Charlottesville Travel Guide

USA  #2 in Best Places to Visit in Virginia
Credit

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Best Things To Do in Charlottesville

Charlottesville is the perfect place to explore our nation's past (at Monticello or Ash Lawn-Highland, homes of some of the first presidents of the United States) or our nation's future (at the University of Virginia, where some of the country's brightest students matriculate). Or you could just relish in the here and now. To do so, we'd recommend taking a scenic trip through Skyline Drive, about 40 miles north in the Shenandoah National Park, or taking a boozy tour of one of the vineyards on the Monticello Wine Trail.

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    Historic Downtown Mall
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    #1 in Charlottesville
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Charlottesville's popular shops, restaurants and ambiance converge in one main area, known as the Historic Downtown Mall. Located, as you would imagine, on Main Street, this thoroughfare is home to more than 120 shops, 30 restaurants (many with outdoor seating), 10 art galleries, multiple performance venues, an ice skating rink and a Saturday farmers market. Stretching for eight blocks, this pedestrian-only area is popular with both visitors and locals, who say it's the perfect spot to shop, eat or simply people-watch.

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  • #2
    University of Virginia
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    #2 in Charlottesville
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    A little trivia for you: Did you know the University of Virginia is the only university in the United States to be designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO? And it's not hard to see why  it's a bastion of U.S. education, and it holds an unofficial reputation for containing the country's most magnificent campus grounds. It's also historically significant, as it was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 as the first nonsectarian (or nonreligious) university in the country. Charlottesville visitors don't just tour UVA as prospective students, they also come just to relish in its spectacle.

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  • #3
    Monticello
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    #3 in Charlottesville
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Monticello is more than just Thomas Jefferson's former living quarters; it's also an architectural masterpiece. First-time visitors are amazed by the majesty of the mansion and the grounds and frequent guests like to return for in-depth history lessons on the American Revolutionary period, plantation life and more. Over the course of some 40 years, Jefferson incorporated touches of Italian and Parisian architectural styles into the building of his home. He also employed a few custom-made designs to facilitate house operations. Most recommend giving yourself plenty of time to explore all that's in store. But prepare to pay handsomely  day passes cost $25 for adults from March to October and $20 from November to February. Admission for children 5 and younger is always $8. 

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  • #4
    Shenandoah National Park & Skyline Drive
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    #4 in Charlottesville
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Just ask any recent, frequent or past visitor, and they'll tell you the same: Taking the leisurely Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains is nothing short of divine. Stretching for 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Skyline Drive is the only public road through the 200,000-acre park. When you're not gazing at the Shenandoah Valley, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife: deer, black bears, wild turkeys and a bevy of other woodland animals are known to cross Skyline Drive, which is why the speed limit is only 35 mph. 

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  • #5
    Carter Mountain Orchard
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    #5 in Charlottesville
    Recreation, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    According to recent visitors, fall is the best time to visit Carter Mountain Orchard, and it's not just because it's prime apple-picking season. The sweeping views of Charlottesville's autumn colors as seen from the orchard's overlook are not to be missed. In fact, some recent visitors said the views alone are worth the trip to Carter Mountain Orchard.

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  • #6
    Highland
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    #6 in Charlottesville
    Historic Homes/Mansions
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Did you know that James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson were neighbors? It's true  and while many travelers delight in learning about Thomas Jefferson and his home life at Monticello, few realize that less than 2 miles south is Highland, the home of our fifth president. Recent travelers assure you that both houses are worth your notice; Monticello for its grandeur and Highland for its quaintness. Another bonus: this little-heard-of farmhouse rarely contains the stifling crowds of TJ's home and features some of the Monroe family's original furnishings. Plus, the admission fee is considerably more reasonable. Though its size makes it more manageable to tour, Highland doesn't offer as much to see as Monticello, according to recent visitors. Travelers said the quality of your experience depends on your guide. Luckily, according to reviewers, many of the guides are incredibly knowledgeable.

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  • #7
    Jefferson Vineyards
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    #7 in Charlottesville
    Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Jefferson Vineyards is one of Charlottesville's favorite wineries for several reasons. One, its heritage (commissioned by Thomas Jefferson who donated this part of his land to a viticulturist for the purpose of producing wine); two, its size (22 acres of vines that produce between 6,000 and 8,000 cases annually) and three, its low tasting fee (only $12, and you get to take your tasting glass home). Its convenient location, a little more than a mile southeast of Monticello, isn't too shabby either. 

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  • #8
    Blenheim Vineyards
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    #8 in Charlottesville
    Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    In 2000, Dave Matthews (of the Dave Matthews Band) and his family purchased some Piedmont region farmland. His original purpose was to preserve its historic significance (it was once the home of Secretary of Virginia Colony John Carter and housed a Revolutionary War prisoner, British Gen. William Phillips). But Matthews later decided to also plant some grape vines, and thus, a popular Charlottesville vineyard was born. Almost 20 years later, travelers still make a point to stop at Blenheim Vineyards for its history, its picturesque surroundings and its novelty.

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  • #9
    Michie Tavern
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    #9 in Charlottesville
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Michie Tavern certainly has nostalgia in its favor. Originally erected in the late 1700s in Earlysville, Virginia, this historic landmark was once the hub for that town's passersby, providing food, drink and a cozy bed if necessary. In present day  and relocated about 13 miles south in Charlottesville  the tavern still serves up southern comfort for its guests, with a staff donning colonial garb. But Michie is more of a novel historic house than a foodie sensation. In fact, there are several recent visitors who say the cuisine isn't very good, particularly given how much it costs. (On the plus side, if you do decide to dine here, you'll score a discount on your tour ticket.) But according to some travelers, the grounds' general store, gift shop and metal smith shop are worth your notice and make the trip here worthwhile.

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