This nine-day journey through Virginia takes you from the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the southwestern corner of the state, to the college town of Charlottesville and on to Richmond, the capital. Besides historic sites, stellar restaurants and cutting-edge museums, there are plenty of outdoor excursions to enjoy. Wine lovers may want to incorporate parts of our eight-day itinerary exploring the “Unexpected Wine Country of Virginia,” which starts in Richmond and highlights wineries in Ablemarle and Loudoun counties.
Read our editor’s trip full trip report from Virginia.
Fly into Charlotte, North Carolina, and drive just over two hours to the Meadows of Dan. (Note that certain other airports are a bit closer but may not offer direct flights.)
On the way there, you’ll drive through Mount Airy, North Carolina, the birthplace of Andy Griffith and the inspiration for his fictional Mayberry. It is home to the Andy Griffith Museum, which has the single largest collection of artifacts and memorabilia related to the town’s favorite son and his titular television show.
Arrive at the South Gate of Primland Resort and register with the guard. It’s another 15 minutes to the lodge, your home for the next three nights, located 3,000 feet above sea level on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Check in and orient yourself with the 72,000-square-foot main building, perhaps relaxing with a drink on the terrace overlooking the golf course. Have dinner at Elements, the fine-dining restaurant off the lobby-lounge.
Set on 12,000 acres, Primland has no shortage of activities. The best way to see the resort is to book a one- to two-hour RTV tour, said to have been the founder’s favorite thing to do on the property. If you want a quieter experience, sign up for a nature walk, horseback ride or mountain biking adventure. Golfers may prefer to take in the views by playing a round on the 18-hole Donald Steel-designed Highland Course.
This evening, have a casual dinner at the 19th Pub. Afterward, sit by the fire pit on the terrace and enjoy a drink until it’s time for your tour of deep space in the observatory. Your fascinating “Star Walk” will offer viewings of faraway galaxies through two state-of-the-art telescopes. Showings are daily at 9:30, 10:15 and 11 p.m. and weather dependent.
Enjoy breakfast at Elements, served 7 to 11 a.m. Those wanting to take the day to relax can enjoy the indoor pool and spa. Fly fisherman can spend a half or full day on the river with a guide (equipment rental is available), and there is a range of shooting sports on offer at different times of the year: wingshooting (September through April); turkey hunting (April through May); and European-style driven shoots and continental-style released-pheasant shoots (October to March). Note that these options are not listed on the Auberge Resorts website, so call the concierge to make arrangements.
Tonight, have dinner at Elements or get the shuttle to the country-themed Stables Saloon, where a down-home dinner is served family-style, drinks come in Mason jars and live bluegrass music is played.
Check out of Primland and drive three and a half hours to Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia and Monticello.
On the way there, music lovers might want to visit the small town of Floyd, a popular stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Home to musicians and artisans, an old-timey general store and galleries, it is usually buzzing with tourists. If you love bluegrass music, you’ll enjoy the Friday Night Jamboree performances at the Floyd Country Store and County Sales, home of the largest selection of bluegrass recordings in the world.
Continue on to Charlottesville, and check in to the newly refurbished Keswick Hall. Situated on 600 acres, this Tuscan-style retreat recently overhauled 38 of its guest lodgings in the hall itself. Next year, it will debut a new wing with 42 guest accommodations, along with a new spa and wellness center.
Have dinner at Marigold, Keswick Hall’s new restaurant from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Focusing on seasonal and local ingredients, many of which are grown on the property’s farm, it offers both indoor and outdoor seating, along with an attractive bar area.
After breakfast, take a day trip to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, a 15-minute drive from your hotel. Make the most of your visit by hiking the scenic Saunders-Monticello trail. At 2 miles long, it winds through deep ravines past views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center, where you can begin your tour, of which there are four to choose from (advanced reservations required). Besides seeing the home, gardens and grounds, be sure to go on the Slavery at Monticello Tour, which is an honest accounting of the enslaved people who lived and worked on the plantation.
