Some of the top things to do in Charlottesville Virginia include hiking, amazing restaurants, scenic drives, craft brew, wineries, and experiencing history at Monticello. Charlottesville is one of the most historic areas of the United States, home to three of the first five Presidents of the United States of America—Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
These Charlottesville VA travel tips are based on several personal trips and one hosted visit with Charlottesville tourism.
8 Great Things to Do in Charlottesville Virginia
Many of the places mentioned in this article can be found on this map of Charlottesville VA.
Experience US Colonial History in Virginia
Monticello—Thomas Jefferson’s historic home—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the University of Virginia. The behind the Scenes tour takes guests to all areas of the mansion. Be 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 Colonial history experience with a traditional fried chicken lunch at Michie Tavern.
For more about Monticello, see Charlottesville Getaway to Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Home.
Visit University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA is home to the University of Virginia, which along with Monticello is the only UNESCO heritage site in Virginia. The historic Rotunda at the University of Virginia 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.
Charlottesville VA Hikes
Dozens of hiking opportunities of all levels exist around Charlottesville. The Rivanna Trail is a 20 mile trail circling Charlottesville. 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 Charlottesville historicdowntown mall offers shop, restaurants, activities, and a nice strolling opportunity.
Where to Eat in Charlottesville VA
Choose from over 400 Charlottesville restaurants and eateries. 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, Ace Biscuit and Barbecue, and Jak’ N Jil (chili dog).
A great way to experience Charlottesville restaurants is with Taste of Virginia Food Tours. Deborah recently (November 2019) guided us to The Alley Light, South Street Brewery, The Bebedero, Commonwealth Restaurant and Sky Bar, and Tilman’s Cheese and Wine. Each stop included incredible, tasty food and an accompanying craft beverage (or wine).
Wineries Near Charlottesville VA
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.
See also these Virginia wine articles:
Charlottesville Craft Breweries
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 Charlottesville 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).
Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland has a gorgeous facility and setting about a 45 minute drive from Charlottesville.
Where to Stay in Charlottesville VA
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 Farm and Oakhurst Inn—and I want to check out The Townsman Unhotel right on the walking mall. Nice options for traditional hotel fans are the Residence Inn Charlottesville Downtown (near the pedestrian area) and Hyatt Place—with a super location and near many wonderful restaurants.
The Draftsman hotel anchors the revitalization of Main Street. Their ground floor restaurant, Renewal, serves elevated Southern cuisine and Renewal’s European wine collection is the strongest this side of DC. NOTE: Renewal closed in early 2021.
There are plenty of other Charlottesville VA hotels but you may also want to consider some other fun options like this cool Charlottesville condo rental.
Want to know where to stay for University of Virginia graduation? We were able to stay in the residence halls for two nights. A fun and relatively inexpensive alternative.
Charlottesville VA Scenic Drives and 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. On two rcent trips, I drove US15 through Orange and Gordonsville and 231 into Charlottesville.
Along 810 north from Crozet is this Virginia 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 absorbing the epic view.
In the fall, Carter Mountain Orchard is one of the best places to go apple picking in Virginia
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 artisan depot at Visit Charlottesville Visitor Center annex (in nearby Crozet) displays and sells local crafts.
Have you been to Charlottesville Virginia? 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). And Thank you to The Draftsman for hosting us at the property and Renewal Restaurant. All other places mentioned were visited on our own, not on assignment. The content is carefully crafted for the McCool Travel network. Go visit Charlottesville!
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