Travel: Travel With a Passion: Charlottesville, VA
* What to do
Thomas Jefferson’s neoclassical home, Monticello, is as historically fascinating as it is architecturally significant: Its dome and columns, of course, are emblematic of Jefferson’s passion for design, but you’ll also learn the unfortunate stories of the 120 or so slaves who toiled on his 5,000-acre plantation (931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, 434-984-9822; monticello.org).
* Where to stay
The cushy Clifton Inn has 14 rooms outfitted with Italian linens and flat-screen TVs, and a modern-meets-antique design that includes large and fab new bathrooms; the Main House is lovely, and the private Livery Cottages have sitting rooms facing a lake on the estate’s 100 acres (1296 Clifton Inn Drive, 888-971-1800, cliftoninn.net; rooms from $255).
* Where to eat
Amid exposed brick, rough-hewn wood and candlelit tables, C&O delivers the best cheese plate in town (515 East Water Street, 434-971-7044; dinner for two, about $120 with wine). Oxo serves a French/New Age cuisine in an upscale warehouse-style building, with an Ella Fitzgerald and Chet Baker soundtrack (215 West Water Street, 434-977-8111; dinner for two, about $115 with wine). The Restaurant at Clifton (1296 Clifton Inn Drive; 888-971-1800) has a $65 five-star tasting menu of dishes like napoleon of braised rabbit and wild mushrooms; there’s a less expensive menu of bar snacks as well.
* What else to do
Stroll the Downtown Mall, especially on Fridays, when stores stay open late and there’s free live music in the newly renovated amphitheater. Don’t miss the fall crush at local wineries. Follow the self-guided Monticello Wine Trail, or let Arcady Vineyard Wine Tours lead you to the likes of Virginia’s best, King Family Vineyards. The University of Virginia has free tours of its sprawling campus.