If you have more time and want to see other landmark homes, there are two nearby: the neoclassical Montpelier (https://www.montpelier.org/), owned by James Madison, the architect of the Constitution; and Stratford Hall (https://www.stratfordhall.org/), home to four generations of the Lee family beginning in the 1730s.
This evening, get another taste of history by having dinner inside the home that was built for Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha. The romantic 1799 restaurant within The Clifton hotel is just a couple of miles away from Keswick Hall. Our favorite room is the Library, with its blue-and-green midcentury décor, designed by the Blackberry Design group.
Explore Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. In the past, we would have recommended taking an in-person tour of the university grounds, but those have been put on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19. You can, however, take a virtual tour (https://www.uvaguides.org/), hosted by UVA students.
After you acquaint yourself with the university, visit the eight-block-long pedestrian mall in downtown Charlottesville, stopping in quaint bookstores, cafés and galleries along the way. Our favorite stores are the New Dominion Bookshop, the oldest independent bookstore in all of Virginia, and O’Suzannah for Littles, a delightful children’s store with whimsical gifts. For lunch, we recommend Tilman’s Cheese and Wine, which has a lot more to offer than the name suggests, including a range of paninis and crostinis and an unusual wine list focusing on esoteric bottlings from around the world. Alternatively, watch passers-by and enjoy an outdoor dining experience on the patio of The Petit Pois bistro.
This evening have dinner at C&O Restaurant, a fine-dining French restaurant housed in a rustic former Chesapeake and Ohio Railway building downtown. The chef previously helmed the kitchens at both Keswick Hall and The Clifton.
Check out of your hotel this morning and head to Richmond, 75 miles away. Check in to the 181-room Jefferson Hotel, a member of the Historic Hotels of America (part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation). Located downtown, this 126-year-old grande dame is an integral part of the fabric of Richmond. Be sure to stop by the small museum in the rotunda to get a sense of the hotel’s vibrant past.
We found the capital of Virginia to be a delight, with so much to explore. Richmond is on the upswing, with a nationally recognized dining scene, historic homes and gardens, fascinating museums, and enough breweries, cider houses and distilleries to keep you sampling for days.
Begin your stay with a walk down Monument Avenue — now devoid of its Confederate statues — and take in the stately row houses of the Museum District. Tour the nearby Virginia Fine Arts Museum, which will be showcasing Ansel Adams: Compositions in Nature through January 2, 2022, and Man Ray: The Paris Years from October 30 to February 21, 2022. The museum has more than 5,000 works in its permanent collection representing all major world cultures. Make time to view the Decorative Arts After 1890 display, featuring art nouveau, art deco and arts-and-crafts objects; the 2,000-image-strong photography collection; and the rare books collection, with 3,600 volumes.
Richmond has been named the number-one craft-beer destination in the world. If you have time late this afternoon, hit the Richmond Beer Trail, or just visit Scott’s Addition, home to over a dozen businesses brewing beer, cider and mead.
Tonight, have dinner at Longoven, which Bon Appetit named one of the best new restaurants in America in 2018. The menu is a seasonal six-course affair that blends a New Nordic reverence for ingredients with a Japanese sensibility.
Begin your day with breakfast at The Jefferson Hotel’s Lemaire restaurant, for Southern-inflected cuisine.
Spend today exploring the city. Walk around Church Hill, the city’s oldest neighborhood, with its numerous parks and historic houses, or the Fan District, with a multitude of restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
Or consider the Richmond Garden Trail. There are 10 sites within 10 miles, but if you only have time for two, visit the 50-acre Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and stroll the many gardens on the 100-acre Maymont estate, which includes wildlife habitats, a nature center and the 12,000-square-foot Maymont Mansion, built in the late 1800s.
Tonight, have dinner at your hotel or The Stables, a neighborhood favorite set in a former carriage house in Richmond’s Museum District.
Check out of your hotel.
If your flight is in the afternoon, visit the small but inspiring Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. Celebrating the history and heritage of Black Americans in the state, it is located in the Jackson Ward neighborhood, which hosted a strong retail and business community until about the 1950s. (Note that the museum is only open Wednesday to Saturday.)
Make your way to the airport and fly home.