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6 Not-to-be-Missed Issues to do in Charlottesville, VA

Charlottesville is a captivating faculty city that’s steeped in historical past and positioned only a quick drive away from award-winning vineyards, the attractive Shenandoah Nationwide Park, and Blue Ridge Parkway. Should you solely have just a few days to spend, there are some necessary issues to do in Charlottesville that you just actually shouldn’t miss — and I’ll inform you all about them!

About Charlottesville, VA

However first, let’s study just a little about Charlottesville and why you must go to. Charlottesville is a small metropolis positioned in central Virginia, 2.25 hours southwest of Washington D.C. and one-hour northwest of Richmond. It’s house to the celebrated College of Virginia, which was based by Thomas Jefferson in 1819.

The college offers the town its college-town really feel, with a energetic and various arts and music scene, and quite a few eating places and cafes. The downtown space is especially vibrant, with many retailers, boutiques, and historic landmarks.

Charlottesville additionally has a wealthy historical past, courting again to colonial occasions. The town performed an necessary position within the American Revolution and the Civil Struggle, and guests can discover quite a few historic websites, together with Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s house), Ash Garden-Highland (James Monroe’s house), and Michie Tavern (a restored 18th-century tavern).

Along with its historical past and tradition, Charlottesville can also be identified for its pure magnificence. The town is positioned in shut proximity to the Shenandoah Nationwide Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains, providing considerable alternatives for out of doors recreation together with climbing, biking, fishing, kayaking, and tenting.

If you’re on the lookout for issues to do in Charlottesville, I’d suggest mixing a mixture of historic sights and out of doors actions.

Issues to do in Charlottesville

Word: Our go to was hosted by Go to Charlottesville, together with our keep on the Graduate Resort, visits to native sights, and a few meals. All opinions are my very own.

Stroll by way of the Historic Downtown Mall

Charlottesville pedestrian mall in Downtown Charlottesville, VA
Charlottesville pedestrian mall

The downtown pedestrian mall’s brick road is lined with a wide range of retailers and eating places, which cater to the faculty crowd and guests alike. Youthful children may get pleasure from a cease within the Virginia Discovery Museum, whereas older children will get pleasure from popping into the retailers (mine cherished the shop for cat lovers) or consuming at one of many many eating places with sidewalk seating.

The downtown mall can also be house to a number of theaters, together with the Paramount Theater and the Violet Crown Cinema, which provides indie movies and art-house releases. You may also go to the Jefferson Theater, a historic movie show that dates again to the Twenties. There are lots of occasions that happen on the mall all year long, together with dwell music, artwork festivals, and farmers’ markets.

Tour Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Tips for visiting Monticello with kids
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Thomas Jefferson is among the United States Founding Fathers. He was a drafter of the Declaration of Independence, penning the well-known phrases declaring that “all males are created equal” and have the appropriate to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And sure, he was additionally an enslaver. Although he spoke out in opposition to slavery, he remained a slaveholder till he died.

He was additionally a scientist, an architect, and a powerful believer within the worth of training. Not solely did he discovered and design the College of Virginia in his retirement, however he additionally paid for his grandsons’ educations, even when he actually couldn’t afford it. He was a major determine in historical past, serving as a delegate to the Virginia Basic Meeting, governor of Virginia, minister to France, secretary of state, vice chairman, and the U.S.’s third president.

With that difficult historical past, it is smart to go to Monticello, the house that Thomas Jefferson so lovingly designed and constructed, and attempt to reconcile these conflicting accomplishments and his horrible crimes in opposition to humanity.

There are a number of choices for visiting Monticello, and it’s endorsed that you just e-book tickets on-line prematurely for all. The Highlights tour is a 45-minute guided expertise that features the first-floor areas, the West Garden, and the South Wing. Households might need to contemplate the Household-Pleasant tour, which highlights Jefferson’s concepts and accomplishments and share tales of the individuals, each free and enslaved, who lived on the property. There may be additionally the “From Slavery to Freedom” tour, which is a 2.5-hour, guided, small-group, interactive tour that explores Monticello by way of the views of enslaved individuals who labored on the property.

