Come see for yourself, there’s a lot to see (and do) in Charlottesville!
Charlottesville, known to the locals as C’ville, is tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the headwaters of the Rivanna River. So, if outdoor activities get you moving, you’re covered. If you’re looking for history, C’ville was first chartered in 1762 and can fill your entire itinerary with interesting locations and stops. If dining, shopping and entertainment is what you’re looking for, venues appear around almost every corner. Charlottesville, a city known for its rich history, is now focused on telling its complete history—and we want you to see it for yourself.
Day 1: History Speaks
Breakfast or lunch is family owned and family made at Angelic’s Kitchen
Angelic's Kitchen serves classic favorites – like wings and ribs – and uses their exclusive family-recipe breading to raise their seafood, fried chicken and crab cakes to the next level of awesomeness. Their mission is to serve up delectable food that satisfies. Whether you choose seafood caught fresh daily or soul food items made from the finest ingredients, you’ll leave Angelic’s saying, “mission accomplished.” You can find Angelic’s Kitchen at its location in the Dairy Market or look for her food truck.
Immerse yourself in nature at Ivy Creek Foundation/River View Farm
River View Farm was the family home of freedpeople Hugh Carr and Texie Mae Hawkins. The couple’s belief in the value of education resulted in five of their seven children earning college degrees. Their River View Farm is a rare surviving piece of an African American community of farmers, craftspeople, and businessmen that flourished in the region. Recognizing River View Farm’s significance, founding members of the Ivy Creek Foundation worked with The Nature Conservancy in 1975 to preserve the acreage, now known as Ivy Creek Natural Area.
Visit Monticello for a more complete story of the nation’s founding
This isn’t your grandmother’s Monticello. Visitors to Thomas Jefferson's plantation today are introduced to all the people who lived and worked on the mountaintop. You’ll be able to walk down Mulberry Row—which was the center of life and work for the scores of people who labored on the plantation, including indentured servants, enslaved people, and free people, both Black and white. Jefferson didn’t envision a nation where enslaved African Americans, or women, or Native Americans would be his equals. But his immortal words – "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" – inspired enslaved people on Jefferson's own plantations to fight for freedom and equality. For example, Peter Fossett, eleven years old at Jefferson's death, resolved "to get free or die in the attempt." As an adult, he and his sister fled to Ohio and went on to shelter other freedom-seeking people on the Underground Railroad. The modern Monticello experience includes the voices and stories of those who were overlooked in the past, most notably, the descendants of Monticello’s African American families.
Hungry? Dine at The Ridley Restaurant
The Ridley is THE destination in Charlottesville for upscale-casual dining and fresh seafood offerings. Located in The Draftsman hotel, The Ridley combines convenience and accessibility with an unparalleled dining experience. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a weekend brunch, The Ridley specializes in a sophisticated take on southern-style food. The restaurant’s concept pays homage to Dr. Walter N. Ridley, the first African American student to graduate from The University of Virginia and receive a graduate degree from any major Southern historically white public university.
A Good Night’s Sleep in the Heart of C’ville
Designed with today’s traveler in mind, The Draftsman is a unique blend of cutting-edge sophistication and classic Southern charm. The evocative spirit of Virginia’s original voices and the vision of three native Virginian Presidents – Madison, Monroe and Jefferson – are presented in engaging ways with references to the past, present and future of this storied and historic region. Relax in a spacious room or suite with free Wi-Fi, a smart TV, pristine spa showers and luxury bedding. Check out the scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the rooftop fitness center. Your pooch is welcome, too.
Day Two: Good Times Await
Start your day with European-inspired fare at Petite MarieBette
Start the day fresh! Daily fresh-baked bread that is, from Petite MarieBette. Combining a bakery concept with a traditional coffeehouse, Petite MarieBette offers a warm space to enjoy pastries, breads, salads and sandwiches. The ingredients are fresh, too – locally sourced from in and around Albemarle County. This Black and LGBTQ+ owned restaurant has a sister location, MarieBette Café & Bakery, located off of Rose Hill Drive.
Need a bit of self-care before you get going? Treat yourself at DreaTchal Studio.
Take care of yourself with a visit to DreaTchal Studio. You’ll walk out looking and feeling your best, after decompressing and relieving tension with a massage. Or opt for a facial that will leave your skin deeply cleansed and glowing. A team of specialists with in-depth knowledge of the most relevant beauty and massage techniques and practices will ensure that you’re treated with the care you deserve.
