In and around Hoo-ville: the Downtown Mall

Exploring U.Va.’s backyard

Our bags were packed, the PB&J sandwiches were in their baggies, the trails were selected and the gas tank was full.

And then the sky opened and Hurricane Matthew quite literally rained on our parade.

Staring longingly at the dark gray crowds, I knew our day couldn’t be ruined by a little water. We had to get out of the house and do something fun — it just had to be (mostly) indoors. Unfortunately, this town is famous for mountains and fall breezes and changing leaves, so a rainy day like this past Saturday really puts a damper on things. Then a friend offered a proposition — making sure to pack raincoats, umbrellas and rain boots, why not walk along the Downtown Mall?

You might be thinking what I thought upon hearing her suggestion. The Charlottesville Downtown Mall? How boring could you get? We go there all the time, as does every U.Va. student, and no one wants to read about an excursion that’s a five-minute drive from Grounds with traffic. But then I thought a little more deeply and considered the sense of magic I first felt on the pedestrian mall. Nearly everything is family or individually owned, there are dogs and babies and families and everything else I don’t see enough of here, and then there are the little lights strung up and down the walkway. How could you not fall in love?

Okay, on went the rain boots and raincoats.

The Downtown Mall is so accessible to U.Va. students that we decided to go places we’d never been before. That meant no Citizen Burger Bar, no The Nook and no Chaps. I’d patronized those restaurants enough times, and I had an article to write.

On our trip we made some stops:

  1. Daedalus Bookshop: This is a dual used and rare book store whose walls are overflowing with written gems.
  2. Shopping at the Impeccable Pig: Women’s clothing that’s really similar to the Corner boutique Finch! Ladies, there are great semi-formal dresses here if you’re in need.
  3. Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar: We came here for some really yummy, weather-appropriate tea before dinner. They also offer Hookah to anyone 18 or over, so if that’s something you’re into, it’s right on the Downtown Mall.
  4. Dinner at Bang!: We wandered a little bit off the mall to go to Bang!, a restaurant that serves Asian-inspired tapas, and for those of us 21 and over, incredible cocktails and martinis. It’s a little bit expensive but the huge, creative menu was totally worth it. There’s a beautiful outdoor patio, which is awesome for visiting family or date nights or just a night out with friends.
  5. Dessert at The Melting Pot (my favorite): I fully recognize that this is a national chain, but that doesn’t mean that dipping Oreo-covered marshmallows in a vat of warm chocolate isn’t the most satisfying experience known to mankind.

Full and broke, we left the mall feeling like our time and money were well-spent. The Downtown Mall is accessible for anyone at U.Va. because it’s just a few trolley stops away from the Corner. Parking can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare, but on a rainy night like this one, we didn’t have too much trouble.

When I think of where I want to work and live as an adult, I imagine a place like our downtown walkway with shops and restaurants and pop-up scarf stands. It is a place so conducive to community that you leave feeling like you’re a part of something special. For those of you who haven’t yet found the time, find the time.

Next week I’ll be hosting a very important visitor from my hometown, so I’ll be leading a special edition of a weekend full of fun and adventure. Sneak peak? Golden Retriever puppies, homemade apple pies and Shenandoah sunsets!

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