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Artisan Kevin Crowe will display his wood-fired pottery during the Tour./Charlottesville Artisans Studio Tour

To hear Nancy Ross tell it, the Artisans Studio Tour around Charlottesville, Va., ( area is the original tour of its kind in the state, and she points to the tour’s 25th annual tour Nov. 9-10 as proof. “This year there are 45 artisans in 25 studios in Charlottesville and Albemarle County as well as neighboring Nelson, Greene and Madison counties,” Ross said.

The self-guided tour is free and each studio provides locally sourced refreshments. Many of the artisans do demonstrations as well as exhibit their work.

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Artisan Alec Gordon’s workshop and showroom can be found at the Phones Rose Studios during the Artisans Studio Tour./Charlottesville Artisans Studio Tour

“Among the most popular demonstrations is wood-turning at Fred Williamson’s studio, but jewelry-making and pottery are also popular. We also bring in guest artisans from around Virginia to keep the tour fresh,” Ross said.

The tour also offers a popular passport program that allows visitors to collect a stamp at each studio. Collecting five or more stamps makes you eligible to win a $300 shopping credit.

Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival

The small town of Crozet about 20 minutes west of Charlottesville becomes a mecca for arts and crafts enthusiasts each fall and spring when about 120 artisans exhibit their work at the 22-acre town park.

The fall festival is Oct. 12-13. “A blacksmith and a potter will be demonstrating, and likely a painter as well,” said the festival’s Amanda Polson.

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Artisan Laurie Duxbury weaves contemporary patterns into clothing and home accessories./Charlottesville Artisans Studio Tour

The event features a wide range of juried artisans, including pottery, jewelry, clothing, woodwork, furniture, painting and photography in lots of styles and price points. There’s music, beer and wine as well.

Virginia Film Festival

The visual arts get further exposure at the Virginia Film Festival (, Oct. 23-27, which screens films at nine venues throughout Charlottesville and presents lots of other programs and major film figures as well.

The popular Family Day on Oct. 26 is special this year. In addition to presenting family friendly films that day, the festival honors the 50th anniversary of “Sesame Street” by screening two episodes of the show and the ever-popular Elmo will be on hand to greet kids. There are also interactive workshops and a street fair that day.

Five of the films featured at the 2018 festival earned nine Academy Awards, testifying to the quality of films screened at the festival. Tickets to the 2019 event went on sale Sept. 30.

There’s history, too

You can visit two presidential estates in the Charlottesville area: Highland (, the home of James Monroe; and Monticello (, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

Monroe, the nation’s fifth president, was one of three presidents who actually fought in the Revolutionary War (along with George Washington and James Madison). Among the exhibits at Highland is a copy of the famous painting of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” which depicts a young Lt. James Monroe standing behind George Washington and gripping the American flag. Highland recognizes that service with free admission for veterans on Veterans Day.

The Guest House, originally thought to be the Monroe’s home, was built to accommodate visitors. On a tour of the Guest House you see many original Monroe pieces, including several French furnishings that reflect Monroe’s diplomatic time in Europe. The study, bedrooms, and dining room are set up to reflect the time period that the Monroe family lived at Highland and are decorated for the holidays during December.

The original home built by James Monroe was much larger than the Guest House and occupied by the family from 1799 to 1823, but it was later destroyed by fire. You can see the foundations of the original home near the Guest House. Part of your tour is a self-guided augmented reality experience in which you use smart glasses to witness conversations among those who lived and worked at Highland.

A visit to Monticello starts in the visitor center where a film and a wall of 21 screens explain Jefferson’s ideas about liberty. You also see how Jefferson experimented with new ideas at Monticello and discover the home’s architectural evolution. The Griffin Discovery Room offers hands-on experiences with reproductions from the home and plantation.

With that background it’s easy to appreciate the house and grounds. There are a variety of tour options available and many are less expensive if purchased online.

And then there is wine

The area around Monticello describes itself as the birthplace of American wine, though Jefferson’s experiments with grapes were not successful. Today, the 35 wineries making up the Monticello Wine Trail ( are successful and offer quality wines, beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain views, and interesting experiences. All are in the Monticello American Viticultural Area and some have overnight accommodations.

Because there are so many wineries on the trail (though all are in reasonable proximity to Charlottesville), the trail’s website offers a helpful “Plan Your Visit” section that helps you create an itinerary of wineries that interest you.

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