1. Visit Carter Mountain Orchard
Offering breathtaking views of Charlottesville and only five-and-a-half miles from Grounds, Carter Mountain Orchard offers the perfect escape from day-to-day life on Grounds. As fall nears and autumn colors begin to appear, grab a group of friends and enjoy some homemade cider donuts, apple picking and maybe even a Bold Rock or two in this gorgeous outdoor space. I promise you won’t regret this experience.
2. Tour Monticello
Tour the home of the University’s founder Thomas Jefferson — the only U.S. presidential and private home in America recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. Get a look inside of Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece and tour the beautiful gardens and plantation that surround the mountaintop home. Educate yourself about the legacies of slavery and the stories of the enslaved men, women and children who lived and worked at Monticello during Jefferson’s lifetime. You can even venture out to the many trails that surround Monticello.
3. Float the Rivanna River
One morning, I woke up to find out that a few of my friends had left to float the Rivanna River — without me! Wow, did I regret sleeping in that day. Packed with a day full of wildlife, whitewater and natural beauty, my friends said it was truly an unforgettable experience. If you find yourself wanting to add an adventurous element to your weekend, consider floating down the Rivanna River. I can assure you — I certainly will not be missing the next trip.
4. Support local restaurants
As we all probably have come to learn, Charlottesville has incredible food to offer. There’s really no other way to put it. While we may be swayed to the Corner to enjoy a fresh sandwich from Take It Away or a juicy burger from The Virginian, our options are truly endless. As we try to find more ways to spend our time during COVID-19, consider branching out, expanding your palate and supporting local Charlottesville restaurants. Maybe even make it a mission to find the best biscuit in Charlottesville like Haden Cunningham, a good friend of mine and a third-year College student. I think we should all adopt this innovative mindset in order to capitalize on the experience of visiting local restaurants and to make it as exciting as possible.
5. Hike Humpback Rock
Over the summer, I found myself quarantining in Wintergreen, V.a. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, I knew there were endless excursions that awaited me. I got online, researched some hikes nearby and landed on one that I had heard so many University students rave about — Humpback Rock. It was that day that I lost my Humpback virginity. I packed a lunch, grabbed my backpack and enjoyed a day filled with beautiful views and unexpected surprises — even though, yes, I did almost step on a rattlesnake. Perfect for a sunny afternoon or an early morning sunrise and only 30 minutes from Grounds, Humpback Rock is truly one of the best hikes in Charlottesville.
6. Run along the Ragged Mountain Reservoir
Ann Dunn, founder of Formula Complete Fitness located off of Preston Avenue, says the three P’s to making your run great are place, people and purpose. Finding a scenic, comfortable place to run will enhance your experience and put your mind at ease. Surrounded by lofty mountains and beautiful terrain, Charlottesville offers a variety of places to explore, one of them being Ragged Mountain Reservoir. With nearly seven miles of trails and a 980-acre forest, Ragged Mountain is a perfect place to adventure to for your next run.
7. Explore Shenandoah National Park
If you're looking to escape for the weekend or even just for a day, taking a trip to Shenandoah National Park provides the perfect opportunity for an outdoor excursion. The park lies in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has over 500 miles of trails, 101 of those miles being part of the Appalachian trails. Along the trails, you will find waterfalls, canyons, a variety of wildlife and striking landscapes. This location is great for hiking, running, walking and even camping.
8. Take up a new hobby
Now is a great time to explore new hobbies, try new things and get creative. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or not, there are plenty of activities to explore in Charlottesville. Have you ever been fly fishing? GT, a trout fishery just minutes from the Downtown Mall, offers instructor-guided fishing for all experience levels. Have you ever tried painting? Wine & Dine is the perfect place to unwind, explore painting and have some fun with friends.
9. Spend an afternoon at Lambeth, Mad Bowl or the Amphitheater
While this idea may seem ordinary to many of you who pass by these locations on Grounds everyday, taking advantage of these great open areas can prove to be much more enjoyable than you think. The other day, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to pick up some lunch, head to Mad Bowl and spend the afternoon sitting and relaxing in the sun. I thought, “Why not? It’s something I’ve never done and it sounds better than sitting in a sorority house for the rest of the afternoon.” With places such as these that are so easily accessible to us, it only makes sense to take advantage of them.
10. Play a sport
During these times, it’s normal to be feeling sluggish or confined to an inside space such as your dorm room or apartment. However, the many spaces to play sports on Grounds provide a great opportunity to get outside, get active and enjoy the company of friends. Head over to the tennis courts and beach volleyball courts behind Memorial Gymnasium or to the lacrosse and soccer fields near Culbreth Theatre. Break a sweat and relish in a friendly competition.