Welcome to our Appomattox Road Trip series! There’s so much to see right here in Virginia, I can’t wait to jump in the car and get going. Our next trip will be to Charlottesville, then Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania.
No matter what northern route you take, you will find that once you’re out of Appomattox County, you will see wineries, breweries and distilleries popping up all over the place. So…whatever your poison, you are bound to find something to your taste on the way to Charlottesville.
There is a lot to see and enjoy, from the downtown mall to the University of Virginia. For this trip, we just have time for the three presidential residences in the immediate area.
James Monroe’s Ashlawn-Highland is just south of the city. As rich as Virginia’s history is, this site gives us an opportunity to see it still being discovered. As recently as 2017, archeological excavations were still taking place and growing in scale as researchers literally dove deeper into the ground in an effort to learn more about the structures and the people who lived here. Monroe was a senator, foreign minister, secretary of state and minister of war in addition to being our fifth president, the last of the Virginian dynasty. He held a huge role in the development of our young nation and was able to look forward to the coming westward expansion. The more that is discovered in the ground at his home, the more we could possibly learn about Monroe himself; it’s exciting to see history in action!
If being part of a live dig interests you, check out details about the upcoming Archeology Expedition at James Madison’s Montpelier. In addition to the last home of our fourth president and most famous first lady, you can tour gardens, outbuildings and enjoy eight miles of hiking trails. As the Father of the Constitution and Architect of the Bill of Rights, Madison wielded considerable influence in the formation of our early government. At the same time, his wife Dolley brought a gentility to the White House heretofore unseen. She is remembered for putting her graceful stamp on the role of decorator and hostess in the most important halls of politics.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, or “little mountain”, is a beautiful property, situated on hundreds of acres, allowing for lots of outdoor activities, even seven miles of pet-friendly hiking trails. Our third president was well-known for his collection of artifacts and innovation with food, wine and fashion. He was also the founder of the nearby University of Virginia, “the project of his autumn years”. He was a visionary in many ways, but especially in his plans for a universal system of education. Check out some of his thoughts here.
Don’t miss dining at the historic Michie Tavern while you’re in town!
The Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park is the second largest military park in the world, home to four horribly bloody battles over the course of 18 months of the Civil War. Maps and brochures are available in two visitor centers to help you navigate the driving tours and multiple trails.
Right across the Rappahannock River, you’ll find more historical sites to explore: the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop, the Rising Sun Tavern and the Kenmore Plantation & Gardens, as well as museums dedicated to Fredericksburg and James Monroe.
One of my favorite things is when history comes together with something else I enjoy…and if you didn’t get your fill of spirits on the way to Charlottesville, now is your chance to check out the oldest distillery in Virginia A. Smith Bowman. Offering free tours and tastings, you can check “the world’s best bourbon” off your list and try some specialty whiskeys as well as yummy cocktails.
Well, that’s it for us for this trip. We can’t wait to pile into the car and see you again next time!