Children might also benefit from the cell Scavenger Hunt, which inspires you to make use of your smartphone to finish distinctive challenges corresponding to snapping photographs, exploring new areas, testing your data, and sharing your ideas.

Monticello garden and hill

Our go to began on the Customer Middle, however we shortly boarded a shuttle bus for a brief journey up the hilltop to Monticello. Excursions run each 5 minutes, however if you exit the shuttle you might be lined up based on your tour time. We began off within the Entrance Corridor, the place we got a little bit of background about Jefferson and his household.

Thomas Jefferson was born simply two miles away from Monticello and inherited the land when he was 21. He started constructing Monticello at 25, utilizing his personal design. The home that you just tour as we speak continues to be 80 % unique, so that you get an excellent concept of what it was like in Jefferson’s time.

Some of the fascinating options of the doorway corridor was the clock designed by Jefferson. It’s a seven-day clock, however when Jefferson put in it within the house, the measurement was off and the underside of the clock extends into the basements. The corridor additionally incorporates artifacts from Jefferson’s life together with European artwork, maps, Native American items, and souvenirs from the Lewis & Clark expedition. As a result of so many furnishings are unique to the interval, guests are warned in opposition to leaning or touching, which is usually a bit difficult for teenagers.

Though the home has 21 rooms, together with 12 bedrooms and a nursery which had been later utilized by Jefferson’s kids and grandchildren, you solely go to just a few of those rooms on the tour. Jefferson was married for less than 10 years of “unchecked happiness” to his spouse Martha, who died giving beginning to their sixth little one. His daughter Martha later moved in and had six women and 5 boys to fill these rooms.

After we stepped into the e-book room, Jefferson’s love of training was clear. He was educated on the Faculty of William and Mary, adopted by 5 years spent finding out the legislation. He may learn and write in seven languages and owned 7,000 books in his time, which shaped the muse for the Library of Congress. In actual fact, training was so necessary to Jefferson that as a substitute of together with his presidency on his headstone, he requested the next engraving:

Right here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Writer of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for non secular freedom
& Father of the College of Virginia

After the e-book room, we moved into Jefferson’s personal research and bedchamber. It was highly effective to see the place the place Jefferson penned over 1,300 letters in a single 12 months. It was additionally a bit unusual to have the ability to see the mattress the place this six-foot-two-and-one-half-inch president slept.

As we stepped by way of the parlor, with its many non secular work and parlor video games, individuals had been brimming with questions, however as a result of the excursions observe one another so intently, there isn’t a number of time for solutions.

After the home tour, guests may also wander round a lot of the property’s 5,500 acres, exploring the slave quarters and vegetable gardens. In case you have the time and vitality, you’ll be able to take the Slavery to Freedom tour or Gardens and Grounds tour, that are included within the value of common admission.

It’s actually superb that the property has been maintained in any respect. As a result of Jefferson died in debt, his property was offered off six months after his dying. Fortunately in 1923, it was offered to the Thomas Jefferson Basis by the Levy household in a need to protect it out of respect for Jefferson’s views on non secular freedom.

Ideas for Visiting Monticello

  • Ebook your tickets prematurely if you’re going throughout a busy time to get the time slot you need.
  • Think about visiting within the morning, earlier than it will get sizzling, particularly if you’re visiting in the summertime
  • Take within the movie on the Customer’s Middle, however save the remainder of the displays for after the tour, simply in case the youngsters are on the finish of their consideration span
  • Give your self loads of time to take the shuttle up the hill and arrive on the assembly spot earlier than your tour departs
  • Massive luggage and backpacks usually are not allowed, so go away these within the automotive
  • Pictures usually are not permitted inside the home, so you might need to simply go away your large digital camera behind too
  • After you might be executed touring the home and floor, children may get pleasure from burning off some vitality with a stroll down the hill to Jefferson’s Grave and/or the Customer’s Middle as a substitute of taking the shuttle again.
  • A great way to refill earlier than or after the tour is a mid-day meal on the colonial-era Michie Tavern simply down the highway.

Have Lunch at The Michie Tavern

Michie Tavern review -- you can dress up as a Colonial child (or adult!)
Taking part in gown up on the Michie Tavern

Lunch at Michie Tavern is greater than only a colonial feast, however can also be an opportunity to expertise historical past. There aren’t many eating places close to Monticello, so it was an ideal place to eat if you find yourself visiting Thomas Jefferson’s house.