Spend some time at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center
Located in a 125-year-old red brick school building, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center features a permanent historical exhibit, an art gallery and a robust calendar of events highlighting the C’ville region’s Black history and the African diaspora. Beginning in 1865 as a Freedman’s School, the Jefferson School has long symbolized the Black community’s dedication to education. The Jefferson School served as the community’s flagship for bringing about integration following the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education.
If you have younger travelers, visit Virginia Discovery Museum.
Virginia Discovery Museum is designed for kids up to age eight, using play and high-quality exhibits to foster intellectual curiosity and development. Through hands-on experiences and imaginative exploration, children enjoy learning in a clean, safe, inclusive environment. Discovery Workshops include kid-favorite topics like Unbelievable Bugs and Ocean Commotion. The museum’s convenient location on the historic Downtown Mall has a few benefits—there’s a monthly Friday-night drop off, so parents can enjoy a date night at a nearby restaurant. Sounds like a win-win.
See a dream realized at Charles B. Holt’s “The Rock House”
Charles B. Holt owned a carpentry business in the Vinegar Hill neighborhood, the vibrant center of African American social life before it was razed in 1965. The son of formerly enslaved parents, Holt was a builder and an entrepreneur who began building his Arts and Crafts-style Rock House in 1925. Holt was rightly proud of his home, even inscribing his name and the year on its front step. Holt and his wife, Mary Spinner, lived in the house until his death in 1950. As solid as its owner, the Rock House has been restored in honor of all families struggling to overcome injustice.
Shop (and stroll and dine) ‘til you drop at the Downtown Mall
Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is more than just one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country—in fact, it’s been held as a model for other pedestrian malls across the country. Located just to the east of what used to be the Vinegar Hill, it is perhaps a bit of irony that the city’s first Black mayor Charles Barbour had a hand in developing the mall—bringing to life a new vibrant city center when he led the dedication of the Historic Downtown Mall in 1976. The Downtown Mall features brick-paved sidewalks and a wonderful mix of restored and renovated buildings that typified small "downtowns" throughout the country. Enjoy shopping, dining and visiting in a vibrant collection of more than 120 shops and 30 restaurants (many with outdoor cafes) housed in the historic buildings on and around old Main Street. Meander by flowing fountains or take in a movie or play at one of the several fine theaters. You’ll find convenient parking nearby, as well as free trolley service.
While you’re in the area, make sure take a stroll two blocks south and check out Ix Art Park. This free outdoor public art park regularly features music, dance, and theater events so you never know what you will experience! Black Cville unveiled their latest mural in March of 2022 so be sure that you are camera-ready, you know you’re going to want to get those pics!
Day Three: Remember the city’s foundation
Every day is pie day at Pie Guy Coffee
Pie Guy Coffee is a Black-owned shop that’s grown from food truck to brick and mortar, serving up signature savory and sweet hand-held goodness. Using local ingredients, premium grass-fed beef, and free-range eggs, these breakfast pies are inspired by traditional dishes from around the world. A pie in your hand will start your day on the right foot. Stop by—this restaurant is in the Corner district, right near the University of Virginia.
Experience the University of Virginia’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers
It’s difficult to take a trip to Charlottesville without stepping onto the verdant grounds of the University of Virginia. But for most of the University’s history, the history of who really built the Thomas Jefferson-designed university were suppressed. In 2020, the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers was unveiled. The carved-granite arcs are inscribed with the biographical data and timeline of the enslaved people who lived their lives on the University grounds. The memorial came to be as result of a student-led effort that began in 2010, embodying the spirit of self-governance that is the pride of UVA students. Take the time to explore the back of the monument where you can see the eyes of Isabella Gibbons, a woman enslaved on the University grounds who was an outspoken advocate for freedom both during and after her enslavement. Her words beseech us not to forget the horrors of slavery and now, the University has ensured that we won’t.
Visit First Baptist Church
Following emancipation, approximately eight-hundred African American churchgoers petitioned to form their own congregation, holding services in the basement of what was originally the Delevan hotel. The congregation completed construction on a new church in 1883 and called it the First Colored Baptist Church. The church has been instrumental in educating African Americans during segregation and establishing the local NAACP chapter. Members of the church’s congregation have included the first Black member on the Board of the Welfare Department and the first African American on the Charlottesville School Board.