2018 marked seven years of marriage for the mister and me. Seven has always been J’s favorite number. It was his baseball number, and has crept it’s way into our marriage from the jump. (11-12-11 [1+1+1+2+1+1 = 7] is our wedding date) We thought a mini vacay to celebrate all the blessings the last year has brought us was was in store! Since we’re trying to conceive, it’s really hard to plan any major trips too far in advance, so we decided a drive-able getaway to somewhere where we could enjoy lots of fall beauty was the perfect way to wrap another year of marriage! Charlottesville, Virginia is about 6 hours (with a lunch stop) from Greenville, SC and it’s full of history! We’ve had it on our list for a while, and (spoiler alert) we didn’t just check it off this year, we are making plans to go back! That town and it’s people, y’all! You just have to experience it for yourself!
Once we decided on Charlottesville, it was time to figure out where to stay. Trip Advisor has been my go-to travel secret since college. I love that it’s user-driven. The photos aren’t just stock images from hotels showing their best side, they’re real-life iPhone shots from the people who are staying there. So, off to my trusty TA I went and found myself feeling a little disappointed. None of the hotels blew my skirt up (and let’s be real, if it’s an anniversary weekend EVERYTHING needs to be skirt-blowing quality), but then the heavens opened and the angels sang as I saw the words: Oakhurst Inn. Y’all. Before I link to their page so you can swoon for yourself, we just need to take a moment to visualize. Imagine Stars Hollow and the Dragonfly Inn from your favorite episode of Gilmore Girls. Imagine the cutest little green two-story Tudor style cottage. On the cutest little cul-de-sac street. With the cutest little living rooms with cozy gas logs burning. The Oakhurst Inn is what dreams are made of.
Can I make a confession? I’m not a bed & breakfast girl. They make me feel like I’m staying in someone’s grandmother’s house. They definitely don’t pass the skirt-blowing test. But there is something quaint and sweet about bed & breakfasts, and the Oakhurst Inn marries hotel quality and privacy with bed & breakfast charm. It’s truly the best of both worlds. Since J and I’d never been to Charlottesville I was worried about choosing somewhere that would be close to everything downtown had to offer, so I called the Visitor’s Center to inquire about the Inn’s location before booking. Fritz was incredibly helpful, assuring me that The Oakhurst Inn was a fantastic choice for our anniversary weekend! He even encouraged me to pop by the Visitor’s Center when we got to town so that they could help us plan out the rest of our trip! I hung up, and immediately booked one of the Oakhurst Inn’s king rooms.
We arrived around 4pm and went straight to the Inn. We met Lucas at the desk and were instantly impressed! He was so kind and welcoming! He shared recommendations of where we should eat while we were in town and suggested that we change from the king room to a queen suite since it was our anniversary weekend. Y’all this man is a saint. The suite had a bedroom, living room, and bathroom. Talk about space! J could watch tv in the living room while I got ready without us feeling like we were crawling all over each other. It was glorious!
Lucas came out to the car, helped us unload our bags, and helped us carry them up to our room. One of the nicest perks of the Oakhurst Inn, was the complimentary valet parking! Yes, that’s right. Lucas dropped us and our bags off in our room, took our keys and parked our car for us! The street the Inn is on is all residential parking, making the complimentary valet a luxury you didn’t know you needed.
We changed and headed out to the “downtown mall.” It was about a two mile walk from the Inn, and luckily it wasn’t freezing (yet) so we were able to take in the sights on our walk! We walked right past campus (the Inn is directly across the street from UVA), through the mid-town area to the mall. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, because everyone just said “the mall,” but it was cute! It’s a pedestrian mall so the streets are cobblestone with trees down the center and (quite possibly the best part) no cars driving past. The “street” is lined with stores, music venues, restaurants, outdoor communal dining, theaters, and bars. At the end is an amphitheater and the Visitor’s Center. We barely made it before they closed, but Carla was so kind to stay and help us plan our weekend. We discussed places to eat, visiting Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home), the “Charlottesville Ale Trail,” and the wineries, distilleries, and breweries along the Monticello Wine Trail. We quickly realized we couldn’t do it all this trip, so we decided to spend the evening bouncing around the mall for drinks, appetizers, and dinner since we were already down there and plan out the following day when we returned to our room later that night.