The Michie Tavern is an 18th-century tavern, which was moved from a close-by Buck Mountain and recreated in its present location in 1928, turning into a Virginia Historic Landmark.

At present, you’ll be able to take a self-guided tour of the oldest part of the Michie Tavern. Earlier than getting into, guests are invited to decorate up in colonial garb to make the expertise really feel extra genuine. They’ve all completely different sizes, together with one which was excellent for my little Colonial woman.

Downstairs, you’ll be able to attempt your hand at some 18th-century tavern video games, which can then look acquainted if you go to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. You may also take a look at the kitchen and the tavern room the place vacationers had been fed. Should you head upstairs, you’ll be able to see the bedrooms the place the lodgers stayed or the primary entertaining room. Since we got a guided tour, we even had an opportunity to study a little bit of the Virginia Reel.

It was a enjoyable expertise and created an added appreciation of the colonial feast of which we partook for lunch. The Michie Tavern is simply open for a mid-day meal, however with its all-you-can-eat buffet, it might be the one meal you want.

Lunch at Michie Tavern

Lunch itself relies on 18th-century recipes, together with southern fried hen, hickory-smoked pulled pork, and marinated baked hen. Maintaining with trendy occasions, the pulled pork and baked hen are each gluten-free, and most gadgets are peanut-free (at all times verify together with your server for the newest information although!) In addition they supply a full unfold of facet dishes, from my favourite, biscuits, to mashed potatoes and gravy, black-eyed peas, stewed tomatoes, inexperienced beans, cole slaw, beets, and cornbread.

You’ll undoubtedly NOT go away hungry however attempt to save just a little room for dessert. The selfmade peach cobbler a la mode is available in a pleasant small serving that’s straightforward to squeeze in, even after such a big meal, as a result of it’s so scrumptious.

Along with the Tavern, there are different distinctive shops which might be housed in historic buildings, making it enjoyable to discover. We actually benefit from the distinct craftsmanship of the Steel Smith Store, with items in pewter, silver, copper, brass, and tin. We spent loads of time exploring the video games, each new and previous, on the Recreation and Toy Store, and cashed in our token for a free sweet stick on the Basic Retailer. Children may also take part in Mr. Michie’s Treasure Hunt, trying to find gadgets all through the shops. In the event that they full the quiz, they’ll obtain a bag of chocolate gold cash on the Basic Retailer or Tavern Reward Store.

Tour Ash Garden-Highland

Things to do in Charlottesville VA -- Visit President James Monroe's home at Ash Lawn-Highland
The again of Ash Garden-Highland

James Monroe, the fifth President of the USA, the writer of the well-known Monroe Doctrine (which principally decreed that the U.S. would keep out of Europe if they might keep out of the West), the negotiator behind the Louisiana Buy, and the one man to have held the place of Secretary of State and Secretary of Struggle on the identical time, made his house close to Charlottesville at Ash Garden-Highland.

When Monroe was 35 years previous, he bought the land the place Ash Garden-Highland stands as we speak to be close to his shut good friend, Thomas Jefferson. The unique house, Highland, was the place he lived for twenty-four years along with his spouse and youngsters. The bigger yellow home in entrance, Ash Garden, was added later and Monroe by no means lived there.

The tour takes you thru the unique home, allows you to discover the displays within the parlor of the brand new home, and supplies you free reign to discover the gardens, kitchens, and slave quarters by yourself. Just like Jefferson, Monroe spoke out in opposition to slavery, calling it, a “nonetheless remaining evil,” but by no means freed his 49 enslaved individuals. In case you have two days or extra in Charlottesville, Ash Garden-Highland is an efficient historic attraction so as to add to your itinerary.

Watch the Sundown at Carter Mountain Orchard

Carter Mountain Orchard at sunset

The perfect sundown viewing in Charlottesville has obtained to be at Carter Mountain Orchard. Situated simply down the highway from Monticello and minutes from the Michie Tavern, you’ll wind up and across the mountain, and simply on the crest, discover the nation retailer and bakery.

