Having never visited Virginia before (driving through at night doesn’t count), I couldn’t wait to explore Charlottesville and see everything it had to offer. A hotbed of history, the city certainly has its fair share of historical sites and attractions. But I learned there is much more to see and do beyond these great highlights, and you definitely need a car to hit them all.
To my delight, I had the chance to drive a 2014 Kia Sorento SX (my dream car ever since I toured the West Point, Ga., plant a couple of years ago and saw these cars come together!) during this trip, and it was certainly up to the challenge. Given that I was traveling with a 7- and 3-year-old, I was thrilled to have the Kia with all of its family- and road trip-friendly features. Think a navigation system that proved invaluable in directing us to each new location, lots of power outlets (including a 115-volt outlet in the second row!), cup holders in the rear armrest that were at the perfect placement for kids in car seats, and lots of storage in the rear thanks to the fold-flat third-row seats.
Every morning we couldn’t wait to set out in the Kia to discover something new. Looking back, these are the top three sites I think every visitor to Charlottesville should see and experience.
1. The Presidential Homes
Although I was well-aware that Charlottesville was home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, I was pleasantly surprised to discover it also contained James Madison’s Montpelier and James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland. Every home is distinctly different, but each one is full of history and personality. I especially loved touring the homes with my 7-year-old, who just started studying the presidents in school. It was a great experience to discuss these presidents in their own homes and learn how they impacted our nation. I truly hope it left a lasting impression on my daughter. It certainly did for me.
2. Carter Mountain Orchard
As a resident of Gilmer County, the Apple Capital of Georgia, I am no stranger to apple orchards. My kids and I love to participate in the annual farm and orchard tours, picking strawberries and apples along the way. At Carter Mountain Orchard, though, we had the chance to do a new “U-pick” for us: picking peaches. (Most orchards in our neck of the woods do grow and sell peaches, but they do not offer “U-pick” for peaches.) My kids couldn’t wait to head up into the peach trees, but first we had a lesson on what to look for in a ripe peach (you want a yellow background regardless of how much red is on it) and then how to properly pick it (tug gently, then twist it off). Once we arrived at the peach trees, it didn’t take long to pick our fill of the tasty summer fruit. We spent the rest of our trip enjoying fresh peaches at breakfast and as a tasty snack.
3. Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall
This historic pedestrian shopping district features more than 120 stores and 30 restaurants (don’t leave without a stop at Cappelino’s Crazy Cakes for a mouthwatering cupcake!), and is wonderful for a relaxing day of shopping and fun. If you need a place to let the kids loose, head to the Virginia Discovery Museum at the east end of the mall. They will have a blast!
As I said before, Charlottesville has much to offer visitors, and these are just a few of my favorites. Discover how much more, and plan your own visit at www.visitcharlottesville.org.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.