Sometimes it pays to admit you don't know best and ask for a little help. Planning out my weekend in
Washington, D.C., er Charlottesville, VA. was a perfect example of that. Since the day the game against the Virginia Cavaliers was announced, I had it in the back of my mind that I'd fly in to D.C., spend a day or so, make the two hour trek to UVA for the game, then return to DC for the rest of the weekend.
But once I started asking questions from some Wahoos who had more knowledge of UVA culture and tradition than I did (none), my plans quickly changed. You won't be seeing me in D.C. for a single minute that weekend.
Here's your primer for traveling to Virginia, with special thanks to Jim Daves, Virginia's assistant athletic director for Media Relations, and also to our friends at Streaking The Lawn for their willingness to help.
GETTING TO CHARLOTTESVILLE
Fans can fly directly into CHO if they want, though it will most likely include a ride on a "puddle jumper". Those wanting to stick to direct flights from SLC can choose from Norfolk or Richmond, VA. (90 minutes East), or either of DC's two major airports, IAD or DCA (two hours North). Any of these surrounding airports will range from 2.5 - 3 hours away by car.
WHERE TO STAY
Charlottesville has lots of decent hotel options, nearly 3,000 rooms. The locals suggest staying closer to the stadium, which would be the Red Roof Inn or Courtyard Marriott located on West Main. Both hotels are right on top of C'Ville's main drag, called "The Corner." There are also good options located up Route 29 (Emmet St. / Seminole Trail) which connect to the airport.
If you're looking for a fancier locale, then The Omni on the Downtown Mall or Boar's Head Inn were the popular suggestions. If mainstream isn't your thing, then word on the street is you can find numerous B&B's for a more cozy feel. It has also been suggested that BYU fans may want to book a little earlier than usual for the UVA game because since it's the season opener, UVA is expecting a larger crowd than normal.
WHERE TO EAT
For the fan looking for the college crowd, stick to restaurants on "The Corner." Some of the local favorites that were recommended are:
The Virginian: Established over 50 years ago
Bodo's: Great bagels. New Yorkers call it the best bagels outside the five boroughs.
St. Maarten's: Loyal diners. Notice the mugs hanging above the bar, each earned by someone's frequent appearances and engraved with a name reserved for that person's use.
Boylan Heights: Great homemade burgers.
Littlejohn's: Locals love the subs here.
The White Spot: The greasy spoon of the town. Get a double Gus Burger (two cheeseburger patties topped with a fried egg) and chase it with a Grillswith (two donuts fried on the flattop and topped with a scoop of ice cream)
WHAT TO DO / SEE
I tried to draft this section in my own voice, however our friends at Streaking The Lawn did it so much better than I could that I thought it best to include it in their words:
The most obvious, almost cliche answer is Welcome to Jeffersonville. We've got Monticello, we've got the Academical Village, and we're supposed to tell everyone to visit both. And you actually should, it's a well-done experience. Monticello tours can be booked on their website in advance. You get to see the house and the grounds and really learn a lot about Jefferson's life. Same goes for touring the Rotunda and the Lawn. I'll save the factoids for the tour guides, but it's the only university in North America classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I would recommend going up to the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, too. While they may not live up to what you folks call mountains, we like them. Lots of great trails and scenic overlooks. Good easy hike is Black Rock--maybe a mile or so in, fairly flat, with a cool boulder scramble at the end. Intermediate hike would be Humpback Rock, and a little on the tougher end would be Old Rag. All worth devoting a morning or afternoon to if folks are coming in for multiple days.
The last thing to remember is our weird terminology. You've probably heard some of it mentioned if you ever watched a U.Va. event on TV. We don't have freshman, sophomores, etc.; we have first-/second-/third-/fourth-years. The difference comes from a Jefferson idea that learning is a lifelong process, and so one can never be a senior in education. We call it Grounds, not campus. We will constantly refer to Mr. Jefferson or T.J., and we call it simply The University. The Rotunda, Lawn, and environs is the Academical Village, the name given to it by Jefferson; yes we know Academical isn't a word, and no we don't care. You'll screw up using it all correctly, it'll point out you ain't from around here, and it won't affect how anybody treats you one bit.
