Charlottesville offers nearby hiking, biking options

Hiking (or biking) doesn’t have to be a hassle.

When the weather is way too gorgeous to pass up, but we don’t feel like making an hour-drive to Shenandoah, Michal and I find some nearby nature preserves, parks and trails that serve as a quick, outdoor workout or a convenient date. Below are the three best options for us – all within a 20-minute drive of Darden/Charlottesville.

Side note: Personally, I prefer the relaxed mode of hiking over intense mountain biking!

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Rivanna Trails <5 minutes of a drive from Darden

Located all throughout the city of Charlottesville, we found one entrance across the street from our apartment complex. We’ve tried walking as well as biking. It can actually pretty tough terrain for biking with some steep inclines. The scenery varies depending on where you start, but these are a few fav views near the river where it’s a little more flat.

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Walnut Creek Park ~20 minutes of a drive from Darden

Trails surround a huge lake with lots of people kayaking, canoeing and fishing on a warm day. Michal and I have only done mountain biking out here, which I found a bit easier than Rivanna Trails as there were longer runs that were not so steep and winding. (I am definitely not an expert biker!)

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Ivy Creek Natural Area ~10 minutes of a drive from Darden

This is my highlight as it earns points for close location and scenic views. It’s really unique in the fact that beavers used to overpopulate the area, as evidenced by trees with missing chunks of trunk. I appreciated how there were placards that we could take with us to help us note interesting flora, fauna and wildlife.

What are your favorite Charlottesville area hikes or outdoor workouts? 

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Creative expression takes on new forms in Charlottesville

I’d consider myself pretty crafty more than artsy.

Example of “Crafts”

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Back in the Midwest, I loved going to scrapbook stores with friends (yes, they were also in their mid-20s like me) for lock-in nights where we’d spend hours working on piecing together the perfect pages with mementos, photos and doodads like stickers, borders and cut-outs. People have joked that I’m like Ms. Frizzle because I have a cart of items that resembles an elementary school teacher’s closet. (Think: hot glue guns, holiday-themed cardstock, iron-on letters, etc.)

A couple friends even threw me a scrapbook-themed bridal shower in the Chicago area, in which each guest created a page as an activity.

But now that I’m in a new area, I thought I’d stretch my creativity and try more “hip” projects. (Plus, there don’t seem to be any scrapbook stores around…) I found some pretty sweet LivingSocial deals for easy art lessons that were BYOB, which allowed for some quality bonding time with my Darden partners.

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Tips & Tricks

Painting: I was grateful that the instructors at Wine & Design penciled in the perspective of the winding trail in the landscape that we were painting because that would have taken me, a less experienced painter (I took one intro. class in high school), way too long to figure out. I also liked being able to eat, drink, chat and paint at a leisurely pace. Lastly, I appreciated how the business granted the Darden Partners Association a discount code for future visits, regardless of whether we were in an organized group meeting vs. going out on a date night with our student-significant other.

Glass Art: As for The Glass Palette, I was a bit intimidated as I have never worked with this medium. But the instructors again made it super easy by breaking the different colored glass into pieces beforehand. We just had to arrange them into patterns by gluing pieces on to tiles, and the instructors later put them into the kiln to make into bowls. If we wanted to get complicated, we had tools at our disposal to cut up the glass even more, but it wasn’t necessary. With this experience, definitely eat beforehand as it’s unsafe to have food near all the glass and glue.

Would you consider yourself “artsy” or “crafty”?