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Why Go to Charlottesville

Speak to one of the locals and they'll tell you that Charlottesville is "Mr. Jefferson's Town." Truly, Thomas Jefferson's legacy does indeed shine brightly here. You'll feel his imprint while strolling past the columns of the University of Virginia's Academical Village, or through the vegetable gardens of Monticello. Even Ash Lawn-Highland, the area home of his friend James Monroe, bears TJ's mark (he helped Monroe plan the construction of the farmhouse). Still, "C-Ville" is good for more than a stroll down historical memory lane  just take a look at the youthful, diverse population as proof. You'll also find hip coffee shops and hookah lounges, and an outdoor pavilion space that hosts up-and-coming indie music talent each summer. In other words, this central Virginia city encourages you to embrace both its heritage and its forward-thinking movement. Mr. Jefferson wouldn't have it any other way.

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Charlottesville Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Charlottesville is from May to July. It's a smart idea to plan a trip to the city around the academic calendar and the best wine-tasting seasons; in this case, spring is the season for wine festivals and balmy Virginia weather. Fall is also nice, particularly if you want to catch a glimpse of the region's spectacular autumn foliage. But keep in mind: other travelers have the same idea, meaning the city and surrounding Shenandoah National Park can get crowded, especially once UVA resumes classes. Winters can be biting with less-than-ideal conditions for walking around, but the chilly temps do usher in more moderate lodging and airfare rates.

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What You Need to Know

  • Jefferson dreamed of a school His vision, the University of Virginia, was the first school in the country where students could receive a nonsectarian (or nonreligious) education. UVA is still regarded as a brilliant institution of higher learning, and for its striking, sprawling campus.
  • Jefferson dreamed of Virginia wine And thus, he sold part of his land to an Italian viticulturist to plant grapes. Years later, the Jefferson Vineyards is just one of many local wineries for you to explore.

How to Save Money in Charlottesville

  • Hop on the trolley Though a rental car is the easiest way to navigate the city, Charlottesville Area Transit does offer a free trolley that services the Historic Downtown Mall and the University of Virginia.
  • Check the school calendar To avoid inflated hotel rates, avoid traveling to Charlottesville during big UVA events, such as homecoming and graduation.
  • Opt for the Monticello Neighborhood Pass If you plan to visit Ash Lawn-Highland, Monticello and the Michie Tavern museum, consider purchasing the Monticello Neighborhood Pass, which includes admission to all three and offers a savings of $6 for adults. 

What to Eat

It would be a shame if Charlottesville lacked a vibrant restaurant scene to pair with its delectable wines, but luckily, C-Ville delivers on both fronts. 

Let's start with breakfast. Both visitors and locals rave about Bodo's Bagels, which manages to be fast, cheap and (perhaps most importantly) good with a menu of New York water bagels. For a fuller menu, head to Bluegrass Grill & Bakery, which wins favor with foodies for its homemade biscuits and chocolate-covered bacon. If coffee is all you're after, you can't go wrong with Mudhouse, according to residents. You'll find several locations scattered around Charlottesville, but travelers suggest you head to the original in the Historic Downtown Mall

When it comes to lunch and dinner, you'll have just about any cuisine at your fingertips — or should we say tastebuds? For casual bites, locals say you can't go wrong with Dr. Ho's Humble Pie (pizza), Wayside Chicken and Citizen Burger Bar. For a finer dining experience, C & O Restaurant, which has been open since 1976, is a perennial favorite among locals. And it's not just because of the locally sourced menu; the restaurant boasts six unique dining areas, each offering a different ambiance to enjoy the eatery's menu of American classics. Other favorites include tavola (Italian), Mas Tapas (Spanish) and Milan Indian Cuisine.

If you're not into the region's vino, you're in luck: Charlottesville has a host of other drinking establishments, including several breweries and cideries. Locals recommend Blue Mountain Brewery, Champion Brewing Company, Three Notch'd Brewing Company and Beer Run if you want to sample a little bit of everything.

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