It’s the holiday season, which means your house is probably covered with bits of wrapping paper, cookie-flour, and glitter more stubborn than the winter cough the entire town has been trying to kick since Thanksgiving. Some of us get to leave all that behind and head to grandma’s house for the week. This blog is for the brave souls that are hosting the family this year- and where to take them for the perfect mix of bonding and libation-driven escapism.

The Bistro at C&O 

This is one of our favorite bars in Charlottesville, and also happens to be linked to one of the best restaurants. Opened in the 1970s, the bar area is all brick and wood (mostly reclaimed from a barn in Albemarle county) creating a cozy-yet-refined environment beloved by locals. Take the more conservative in-laws here for a comfortable place to let your hair down (and get some excellent off-color childhood stories about your partner.)

The Alley Light

Billed as a speakeasy, the Alley Light is only an option for the visitor who’s willing to follow you down a dark alley. If they’re willing to take the leap, though, they’re in for a real treat- the high-end, loungey, serious-cocktail joint is excellent for people who are bored with garden variety cocktails, have an adventurous side, or are really hard to please.

The Virginian

The Virginian is a student bar, through and through. Take the UVA alums here to soften the blow of St. Maarten being replaced by a Roots catering kitchen (love you, Roots) or the cool, up-for-anything types who want to have a few drinks at a “real wahoo bar.” Winter break is one of the finest times to head to the Virginian, because there will probably be space at the bar, and you’ll be able to talk without the entire bar breaking out into Sweet Caroline, ba ba ba when the song comes on. You decide if that’s a plus.

The Back Bar at Tavola

For the refined visitor who wants a taste of the Italian craft cocktail scene or a seriously “Instagrammable,” Tavola’s cichetti bar serves up drinks with names like “What Fools These Mortals Be” and “Inquisition”- though sometimes Christmas dinners really do feel like the latter! Head here with a group that needs the ice broken- the curious cocktail names and eminently friendly bartenders will have everyone bantering in safe territory in no time.

Durty Nelly’s

Arguably the only real dive bar in Charlottesville, Durty Nelly’s is for the down-home, t-shirt & jeans, just-get-me-a-beer kind of person. Utterly unfussy and almost always open, Nelly’s makes for a great any-time escape. They’ve been around forever, and have live, local music almost every night. While they don’t serve food, you can get whatever you like at the deli behind the pub (connected by a door by the bar) and snack your heart out. Take your favorite cousin, your father in law, or whoever believes in knocking back a beer without discussing the IBUs first.