The Essentials

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.

WHAT TO DO: Visit Montpelier (11407 Constitution Hwy., Montpelier Station, 540-672-2728,, 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, is about 30 miles south, and Shenandoah National Park (540-999-3500, 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

WHERE TO STAY: My room at Holladay House B&B (155 W. Main St., 800-358-4422, 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, 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

-- C.T.

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