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A Memorable Multi-Generational Road Trip to Charlottesville, Virginia

A Memorable Multi-Generational Road Trip to Charlottesville, Virginia

During a multi-generational road trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, my mother, aunt, and I embarked on a journey to explore the Presidential homes, Charlottesville’s downtown area, and even spent a night in a yurt. It was an exciting adventure as it was the first time my mom and her sister had traveled together in over 40 years.

The trip became more challenging because my mom needed assistance with a walker or wheelchair throughout the entire duration. Adjusting to the slower pace of older individuals was a new experience for me.


Nevertheless, we immensely enjoyed discovering Charlottesville’s rich history and culture, including touring the homes of the Founding Fathers. We captured beautiful photos, absorbed a wealth of presidential trivia, and formed memories that will endure a lifetime. Here’s our remarkable journey.


A Foreword About Traveling With Aging Family

In this article, I’ll share my travel experience in Charlottesville, including the challenges we faced in finding accessible attractions and restaurants for people with disabilities. It was a unique journey for me as I took on the responsibility of assisting my mother with her mobility aids. It was also a significant milestone for her, as she finally had the health to embark on a short trip.

My goal is not to portray these historical attractions as unvisitable but to shed light on the difficulties disabled individuals may encounter when visiting them.

Touring the Historic Mall

Upon arriving for our road trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, my mother, Aunt Melody, and I explored the bustling Downtown Mall. With its eight-block pedestrian-only expanse, this vibrant area offers an array of shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities.

As we made our way down from the street to the mall, my mom, relying on a walker, faced some difficulty due to the downhill slope.


Eager to capture the charm of the historic mall, we promptly started taking snapshots of the blooming planters, delightful coffee shops, and eye-catching decorations. Street musicians provided acoustic melodies and folksy renditions of famous rock and roll tunes throughout our leisurely stroll.

We decided to quench our thirst at a local coffee and tea shop. While I opted for a refreshing Lavender Italian Soda, my mother and aunt enjoyed iced tea and coffee. Engaging in a spot of window shopping for antiques and jewelry, we came across several establishments offering unique gifts and souvenirs.

The area is home to over 150 stores, restaurants, and even the Ting Pavilion, which hosts captivating outdoor musical events.


After walking about four blocks, my mother found it impossible to take another step. Consequently, I promptly returned to the parking garage to retrieve the car. To make it as convenient as possible, I picked them up as close to the street as possible. They were utterly exhausted!

Sleeping in a Yurt

After an hour at the mall, my mom, Melody, and I decided to check into our hotel early for a quick rest. The hotel in Gordonsville, about 45 minutes away, was Bluegreen’s Shenandoah Crossing. Check-in was fast, and the property was stunning.


Shenandoah Crossing offers accommodations, including hotel-style rooms, yurts, and an RV park. Additionally, the resort boasts amenities such as a general store, playgrounds, swimming pools, jacuzzis, and more.

Our yurt, a charming circular space similar to a giant teepee, was remarkably upscale. It featured a combined living room, kitchen, and dining area that was both functional and stylish. The yurt had two bedrooms, one with a queen bed and another with a king bed. The spacious bathroom had a large tile shower with a bench.


The yurt was elegantly furnished, with fine fabrics and linens and a fully equipped kitchen. Stepping outside, we found a deck with a sitting area, outdoor grill, dining table, chairs, and what seemed to be a wet bar. Behind the yurt was a serene woodland setting, perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee or observing the local birdlife, including a pesky woodpecker.


A Fantastic Fondue Dinner at Melting Pot

We went to the Melting Pot for dinner. My mom and I love this fondue restaurant, but it was my aunt’s first time. Due to construction, I dropped my mom and aunt off and parked at the closest garage. We had two four-course dinners, with cheese fondue (Classic Alpine for us), salad, entree (choice of meats), and chocolate fondue. 

Our server was fantastic, and we thoroughly enjoyed each course. My aunt called it “awesome,” and we laughed over great conversation while indulging in meats, veggies, and melted chocolate.


Lunch at Michie Tavern

The next day, we headed to the iconic Michie Tavern for lunch. With several shops and buildings around, it took a lot of work to locate the restaurant. Thankfully, a friendly individual at the property’s edge directed us to the handicapped ramp. However, the steep incline made it a challenging walk for my mom, who was exhausted upon reaching the top.


