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Going upscale in Virginia

Courtesy Charlottesville Albermarle

Nothing goes better with history than a decadent meal.

Virginia is a hot spot of American heritage, with cities and sites dating back to early colonization, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and other monumental times in America’s past. The state does a fantastic job in telling its stories to groups that come to visit from around the country.

Often overlooked by groups touring Virginia, however, is the state’s impressive array of luxury travel experiences. Although there are affordable ways to go on a tour of Virginia, bank groups looking for exclusive and upscale opportunities can find plenty of ways to enjoy the good life on a trip through the state.

For luxurious overnight experiences, Virginia boasts some of the finest hotels in the Mid-Atlantic region. The state has also made a name for itself as a wine-producing area, and groups can find great wine tour and tasting opportunities almost anywhere they go. Along with the wine scene comes a burgeoning culinary environment, featuring cooking demonstrations, hands-on activities and farm-to-fork meals prepared by expert chefs.

Groups that tour Virginia’s historic attractions can also find plenty of time for great golf, spa and other luxury activities. On your next visit to the state, try some of these options to add a bit of elegance to your group’s experience.

Exclusive Charlottesville
A city best known for the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Charlottesville has recently developed a reputation for first-class tourism opportunities based on both its history and its food and wine culture.

“Our destination used to be thought of solely in terms of history,” said Brigitte Belanger-Warner, director of sales and marketing at the Charlottesville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You can come and visit Monticello and James Madison’s Montpelier and James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland. Now all three of those offer options for special tours. You can take special candlelight tours at Monticello that are very special and see parts of the house that aren’t offered on the normal tour.”

Special behind-the-scenes tours at Monticello cost twice as much as regular public tours but include perks history-lovers will enjoy. They include bedrooms on the second and third floor rarely seen by ordinary visitors. Also included is a special exhibition underneath the house where guides talk to visitors about the unique architectural features Jefferson designed for the home, as well as the preservation required to keep the historic structure open to guests.

Monticello also presents opportunities for culinary experiences.

“In September, they host the Heritage Harvest Festival,” Belanger-Warner said. “They bring in a lot of local producers, cheesemakers and winemakers. It’s like a fair where you can just go around and taste those wonderful flavors. Thomas Jefferson was definitely an epicurean, and you can see how he experimented with different crops here. If he were alive today, he would be very proud of what the area has become.”

The bounty of local wine and other produce in the area has recently put Charlottesville on the map as a culinary destination. More than 30 wineries in the area make up the Monticello Wine Trail, which offers tours, tastings and other opportunities for visiting groups. A growing number of craft breweries and “cideries” are adding additional options to the Charlottesville scene.

Great wine often attracts great food, and groups can have high-end culinary experiences at a number of places in Charlottesville. The Boar’s Head, a luxury hotel property owned by the University of Virginia, is a must-visit for foodies.

“They have an amazing kitchen, and they do culinary experiences for groups,” Belanger-Warner said. “You can get right in the kitchen and cook with the chef.”

More hands-on culinary experiences and gourmet meals are available at the Clifton Inn, a historic 17-room hotel, and Keswick Hall, the area’s most upscale property.