Our first stop after the Visitor’s Center was Brasserie Saison. It is one of the breweries on the Ale Trail, and was such a cool spot! It had this rustic casual chic vibe – original wood floors, white walls, dining chairs that could be straight out of an old farmhouse, ashy blonde wood accents, and modern gold, white, and black lighting.
We sat at the bar and had the best time chatting with the bartender, Jeremy! He hooked us up with some delicious local beers and recommended the most divine appetizer: Beef Bitterballen. Oh.My.Heavens. These little fried balls of shredded beef and horseradish dipping sauce were incredible! We got the check here and popped in Citizen Burger across the mall to put our name on the list for dinner.
From Citizen Burger we walked to South Street Brewery. It’s not technically on the downtown mall (it’s two streets back), but it was a quick walk and we had plenty of time to get there, have a drink and get back when we got the text saying our table was ready. South Street Brewery was the second stop we made on the “Charlottesville Ale Trail” (we didn’t visit them all this trip). The atmosphere here is fun! Super laid back; the kind of place you’d expect to walk in and run into everyone you know. Think of your favorite spot at home to catch your team playing on Saturday or the place you and your circle pop into on Thursdays to unwind. South Street Brewery is that place. It’s exactly what you’d think of when you think of a brewery/restaurant/bar. There was a fireplace in the center with couches and coffee tables around it that added a lot of personality. What a great spot to thaw out or cuddle up on date night!
Our server was Telia and she was AMAZING! She offered lots of great suggestions on things to do and places to eat while we were in town – she actually took time to write out a list for us! We ordered the Full Flight which was all 12 beers they had on tap. They’re all South Street Brewery’s custom brews and they were so good! My favorite was “Slippery When Wet,” their wit/gose hybrid. I’m not usually a gose fan, but love a good wit, and this one did not disappoint! Light but packed with flavor, yes please! J is all about a good IPA, so the “DIPA” was right up his alley! Just watch out – that baby’s got a high ABV count!
After finishing our flight, we got a text from Citizen Burger saying our table was ready. Jared found this spot on a “places to eat in Charlottesville before you die” list, ha. Everything is locally sourced and the beef is grass-fed. We love a good burger so we were pretty excited to try it out. The place was still packed out even when we got back, which we took as a good sign! It’s a long galley-style layout with the bar down the left wall, small two-top tables down the middle and booths down the right wall. There’s not much room to move around and it’s incredibly loud. We felt like we were yelling the whole meal. I’d definitely recommend requesting a booth over sitting in the middle of the restaurant, it may even be more quiet on that side too since you’re farther from the bar and more enclosed. I ordered what our waitress dubbed “The Southern Steakhouse.” It was a blend of two of their most popular burgers: The Southern and The Steakhouse. Basically, I ordered The Steakhouse and subbed pimento cheese for the cheddar it came with and added lettuce. Jared ordered “Citizen Burger,” because fried pickles, duh. Real talk: this meal was nothing to write home about. It was a basic ale-house burger that we felt like we could get at several places in Greenville. When we travel we like to have GREAT food and do that by eating where the locals eat. Jared said his meter for the weekend was “Would I drive 5.5 hours to eat/see/do this again?” The verdict for Citizen Burger was that we wouldn’t. It wasn’t on any of the recommendation lists we got from the locals we asked, either, which I feel like is a good barometer to use when deciding where to eat in a new city. It’s ok, though, because it was the only “ehh, ok” meal all weekend!
