University of Virginia

#2 in Best Things To Do in Charlottesville
University of Virginia picture
Stacy Smith / EyeEm/Getty Images

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.8

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

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.

Recent visitors gushed about the gorgeous grounds and highly recommended taking a tour. Historical tours begin in the Small Special Collections Library and are offered daily (except on football game days at the university); hourlong tours start at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The university also offers "specialty tours," which expand on singular aspects of the university's past, such as the history of African Americans. These tours are offered at 4 p.m. every Friday. You can also request different specialty tours.

You can stroll the grounds of Mr. Jefferson's University at any time, but do remember that it is a college where students live and attend class. In fact, some suggest that you swing by during a school break to enjoy a quieter campus. While planning your trip, stop by UVA's official website for more details on the college and its grounds.

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Type
Time to Spend
#1 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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