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Escape Keys: Charlottesville, Va.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Getting There: From the Beltway, take Interstate 66 west, then U.S. 29 south for 80 miles. About two miles from the Downtown Mall, Route 29 is also called Emmet Street. Turn left on Barracks Road, then a slight right on Rugby Road, which becomes Preston Avenue. Where Preston becomes Market Street (parallel to the mall), look for parking.

Where to Stay: Lodgings near the mall include the Omni (235 W. Main St., 434-971-5500, http://www.omnicharlottesville.com), with 208 rooms and suites starting at $179, and 200 South Street Inn (200 W. South St., 434-979-0200, http://www.southstreetinn.com), a B&B where some of the 19 rooms and suites have a fireplace and whirlpool tub; rates $160 to $320. For other lodgings, see http://www.pursuecharlottesville.com.

Where to Eat: The C&O Restaurant (515 E. Water St., 434-971-7044, http://www.candorestaurant.com) is known for eclectic fine dining in an old boardinghouse. Fleurie (108 Third St. NE, 434-971-7800, http://www.fleurierestaurant.com) serves updated French fare in an elegant setting. Escafe (227 W. Main St., 434-295-8668, http://www.escafe.com) hosts frequent wine- and beer-tasting dinners.

What to Do: The Virginia Discovery Museum (Downtown Mall, 434-977-1025, http://www.vadm.org) is good for kids. Admission $4. You can also stroll the grounds of the University of Virginia. Free, hour-long, student-guided tours are available daily when classes are in session (Pavilion VIII, the Lawn, University of Virginia, 434-924-3239, http://www.uvaguides.org).

Within 30 minutes by car are three presidential homes: Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy., Charlottesville, 434-984-9822, http://www.monticello.org), adults $15, ages 6-11 $8; James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland (1000 James Monroe Pkwy., Charlottesville, 434-293-9539, http://www.ashlawnhighland.org), adults $10, ages 6-11 $5; and James Madison's Montpelier (11395 Constitution Hwy., Orange, 540-672-2728, http://www.montpelier.org), adults $14, ages 6-14 $7.

-- E.R.

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