From Citizen Burger we walked around the corner to The Alley Light. THIS is where we should have eaten dinner! Literally every.single.local recommended we stop in there while were were in town. It’s a Speakeasy, and seriously the coolest place! There’s no signage outside, so you have to ask a local how to get there or put it in your favorite navigation app. The only visual cue is a light outside the door, how authentic right?! When you go in, you go up the stairs and are greeted by the sweetest hostess. Inside is small. Not uncomfortably small, just cozy and quaint. It feels larger than it is, though, because the walls are lined in mirrors. The interior design nerd in me notices (and appreciates) touches like that 😉 Pro tip: make a reservation. We didn’t have one because we were just coming in for drinks, so we sat at the bar, but apparently even those seats can be hard to come by. Our cocktails were fabulous. We ordered from the menu: Mary Lou Mule for me and an Old Fashioned for the mister. They have a “dealers choice” option where you can tell the bartender things you like and they’ll whip up a custom cocktail for you. Such a cool feature and a great way to try out something you wouldn’t normally order! The food here is French-inspired shared plates, and I am just heartbroken that we didn’t eat here. The couple next to us at the bar ordered several dishes and I had to practice some serious restraint to not stare! Before we left, Jared made friends with the owner, Chris. He was the nicest guy! We told him we were going out for “date night” the next night (The Alley Light was closed so it wasn’t an option) and he was so kind to recommend the spot he and his wife were planning to go to! This spot is 100% on the “when we return” list! I can’t wait to taste their award-winning food and experience the vibe from a table!
From The Alley Light we called it a night and caught an Uber back to the Inn. Where we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Oakhurst Inn provides turn-down service!
There were soft-baked gingerbread cookies and fresh water in a carafe on the nightstand and a bottle of local sparkling wine on the desk in the den! We promptly put on our “comfies,” broke open the bubbly, and curled up on the couch with a glass of it and a gingerbread cookie. I ordered our tickets for our Monticello tour the next day. What a perfect end to the start of our trip!
We slept a little later than we’d planned, and raced to get ready and head out for breakfast. Right behind the Inn is the Oakhurst Inn Cafe. Everyone raved about their breakfast so we knew we wanted to start our day there. A quick walk out the front door, down the sidewalk past the second building, and down this pretty little path, and you’re at the Cafe.
We’d missed breakfast by 5 minutes, but they serve breakfast sandwiches and pastries during the 30-minute window between breakfast and lunch, so we grabbed a table. Jared ordered their dark roast coffee and I ordered a Chai Tea Latte. Both were fabulous! When I tell you this was the best breakfast sandwich and blueberry muffin I’d ever had, just know there is ZERO exaggeration. From the gooey, stringy cheddar to the soft baked, buttered bun to the thick-cut bacon this sandwich alone would be reason enough for me drive the 5.5 hours back to Charlottesville. And the muffin? Oh my. It comes cut in half, buttered, toasted, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I’m not sure there’s ever been a more delicious start to a day!
From the Cafe we headed off to Monticello. You know, that gorgeous Neoclassical style house that’s on the back of the nickel? Yep. That one. It was Thomas Jefferson’s home, and it’s only about 15 minutes from downtown Charlottesville. It was by far one of the highlights of the trip! Jared and I both said we’d 100% go back and tour it again (and we don’t feel that way about most of the historical sites we’ve visited). There’s no photography allowed inside the house, but let me just tell you, our tour guide was PHENOMENAL! David was his name and he did a fantastic job engaging the group. It wasn’t like other historical tours where the guide just recites facts throughout the visit, this tour was full of trivia and little anecdotes about Jefferson the man. 10 out of 10 recommend this needs to be on your Charlottesville bucket list!
As we were leaving Monticello the rain came in so we scrubbed our plan of spending the afternoon visiting wineries and breweries. We did pop in Jefferson Vineyards (right up the road from Monticello) for a quick wine tasting, and ended up bringing a few bottles home with us! This spot would be absolutely perfect for a picnic on a spring or fall day! It overlooks rolling hills and has plenty of outdoor space where you could throw out a blanket and sip their deliciously crisp Rosé.
From Jefferson Vineyards we headed back down the mountain and made a pit stop in Carter Mountain Orchard. I don’t think there was a single list that this place wasn’t on when we were planning our trip! From Instagram to blog articles to local recommendations once we arrived, everyone said, “You have to go to Carter Mountain Orchard!” Boy, are we glad we did! This was THE spot we’d drive 6 hours to visit. You pull in on this long winding road and eventually see a barn at the end. Would you just look at the view under the barn?!