Inside the circa 1784 property, we chose a table near the buffet to minimize my mom’s steps. During the dining experience, the buffet offered a glimpse into 18th-century period foods. The Southern fried chicken lived up to its reputation; my mom agreed it was delightful.

The lunch buffet included baked chicken, hickory-smoked pork barbecue, sweet and tasty cole slaw, green beans, beets, mashed potatoes, gravy, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, and my personal favorite, stewed tomatoes.


We all savored the balanced and not overly sweet, warm Peach Cobbler à la mode for dessert. The attentive staff members at Michie Tavern were consistently kind and helpful. Visitors can also enjoy guided tours of the remaining portions of the main building, formerly an inn.

Michie Tavern is open seven days a week. Lunch at 1784 Pub is served from 11:30 AM to 3 PM; a pub menu is available Thursday through Saturday between the hours of 3:30 to 7:00 PM. Visit the Tap Room to enjoy the roaring fireplace. Lunch is $24.95 for adults (all-you-can-eat) or $11.95 for vegetarians/vegans.


A Visit to Monticello, Take One

Our road trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, started by visiting Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate. As one of the most famous Presidential attractions in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it holds great historical significance. I parked the car after dropping off my mom and aunt at the visitor’s center. 

Despite it being just after noon, the parking lot was already full. I then made a ten-minute uphill walk before reaching the entrance. We joined the queue to purchase tour tickets, but unfortunately, the earliest available tour wasn’t until 4:15 PM. We decided to watch the 20-minute movie before ultimately deciding to leave since we had several hours to spare.

Pro Tip: Arrive at Monticello as early as possible for a good parking spot and an early tour.

There are several types of tickets at Monticello. The most popular are available daily: Highlights and Behind the Scenes tours. From Slavery to Freedom Tour is more in-depth, and private guided tours are also an option. Seasonal tours include holiday evenings, family-friendly, and plantation archaeology walking tours.


James Monroe’s Highland

The Charlottesville Neighborhood Pass offers discounted adult admissions to Monticello, Highland, and the Michie Tavern ca. 1784 tour tickets. I recommend purchasing them online. On our visit, my mom, aunt, and I drove to James Monroe’s Highland, as Monroe was the 5th US President and one of Jefferson’s closest friends.


We were fortunate to find a handicapped parking place right in front of the entrance. After inquiring inside, we secured the only available wheelchair. Following a short film about the Highlands, we embarked on the guided tour.

The uneven and broken cobblestones made it challenging to maneuver the heavy, outdated wheelchair, adding to our concern for my mom’s safety.

Despite the hardships, we managed to reach the front door, albeit with great effort, as we had to carry the wheelchair up the stairs due to the absence of a ramp. Our tour guide provided valuable insights about the exquisite 18th-century working farm property.


After the tour, there was an opportunity to explore a room of artifacts and depart through a different exit. The stairs proved deep and caused my mom discomfort during the descent. Fortunately, a kind fellow tour member assisted in carrying the wheelchair down.

Given our fatigue, we opted not to explore the grounds further, although the gardens appeared beautiful. During our return to the entrance to return the borrowed wheelchair, we were treated to the sight of a proud peacock strutting for us.

General admission tickets are $18.00 per adult and $13.00 for children 7 to 12.


Historic Monticello, Take Two

After dropping off my mom and aunt at the Monticello entrance, I managed to find a close parking spot. Upon arriving at the visitor’s center, we borrowed a wheelchair; although it was bulky and enormous, we appreciated it. Taking the elevator to the next floor, where the shuttle to the main house awaited, we saw a more manageable wheelchair and made the switch for my mom.

We were asked if my mom could manage the stairs as we lined up for the bus. Thankfully, she could as long as she had something to hold on to. However, the stairs were too deep for someone her age or in a medical condition to climb. To resolve this issue, the drivers kindly used the lift to assist my mom and her wheelchair onto the bus.

While we felt apologetic for delaying everyone, the drivers understood and ensured my mom’s safety before we embarked on the shuttle ride to the main house.


Arriving at the Main House: Monticello

Once off the bus at the driveway leading to the main house, we took a moment to admire Jefferson’s magnificent Mulberry gardens. With the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, the gardens truly stole the show. The property was extraordinary, with informative signage outside various structures providing insight into what we saw.


As we prepared for the tour on the porch of the main house, the sky suddenly darkened, and rain began to pour. The tour guide inquired if it was time for our tour, but it wasn’t. We were told to return to the bus drop-off spot, which contradicted the instruction from the visitor’s entrance.