The parking lots with spaces reserved for donors/season ticket-holders are kind of all over the place, but everybody tailgates wherever they park. The Fontaine Research Park or University Hall are both good free options, but you have to get there EARLY. Many fans will also be tailgating near both the new and old basketball arenas. Those lots are about a 15 minute walk. The basic rules are don't be an idiot, period.
Good-natured ribbing is going to be part of the experience, but we at least like to think that it's more polite than a lot of places one could visit. Generally opaque containers are your friend, but the cops aren't going to harass anyone who isn't making their life difficult. Don't go looking for trouble and it won't find you. UVA fans don't anticipate having any issues when fans are mingling as the two schools don't have much history.
The locals actually consider the unbearable heat and humidity in August to be a tradition. From the descriptions I was given, I'd imagine it to be a lot like the game at FSU for those of you who were there, it was BRUTAL. Remember to drink a ton of water and be prepared to sweat...a lot.
UVA also takes a lot of pride in their game day attire, just like our friends from Ole Miss. The common phrase on campus is "Guys in ties, girls in pearls." The fancy dress is a tradition that has been passed down for years. When UVA was all-male, students were required to wear coat and tie to class. There were also Saturday classes, so many students would go straight from class to games. Dates brought in from nearby women's colleges would dress to match. And like all things at UVA, once two or more people have done something for two or more consecutive years, it's a tradition.
The other popular site is the pregame video, "The Adventures of Cavman." It's a animated short that shows the mascot being alerted to that game's foe and then marches around campus sites to destroy that foe. Often times, the video includes cameos from local officials, distinguished alum and current stars. The video ends with the live Cav Man galloping out of the tunnel on a horse with fireworks, followed by the team.
THOUGHTS ON UVA AND BYU
Yet another great answer from our friends at STL:
To answer this requires at least two years' worth of graduate study in abnormal psychology. U.Va. fans tend to vacillate between two emotional states: cautiously optimistic, or bemusedly disappointed. If you'd lived through the Groh football and Leitao basketball years, you'd understand why. This season falls squarely at those two poles. We're young; we probably won't have more than 4 seniors starting. But there are a lot of juniors on the two-deep, and a lot of them have played a lot. The talent level is getting better, so we all have high hopes for our young guys. The coaching staff has undergone a lot of change in the off-season, but I think there would be general agreement among Wahoos that the changes were across-the-board improvements. Basically, there are a lot of unknowns (both known and unknown, to paraphrase Donny Rumsfeld). And unknowns are scary.
BYU is a part of one of the reasons we're a little trepidatious: a pretty high-octane slate of games. Sure we play Ball State and VMI, but BYU, Oregon, Clemson, UNC-Chapel Hill . . . there's a lot of potential there to have our youth and inexperience exposed by some very good opponents. Mostly I'm concerned with playing a team coached by a dude named Bronco. Hopefully we'll lure you down from altitude and smother you with our August heat and humidity.
After compiling all the responses I've received, I'm quite excited to spend the weekend in C-Ville. What I thought was just a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere turns out to be a pretty cool place to visit. Between all the historical sites and abundance of great local restaurants, I was hooked. Realizing that I can go to Washington, D.C. almost anytime I want made me want to spend as much time as possible in Charlottesville. This will likely be the only time I ever get to visit the Wahoo's, so I think my time will be best spent seeing all that UVA has to offer.
For those of you making the trip out, I suggest hitting as many of the local sites as possible. Why hangout by the hotel pool or get your grub from Chili's? I have a cardinal rule I follow religiously when traveling: If I can eat it in Utah, I won't eat it here. Don't be afraid to try something new, you'll be glad you did.
Lastly, be courteous to our hosts. 95% of college football fans are great people who love to show their guests a good time and exhibit great hospitality. Look for chances to mingle with the locals, ask questions and don't be afraid to share your BYU spirit with them. Just make sure you keep it classy and leave a good impression on the people of Virginia. I know I'm excited for this trip and I hope you are too.
Stay tuned for more travel guides, as Presten will be hitting all the out-of-state road stops on BYU's schedule.