July 4th will be here is a few weeks, and you may already have plans floating in the back of your mind—an outdoor barbeque with the family, fireworks with the kids, and a plethora of red, white, and blue décor. However, why not participate in something unique this year that not only occurs on the grounds of a historic location, but also features the orations of none other than lead singer/guitarist of the eponymous Dave Matthews Band.
The Fourth of July is always a particularly special day at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, as it holds an annual naturalization ceremony, and this year is the ceremony’s 50th anniversary: “There is no more inspirational place to celebrate the Fourth of July than Monticello, the home of the author of the Declaration of Independence. Since 1963, more than 3,000 people from every corner of the globe have taken the oath of citizenship at [Monticello]. It is the oldest continuous naturalization ceremony in the United States outside of a courtroom.” (Monticello.org).
Every naturalization ceremony features a well-known speaker, and this year, South-African born musician Dave Matthews will be making the presentation and perhaps sharing his own experience becoming a naturalized American in the 1980s: “His family moved frequently during his childhood, spending time in the U.S. and England in addition to South Africa, and he credits their travels with widening his frame of reference” (Monticello.org).
- The ceremony starts is from 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. on Monticello’s West Lawn
- Tickets are free but must be reserved.
- Dress for hot, sunny weather!
- Live music will include the Charlottesville Municipal Band and the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums
Click here for additional information and don’t forget to book your room at the Iris Inn!
Grand Caverns is a National Natural Landmark located in Grottoes, Virginia. As America’s oldest show cave, Grand Caverns went through a series of different names and owners until finally, in 2009, the town of Grottoes “took possession of this glorious property.”
The caverns themselves are magnificent with their series of naturally formed rooms and chambers—the Grand Ball Room, Dante’s Inferno, the Persian Palace, and more. Each room and hall has its own story, which subtle signs of times and people of the past.
Starting at 10 a.m. on June 15, 2013, you have the opportunity to celebrate the history of this landmark at Grand Caverns Heritage Day: “Daytime activities will include a Civil War encampment, apple butter and soap making, crafts and demonstrations, and living history exhibits.” That evening, those with advanced reservations will be able to partake in candlelight tours and an authentic ballroom dance (period dress is encouraged). Tickets for the tours and the dance are limited to the first hundred reservations. If you’re interested in making a reservation, click here. At the bottom of the page you’ll find a form to fill out and mail to Grand Caverns.
Fun Facts (courtesy of grandcaverns.com):
“The rocks in Grand Caverns are constantly in a state of growth and a single touch can stop this process permanently.”
“There are hundreds of Civil War soldier’s signatures in Grand Caverns.”
“Grand Caverns was ranked the #2 cave in America by Parade Magazine.”
“Virginia’s caves range in size from a short crawlspace to over 20 miles of passages.”
Enjoy a day of cavern festivities, and don’t forget to book your lodging at the Iris Inn!
Saturday, May 18, 2013, boasts a springtime festival at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello—Wine & Roses. Wine & Roses is part of the Center for Historic Plants’ open house and will feature wine tasting, workshops, a tour of the gardens, plant sales, and a family activities table.
The Center for Historic Plants has its roots in Thomas Jefferson’s horticulture interests. The center was established at Monticello in 1987 and its members “collect, preserve, and distribute historic plant varieties and strives to promote greater appreciation for the origins and evolution of garden plants.” While Jefferson’s interest spanned a number of North American plants, this particular event will explore the history of rose cultivation, demonstrated at the picturesque Tufton Farm.
Tufton Farm “was one of Thomas Jefferson’s quarter farms and borders the Monticello plantation…Tufton served as important agricultural land, providing large amounts of crops and food sources for the Monticello plantation.” Today, Tufton houses the Center for Historic Plants, flourishing in a display of brightly colored flora.
Now that you know a bit about the history of Monticello’s plant life, you may be wondering what specific activities the Wine & Roses festival will entail:
10 a.m. – 11 a.m: A discussion with Doug Seidel about the “various types of old roses and their myriad virtues.”
11:15 a.m. – 12 p.m.: A garden tour led by Peggy Cornett, Curator of Plants at Monticello, “focusing on the antique rose collection.”
12:30 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.: The “Antique Rose Show” workshop with Doug Seidel.
1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.: Wine tasting with Gabriele Rausse, the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello
1:30 p.m. – 2 p.m.: A rose propagation and culture workshop with Briar Hartsock, the Nursery Manager
2:15 p.m. – 3 p.m.: A garden tour with Peggy Cornett
Be sure to book your room at the Iris Inn, where you can return to comfort after a day of stopping to smell the roses!