We patiently waited on the front porch, growing increasingly weary from the day’s events. Eventually, a staff member came outside after 30 minutes to find out why we were still waiting and graciously ushered us inside to join the ongoing tour.


Finishing Up A Busy Day in Charlottesville, Virginia

Despite my familiarity with museums and historical attractions, Monticello was an uncomfortable experience. As we went from room to room, we received briefings on the home’s interior and the family’s affairs.

We found delight in learning about the Jeffersons and admiring their beautiful home. However, when the tour moved upstairs, we had to leave early since there was no elevator or accessible way to reach the upper floor.

We originally planned to dine at an upscale bistro on the Historic Mall. However, due to exhaustion from the day’s events and the parking situation in downtown Charlottesville, we opted for a quick meal at Raising Cane’s, indulging in their delicious chicken fingers, fries, and signature Cane sauce.


Satisfied, we eagerly returned to our yurt to rest for the evening. However, we did manage to take a driving tour of downtown and see the campus before calling it a night.

Majestic Montpelier

Early the next day, my mom, aunt, and I visited Montpelier, the home of the 4th US President, James Madison, and his vibrant wife, Dolley. Since we were leaving that afternoon, we packed our bags, checked out of Shenandoah Crossing, and drove through the picturesque countryside to our destination.

The entrance to Montpelier was a charming sight as the trees gracefully leaned and swayed across the road. The parking lot was less crowded, and we quickly found a nearby space. After checking in, we utilized one of Montpelier’s newer and more user-friendly wheelchairs. The staff at Montpelier was friendly and helpful.


A brief 12-minute movie provided insights into the property and the main house. We then embarked on a pleasant five-minute walk to the house. Despite being a gravel road, it proved more manageable with a wheelchair than the paths at Monticello and the Highlands.

However, upon reaching the home, we were surprised to find no accessible way for my mom to enter, as she had to ascend the seven to eight high steps. With the aid of the handrail, my mom eventually managed to climb them. We parked the wheelchair on the porch and patiently waited for our tour to commence.


Monroe’s Home Tour

A young girl gathered us on the porch, sharing the story of the Monroe family. In the first room of Montpelier, seats were available for disabled guests. Other tour guests kindly helped my mom, guiding her to the vacant seats. I was thrilled to explore the home of the Father of the Constitution and learn about Dolley’s lively dinner parties.

Dolley was known for seating adversaries together and encouraging conversations and compromises. Everyone eagerly attended Monroe’s weekly parties. Our tour guide enthusiastically shared trivia and historical information in each room.


Moving upstairs, we were given portable CD players to listen to in the hallway. Although appreciative, the video played by historians focused on political matters unrelated to the house. The tour concluded, and we returned to the visitors center, where the museum shop had some fabulous finds.

The guided Highlights of Montpelier tour is one hour long, operating rain or shine, and is $36 for adults plus a mystery fee of around $3.


A Magical Multi-Generational Memory

As we left town, we marveled at the stunning farms and immaculate land visible through the windows. Fields with grazing horses and hillsides adorned with playful black cows were a sight to behold. Virginia’s magic revealed itself in the breathtaking historic homes of the Founding Fathers.

Despite wheelchair challenges, visiting the well-preserved testimonies of our country’s past in Charlottesville, Virginia was a fantastic trip. I highly recommend experiencing these cherished remnants of our nation’s history.


Check out our other posts from surrounding areas:

A Guide for What to Do in Cincinnati

Best Things to Do in Charleston, WV

Top Things to Do in Lynchburg

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Sunday 2nd of September 2018

First, thank you so much for writing this article. I wish more travel influencers would tackle this topic because then we might actually start seeing some changes out there! Second, but not least, bravo to you and your mom and aunt for going on this adventure!


Wednesday 5th of September 2018

Thank you so much. I really struggled writing this post because we all LOVED Charlottesville, but I felt our issues needed to be addressed. Such a beautiful area and I'm a huge history buff. ;) You really made my day. Thanks again!

Darlena G, Snodgrass

Friday 31st of August 2018

Love, Love, Love it!!!!!!!!


Friday 31st of August 2018

I love the article. The pics are great! Good job as always. A wonderful trip made more wonderful with my sister and niece.


Wednesday 5th of September 2018

I'm so glad you liked it! ;) You'll be a pinterest star soon enough. LOL

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