Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Charlottesville, VA

  • Published 2022/10/19

The origins of Charlottesville, Virginia, date back to the 17th century when English settlers first colonized the area.

The town was officially founded in 1762 and named after Queen Charlotte Sophia, consort of King George III.

Over the years, Charlottesville has become a thriving community known as a popular tourist destination for its rich history, beautiful scenery, and charming downtown district.

Whether you’re visiting Charlottesville for the first time or are a lifelong resident, there’s always something to do in this vibrant city.

Here are the best things to do in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Visit Monticello

Exterior of the Monticello

Daniel M. Silva /

For a good reason, Monticello is one of Charlottesville’s most popular tourist attractions.

This historic estate was once home to Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, and is now a National Historic Landmark.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation has maintained and run Monticello since 1923.

Vibrant flowers in front of the Monticello

N8Allen /

They are dedicated to the preservation and education of the site.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the mansion, grounds, and gardens and learn more about Jefferson’s life and legacy.

The tour’s highlights include the Great Clock, the Dome Room, and Jefferson’s wine cellar.

Catch a Live Music Show at the Historic Jefferson Theater

A concert in the Jefferson Theater

Chiabeats, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Jefferson Theater has existed since the 1920s.

The theater was initially known as the “Charlottesville Theater” and was designed by renowned architect John Eberson.

The Jefferson Theater underwent a renovation in 2001.

After comprehensive restoration under architect C.K. Howell, the Jefferson reopened on November 27, 2009, as a live music venue.

The theater now has two full-service bars on separate floors, a central air and heating system, new restrooms, and sound and lighting systems, and it also underwent treatment to improve its acoustics.

Sample Craft Beers at Champion Brewing Company

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a cold craft beer in Charlottesville, Virginia, look no further than the Champion Brewing Company.

This local brewery has served some of the best beers in town since 2011, and they offer something for everyone.

Champion Brewing Company has everything you need, whether you’re a fan of IPAs, stouts, porters, or lagers.

Champion Brewing Company is always trying new beers, so there’s something for everyone!

They’ve got the classics as well as some more unique flavors.

Their all-time favorites are the India Pale Ale Missile, Pilsner Shower Beer, and the Mexican-Style Lager called True Love.

In addition to its delicious brews, Champion Brewing Company also offers a variety of food options that pair perfectly with its beers.

If you’re looking for a place to relax and have a good time, check out the Champion Brewing Company.

Explore All the Unique Shops and Restaurants at the Historic Downtown Mall

Daytime view of the Historic Downtown Mall

ImagineerInc /

The Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a must-see for anyone visiting the city.

This pedestrian mall is home to some of the best shopping and dining in town.

There are over 120 shops and 30 restaurants in the mall, so you’re sure to find something piques your interest.

Downtown Mall in Charlottesville is the perfect place to enjoy a meal outdoors at one of the many fine restaurants, do some unique boutique shopping, or see a movie, play or live music performance.

People at the Historic Downtown Mall

ImagineerInc /

It’s highly accessible for visitors, between the many garages and parking lots, and a free trolley to transport people from the University of Virginia to the Downtown Mall.

The Historic Downtown Mall is also a great place to watch and enjoy the sights and sounds of Charlottesville.

There’s always something going on here, so stop by during your visit!

Shops along the Historic Downtown Mall

Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing at the IX Art Park

IX Art Park is a public art park located in the heart of Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was founded in 2009 to promote and support the arts in Central Virginia.

IX Art Park is home to various art installations, sculptures, and performances.

It’s also home to the Center for Creative Writing, which offers writing classes and workshops for all ages.

The outdoor park is perfect for picnics with the family, where everyone can enjoy the installations of local artists who have collaborated on the first immersive art space in Virginia.

There’s also an enchanted forest installation with a kaleidoscope of immersive and hands-on installations that captivate everyone’s imagination.

It’s the perfect place to enjoy some art and spark your creativity, so check out IX Art Park in Charlottesville!

Explore the History and Architecture of the University of Virginia Campus

Aerial view of the University of Virginia Campus

tokar /

The University of Virginia is a world-renowned institution of higher learning and offers something for everyone.

In addition to its prestigious academics, the University of Virginia also offers a variety of historical and architectural attractions worth exploring.

Some highlights include the Rotunda, the most iconic campus building designed by Thomas Jefferson.

The Lawn is another popular spot on campus, and it’s home to some of the most beautiful architecture on campus.

Buildings at the University of Virginia Campus

Bryan Pollard /

The University of Virginia is also home to the Edgar Allan Poe Room, dedicated to the life and work of America’s most famous horror writer.

The room contains various artifacts from Poe’s life and career and several first-edition books and manuscripts.

If you’re looking for a place to explore some history and architecture, check out the University of Virginia campus!

The grounds of the University of Virginia Campus

Kim Kelley-Wagner /

Stroll along the Scenic Trails of McIntire Park

McIntire Park is a large park located off of U.S. Route 250 Bypass in Charlottesville, and it’s one of the most popular parks in the city.

