Charlottesville is a small city of 50,000 people in the north of Virginia, 69 miles (110 km) from Richmond. Surrounded by mountains, nature reserves, farmland and vineyards, there is plenty of beauty beyond the city limits and within.
Founded in 1762, the city has had plenty of time to accumulate many attractions over the centuries. From charming historic streets to modern entertainment complexes, Charlottesville has it all. Once the home of founding fathers and presidents, Charlotteville is a city shaped by its political history, so many of the major sights and attractions are housed within the historic properties of the former presidents.
As a college town, Charlottesville has a thriving hospitality and nightlife scene, so you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied whatever the hour. There’s a great mix of restaurants, cafes, bars and local breweries to suit all tastes. From the top attractions to the best places to eat and rink, here are some things to do in Charlottesville, Virginia. Whether you’re just passing through or need ideas for how to fill a longer stay, I’ve found plenty to get you started on exploring the city.
- Charlottesville, Virginia
- 20 Best Things To Do In Charlottesville, Virginia
- 1- Explore Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Estate
- 2- Immerse Yourself In History At Michie Tavern
- 3- Vibe With The Creative Community Of Ix Art Park
- 4- Admire The Iconic Architecture of The Rotunda
- 5- Peek Back Through Time At Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society
- 6- Appreciate Global Art At The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia
- 7- Walk About The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
- 8- Expand Your Children’s Minds At The Virginia Discovery Museum
- 9- Cool Off At Booker T. Washington Park
- 10- Get Back To Nature At Riverview Park
- 11- Wander Along The Saunders-Monticello Trail
- 12- Get Creative At The McGuffey Art Centre
- 13- Browse Fine Art Chroma Projects Art Laboratory
- 14- Browse Around Downtown Mall
- 15- Explore The Heritage Of James Monroe’s Highland
- 16- Discover The Versatility Of Apples At Carter Mountain Orchard
- 17- Sip On History At Jefferson Vineyards
- 18- Sate Your Thirst At Beer Run
- 19- Relax Retro-Style At Decades Arcade
- 20- Run Away To The Wilds Of Ragged Mountain Natural Area
- 20 Best Things To Do In Charlottesville, Virginia
20 Best Things To Do In Charlottesville, Virginia
1- Explore Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Estate
On the outskirts of Charlottesville is Monticello, the sprawling estate that was once a plantation owned by Thomas Jefferson.
At the estate’s heart is the grand neoclassical mansion, which dates back to 1772, designed by Jefferson himself.
Now a museum, you can explore at your leisure or join a guided tour of the mansion and grounds
Parts of the grounds are still used for growing produce, which you can sample at the on-site café.
Various events and special exhibitions are held at Monticello throughout the year, so it always pays to check to see what’s on during your trip.
The events range from book talks to archaeology displays, local produce tastings, and more, so they offer much more eclectic variety than you might have assumed.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Estate is at 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States. Explore the city on a fun scavenger hunt
2- Immerse Yourself In History At Michie Tavern
Nestled among the trees close to Monticello, the historic Michie Tavern is the perfect place to stop for a tasty lunch on your way to or from the plantation.
The tavern first opened in 1784, and much of the original interior style remains intact.
Along with the historic atmosphere of the building itself, the staff also dress in period attire to complete the immersive experience.
Serving up hearty southern comfort food, Michie Tavern lets you experience southern hospitality as the travellers of centuries past would have done.
Michie Tavern is at 683 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States. You may also like this private walking food tour.
3- Vibe With The Creative Community Of Ix Art Park
One of the most exciting locations in Charlottesville for anyone who enjoys arts and creativity, Ix Art Park is a vibrant celebration of self-expression.
The Ix Art Park complex boasts an array of ever-changing displays housed in various open-air and covered exhibition spaces.
Events are always being held in the park, from live music to immersive art experiences and sculpture installations.
A weekly farmer’s market is a vibrant spot to be on Saturday morning and there are also plenty of workshops run at Ix Art Park for you to get involved in.
