Even though the summer season officially ends on September 20, the school year has already started. This means my social calendar has shifted to events mostly related to Darden.
With the conclusion of summer, I’ve found the following to be the best options of the area for an affordable “night out” while enjoying the season’s beautiful scenery and weather. (P.S. These actually all continue into the month of September so they’re also fun alternatives to the usual get-togethers.)
Weekly on Sunday afternoons
- Free admission
- Encouraged to bring coolers and picnic baskets of food and stay all day
- Crose wine (a rose that’s perfect for the hot weather and bonus points for a clever name!)
- Breathtaking view of the mountains
- Plenty of grass to play lawn games while watching polo
- At the end of matches, the players ride the horses close to the crowd for pictures and to meet people.
- A convenient wine cart comes around so we don’t always have to go back to the tasting room.
- It can get extremely hot if we don’t have a pop-up tent for shade.
- Depending on where we’ve sat on the field, the bathrooms can be far away, and they are very limited.
Weekly on Friday evenings
- Free admission
- We can bring own food for a picnic, but there are also some food trucks on-site, and of course, nearby bars and restaurants on the Downtown Mall for either dinner beforehand or afterward.
- There are a variety of seating choices: table and chairs, folding chairs, or on a grassy area with a blanket or chairs that we bring.
- It’s a very short drive with the location that’s right in the city.
- Drinks are decently priced at $5 with some local options for wine and beer.
- Tons of bathroom stalls that are maintained and with a line that moves quickly
- Parking can be a pain. I try to park for free on the street, which tends to be on Monticello Road – It’s a bit of a walk but worth the savings in money. Try to get the area before 5:30 p.m. if possible to score free spots.
- It can get very crowded, which means the grassy area also gets occupied fairly quickly.
- The music is oftentimes a bit too loud for me, as I prefer it to be more background noise to conversation.
Monthly on a Saturday evening
- I’ve really liked the bands they’ve had here: I’ve heard a variety – Motown, Beatles and 80s cover. The acoustics/sound/space work well with varying crowd participation. (ie. I could jump on stage or dance in front of it, OR I could sit farther away so that the band acts as background music to my conversation.)
- I can bring my own food or I could purchase a nice sit-down dinner. Although I never took the second option, I’ve known those who have who liked what they ate, and the dining area is a bit fancier.
- There is a variety of affordable wine – especially if you’re in the Wine Club or, like me, have a friend who is in it. (Wine Club members have free admission for one guest, and friends can continue to reap their benefits by getting a discount on bottles. Splitting a $14 bottle of wine is a bargain!)
- There are plenty of bathrooms – Porta Potties scattered throughout the area and restrooms in the tasting room.
- On a clear night, there is a beautiful view of the stars and moon above the vineyards.
- Must pay $15 for admission ahead of time online or $20 at the door if there isn’t a Wine Club friend available ;)
Weekly on Thursday afternoon/evenings
- Sweeping view of the mountains and city at sunset
- Tons of activities: fruit picking, picnicking, wine tasting, browsing the Country Store (must try the apple cider!)
- Samples of the fresh fruit are available in the store when I just wanted to buy a bag. My fav fruit were the juicy, sweet white nectarines!
- Limited bathrooms – I’ve waited in long lines.
- I couldn’t hear the music as well in certain areas.
- They do not allow you to bring your own food, and I was not a fan of the restaurant because they quickly ran out of items and what I had (chicken salad wrap) was not flavorful.
- The wine is not made on the premises (although it is local), and it isn’t especially memorable.
I’ve wanted to try out other outdoor concert series and vineyards, but these were the most popular with close drives. What are your favorite summer nighttime options in the area?