Charlottesville is the cultural heart of Central Virginia.Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville’s residents often refer to the region as “Jefferson’s Virginia”.
While the Renaissance man’s architectural genius is reflected throughout the state, his hilltop home, Monticello, and the University of Virginia, which he founded at the age of 76, are gems in his architectural portfolio. It was at Monticello that Jefferson introduced European vinifera to America, and although his own vineyards were never successful, his legacy has flourished. The Monticello American Viticultural Area (AVA) produces some of the states’ best vintages.
Today, Charlottesville still reflects many of Jefferson’s passions from verdant vineyards and fine farm-to-table dining to education, art and music. Welcome at elegant country inns, boutique hotels, wineries, breweries and on Charlottesville’s downtown pedestrian mall, you and your four-legged friend can celebrate your independence in true Jeffersonian style.
Perfect for strolling, the downtown pedestrian mall is packed with specialty stores, galleries, restaurants, and coffeehouses in restored 19th-and-20th buildings. Think of it as a dog park with window shopping! You can find plenty of places with patio dining like local favorite Brasserie Saison. Grab a spot on their terrace to enjoy European cuisines and their special small batch beers.
Take in some history and architecture on a walk through the campus of the University of Virginia. . Explore the green, terraced Lawn surrounded by red brick buildings and walk by the Rotunda, Jefferson’s half-scale replica of Rome’s Pantheon.
If you want get out and about, visit Carter Mountain Orchard where you and your leashed pal can pick your own apples or peaches and take home a bushel of flavor.
Explore some of the excellent wineries along the Monticello Wine Trail. Most of the more than 30 wineries on the trail are pet friendly, but not all of them allow dogs in the tasting room so check their websites or call ahead for specific policies. One highly regarded winery that does allow pets in the tasting room—and also offers gorgeous outdoor spaces for you and your four-legged friend—is King Family Vineyards in nearby Crozet. Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is also beautiful and welcomes pets in their outdoor areas.
I have a couple of personal favorites when it comes to accommodations in the Charlottesville area. If money is no object, splurge on stay at The Clifton (formerly known as the Clifton Inn). With just 18 exquisitely appointed rooms and suites and refined amenities like plush robes and Malin+Goetz bath products, you wouldn’t expect the Inn to be pet friendly but it is. Pet friendly rooms are limited and there is an additional fee of $75 per stay, but it’s well worth it. And if you’re a foodie, the Inn’s restaurant is a destination in and of itself.
Also a bit outside of town is the 600-acre Boar’s Head Resort. Long a favorite for golfers, the resort offers access to several nature trails and even a couple of lakes if your pal enjoys a cooling dip.
By far the most off-the-beaten track—about a 30 minute drive from Charlottesville—is a stellar winery that turned its historic chestnut log cabin (once the original tasting room) into a pet friendly rental. A stay at Delfosse’s cabin is a unique experience: you can sit on the porch overlooking the vineyards and host your own private tasting!
For those urban canines who want to be in the thick of things, don’t despair. There are some great hotel choices in Charlottesville within walking distance of all that downtown has to offer.
Quirk Hotel is a hip boutique brand that offers a Posh Pups package and The Graduate Hotel —just steps from the Rotunda at UVA—gives a hearty collegiate welcome to your furry friend with a complimentary Bark Box perk!