Geocaching has become an increasingly popular activity, and for those unfamiliar with it, it is a sort of high-tech treasure hunt: “For the traditional geocache, a geocacher will place a waterproof container containing a log book (with pen or pencil) and trade items then record the cache’s coordinates. These coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted on a listing site” (Wikipedia). Other geocachers will use their GPS to find the hidden caches, sign their names, take any available trinkets, and then leave an item of their own.
Similar to geocaching is an activity called EarthCaching, which, instead of having a physical cache, results in locating a feature of the natural world: “Instead of leaving or removing anything from the site, EarthCachers document their observations and answer questions as a learning experience, and then report their discoveries on the EarthCache website.” Shenandoah National Park offers a beautiful place to go EarthCaching, with no fee other than admission into the park.
So, how do you go about starting an EarthCaching adventure at Shenandoah National Park?
- Set up a geocaching membership (basic membership is free).
- Check out the available EarthCaches at Shenandoah National Park, and choose which hike you’d like to do. (The Blackrock EarthCache is the closest to the Iris Inn. It’s only a 45-minute drive away and is a relatively easy hike in a beautiful area!)
- Have a GPS device or GPS app on your phone.
Both EarthCaching and geocaching are fun ways to explore different areas, and the biggest benefit is that anyone can participate. (Make sure to not leave any traditional caches at Shenandoah National Park. The park only allows EarthCaching.)
Happy hunting from the Iris Inn!
Photo by Paul Downey
“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.” — John Ruskin
The reawakening of the natural world is one of the most welcomed parts of spring, particularly in regards to the vivid splash of color of newly bloomed flowers. While the progression of springtime greenery is a slower process, flowers seem to leap forward in their urgency towards warm weather.
Coming up on May 4-5, the Shenandoah National Park will be celebrating the flora of the area with its 27th Annual Wildflower Weekend: “Take a day or two to appreciate the diversity of wildflowers growing here in the Blue Ridge. More than 1,300 species of plants thrive in Shenandoah National Park, a mountain island surrounded by farmland, towns, and expanding developed areas.” (NPS). Because Wildflower Weekend is held in early May, you can expect to see wildflowers like hepatica, violets, wild geranium, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild azaleas, and numerous other floral wonders.
If you’d like to learn as well as look, the park is offering programs led by biologists, park rangers, guest naturalists, and professional photographers, and topics will include everything from wildflower identification to bird-watching. (Click here for a full list of the scheduled programs.)
Reminders from the Park:
- “Wear sturdy shoes and bring water on all hikes.” (We’re sure they don’t want any half-dehydrated, high-heel wearing participants…)
- “Evaluate your personal fitness and health to choose an appropriate program.” (We’re pretty sure none of the park rangers will carry you if you get tired while hiking.)
- “Come prepared for wet weather. Walks may be conducted in light rain, but will be canceled in case of thunderstorms.” (After all, no one wants to get struck by lightning.)
This is a great opportunity to explore the native and exotic wildflowers that take root among our mountains, so go out on an adventure, then return to relaxation at the Iris Inn!
Photo Credit: Stolz Gary M, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
We here at the Iris Inn purchase cheese from Simply Cheddar, owned and run by Linda Tucker Weaver, a former high school teacher turned cheese wiz (get it? Cheese wiz? Cheese Whiz?). Linda began cooking as a hobby and eventually went into catering, discovering that her cheddar cheese hors d’oeuvres were becoming increasingly popular. Eventually, Simply Cheddar was born. Linda states, “I called it Simply Cheddar because in essence it is a cheese ball, and the term cheese ball creates a vision of lots of cream cheese with many added flavorings like fruits and bacon, etc. But the main ingredients in my product is only Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. This is not your mother’s cheese ball. As one fan said…I have brought the cheese ball into the 21st century” (Simply Cheddar).
So, what is it about Linda’s cheese that makes it so delicious? The Simply Cheddar website describes its product as a “cheese ball made with only the finest aged extra sharp cheddar cheeses without using any processed or cream cheese. It has a little onion for bite and fresh chopped pecans on the outside for crunch.” Not only that, but it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month and in the freezer for up to six months. It can be served in various, delicious ways, and we have to say that we’re quite fond of it!
The Simply Cheddar has recently been revamped, and it’s now possible to order online. If you’d like to visit them, however, check out one of their retail stores. Several of their stores are located near the Iris Inn, so add a visit to your getaway itinerary! http://simplycheddar.com/
Copyright Simply Cheddar
“Unlike generic hotels, [Select Registry] inns undergo these quality assurance inspections regularly, assuring guests that they’ll have a comfortable, pleasant stay.” –Select Registry
We strive to uphold a high standard of innkeeping so that our guests may have the best experience possible when choosing the Iris Inn as their getaway destination. We have recently had the honor of joining the ranks of B&Bs in the Select Registry, Distinguished Inns of North America. Select Registry “carries out a quality assurance inspection of each of its nearly 400 inns. This program involves independent inspectors – not employees of Select Registry – with years of experience in the hospitality industry…. This process provides a guarantee to the traveling public that a Select Registry inn is in a class of its own.”
