In the mountains of central Virginia, Charlottesville is a city full of activities and adventure for any traveler. From fantastic food and an award-winning wine country to historical sights and outstanding natural wonders, Charlottesville has so much to offer. Home to the University of Virginia Cavaliers and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello as well as many diverse experiences and cultural opportunities, Charlottesville provides so many opportunities to stay and play while exploring the best of Virginia.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Explore the historical home and grounds of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. The home reflects his life and legacy throughout Virginia through the architectural feats and botanical gardens found within the grounds. Monticello offers guided tours for visitors, from private architectural tours to an in-depth examination of the legacies of slavery and freedom on-site. Hours vary throughout the year so be sure to check their hours of operation before visiting. Admission is free for children under five and they offer discounted rates for students and groups.
Historical University of Virginia Grounds
Founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia has a rich history that has left its mark on Virginia. The guided tours speak on the history and architecture of the grounds and how the university has changed since its foundation in the 1800s. The university offers historical tours every day at 11am during the academic year except for holidays and when classes are not in session. Additional tours exploring Black history at UVA are offered Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm.
Jefferson School African American Heritage Center
The Jefferson School City Center is home to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, a museum that celebrates the diverse history of the Black communities in Charlottesville-Albemarle. They have several rotating exhibits and events throughout the year as well as a contemporary art gallery that pays homage to a rich cultural heritage. The center features educational programming and year-round tours from Tuesday through Saturday for the wider community.
A rustic restaurant just a short distance from Monticello, Michie Tavern has a rich history that pairs well with its historical southern-inspired dining. Created in 1784 by Corporal William Michie, the tavern operated as a social space as well as a makeshift post office and school for the community. In 1928, under the ownership of Mrs. Mark Henderson, the tavern moved several miles away, and her efforts in preservation led to Michie Tavern being designated as a historical landmark. The tavern is open seven days a week with light afternoon fare and cider, wine, and beer in the traditional pub.
Arts & Culture
The Paramount Theater has been a landmark of arts and culture in Charlottesville since its opening in 1931. The theater evokes Greek-revival style architecture, bringing an exquisite experience to the heart of the community. The theater features everything from live plays and performances to movie showings and community events. Look at their event calendar to find performances and showings at the Paramount Theater during a stay in Charlottesville.
Fralin Museum of Art
The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia encourages diversity and culture through artistic expression. Rotating art exhibits and programs honor history and art through the ages. The Fralin Museum is open from Tuesday until Sunday and admission is free for the public.
Outdoor concerts at the Ting Pavilion showcase live performances in the warmer Virginia months, from April through mid-September. With a spacious lawn and state-of-the-art sound system, the Ting Pavilion creates a perfect venue for spring and summer days. They also host a “Fridays after Five” free concert series with live music every Friday night from April to September. For more shows, visit their calendar of events.
IX Art Park
In the heart of Charlottesville is Ix Art Park, an outdoor art park featuring murals and artwork that supports and honor local artists. Don’t miss the Looking Glass, a unique, immersive art space that takes visitors through a kaleidoscope of color. The Art Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while the Looking Glass is only open on weekends through online booking and on Thursdays for free community days.
The Jefferson Theater is a vintage venue that has been bringing live music to Charlottesville in the historic downtown area since 1912. The theater reopened in 2009 after finishing renovations that modernized the facility while preserving the beautiful historical architecture that made the theater a standout piece of the community. Throughout the year, the Jefferson Theater features live performances, from music to comedy and everything in between.
Sports Fans and Traditions
The University of Virginia is home to many traditions for the students and wider community. Charlottesville is decked out in orange and blue to celebrate the Virginia Cavaliers (also known as the “Wahoos” or “Hoos”) and you can find the Cavalier mascot riding on horseback to lead the football team into their home games throughout the fall. Long-standing traditions like the Lighting of the Lawn in December to ring in the holiday season or painting of Beta Bridge on Rugby Road are popular draws for students and visitors alike wanting to take in some of the school spirit of the Hoos.
John Paul Jones Arena
A state-of-the-art sports center, John Paul Jones Arena draws thousands of visitors whether it’s for performances and concerts, conventions, or University of Virginia basketball games. John Paul Jones operates as a cashless venue, so be sure to plan accordingly before attending an event. Tickets and events can be found here.
Big football fans must visit Scott Stadium during the fall to see a UVA football game. Full of energy in the stadium, the Cavaliers play with the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains enveloping the stands. Tickets for events can be found here.
Davenport Field at Disharoon Park
Davenport Field at Disharoon Park is a premier facility for college baseball with a seating capacity of 5,500 and advanced baseball technologies. UVA has ranked in the top 20 schools nationally for baseball attendance for the past eight years, meaning baseball fans can enjoy the electric spirit coming from the stands. Tickets can be found here.
