Fun Things to See and Do in Virginia

<p>Our family has decided to make a vacation around orientation this summer. We will be in VA for 9 days (4 nights in Charlottesville and 5 nights in Williamsburg). We fly into Richmond and land fairly early (noonish), so we thought we'd stop at St. John's Church and perhaps the Museum of the Confederacy before heading to Charlottesville later that afternoon. Naturally, 2 of the days in Charlottesville will be spent doing orientation activities. My husband and son (13) have never seen the university or town, so we really want to spend some time exploring Charlottesville. While there, we plan on visiting Monticello, eating at Michie's Tavern, and if time permits, seeing Ash Lawn Highland. We then plan on leaving Charlottesville and traveling to Williamsburg. Obviously we'll spend a half day (or longer) seeing Colonial Williamsburg. We will have a car while there, so we can make day trips. What would you suggest doing in and around Williamsburg? My daughter had suggested Virginia Beach and/or Busch Gardens. I was thinking Jamestown might be a fun morning activity. What do you think? Are there any MUST DO'S in Central/Eastern VA? (We've all seen the D.C. area and it's surrounding areas so northern VA is not an area we plan on visiting on this trip.) Also, what about restaurants? Any specific recommendations? I know I can consult Fodors or Frommers, but I tend to think advice from locals is most always more valuablel/accurate. Thanks!</p>

<p>there is a "natural bridge" that was pretty cool, also some caves that I think are south of c'ville if you like that sort of thing. in c'ville the best restaurants I've been to are the C&O, Raptures, Himalayan Fusion, and Zo.ca.lo, all are on the downtown mall and slightly pricey but great. If you can find it, a few blocks south east from the downtown mall is the Belmont area with a Tapas place and a restaurant called "The Local" that is good. if your going to be in C'ville on friday you can go to the "fridays after 5" on the downtown mall where there will be live music but beware allot of beer drinking and crowds. There is also a ice skating rink there if you want to try that.</p>

<p>The newly reopened art museum in Richmond is a must see. It's beautiful. If the weather is nice, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens is also fantastic.</p>

<p>If there is a Friday involved in the trip, you should try to be on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall for the evening. There is a free concert ever Friday at 5 PM at the concert pavilion and there are street performers, vendors, and lots of great people watching. </p>

<p>Keep in mind that there are two tours at UVa: admission tours and tourist tours. Monticello has multiple tours, too. If you can get tickets for the new, upstairs tour, grab them! I personally am not too impressed by Michie Tavern. I'd take the road up Carter Mountain just before the tavern to check out Carter's Mountain Orchard. This is probably the most popular spot for city people who want to pick their own produce and the bakery up there is amazing! The views are stunning.</p>

<p>Down by the Natural Bridge (an hour southwest of Cville), there is a safari and petting farm that is pretty cute. If you are city dwellers, you'd probably find feeding the animals from the car pretty amusing! I take my NYC family there and they have loved it. :)</p>

<p>Charlottesville is a restaurant hot spot. If you do a search of this forum, you'll find many, many recommendations! I personally do not recommend Rapture...it's just a bar with a kitchen. Great food: Hamilton's (eclectic), Ten (sushi), Miyako (sushi), Zocalo (eclectic), Petit Pois (casual French), Himalayan Fusion (Indian/Nepalese), Siips (panini, salads), Continental Divide (not on the mall, must go early or there will be a long line), Maya (not on the mall), Mas (the tapas place in Belmont).</p>

<p>Fast, casual lunches: Eppie's (on the mall), Feast (in the Main Street Market)</p>

<p>By the way, we have a number of food bloggers in town that might be of interest. Go to <a href="http://www.cvilleblogs.com%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.cvilleblogs.com&lt;/a> to check some of them out. Also search for the Charlottesville Dining website, where people post reviews.</p>

<p>Whoa!!! Thanks, y'all for the very helpful suggestions. Unfortunately, we won't be in Charlottesville on a Friday. We will, however, be there a couple of times this fall over the wkd so we'll definitely check out the downtown mall music scene. The orchard and bakery on a hill sound very charming -- we don't really have anything like that where we live so we'll go there for sure. The restaurant recommendations are very helpful as well. My daughter and I both love sushi; however, my son and husband don't. We might split up for lunch one day so we can try out one of the sushi places. Have y'all heard of a Mediterranian restaurant called Basil? My daughter loves Greek salads, hummus, k-bobs, etc. Is it good or is there another in town you prefer? Lastly, what does VA Beach have to offer? Is it worth the drive from Williamsburg to spend the day, or would you suggest we stray from our preliminary itinerary and do something different?</p>