From right here, you’ll be able to see sweeping views of Charlottesville within the valley under. On some evenings in the summertime, Carter Mountain provides a free music sequence, that includes native artists. Locals and guests are welcome to unfold out their picnic blankets and benefit from the music and think about.

Adults can cease into the Prince Michel Wine Store at Carter Mountain to choose up a bottle of native wine to get pleasure from with their picnic. No picnic? No drawback. Carter Mountain additionally provides a Mountain Grill with mild snacks and a rustic retailer. I extremely suggest the peach cider and peach cider donuts!

Go Kayaking on the James River

What to do in Charlottesville VA -- kayak along the James River
Kayaking on the James River

A bit additional out of city, within the close by city of Scottsville, Virginia, nature lovers will recognize a break from historical past with a while outdoors. James River Reeling and Rafting supply kayaking, river tubing, fishing, canoeing, rafting, and tenting alongside the scenic James River.

The river runs the quickest within the spring, however our late summer season go to nonetheless supplied us with a leisurely float down the river. They drop you off upstream after which choose you up just a few hours later, relying on how far you need to kayak (or tube, and many others.) We managed just a few miles in underneath two hours, taking our time to benefit from the scenic views.

If you are in Scottsville, you’ll be able to go to Dave Matthews’ Blenheim Vineyards or get pleasure from an amazing pub meal on the Tavern on the James.

We solely had two days to discover Charlottesville sights, however these had been a few of our favourite issues to do. I’d love to return once more with the entire household to additionally go to the Monticello wine path and spend extra time climbing in Shenandoah Nationwide Park.

In case you have extra time, remember to see my suggestions for issues to do in Shenandoah Valley, like visiting the Luray Caverns or Shenandoah Caverns. Possibly you’re going to get fortunate and see some black bears alongside Skyline Drive as we did!

The place to Keep in Charlottesville

Word: This publish might comprise affiliate hyperlinks. Should you click on a hyperlink and make a purchase order, I could obtain a small fee. All opinions are my very own.

We loved our keep on the Graduate Charlottesville. We have now stayed at many Graduate Lodges in faculty cities throughout the nation and I like that every is uniquely customized to match the native tradition and vibe. Additionally, take a look at these suggestions on the finest locations to remain in Charlottesville.

Ceaselessly Requested Questions

Is Charlottesville, VA price visiting?

Completely, Charlottesville is certainly price visiting. It’s a stunning and charming metropolis with a wealthy historical past, vibrant arts and tradition scene, and beautiful pure surroundings. Listed here are some the explanation why you may need to contemplate visiting Charlottesville:
Historical past: Charlottesville is steeped in historical past, from the founding of the College of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson to its position within the American Revolution and Civil Struggle. Guests can discover quite a few historic websites, together with Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s house), Ash Garden-Highland (James Monroe’s house), and Michie Tavern (a restored 18th-century tavern).
Tradition: Charlottesville is understood for its vibrant arts and tradition scene, with quite a few museums, galleries, and music venues. The town additionally hosts a number of festivals all year long, together with the Virginia Movie Competition and the Tom Tom Founders Competition.
Pure Magnificence: Charlottesville is positioned in shut proximity to the Shenandoah Nationwide Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains, providing considerable alternatives for out of doors recreation. Guests can hike, bike, fish, and camp within the park and luxuriate in breathtaking views of the encompassing mountains.
Meals and Drink: Charlottesville has a thriving culinary scene, with many farm-to-table eating places and native wineries and breweries. Guests can take a tour of the wineries or breweries, or just get pleasure from a meal at one of many many native eating places.
General, Charlottesville is an excellent vacation spot with one thing for everybody. Whether or not you have an interest in historical past, tradition, out of doors recreation, or just stress-free and having fun with good food and drinks, Charlottesville is certainly price a go to.

How lengthy do you have to spend in Charlottesville, VA?

