Charlottesville, Virginia

Photo: The Clifton

You just returned home after a day of wine tastings. You followed the Monticello Wine Trail, whose 33 wineries combined to form the first AVA in Virginia. You sipped Viognier on the lawn of Jefferson Vineyards near the home of the United States’ third president. You visited the new tasting room at Gabriele Rausse Winery. Then you skipped the current president’s winery in favor of Dave Matthews’—yes, the musician—vineyard and walked away with a growler of his Claim House Red at Blenheim Vineyards. Now you’re thinking about sitting by the pool until it’s time to get ready for dinner.

Most of this is true. You did drink wine all day. You did fill a growler with the red blend. And you are changing into your bathing suit to go relax by the infinity pool. But this isn’t your house. You’re actually staying at the Clifton. The boutique hotel sits at the end of a stone driveway on 100 acres outside of Charlottesville. The white clapboard mansion has a columned front portico, green shutters, and matching rocking chairs. There are rolling lawns, a private lake, and wooded trails around the property. They all overlook the Blue Ridge Mountains. You just wish it were your house.

The Clifton was built in 1799 by Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, and her husband, who was once the Governor of Virginia. The property was created as a warehouse, turned into a home, and ultimately transformed into an inn. A restaurant, a bar, and a veranda were added during the most recent renovation. Amenities now include smart TVs, Tivoli Bluetooth speakers, and Nespresso machines. Many of the inn’s historic features—including antique furniture, slate floors, and clawfoot tubs—remain, though. The modern twists on the historic property make the Clifton an elegant and intimate place to stay. It’s, unsurprisingly, a popular spot for weddings, as well.

Photo: The Clifton

Charlottesville has been one of your favorite long-weekend destinations for years. The small city in Central Virginia is a college town; Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. It’s a historic city, which was home to two presidents (James Monroe was the second), full of grand buildings. Its Downtown Mall, one of the longest outdoor pedestrian malls in the country, is lined with restaurants, breweries, shops, and performance venues. While the surrounding area, known as horse and wine country, leads to scenic drives and a peaceful national park.

Cville has had a rough year, though. Last summer, riots erupted when plans were announced to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate States Army General, from Emancipation Park. Protestors included white supremacists. The rally quickly turned violent. An anti-racism activist and two state police officers were killed. The backlash was felt around the country. Then Charlottesville became a place to avoid rather than to enjoy.

This is your first time back to Charlottesville. The fate of the Confederate statues is still being debated. Memorials remain set up where the people lost their lives. Otherwise, the city feels much like it did before. So you choose to learn about its history and celebrate its progress instead of dismissing it. Charlottesville still feels like home.

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