We were pleased to read our first Select-Registry based review on TripAdvisor, written by Judy Jacobs. Ms. Jacobs says, “As of late, the Inn just received the acceptance of the Select Registry, a group that vets inns and B&Bs for membership which are the ‘cream of the crop.’ We have not been disappointed with the choices we made and the Iris Inn exceeded our expectation…The Inn is spectacular with soaring vaulted ceilings, up stairs library, out door balcony and a third floor balcony – which all are facing beautiful views of Virginia countryside… As for the cabin – I would have to call it a Tree House – it was the nicest room we ever stayed in at a B&B/Inn.”
Thank you, Judy for the excellent review, and thank you, Select Registry for adding the Iris Inn to your esteemed organization!
The weather may still be reminiscent of winter, but spring has arrived, and Virginia’s Historic Garden Week is fast approaching: “Every April, visitors are welcomed to more than 250 of Virginia’s most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks during “America’s Largest Open House.’”
The first garden tour nearby the Iris Inn is on April 20, 2013 at Morven Estate in Charlottesville: “Morven, a three-story brick manor house built in the late-Georgian/Federal Style, dates to 1820. The land on which it sits was part of the original Carter family land grant and was known to Thomas Jefferson as ‘Indian Camp.’” The estate was passed from Jefferson to his adoptive son William Short. It was then passed on to others until it was finally owned by John Kluge, who generously gifted the estate to the University of Virginia.
Another tour destination that takes place on April 20, 2013 is the Staunton-Augusta Tour, which explores five properties, including two 18th century homes and gardens. “Another home showcases new construction based on historical design and is the site of Mount Airy Vineyard which is included on the tour. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum showcases a Garden Club of Virginia restored garden, and will also be included. The Spring Hill Presbyterian Church, which began as a Chapel in 1895, will be open and serve as the lunch venue for this tour.” On April 24, 2013, one can partake in an “intimate house and garden tour” in Harrisonburg, VA: “Highlights of these properties include: a home with black wood floors, a working artist’s studio, heirloom antiques to salvaged architectural details, and a property owned by a Master Gardener.”
Click here for a complete list of 2013’s 80th Historic Garden Week tours and locations.
“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” — Anne Lamott
There is no better time to indulge in a good book than when you’re on vacation, and if you’re a bit of a book-buying fiend, then you know the cost can quickly add up. The Iris Inn is lucky to be near an affordable bookstore alternative—the Green Valley Book Fair.
“Located just south of Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the heart of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, the Green Valley Book Fair is a discount book outlet store featuring over 500,000 new books at incredible bargain prices. Save up to 90% off retail on over 30,000 different titles in more than 60 different categories” (Green Valley).
Check out the book fair, then bring your newly purchased reading material back to the Iris Inn and treat yourself to peaceful relaxation in your room, in our library, or on a porch chair. Book your room or cabin now!
2013 Book Fair Dates:
June 29-July 14
August 17-September 2
November 29- December 15
Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday 12 noon – 5 p.m.
While Virginia’s wineries and breweries have received a good deal of attention recently, there’s one more beverage that has also been growing in popularity around this area– hard cider. Virginia Living states, “These ciders are a good start to fighting off those winter doldrums and experiment with what’s being grown and fermented all around us.” If you are a fan of hard cider, or you would like to try it for the first time, then you’re in luck since we have a couple excellent cideries nearby:
“Originally built in 1764, in Keswick, Virginia, Castle Hill was the home of Colonel Thomas Walker, guardian and mentor to Thomas Jefferson. Today, Castle Hill reclaims its glory as a cidery” (Castle Hill).
Castle Hill boasts four blends of ciders named Gravity, Levity, Terrestrial, and Celestial: “Terrestrial, and Celestial, like Gravity and Levity, or the volatile and the fixed, are a complementary pair of concepts. The soil and the sunshine together give rise to the apple and thus the cider. We strive to express the harmony and balance of these principles in the ciders.”
Sample these ciders for yourself in the Castle Hill Tasting Room, a display of warmth and elegance with a Mahogany bar, white oak paneling, French doors, and a fieldstone fireplace. Click here if you’d like to explore their online shop.
Albemarle CiderWorks is “a family-run Cidery and Tasting Room that produces hard cider from heritage varieties of apples that can thrive in Albemarle County, Virginia.” Try out their delicious variety of ciders: Jupiter’s Legacy, Old Virginia Winesap, Royal Pippin, and Ragged Mountain. Visit the tasting room for yourself to thoroughly appreciate Albemarle CiderWorks. The tasting room is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “Tastings are available for patrons 21 years of age or older at $5.00 per person.”
Click here to book your Iris Inn room or cabin for your getaway.