Ix Art Park is at 522 2nd St SE C, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
4- Admire The Iconic Architecture of The Rotunda
The Rotunda is one of Charlottesville’s most iconic buildings and an architectural gem of the University of Virginia that is another of Thomas Jefferson’s designs.
Its grand columns and sweeping dome make it easy to see why the Rotunda is so famous.
The Rotunda is set at the end of a long, manicured lawn, ideal for enjoying a picnic while you admire the architecture.
You can also find monuments and sculptures on the nearby grounds.
Behind the Rotunda is a statue of Thomas Jefferson and to the east is the Memorial of Enslaved Labourers.
The Rotunda is at 1826 University Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22904, United States.
5- Peek Back Through Time At Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society
For a proper introduction to the area’s history, stop by Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.
The museum is housed in the building that used to be the city’s public library.
The historical society pays particular attention to the influence of Charlottesville’s various cultural groups in the city’s development.
Exhibits change often, so there’s always something new to see.
Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society is at 200 2nd St NE, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
For more ideas in Virginia and West Virginia:
6- Appreciate Global Art At The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is home to various art galleries and museums that visitors can peruse.
The Fralin Museum is ideal for anyone who appreciates classical and fine art.
It’s home to over 14,000 works from all across the world.
Several mediums are represented in the museum, primarily paint on canvas and photography.
The works date back to the 17th century, so you can observe how art styles have changed over time.
Fralin Museum of Art is at 155 Rugby Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22904, United States.
7- Walk About The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
The Kluge-Ruhe museum is for you if you prefer your art appreciation to have a narrower focus.
Dedicated to art by Australian Aboriginal artists, you can really get stuck into learning about the creative expression of an often-overlooked culture.
The Kluge-Ruhe museum collects over 2,000 artefacts of Australian Aboriginal art.
Along with the regular exhibits, the museum hosts various programmes, events, and special exhibitions to display a variety of indigenous Australian art.
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is at 400 Worrell Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22911, United States.
8- Expand Your Children’s Minds At The Virginia Discovery Museum
If you are visiting Charlottesville with children and are looking for something to keep them occupied for a few hours, swing by the Virginia Discovery Museum.
The museum uses fun, interactive exhibits, such as STEM subjects, to get children excited to learn through play.
The Discovery Museum is aimed specifically at younger children aged eight and below.
Virginia Discovery Museum is at 524 E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
9- Cool Off At Booker T. Washington Park
Visiting in the summer and looking for somewhere to escape the Virginian humidity? Head on over to Booker T. Washington Park.
The park boasts open playing fields, children’s playgrounds, and plenty of trees and shade, so everyone can enjoy the fresh air.
The real summer star at Booker T. Washington Park is the open-air swimming pool and splash park.
You’ll find nothing better in the summer heat than taking a dip in the cool water.
Booker T. Washington Park is at 1001 Preston Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22903, United States.
10- Get Back To Nature At Riverview Park
Escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the peace of nature without even having to leave the city limits at Riverview Park.
Running along the Rivanna river, Riverview Park boasts leafy walking and cycling trails winding through the trees along the waterside.
Picnic areas and playgrounds make it the perfect family destination.
There are also canoe launch points along the riverbank if you want to explore the water.
Riverview Park is at 1909 Chesapeake St, Charlottesville, VA, 22902, United States.
11- Wander Along The Saunders-Monticello Trail
The Saunders-Monticello Trail is a scenic walking route from the city to the Monticello estate.
It’s a comfortable and well-marked route, leading through the trees and past ponds for 4 miles (6 km).
It will also take you past the old Michie Tavern, where you can stop and rest for lunch.
The trail is worth visiting even if you don’t plan to head to Monticello.
The pretty trail is popular with cyclists and joggers, so it’s perfect however you prefer to get fresh air and exercise.
Look out for local wildlife and admire stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Saunders-Monticello Trail is at 503 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
12- Get Creative At The McGuffey Art Centre
At the heart of Charlottesville, an old disused school building has been given new life as the centre of the local arts community.
The classrooms have been repurposed into galleries and artists’ studios, all open for visitors to tour.
Even the grounds of the school play host to sculpture gardens.
