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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GETTING THERE: Montpelier is about one hour and 45 minutes from the Beltway. Take Route 66 west to Gainesville, Route 29 south to Culpeper, then Route 15 south to Orange.

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WHAT TO DO: Visit Montpelier (11407 Constitution Hwy., Montpelier Station, 540-672-2728, http://www.montpelier.org), which is open daily 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. through October, then till 4:30 p.m. November through March. Tickets are $14, $7 for ages 6 to 14, free for children 5 and younger. Admission includes a guided house tour, audio guide and access to the visitor center and galleries, gardens, Landmark Forest trails, education center and cemeteries.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (Route 53, Charlottesville, 434-984-9822, http://www.monticello.org) is about 30 miles south, and Shenandoah National Park (540-999-3500, http://www.nps.gov/shen) is roughly 40 miles west. In compact, walkable Orange, visit antiques shops and galleries along Main Street or the James Madison Museum (129 Caroline St., 540-672-1776) to see some of James and Dolley's belongings.

For a guide to the area's many vineyards, visit http://www.virginiawine.org.

WHERE TO STAY: My room at Holladay House B&B (155 W. Main St., 800-358-4422, http://www.holladayhousebandb.com) was refreshingly froufrou-free, and breakfast was a blueberry-oatmeal bake, French toast and strawberries and thick slices of bacon, made with mostly local ingredients, right down to coffee from Orange County Coffee Roasters. The six rooms cost $139 to $212 a night.

I found the Holladay House on http://www.innsatmontpelier.com, which lists nine nearby bed-and-breakfasts that offer discounted tickets to Montpelier and other deals.

WHERE TO EAT: The kitchen's open until 10 p.m. at the Silk Mill Grille in downtown Orange, which serves good pub food inside a former parachute factory. Across the street from Holladay House is gourmet deli Elmwood at Sparks. Grab a sandwich and local cheese, eggs, sausage and wine to take home at Marshall Farms, at the junction of routes 522 and 20 in nearby Unionville.

INFORMATION: Call 877-222-8072 or visit http://www.visitorangevirginia.com.

-- C.T.


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