Klockner Stadium has been home to UVA men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse since 1992 when UVA played against Santa Clara in a dedication exhibition match. Hosting high school matches, as well as conference, regional, and national intercollegiate matches, there’s many events throughout the year to support at Klockner Stadium. Tickets can be found here.
Hiking Humpback Rocks
A short drive outside Charlottesville, Humpback Rocks hike runs along the Appalachian Trail in Nellysford and draws a crowd throughout the seasons. Popular for hikers looking to spot native wildflowers and trees, this scenic hike reaches 3,080 feet in elevation for beautiful sights of the mountains. Humpback Rocks is known as a strenuous trail, so be prepared to climb, but the payoff is worth it for the picturesque views at the mountain's peak.
For mountain biking enthusiasts, there are dozens of trails throughout Charlottesville and the surrounding counties. The Rivanna Trail goes through Charlottesville with 20+ miles of trails for hiking and biking. Preddy Creek Park in Northern Albemarle County has 3.9 miles of trails for entry-level hikers and bikers. For slightly more difficult trails, Mint Valley Springs and the Walnut Creek Mini Loop take hikers and bikers to the highest points in both parks respectively, letting visitors bask in the views of the trees and rolling hills of Virginia.
You-Pick Fruit at Chiles Family Orchards
In nearby Crozet, Chiles Peach Orchard is open seasonally from April through December for pick-your-own peaches, apples, and pumpkins. In the warm summer months, they also grow blueberries and strawberries for guests to take home and enjoy. Part of the Chiles Family Orchards is Charlottesville’s Carter Mountain Orchard, a popular spot that overlooks scenic mountain views of the Blue Ridge. They’re open year-round and offer pick-your-own apples during the growing season. Carter Mountain Orchard hosts one of the Bold Rock Tap Rooms and has cider and seasonal offerings throughout the year. Carter Mountain hosts special events throughout the year, making it a perfect place to bring family or friends to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Shenandoah National Park & Skyline Drive
About 30 minutes northwest of Charlottesville and Albemarle County is Shenandoah National Park. With over 500 miles of trails and 100+ miles of the Appalachian Trail expanding throughout the park, there’s endless hiking opportunities for all skill levels. Skyline Drive, a meandering parkway connecting to the Blue Ridge Parkway, runs through Shenandoah National Park. On warm summer days or crisp fall days, visit the parkway with the windows down and bask in the beautiful foliage and picturesque views.
Rivanna River Company
The Rivanna River is a popular summer spot for stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, and tubing. The Rivanna River Company, a river outfitters and rental company with a relaxing sauna, is open from November-March. Just five minutes away from the Downtown Mall, visitors can enjoy the scenic sights of the river while exploring multiple outdoor adventures.
Monticello Wine Trail
Charlottesville is known for its astounding wine country, winning the 2023 Wine Region of the Year. The Monticello American Viticultural Region surrounds Charlottesville and adjacent counties as a distinct wine region in the nation with dozens of wineries and vineyards for travelers to visit. For a comprehensive wine experience in the region, the Monticello Wine Trail has much to offer. Just outside of Charlottesville you can find Blenheim Vineyards, Jefferson Vineyards, and Gabriele Rausse Winery on the trail. There are dozens more within an hour’s drive of Charlottesville that boast fantastic mountain views and award-winning wines in the Monticello region.
Going to Bodo’s Bagels is a must when visiting Charlottesville. With three locations in Charlottesville, this bagel shop has a huge following of both locals and visitors who wait in line for the freshly-baked New York-style bagels. One bucket list staple of UVA students is getting to Bodo’s right when they open to receive the first ticket. With plenty of options for bagels, cream cheeses, and sandwiches, it is no wonder Bodo’s has been winning awards in Charlottesville since 1996.
Since their opening in 2008, Grit Coffee has expanded from their flagship location near the University of Virginia to six Charlottesville locations, as well as two locations in Richmond. They prioritize locally-roasted coffee and partnerships with great farmers to serve only the finest coffee. Grit Coffee offers coffee subscriptions and limited-edition roasts like Cavalier Coffee, a roast inspired by the ‘90s football uniforms of UVA to express the strong community bonds of Charlottesville.
MarieBette Cafe & Bakery
MarieBette is a unique Charlottesville restaurant in that it’s both a restaurant and a bakery. They serve European-inspired food and pastries alongside coffee and other drinks in their two Charlottesville locations. A claim to fame of Mariebette is their “brioche feuilletee,” a flaky brioche pastry with butter and sugar with rotating fillings at the shop. If you’re looking for a sweet treat or a casual meal, stop by MarieBette and make sure to pick up a brioche while you’re there!
Staying true to their name, The Local in Charlottesville makes it a priority to support local businesses, serving farm-to-table food and featuring local artists and artisans throughout the restaurant. Open from 5-9pm from Sunday to Thursday and 5-10pm Friday-Saturday, The Local is the perfect place for a fresh meal while immersing yourself in the Charlottesville community.