Twinkle lights are my love language, so I knew I was among friends the moment we walked up. We picked up some hot, fresh baked apple cider doughnuts and headed around the corner to see if the rumors were true. What rumors are those, you ask? Oh that there’s a Bold Rock Cider tasting room on the property. Around the back of the building and down in what would be equivalent to a walk-out basement in a house is in fact a hard cider hideaway.
We camped out here eating our doughnuts tasting a flight of ciders for a WHILE.
The view from the tasting room is stunning. It’s honestly too bad it was rainy and foggy, because it overlooks what has got to be some gorgeous mountain views. J and I have decided we’re taking a trip in the spring or summer so we can just spend a day hanging out here listening to live music. This was our place! We headed back up top and grabbed another box of doughnuts to take to the staff at the Inn as a “thank you” for how wonderful they’d been to us all weekend.
Vivi and the girls at the Inn were like kids in a candy store when we showed up with fresh Carter Mountain Orchard doughnuts! It was so cute! They thought it was hilarious that we were packing so much into our quick trip and were amazed when we told them how much we’d seen/done since we arrived the day before. We dropped the keys to the car with the girls and called an Uber. On our walk to the pedestrian mall yesterday we’d seen a sign for “Public,” a fish & oyster bar on the “Virginia Oyster Trail.” My heart skipped a beat when I read these words the day before, and J suggested we go by there for a little Happy Hour fun. This is why I love that man, I tell ya. He knows all the things I love and finds ways to make time for all of them. We sampled a dozen oysters from Virginia to the Cape and then ordered a half dozen more before heading back to the Inn to change for dinner.
Our dinner spot came very highly recommended. From Chris, the owner at Alley Light, to every single member of the front desk staff at the Inn we were told we just HAD to go to Tavola for our “date night” dinner. They’re a rustic Italian spot in the Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville. We took an Uber there and were seated at a sweet table in this little nook with a window to the street. Our server was Arthur and I cannot begin to say enough good things about him! He helped us pick wines that paired with our appetizer and a second round that paired with our entrees. I had the pappardelle bolognese (a beef and pork sauce over homemade pasta) and J had the bistecca alla griglia (grilled hangar steak). Both were phenomenal!
We ordered the lemon dessert featured on their board that night, but Arthur told us it had just sold out. As we decided on our second choice sweet treat, he returned to tell us they had “found” an extra in the back. After some pressing, we found out that it was HIS dessert he had set aside because they don’t make that one very often and only had it that night because of a private party. Was that not the sweetest gesture ever?! And don’t worry, his good deed didn’t go unpunished: one of the sweet kitchen staffers found Arthur a piece to take home too! We told him our meter for the weekend was, “Would we drive 5.5 hours to eat/see/do this again?” and that Tavola was a resounding “YES!” He was flattered, and we truly hope when we do return Arthur will be there!
We took an Uber back to the Inn and sulked over the fact that this was our last night in our new favorite town!
We got up earlier this morning and made it to the cafe in time for breakfast. I had another Chai Tea Latte and J had the dark roast again. He ordered the Huevos Rancheros and I the Eggs Meurette (poached eggs over crostini with asparagus and a burgundy wine sauce). Both were delicious, but I have to say the breakfast sandwich and muffin from the day before had the edge 😉 You know if we visited the same spot twice in 48 hours that it had to be wonderful, and the Oakhurst Inn Cafe WAS! Such a perfect end to our perfect anniversary get-away!
Back up to the room to pack we went. The trip was officially over and we were officially sad to see it end!
It’s no exaggeration when I say Charlottesville stole our hearts in a quick 48 hours! While there, J started looking at Clemson’s football and baseball schedules for the coming years to see if we could get back for a sporting event soon, ha! We can’t wait to come back in the spring to see the town in bloom! Next time, we’ll focus more on the the wine trail while revisiting a few of our favorite Cville spots (here’s looking at you Oakhurst Inn and Tavola). To everyone we met who made our anniversary weekend one to remember, thank you! We are so grateful for your hospitality and cannot wait to visit again soon!
Have you been to Charlottesville? Planning a trip soon? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!