Last Updated on May 19, 2023
With most international travel still on hold unless deemed essential, many of us will be traveling closer to our backyards this summer. If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic area, one place you must check out in Charlottesville, Virginia. This idyllic small town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains has so much to offer and see, so pack your hiking bag, and your taste for fine craft brews and local wines; and let’s plan a tranquil trip!
The best places to visit in Charlottesville, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Charlottesville is known for its beautiful scenery and Thomas Jefferson. So take in both of those with a guided tour of Monticello. You get an intimate view into the life of one of America’s most important founding fathers. Not to mention learning more about his many famous friends and other fellow presidents. Spring and Summer are by far the best times to visit Monticello to get a look at the property’s awe-inspiring grounds and gardens. Jefferson imported many species of trees and flowers to the area, and they are even available for purchase to bring home to your yard.
Michie Tavern is just half a mile down the road from Monticello and has been since 1784. Lunch is served daily at the tavern from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Servers are dressed in period attire, making it the perfect footnote to your experience at Monticello. There’s also a grouping of four unique shops on the grounds that are perfect for finding that specific Virginia souvenir for you or a loved one.
Local Breweries & Wineries
Charlottesville, Virginia is home to dozens of craft breweries and wineries. They’re stapled hangouts for locals, and at most, you can always catch live music as well. The sun setting across the Blue Ridge Mountains as you enjoy expertly crafted beer is about as relaxing as you can get. Some notable wineries in the area are Pippin Hill Farm Vineyard, Well Hung Vineyards, Blenheim Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, and Jefferson Vineyards. If breweries are more your speed, you have to check out Three Notch’d, Champion, Rockfish, or Starr Hill. Starr Hill is right off the historic Downtown Mall and a must-visit.
The Downtown Mall
Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the United States at around eight blocks! In the summer, at the end of the mall by the amphitheater, it hosts Fridays After Five – a weekly concert series – and many locals can tell you all about watching The Dave Matthews Band perform there. The mall features over 120 shops and 30 restaurants, most of which feature outdoor cafes. You’re sure to find something for everyone down there! There’s also the newly renovated Paramount Theater and the historic Jefferson Theater. The charming brick walkway that extends the mall’s length is full of local vendors year-round and in the warmer months, all types of local artisans and performers. There’s convenient access to the Trolley, which can take you effortlessly to the grounds of the University of Virginia.
University of Virginia
When Thomas Jefferson was seeking to reinvent higher education, he conceived of the University of Virginia. A school where students and teachers could learn from one another. The result was the Academical Village. When you visit the UVA grounds, you will see the famous “Lawn” where students and teachers lived in single rooms. The end of the lawn culminates in an architectural masterpiece – The Rotunda – a renowned library. You can take in more breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains suggestive of the yet discovered intellectual frontiers at the foot of the lawn. The grouping of shops and restaurants on the edge of the UVA grounds is known as The Corner, and you must explore the side streets, which are home to unique used bookstores and more cafes.
Antiquing at its Finest
Charlottesville is also home to many antique stores that can fit any budget. You can spend an entire weekend alone going to all of the antique stores in and around town. From luxury heirlooms to quirky vintage pieces, you can find them in Charlottesville. Some must-visits would be:
- Oyster House Antiques
- Patina Antiques
- A & W
One last thing about Charlottesville (and one of the best) is its proximity to several other destinations. So if you’re planning a road trip, it’s an hour away from historic Richmond, Virginia, two hours from Washington D.C., and only three hours away from Virginia Beach. It should be a destination that you book this summer if you’re traveling closer to home.
Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. Monticello by Brent Wiese