Various events and exhibitions are held here, with new shows constantly moving in.
Workshops and community events let visitors get hands-on with creating artwork of their own.
The artists who form the McGuffey art community work with various mediums.
Whatever your preferred artistic style, you’re almost sure to see it represented somewhere in the building.
McGuffey Art Centre is at 201 2nd St NW, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
13- Browse Fine Art Chroma Projects Art Laboratory
Chroma Projects Art Laboratory provides a sophisticated, contemporary gallery atmosphere.
You’ll find plenty of variety, both in medium and style, all of a high calibre.
Along with its main galleries and featured artists, there is also a packed calendar of events and special exhibitions to enjoy.
Chroma Projects Art Laboratory is at 3rd St SE, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
14- Browse Around Downtown Mall
Right at the heart of Charlottesville is the Downtown Mall.
The pedestrian entertainment district is a lively hub of local shops, bars, and restaurants to enjoy.
It is also a centre for the city’s artistic community, and there are many galleries, theatres, live music venues, and museums in the area.
Downtown Mall is at E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
15- Explore The Heritage Of James Monroe’s Highland
South of Monticello is the historic home of another founding father and president, James Monroe.
Monroe’s Highland is a sprawling plantation estate riddled with walking trails winding through the forested grounds.
If you’re interested in learning about the estate and its history, you can take a guided tour.
The buildings have been converted into museums, with each room offering a glimpse into a particular aspect of the estate’s past.
James Monroe’s Highland is at 2050 James Monroe Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
16- Discover The Versatility Of Apples At Carter Mountain Orchard
The Carter Mountain Orchard is a celebration of all things apples.
The apples grown in this extensive orchard are transformed into a variety of delicious products, from jams and baked goods to ciders and wines.
You can even pick your own apples straight from the trees.
Outside of apple season, Carter Mountain Orchard celebrates the produce of other nearby farms.
This is where to sample the freshest local produce, from peaches to pumpkins.
Carter Mountain Orchard is at 1435 Carters Mountain Trail, Charlottesville, VA, 22902, United States. You may like this family-focused ride and wine tour.
17- Sip On History At Jefferson Vineyards
In the same location where Thomas Jefferson once nurtured his own vineyards, the modern Jefferson Vineyards continue the area’s legacy as a centre of excellent American wine.
Make sure to visit if you want to sample some delicious varieties.
Along with guided tastings, guests can purchase bottles to enjoy in the various tasting rooms, on the furnished patios, or even enjoy a picnic on the manicured lawns.
Frequent music evenings are held in the gardens and various other events take place throughout the year.
Jefferson Vineyards is at 1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States. If you’re looking for a premium experience, here’s a private wine tour you may like.
18- Sate Your Thirst At Beer Run
So we’ve covered cider and wine, but if neither of those tickles your fancy, perhaps you are more of a beer connoisseur.
If that’s the case, then head on over to Beer Run.
Part restaurant, part specialty beer dealer, Beer Run has hundreds of beers from small and creative breweries.
Stop in for lunch to enjoy your specialty beer paired with indulgent comfort dishes.
Beer Run is at 156 Carlton Rd Ste 203, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
19- Relax Retro-Style At Decades Arcade
For a bit of nostalgic fun, head over to Decades Arcade.
Decades Arcade is packed with retro arcade games from as far back as the fifties, with an impressive collection of classic titles from Donkey Kong to Galaga.
There’s a wide variety of pinball machines, skills games like skeeball and air hockey, and even claw-grabber games where you can win some fun prizes.
If you need a way to fill a few hours, you can easily while away the time at Decades Arcade.
Decades Arcade is at 221 Carlton Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
20- Run Away To The Wilds Of Ragged Mountain Natural Area
If you want to take a break from the city, head just west of Charlottesville to Ragged Mountain Natural Area, a sprawling area covering 980 acres of forest surrounding a glistening lake.
With over 7 miles (11 km) of well-marked hiking trails, you can happily explore the great outdoors to your heart’s content.
Keep your eye out for the carved wooden sculptures that dot the trails.
Ragged Mountain is at 1730 Reservoir Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States.
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