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Charlottesville Virginia is one of the most historic areas of the United States, home to three of the first five US Presidents. Charlottesville is surrounded by gorgeous rolling hills and is a gateway to Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Skyline Drive.
8 Great Things to Do in Charlottesville Virginia
Here are some great things to do in Charlottesville, Virginia, based on several personal trips and one hosted visit with the Charlottesville CVB.
Experience Colonial History
Monticello—Thomas Jefferson’s historic home—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the University of Virginia. Make sure you also visit the homes of the two other early US Presidents who lived in and near Charlottesville. Highland, the home of James Monroe, is near Monticello, and Montpelier, James Madison’s home, is about 30 minutes away. Continue your 18th century experience with a traditional fried chicken lunch at Michie Tavern.
Visit University of Virginia
Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia, which, along with Monticello, is the only UNESCO heritage site in Virginia. The historic Rotunda is modeled after Jefferson’s Monticello home and recently underwent a complete refurbishment and modernization.
In addition to the Rotunda, the gorgeous campus grounds houses a section of the Berlin Wall, Edgar Allan Poe’s preserved dorm room, and a cool, scenic cemetery.
Countless hiking opportunities of all levels exist around Charlottesville. The Rivanna Trail is a 20 mile trail circling Charlottesville. Make sure to allow time to hike several miles of trails around Monticello and Montpelier. The Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center in Darden Towe Park educates visitors about the historic expedition and has nice wooded trails. The historic downtown mall offers shop, restaurants, activities, and a nice strolling opportunity.
Choose from over 100 independent restaurants and eateries in Charlottesville. Besides those mentioned in my Charlottesville casual eats article, other places to eat in Charlottesville include Bodo’s Bagels, Mezeh, Mas Tapas, Beer Run, Zinburger, Shadwells, Travinia, La Michoacana, and my latest discovery Jak’ N Jil (chili dog).
The nearly three dozen wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail celebrate the birthplace of American wine. While many wineries produce epic wine, many others also provide other incentives to visit. Glass House pairs homemade artisan chocolates with estate wines. King Family hosts polo matches in a majestic setting in the Shenandoah Valley foothills. Jefferson Vineyards is located in the same location where Thomas Jefferson established his vineyard in 1774.
Many amazing craft brewers call the Charlottesville area home, thanks in part to some of USA’s cleanest water. Starr Hill, Three Notch’d, and South Street are some of Cville’s local favorite craft brewers. If you venture west for a scenic drive, visit Stable Craft in Waynesboro for scrumptious food, a gorgeous venue, and fresh craft beer. On the historic downtown mall, Draft Taproom provides 60 craft beer taps that you can sample by the ounce or full pour.
Cville Hop On Tours offers tours of and transportation between dozens of local craft beverage venues (breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries).
Lodging options in Charlottesville range from ultra-luxury Keswick Hall to vacation rentals. I enjoy independent properties, and suggest looking at Inn at Sugar Hollow and Oakhurst Inn. A nice option for traditional hotel fans is Hyatt Place—with a super location and near many wonderful restaurants.
Scenic Drives / Views
Gorgeous farmland surrounds Charlottesville and road trips in the area are a treat. When visiting Charlottesville, I usually drive in on US29 from the north. Try the Airport Road alternate route for a different perspective. My last two trips, I drove US15 through Orange and Gordonsville and 231 into Cville.
Along 810 north from Crozet is the LOVE sign at Montfair farm.
Visit Carter Mountain Orchard early in the day for magnificent views and their popular apple cider donuts. Arrive early because they often sell out their daily donut stash by noon. If you miss out on the donuts, drink a local hard cider while taking in the epic view.
Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau has two visitor centers. One is on the downtown mall. The historic train station in Crozet houses the other. In addition to providing activities and adventure information, the Crozet visitor center displays and sells local crafts.
For more information about things to do in Charlottesville Virginia:
- 8 Great Casual Places to Eat in Charlottesville Virginia
- Wine Tasting Charlottesville Virginia
- Charlottesville Getaway to Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Home
- Amazing BBQ in US
- Ace Biscuit and Barbecue
- Virginia Wine is For Lovers
- In Search of Glowing Recommendations
Have you been to Charlottesville? What other things to do in Charlottesville would you suggest?
Thank you Charlottesville Albemarle CVB for hosting me at Shadwells, Travinia, Hyatt Place, Highland, Montpelier, and on Cville Hop On Tours (to Three Notch’d and Starr Hill). All other places mentioned were visited on my own, not on assignment. I have carefully crafted the content for the McCool Travel audience.