Enjoy an allergy-friendly weekend in beautiful Central Virginia
If you’re looking for an idyllic autumn getaway, spend a weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. Home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville is ranked by leading magazines and travel publications as one of the top ten places to live in the country. This charming college town is a top place to visit, too.
Don’t be fooled by its cozy, small-town ambience. Charlottesville is bustling with intellectual offerings, a thriving arts scene and an abundance of historic sites to explore.
Take your trip during the fall months to enjoy the striking autumn foliage of Central Virginia with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a stunning backdrop. Bask in the beauty of picturesque foothills, meadows and valleys by hiking, apple picking, wine tasting and picnicking. Soak up Charlottesville’s significant history and culture by touring the restored homes of three U.S. presidents—Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. Get a taste of college life by touring the University of Virginia, attending a football game and cheering the Wahoos to victory.
These attractions, plus the fact that many Charlottesville restaurants happily accommodate special dietary needs, make this town a fun weekend destination.
Although Charlottesville isn’t a major city, it’s readily accessible by plane, train and bus. Several airlines, including Delta, United and U.S. Airways, fly directly into the Charlottesville airport, located just eight miles north of town. Alternatively, you can fly into Richmond, Virginia, or Washington, DC, (70 or 115 miles away, respectively), rent a car and drive the remainder of the trip. Charlottesville’s train station (amtrak.com, 434-296-4559) and bus station (greyhound.com, 434-295-5131) are conveniently located in the center of town on Main Street between UVA’s campus and the Downtown Mall. Check online for schedules.
Visitors have many lodging options when visiting Charlottesville. Whether you stay downtown, either near UVA’s campus or the historic Downtown Mall, or you choose a quiet retreat in the rolling Virginia countryside, there are choices for those with special dietary needs. (See Sleep In) Book your rooms early, as Charlottesville is a popular destination in the fall, particularly on home football game weekends.
Foxfield Inn (foxfield-inn.com3, 866-369-3536), an award-winning bed and breakfast, happily accommodates gluten-free customers and those with other dietary needs. The inn is located near the Foxfield Steeplechase horse track, site of the region’s popular springtime races. The innkeeper works hard to serve food-allergic diners meals and treats they can safely enjoy. Breakfast, provided each morning, ranges from fruit strata with gluten-free bread to country herb eggs with gluten-free breadcrumbs and homemade granola with gluten-free oats. Foxfield Inn offers five lovely bedrooms, a truly relaxing refuge in a park-like setting just seven miles from downtown. When booking your room, make sure to specify your food sensitivities. Rooms range from $175 to $280 per night.
UVA & Historic Downtown Mall
After breakfast at the Foxfield Inn, begin your Charlottesville adventure with a morning at Thomas Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia. Walk around the grounds of the school and the Academical Village, designed by Mr. Jefferson himself in 1819.
For an inside scoop on college life, take a free tour led by University students. Alternatively, history buffs can enjoy one of UVA’s free historic tours. These tours start at the main entrance of the Rotunda and occur five times a day, providing visitors with an understanding of Jefferson’s unique vision, architectural designs and educational philosophy. While on campus, check out the Rotunda at the north end of the lawn. The academic heart of the University, Jefferson designed the Rotunda to resemble the Pantheon.
Enjoy a wholesome lunch at Revolutionary Soup (revolutionarysoup.com, 434-296-SOUP, $), a Charlottesville favorite. This locally owned restaurant has locations at both the Downtown Mall and the Corner (directly across the street from campus), so stop at either, depending on where you are when hunger strikes. Revolutionary Soup uses fresh, local ingredients from organic and sustainable farms. Menu items are clearly labeled as gluten free, vegan and vegetarian. If you’re not in the mood for lamb curry soup or other unique offerings, try Rev Soup’s flavorful gluten-free tacos.
Spend the afternoon exploring Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall, a pedestrian mall with over 150 restaurants and shops. If your sweet tooth calls while you’re browsing, head to Tea Bazaar (teabazaar.com, 434-293-9947, $) for an afternoon snack with unique atmosphere. Indulge in a slice of gluten-free chocolate cake or flavorful Mozart Hazelnut Cake topped with buttercream frosting. Tea Bazaar also serves dairy-free and egg-free desserts. In addition, many lunch and dinner items are vegan and can be made gluten free. While you’re strolling the Downtown Mall, check out the works of local artists at bozArt Gallery (bozartgallery.com) and Second Street Gallery (secondstreetgallery.org).
Interested in a live show? The Downtown Mall is home to some of Central Virginia’s great entertainment venues, including The Paramount (theparamount.net), Charlottesville Pavilion (thenteloswirelesspavilion.com), and Live Arts (livearts.org). Check out their fall schedules to catch a concert or show while you’re in town.
For dinner, treat yourself to a delicious meal at Ivy Inn (ivyinnrestaurant.com, 434-977-1222, $$$$), an historic restaurant estate located just a mile from UVA. Chef and owner Angelo Vangelopoulos enthusiastically accommodates customers with special dietary needs. Ivy Inn’s locally inspired menu changes with the seasons. Specify your food sensitivities when making reservations.