<p>There are some plantations to tour around Williamsburg if you like that sort of thing. Brother-in-law lives outside Williamsburg (and has for 30+ years) and his family still goes to Va. Beach. We do love Busch Gardens. Do stop by the peanut shop in W-burg and try some samples. My personal favorite is the chocolate-covered variety, but they do not travel well (you will have to eat them quickly).</p>

<p>You might also want to try Bodos Bagels on the corner while you are in here in Charlottesville. My family regularly enjoys the bagels and bagel sandwiches:). As for VA Beach, we think it is worth it, even as a day trip. My son is attending a program at William and Mary this summer and we are planning a beach trip on at least one end of it. If you have the time Sandbridge is a gorgeous beach. We will often go there even though the drive is longer. Jamestown is also a great place to visit. I personally am not overly fond of Busch Gardens, but my kids (17, 15, 13) enjoy it.</p>

<p>You have gotten some great advise for C'ville,
In Williamsburge if you want to a break from the historical hit Busch Gardens. It's quite nice w/o having a Six Flags feeling. In Williamsburg make sure you go to Merchants Square. This is where the peanut shop is, as well as the candy shop, and the cheese shop. The cheese shop is great for lunch. There are many unique shops and boutiques. The Trellis restaurant is very nice for dinner.</p>

<p>Luray Caverns is very interesting. About an hour away.</p>

<p>With four days in C'ville, I'd recommend adding Duners to your restaurant list. It is a little west of campus in Ivy, on Rte. 250. Well worth the 10 minute drive. Some of the most interesting cooking in C'ville. Would also agree with Hamiltons and Maya. Some additional recommendations for a casual meal include the corner spots of Boylan Heights (gourment hamburgers) and Mellow Mushroom for pizza. These casual places have more of a campus vibe, and they might be more fun for your 13 year old. If you are up near Monticello and Carter's, and you would like a nice bottle of wine or two during your stay, stop by Monticello vineyards for a taste and some wine to go. </p>

<p>During orientation, be sure to stop by the UVa Parents Committee table and the UVa Families table for valuable information. A hard copy of the Parents' Handbook should be available. It is a very handy resource, especially for out-of-state families. </p>

<p>Williamsburg area -- I'd include Yorktown for the Revolutionary War history. Hit Pierce's Bar-B-Que, 447 East Rochambeau Drive (frontage road off I-64). If you want to do something fun for your younger one, consider staying at Great Wolf Lodge. Somewhat cheesey, but large, themed rooms with a large indoor water park. Right near Pierce's, relatively convenient to the historic area and near the outlet shopping, should that interest you.</p>

<p>Hope this is the first of many fun visits to Central and Eastern Virginia.</p>

<p>+1 for Trellis Restaurant. It's home of Death by Chocolate :)</p>

<p>FYI, Jamestown is not a "morning" thing, unless you just want to go and see the old fort and not much else. There is soo much to do there and I like Jtown over Wburg because it's less touristy, more open, and more "intellectual" (Wburg is a lot of "colonial this, colonial that...Jtown is more based on the history behind the first settlement, the struggles of early settlements, the spread of empires during the time, as well as the modern archeology progress being made) Wburg is fun but since you have two older sons, Jtown may be a better choice for the history visit down there. Wburg often has long lines and waits and is expensive. Also, stinky ole W&M is there, and seeming your son made the right choice and came to UVA, you can skip that ;)</p>

<p>Tip: make sure you buy sunscreen and bug repellent, ESPECIALLY if you go to Jtown. Do some Wiki-ing of Jtown, you'll realize mosquitos were one of their biggest disease problems, and not much has changed since good ole London Company owned VA's souls.</p>

<p>I second shoebox's account of Jamestown. It's just fascinating, and often in the summer there's ongoing archeological work.</p>

<p>James and Dolley Madison's estate, Montpelier, up in Orange County about 30 mins from Cville, is newly restored and very much worth seeing; a good counterpart to Monticello/Ash Lawn.</p>