Get Weird in Nelson County, Virginia
Nelson County is known for its beautiful views and delicious craft brews, but It’s not all cheery orchards and sleeping green mountains in this Central Virginia gem. Nelson County is scenic, yes, but it has its share of the quirky, unusual, and weird. What else could you expect out of a county full of entrepreneurs and artists? Nelson’s attractions are sure to catch your interest, whether it be in the form of photo ops, an opulent yet ghostly home-tour, or even wedded bliss!
Let’s start with the opulent yet ghostly home tour. Visitors flock to Afton’s Swannanoa during selected weekends in the spring, summer, and fall. This impressive manse was built in the early 1900s by Richmond millionaire, James Dooley. The home was one of the first built with electricity and features Georgian marble, gold plumbing features, an elevator, and a 4,000-piece Tiffany stained-glass window. The current owners of the house hosts group tours, open houses, weddings, and paranormal investigations into the claims of ghostly activity at the mansion.
The Apple Shed
Now for the wedded bliss… The Apple Shed in Lovingston is an unassuming roadside shop off busy US 29. It’s known for being a good place to pick up some apples, cider, or jelly. However, it’s also an offbeat wedding locale! When needed, The Apple Shed becomes a chapel. The store owner is also a celebrant of the court and has performed small weddings at The Apple Shed for years. Ceremonies have taken place both outside of the chapel and at the counter inside of the store. The owner will not marry couples who are drunk, and military weddings are free.
Pics or it Didn’t Happen!
Polish off your selfie stick before you travel to Nelson County, because the Central Virginia location is chock-full of unique photo opportunities. Afton’s Silverback Distillery features a giant chainsaw wood sculpture by Sleepy Hollow Art. It was carved from five logs and has been affectionately named Titus. Before buying your bottle of Christine Reserve, snap a photo with Titus!
If you’d rather take a picture with a chicken than a gorilla, head over to Lovingston’s The Chicken Coop. The towering Leghorn rooster beckons passers-by to taste the infamous fried chicken being served to its left. Grace the big chicken with your goofy grin while you wait for your prize-winning fried chicken, seasoned potato wedges, and macaroni salad.
You’ve got a picture of yourself with a giant chicken and a chainsaw gorilla statue. Now what? How about a picture of a sardine can that’s been stuck in a tree for few decades? The Quarry Gardens in Schuyler grow at the site of an old soapstone quarry. The site features native plants in its 40-acre garden and an impressive vertical rock wall. A tree at the garden called Devil’s Walking Stick has had a sardine can stuck in it for nearly a century. Apparently, a soapstone worker accidentally left it behind after a lunch break in the mid-20th century. The can wasn’t discovered again until after Hurricane Camille, when the deluge from that storm washed away the topsoil around the tree. Come for the sardine can, stay for the gardens and the Nelson and Albemarle Railroad model display.
Nelson County is more than just a pretty place. It’s got its share of quirkiness, but there’s more for those who look deeper. There’s honor in Nelson’s attractions, which often showcase local talent, depict history, or just make people smile. The county surely will be remembered as images of Nelson’s countryside and art fill up phones and photo albums for visitors for years to come.