The period of time you must spend in Charlottesville, VA will depend on your pursuits and the aim of your go to. Nonetheless, I’d suggest spending no less than 2-3 days in Charlottesville to completely expertise and recognize all that the town has to supply.
Throughout this time, you possibly can go to a few of the metropolis’s historic landmarks corresponding to Monticello or Ash Garden-Highland, discover the downtown space, and luxuriate in a few of the native eating places and retailers. You would additionally take a hike within the close by Shenandoah Nationwide Park, go to a few of the native wineries or breweries, or attend a live performance or pageant if there occurs to be one going down throughout your go to.
In case you have extra time, you possibly can lengthen your keep and discover the encompassing areas, such because the close by Blue Ridge Mountains, which provide much more alternatives for out of doors recreation and beautiful surroundings.

What’s the finest time of 12 months to go to Charlottesville, VA?

The perfect time of 12 months to go to Charlottesville, VA will depend on your private preferences and what you need to do whilst you’re there. Listed here are some components to contemplate for every season:
Spring (March-Might): Spring is a well-liked time to go to Charlottesville because of the blooming flowers and gentle temperatures. This can be a nice time to go to the native wineries and breweries, take a hike within the close by Shenandoah Nationwide Park, or attend one of many many festivals that happen within the space.
Summer time (June-August): Summer time in Charlottesville could be sizzling and humid, nevertheless it’s a good time to get pleasure from out of doors actions corresponding to swimming, tubing, or kayaking on the native rivers. There are additionally many out of doors concert events, occasions, and festivals that happen in the course of the summer season months.
Fall (September-November): Fall is a well-liked time to go to Charlottesville due to the beautiful fall foliage within the close by Blue Ridge Mountains. That is additionally harvest season for the native wineries, and plenty of of them host particular occasions and tastings throughout this time.
Winter (December-February): Winter in Charlottesville could be chilly and snowy, nevertheless it’s a good time to benefit from the metropolis’s cozy eating places and cafes, in addition to the native vacation occasions and decorations.

What’s there to do indoors in Charlottesville?

There are many indoor actions to get pleasure from in Charlottesville, VA. Listed here are some concepts:
Museums and Artwork Galleries: Charlottesville is house to a number of museums and artwork galleries, together with the Virginia Museum of Wonderful Arts, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Artwork Assortment, and the Fralin Museum of Artwork on the College of Virginia. These museums and galleries supply a wide range of displays and collections to discover.
Historic Websites: Charlottesville has a wealthy historical past, and there are a number of historic websites to discover, together with Monticello, the house of Thomas Jefferson, and Ash Garden-Highland, the house of James Monroe. Guests may also discover the historic Downtown Mall, which options retailers, eating places, and dwell music venues.
Performing Arts: Charlottesville has a vibrant performing arts scene, with a number of theaters and music venues providing concert events, performs, and different performances. Some common venues embrace the Paramount Theater, the Dash Pavilion, and the Jefferson Theater.
Procuring: Charlottesville provides a wide range of procuring choices, from the historic Downtown Mall to the Barracks Street Procuring Middle. Guests can discover every part from domestically made crafts and items to high-end vogue and equipment.
Indoor Actions: Charlottesville has loads of indoor actions to maintain guests entertained, corresponding to bowling at Kegler’s Bowling Alley, enjoying laser tag on the Lazer Tag and Video games of Charlottesville, or visiting the IX Artwork Park, which options a wide range of indoor artwork installations and displays.

Is Charlottesville secure to go to?

Charlottesville, like every metropolis, has its share of crime and security issues, however general it’s thought of a secure place to go to. The town has a low crime charge in comparison with different cities of comparable measurement. Nonetheless, it’s at all times necessary to train warning and concentrate on your environment, particularly for those who’re touring alone or at evening.

Is Charlottesville racist?

Charlottesville gained nationwide consideration in 2017 when white supremacists and neo-Nazis gathered for a “Unite the Proper” rally that turned violent, ensuing within the dying of a counter-protester. This occasion drew consideration to the racial tensions and problems with racism that exist within the metropolis and the nation as a complete.
Whereas Charlottesville, like every metropolis, has its share of racial tensions and challenges, it is very important word that Charlottesville is a various metropolis with a wealthy historical past, and plenty of residents and group organizations work to advertise equality and social justice.
After we visited, we discovered Charlottesville to be a typically progress city. That stated, we did additionally see many Accomplice flags when driving by way of the countryside within the Shenandoah Valley.


History, food, outdoor adventure... these are the things to do in Charlottesville VA that you simply can't skip on your visit.

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