Dog Friendly Travel

Road Trip Day 14: Downtown Charlottesville and Shenandoah

Visiting downtown Charlottesville with Dogs on the last day of our road trip.
Written by Kevin Sando

Hard to believe that it is the last day of our 2017 road trip!

After taking in some amazing views at Humpback Rocks yesterday, we wanted to see what the town of Charlottesville had to offer before beginning our journey back home. On our way, we were also planning to drive through Shenandoah National Park – though we wouldn’t have too much time to explore with a 7 hour drive remaining afterwards!

Thankfully, we managed to pack up and get out of the hotel relatively early – which is not easy to do with 2 dogs and a baby!

Exploring Downtown Charlottesville with Dogs

Charlottesville’s downtown mall is one of the largest in the country and is known to be quite dog friendly. Over a span of roughly 8 blocks, there are 120 shops, 30 restaurants, several theaters and lots of history!

I always find parking stressful when visiting a downtown area, but Charlottesville was a breeze. They have 2 parking garages nearby, though it was not very busy when we arrived and we found a spot in the First and Market lot right across from Emancipation Park. This was only yards away from the main pedestrian area and had a really convenient payment system.

After a short walk down 2nd street, we were greeted with a beautiful fountain as we entered the main mall area. Unsurprisingly. Harley and Charlie were interested in taking a dip. Sorry guys!

Even though it was early, the mall was already bustling with activity. We saw lots of people walking their dogs or dining at the many dog friendly cafes and restaurants.

The entire brick lined street is closed to traffic and shaded with trees, making it ideal for a leisurely stroll. Since it was so early on a weekend, many of the shops had yet to open for the day, but we could see on the doors that pups are welcome inside many.

Though we had already eaten breakfast at the hotel, we had to pop inside Miso Sweet Ramen and Donuts as we passed. This establishment is known for their quirky flavor combinations like the potato shop donut you can see below! Unfortunately as we write this article and tried to link to them it appears that they are now closed! 🙁

We sat down to enjoy our snack on a bench near the East end of the mall, facing a really cool chalkboard wall installation. This thing is 54 ft long and 7.5 ft high, so gave us plenty of reading material! Looking into it after we left I learned that it is a Free Speech Monument where visitors are encouraged to share their thoughts on whatever they choose.

In total, we spent about 2 hours walking around, and enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning before headed back to the car to begin our journey home.

Shenandoah National Park

Roughly 30 minutes East of Charlottesville, and stretching for 105 miles North lies Shenandoah National Park. Though we had explored tons of other parks and trails over the past 2 weeks, this was the only National Park on our trip!

The most famous feature of the park is Skyline Drive – which runs across the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the entire length. Ideally, we would have driven the entire distance, though this would have added quite a bit of time and I was worried about the rain in the forecast obstructing our view.

To hedge our bets, we instead headed to the Swift Run Gap entrance about 1/2 way up. I had scoped out a hike nearby called Upper Hawksbill Trail that was supposed to have a great view and be relatively easy. By the time we climbed in elevation and reached the park entrance however, the fog was really settling in. At this point we were already there, so paid the $20 entrance fee and jumped onto Skyline Drive.

Prepare yourselves for a stunning mountain view….

Once again, thwarted by the fog! Seriously, we couldn’t see a thing from any of the overlooks.

If you have been following along on our trip you would know that this was a common occurrence. Check out the video below for an idea of what this curvy drive is like, especially as we head into more dense fog towards the end.

Nonetheless, we decided to still make our stop at the Hawksbill Trail to let the boys stretch their legs. Just me and the pups headed out but the rain was beginning to pick up and we didn’t last too long. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to see anything once we reached the summit anyways.

Needless to say, this visit was a disappointment, but what are you going to do? We cut our losses and headed home – driving VERY late into the night!

Shenandoah was a part of the trip that we had really been looking forward to so we will be back someday!

Quick Stats

  • Miles traveled: 476
  • States passed through: 5 (VA, WV, MD, PA, NY)
  • Gas fill-ups: 0


Click Here for a look back on our Entire Trip!

About the author

Kevin Sando

Kevin is a mechanical engineer with a degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He has move than a decade experience in new product design, prototyping and early stage manufacturing. Pairing this background with his love of dogs, gives him a unique perspective to evaluate the design and execution of new and interesting pet products.