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Quilter's Road Trip

The Shenandoah Valley—the subject of our second edition of Quilter’s Roadtrip—offers gorgeous scenery virtually any time of year. But a drive through the Valley during the changing colors of autumn make this special trip truly spectacular.

Bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains and to the west by the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, this geographic and cultural region spans a large swatch of western Virginia and into a smaller area of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

But for the purposes of our road trip, we’re starting in Charlottesville, Virginia, winding our way through the Shenandoah National Park, and ending in Harrisonburg, home to the Virginia Quilt Museum.

Stop one: Bluegrass Breakfast

Regularly rated as one of—if not the—best place for breakfast in Charlottesville, Bluegrass Grill and Bakery is a comfy and eclectic café serving breakfast, lunch, and homemade breads and pastries. Although it often has a wait at peak hours, the restaurant opens early at 7:00 a.m.

Stop two: Monticello

Located a short drive outside of Charlottesville is Monticello plantation, which served as the primary residence of Thomas Jefferson. Designed, built, and rebuilt by Jefferson over the course of 40 years, Monticello is an architectural masterpiece and a true piece of American history.

Its beautiful grounds include the property’s main house (the Jefferson residence), Mulberry Row (former slave quarters), and acres of historic flower, vegetable, and fruit gardens. Visitors can begin their visit at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center before exploring the grounds.

The estate can also be accessed via the Saunders-Monticello Trail, which stretches two miles alongside Route 53 into Monticello’s Visitor Center. The gentle-grade trail is open to pedestrians and cyclists. At the base of the trail, Kemper Park features an arboretum, scenic overlook, and two-acre pond.

Stop three: Charlottesville Downtown Mall

After a day touring Monticello’s grounds, you’re likely to need a rest, a little food, and, possibly, a drink or two. And Charlottesville’s downtown pedestrian mall—one of the longest in the U.S.—offers all three.

Spanning eight blocks of tree-lined, brick-paved streets, the Downtown Mall is home to more than 120 shops and 30 restaurants housed in renovated historic buildings. The area also includes a number of art galleries, the newly renovated Paramount Theater, and the historic Jefferson Theater.

Note: There are plenty of accommodation options in the Charlottesville area, including hotels and bed and breakfasts. Visit the Charlottesville Visitors site for a complete list.

Stop one: Gateway to Shenandoah

Located less than five miles from Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive (and entrance to the park), the city of Waynesboro provides the perfect base to explore the Shenandoah Valley.

Grab breakfast and gas up the car in Waynesboro, then head three miles east to the park’s Rockfish Gap Entrance Station to access the beginning of Skyline Drive.

Stop two: Skyline Drive

This isn’t technically a “stop,” but rather a three-plus-hour scenic drive through the breathtaking Shenandoah National Park.

Within its namesake valley, the park covers close to 200,000 acres of protected land and stretches for 105 miles along Skyline Drive (the park’s most popular feature) from near Front Royal in the northeast to near Waynesboro in the southwest.

Over two million people a year traverse Skyline Drive, a designated National Scenic Byway. But the drive proves particularly popular during the autumn when the trees of the surrounding national park begin changing colors.

As the road winds along the mountaintops of the Blue Ridge Mountains, visitors can stop at any of nearly 75 overlooks located throughout the drive. And because of the twists and curves of the road—and the fact that its shared with bicycles, pedestrians, and occasional wildlife—the speed limit is a leisurely 35 miles per hour.

The park itself offers countless hiking trails and outdoor activities, as well as campgrounds and unique in-park lodging. But our road trip is going to continue through the park, out at Front Royal, and toward Harrisonburg via I-66 and I-81.

Final stop: Virginia Quilt Museum

Located in the small city of Harrisonburg, the Virginia Quilt Museum was established in 1995 with the mission of preserving, celebrating, and nurturing Virginia’s quilting heritage. The Museum offers tours, special events, and rotating exhibits of antique and contemporary quilts, and is housed in a Civil-War-period house.

The Museum’s permanent Civil War Gallery collection features quilts made by the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of men who left home to fight
in the war, while they stayed home to serve with their needlework. The gallery
also includes photographs, garments, and other memorabilia.

Note: The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday each week, and closed Sunday and Monday.

© 2015. A publication of Quintessential Quilt Media. No portion may be reproduced without the expressed written consent of Quilts, Inc.