Farmers’ Market & Football
Saturday is often game day in Charlottesville. Before the game, head downtown to experience Saturday morning’s City Market, the local farmers’ market on the Downtown Mall, which runs through December. Pick up some freshly picked fall produce to enjoy later.
Just a short walk from the market is The Baker’s Palette (bakerspalettte.com, 434-295-3009, $), a charming, locally owned bakery. Enjoy a gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin muffin. In fact, grab a few muffins to go—and don’t miss their gluten-free chocolate biscotti, cupcakes, brownies and cookies. If you’re planning to tailgate before the game, consider pre-ordering some of these goodies earlier in the week to enjoy before the game.
If there’s a home game, order tickets in advance at virginiasports.com and cheer on the Wahoos. For many, the fun starts in the stadium parking lot as football fans gather to tailgate. But UVA has other athletic teams to watch in the fall. If football doesn’t interest you, check out the University’s soccer or field hockey teams during your stay.
Spend your evening on The Corner, chowing down on Mellow Mushroom’s (mellowmushroom.com/charlottesville, 434-972-9366, $$) gluten-free pizza. Waiters are knowledgeable and eager to accommodate your needs. Some say the gluten-free crust is even better than the regular version!
Monticello & Apple Picking
If you decide to forgo breakfast at your B&B, consider visiting The Tavern (434-295-0404, $) for a morning meal. A Charlottesville tradition “where students, tourists, and townspeople meet,” The Tavern serves gluten-free pancakes—but be sure to inform them of your special dietary needs before ordering. The Tavern doesn’t take reservations so plan on waiting a bit or go early before the University students wake up hungry.
Then head south on Route 20 to Monticello (monticello.org, 434-984-9822), the 5,000-acre plantation and mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson. Tickets cost $22 for adults and $8 for children. The 30-minute house tour focuses on Monticello’s history and beautiful architecture. Mr. Jefferson’s furnishings, art and many original inventions remain part of the house. Wander around the historic gardens and well-manicured grounds. Set aside time for hiking the Saunders-Monticello Trail in Kemper Park and visiting Carter Overlook to soak up the view. The breathtaking vista is worth the effort.
For sustenance, you can either pack a cooler and picnic at Monticello or consider waiting to have a late lunch at The Flat (434-978-3528, $) on the Downtown Mall. This creperie stand offers delicious gluten-free buckwheat crepes (both sweet and savory), made to order. Be certain to tell them about your dietary needs so they can take proper precaution in preparing your meal. Try the chicken, spinach and tomato crepe for a filling lunch.
Just a few miles down Route 53 from Monticello, you’ll find Carter Mountain Orchard (cartermountainorchard.com) and fresh apples you can pick yourself. The orchard is open mid-April through November and weekends in December. In the fall, you’ll have a dozen apple varieties to pick from (literally). During warm-weather months, Carter Mountain Orchard has pick-your-own strawberries, cherries and peaches.
Enjoy dinner on The Corner at Lemon Grass (lemongrassuva.com, 434-244-THAI, $$). This restaurant, which blends Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, offers a gluten-free menu with a variety of meal choices and enticing flavor combinations, from curry to garlic to coconut. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available.
Hiking & Wine Tasting
Lace up your hiking boots, as the area surrounding Charlottesville offers some of the best trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains. For an outdoor excursion, pack a picnic lunch of safe foods. See Dine Out for stores where you can stock up.
Choose from a variety of trails appropriate for different levels of ability. For a short, yet steep, hike with a beautiful view, embark on Hump Back Trail, accessible by taking 250 West to the Blue Ridge Parkway and heading south. If you’re a little more ambitious, challenge yourself by climbing the 7-mile Ragged Mountain Trail, just south of Charlottesville.
After a morning of physical exertion, relax and explore the many beautiful vineyards surrounding Charlottesville. Over 20 wineries in the Monticello viticultural area fulfill Mr. Jefferson’s dream of a Virginia countryside covered with grapes. Visit any for a taste of Virginia wine.
King Family Vineyards (kingfamilyvineyards.com, 434-823-7800) allows outside food for picnicking so here’s a great place to unpack your lunch basket. (Here’s also where UVA’s polo team plays its matches.) Sample wines in the tasting room, buy a bottle to share and enjoy the beautiful grounds. Other wineries north of town (near King Family) include Glass House Winery, White Hall Vineyards, Stone Mountain Vineyards and Mountfair Vineyards. Check out the Monticello Wine Trail (monticellowinetrail.com) for more information about the many vineyards in the Charlottesville area.
Splurge on a fancy dinner at Duner’s (dunersrestaurant.com, 434-293-8352, $$$$) a local favorite, located five miles west of Charlottesville. This casual spot offers fine dining with a seasonal menu that highlights fresh, local ingredients. Duner’s doesn’t take reservations so plan on enjoying a drink while you wait. Duner’s extensive menu provides many choices and the chefs work hard to accommodate special dietary needs.
Travel writer Betsy Metcalf (glutenfreedomatlanta.com) has celiac disease and lives in Atlanta.