8 Great Things to Do in Charlottesville Virginia

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.

Gorgeous rolling hills surround Charlottesville and the area is close to Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Skyline Drive, and only an hour from Richmond.

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.

James Madison's view at Montpelier Virginia
James Madison’s Montpelier view when he wrote the US Constitution

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.

University of Virginia Rotunda in the afternoon light
free places to visit in Charlottesville include University of Virginia. Photo by Katherine McCool.

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.

cemetery tombstones at University of Virginia
gorgeous tombstones at University of Virginia 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.

Rivanna River with weathered tree
hike the Rivanna Trail in central Virginia

Within a short drive of Charlottesville VA are challenging hikes like Crabtree Falls and Old Rag along with hundreds of hikes along Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway.

brilliant autumn colors at Crabtree Falls
see the brilliant autumn colors at Crabtree Falls in October

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).

colorful tacos at La Michoacana in Charlottesville VA
tacos at La Michoacana are absolutely delicious

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).

elegant bar at The Alley Light in Charlottesville
visit the elegant bar at The Alley Light in Charlottesville

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.

beautiful view of mountains from King Family Vineyards in Crozet VA
try the award winning wine at King Family Vineyards in Crozet VA

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.

various beer bottles at Three Notch'd Brewing Company
sample the various brews at Three Notch’d Brewing Company

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.

Charlottesville VA yard view
cozy Airbnb rental in Charlottesville Virginia

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.

exterior view of The Draftsman hotel in Charlottesville VA
The Draftsman is an excellent new Charlottesville hotel

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.

dirt road between Gordonsville and Charlottesville Virginia
gorgeous farm road between Gordonsville and Charlottesville Virginia

Along 810 north from Crozet is this Virginia LOVE sign at Montfair farm.

Virginia LOVEworks sign at Montfair Farm
Virginia LOVEworks 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

apple cider doughnuts from Carter Mountain Orchard and a beautiful mountain view
arrive early to get your apple cider doughnuts at Carter Mountain Orchard

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.

local artisan wooden musical instruments in Crozet VA
local artisan products at Crozet Artisan Depot

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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Top things to do in Charlottesville VA include hiking, amazing restaurants, scenic drives, craft brew, wineries, and history at Monticello & other places.

8 Great Things to Do in Charlottesville Virginia was first published on September 18, 2017

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8 thoughts on “8 Great Things to Do in Charlottesville Virginia”

  1. Pingback: Charlottesville things to do|Things to do Charlottesville|Charlottesville VA|USA... - Voyage Love
  2. So beautiful! Seems like it would make a stunning fall destination too! I’ve been to Monticello but haven’t explored the town- I don’t live too far so this might have just motivated me 🙂

    Reply
  3. I’m definitely looking forward to visiting Charlottesville. I LOVE the LOVEworks photo and hope to see that in person someday. Maybe I’ll stop by on a weekend in the near future. Thanks for giving me a reference of stuff to do there, Charles. Great post!

    Reply

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