restaurant and inn, if you’re looking for a one-stop shop.