The Dairy Market
The Dairy Market brings a one-of-a-kind experience to Charlottesville as the first food market hall concept in the area. The Market is located in the historic Monticello Dairy Building in downtown Charlottesville and pays homage to the iconic building it is housed in through the blending of food, drinks, and artisan goods from local businesses. The Dairy Market features several different restaurants with diverse cuisines such as Latin, Filipino, Italian, and Mediterranean. With something for everyone, the Dairy Market is a unique spot to visit for all foodies.
Find more: Your Guide To Dining In Charlottesville
Minutes from the University of Virginia and the Downtown Mall, Barracks Road Shopping Center features over 80 national and local restaurants and shops, such as Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Scarpa, Lou Lou, and the Virginia Shop.
Historic Downtown Mall
The historic Downtown Mall is a staple of the Charlottesville community, with more than 120 shops and 30 restaurants. Visitors can enjoy dining, shopping, and entertainment at the Downtown Mall, all while being a short distance from UVA’s grounds.
- Pawprints—Pawprints Boutique offers pet-themed products from treats to toys and everything in between.
- CVille Arts—CVille Arts is an art cooperative featuring artists from around the Commonwealth showcasing their wearable art, paintings, photography, glassware, and more.
- New Dominion Bookshop—As the oldest independent bookshop in Virginia, New Dominion Bookshop sells selections of fiction, non-fiction, children’s literature, and specialties in landscaping and architecture.
- Kilwin’s—A long-standing American favorite, Kilwin’s serves ice cream, chocolates, and other delicious treats, all with stellar service to create a visceral sweet experience.
- Rock Paper Scissors—Shop custom paper goods, greeting cards, and personalized gifts at Rock Paper Scissors on the Downtown Mall.
- Bittersweet—Bittersweet is a chic boutique specializing in trendy clothes, jewelry, and accessories.
Charlottesville has several farmer’s markets open throughout the year that are full of fresh produce, local goods, and more for the community to enjoy. The Charlottesville City Market is open Saturdays from 9am-1pm from April to November, with a Holiday Market from 8am-1pm on Saturdays from mid-November to December. The Farmers Market at IX Art Park is open Saturdays, 8am-12pm, Thursdays from 4:30-7:30pm (April through October), and Saturdays 9am-1pm (throughout the winter).
On the corner of Chesapeake and Meade Avenue is Charlottesville’s first grower’s-only market at the Meade Park Market. From May through September, they are open Wednesdays from 3pm-7pm and from 3-6pm on Wednesdays in October. Find more farmer’s markets here.
Shops at Stonefield
The Shops at Stonefield are a premier shopping destination in an outdoor mall setting. From retail shops to dining and entertainment, there’s plenty to do while only being a short drive off Route 29. With shops like L.L. Bean, Lululemon, and Bluemercury, the Shops at Stonefield provide an elevated shopping experience.
Where to Stay
Quirk Charlottesville brings art and a creative charm to a hotel stay in downtown Charlottesville. The Quirk Hotel pays tribute to the art and history of Charlottesville as seen through the gallery, art programming, and boutique shopping within the hotel lobby. Every room features comfortable beds, in-suite WiFi and TV, a beverage station, modern light fixtures, and upscale amenities for guests to enjoy.
The Graduate Charlottesville
The Graduate Charlottesville offers a great place to stay right near UVA’s grounds and across from “The Corner”– a stretch of several restaurants and shops that is very popular for students and visitors alike. The Graduate’s rooms are inspired by local charm and history with city views and comfortable amenities. On-site dining, conference room capability, and amenities like complimentary WiFi, guest laundry, and exercise facilities make the Graduate perfect for any guest, whether you’re looking to check out a UVA football game or watch a performance at one of the many venues throughout Charlottesville.
Little Mod Hotel
Inspired by mid-century modern decor, the recently opened Little Mod Hotel is a unique Charlottesville property with 15 guest rooms and five apartments. They play upon the retro style of the 1960s in their renovated space and offer guests numerous amenities and options to have an extended stay in the heart of Charlottesville.
Part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, The Draftsman is a sophisticated stay only steps away from the University of Virginia grounds. With spacious rooms and elevated amenities, The Draftsman offers comfort, class, and convenience for all travelers.
The Forum Hotel
On the grounds of the University of Virginia School of Law, the Forum Hotel is inspired by the architecture of Thomas Jefferson, with stately white columns, red brick exteriors, and stone accents. The hotel features an upscale steakhouse, a craft beer bar, and scenic walking trails that wind through the property’s botanical gardens.
Charlottesville is a city full of activities and adventures for travelers of all kinds, whether you’re touring the college campus, looking for food and drink tours, visiting historical sights, or planning your next outdoor thrill!
Check out more travel ideas for visiting Charlottesville here:
- WanderLove: A Shenandoah Valley Road Trip From Harrisonburg to Charlottesville
- Where to Stay (& Sip!) in Virginia Wine Country
- Celebrating Diversity in Charlottesville with the Discover Black Cville Trail