Shenandoah National Park & Skyline Drive

#4 in Best Things To Do in Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park & Skyline Drive picture
Steven Heap/Getty Images

Key Info

Skyline Drive

Details

Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.5scorecard
  • 4.0Value
  • 3.0Food Scene
  • 5.0Atmosphere

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. 

Reviewers gushed about simply rolling down the windows and taking in the breathtaking scenery, but they also recommended pulling off the road to admire the view from one of the drive's 75 overlooks. The scores of fans do offer words of caution, however. For one, you'll have a more relaxing trip if you visit on a weekday. Fill your tank before you enter the park, because gas stations are few and far between. And if you want to hike some of the Shenandoah trails, they suggest you visit in fall when the air is crisp and less muggy. Lastly, there is food in the park, but it's park food in every sense. You'll save your taste buds (and your spare change) if you pack your own goodies.

Shenandoah is located about 40 miles northwest of Charlottesville. The park is always open, but various visitor centers, campsites and picnic grounds operate seasonally. Go to the National Park Service's page on Shenandoah for detailed information. Entrance, which is valid for seven consecutive days, costs $20 per car. You'll also want to visit Shenandoah's site for details on Skyline Drive's closures during inclement weather.

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#1 Historic Downtown Mall

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.

In the spring, summer and fall, the mall's Charlottesville Pavilion hosts musical acts like Modest Mouse, Wiz Khalifa and Alabama Shakes. You can also catch free concerts at the pavilion every Friday from mid-April to mid-September as part of its Fridays After Five concert series. The mall's historical Paramount Theater is a great space to catch fine art performances like the Ash Lawn Opera. The only gripe among recent visitors? Parking. There is limited street parking (which is free), but there are plenty of spots in the Water Street Parking Garage, which charges $2 per hour.

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Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau
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