It features a variety of different trails that you can hike, walk, or run on.

On the park’s eastern side, you’ll find the Charlottesville Skate Park, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Botanical Garden of Piedmont.

The park also has a playground, a dog park, and several picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal.

If you’re looking for a place to spend the day outdoors, McIntire Park is the place for you!

Learn about One of Virginia’s Former U.S. Presidents at James Monroe’s Highland

The house at James Monroe's Highland

Joseph Sohm /

James Monroe’s Highland is a historical site located in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was the home of James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States.

The site also features a museum that tells the story of James Monroe’s life and career.

Monroe purchased the property in 1793, turning it into his primary residence until 1823.

Statue of president James Monroe at James Monroe's Highland

Joseph Sohm /

The house was constructed in 1799 and is a two-story, five-bay limestone mansion.

The property was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and is open to the public for tours.

Not only does the museum host community and private events, but it also features a quaint Virginia Artisans Room in its museum shop.

For history buffs interested in American history, James Monroe’s Highland is worth checking out!

A garden at James Monroe's Highland

Joseph Sohm /

Check Out the Exhibits at the Virginia Discovery Museum

The Virginia Discovery Museum is a children’s museum in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was founded in 1981 to inspire a lifelong love of learning in children and exciting their imaginations.

The Virginia Discovery Museum is home to various exhibits that teach children about science, history, and culture.

The new museum features a free-flowing single-floor layout with two main galleries and 15 hands-on educational play areas over 6,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Each exhibit is intended to stimulate children’s cognitive, physical, and social growth by encouraging them to explore and create.

The Virginia Discovery Museum is also home to several interactive exhibits, which allow children to learn by playing.

There’s a STEM Lab with a Magnet Wall and Flight Lab, a Literacy Lounge, Construction Zone, and Sensory Studio.

The museum is perfect for kids of all ages and a great way to spend a day in Charlottesville!

Pick Your Apples and Pumpkins at Carter Mountain Orchard

Direction sign of the Carter Mountain Orchard

Kristi Blokhin /

Carter Mountain Orchard is a family-owned and operated apple orchard and pumpkin patch located in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was founded in 1912 by the Chiles family and has provided Virginia residents with fresh produce ever since.

Today, the Chiles family continues to deliver the finest fruits and unforgettable adventures to Central Virginia and beyond.

The orchard is open to the public from late August to early November and offers a variety of activities for the whole family.

There’s an observation deck where you can take in the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a playground for the kids, a petting zoo, and a pumpkin patch!

The orchard also has a farm market where you can purchase fresh produce, jams, jellies, cider, and more.

If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with the family, check out Carter Mountain Orchard!

Marvel at the Incredible Stained Glass Windows of the First Baptist Church

Exterior of the First Baptist Church

Smash the Iron Cage, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The First Baptist Church in Charlottesville is a historic Baptist church located in the city’s heart.

Before 1863, African American Baptists in Charlottesville had to stay along the balcony of the all-white First Baptist Church on Park Street for church services.

In the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation, the African-American churchgoers issued a petition to establish their congregation in Charlottesville.

The formation of a new community was approved under Reverend John T. Randolph, and services began immediately following its commencement.

The church is open to the public for tours and offers a variety of programs and events throughout the year.

History marker of the First Baptist Church

Sarah Stierch, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s also home to the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, dedicated to preserving the history of Virginia Baptists.

The First Baptist Church in Charlottesville is home to some of Virginia’s most beautiful stained glass windows.

Each window tells a different story; they are incredibly intricate and well-made.

The church is open for tours, and it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area!

Stock up on Fresh Produce at Charlottesville City Market

The Charlottesville City Market is a farmer’s market along Water Street downtown Charlottesville.

It was founded in 1979 and has provided Virginians with fresh produce since.

The market is open from April to December and offers a variety of local fruits, vegetables, and meats.

The market also has a variety of food trucks that provide breakfast and lunch options.

If you’re looking for a place to buy fresh, local produce, the Charlottesville City Market is the place for you!

Wander around the Historic Michie Tavern

People approaching the Historic Michie Tavern

Queerbubbles, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Michie Tavern is a historic building that has been around since 1784.

It was initially built as a stagecoach stop open to the public.

Located near Jefferson’s Monticello, Michie Tavern has provided tourists with amenities, including food, drink, and lodging, for more than 200 years.

The tavern also hosts weddings, corporate events, and private parties.

The Michie Tavern also has a restaurant that serves traditional Virginian cuisine.

Front view of the Historic Michie Tavern's exterior

Billy Hathorn, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 18th-century style pub serves Virginia wines, beers, and hard ciders, including delectable dishes such as country ham, fried chicken, and blackberry cobbler.

After a nice lunch, guests may visit unique boutiques, all located in historic buildings.

Above and beyond plenty of shopping possibilities, The Tavern Shop and The General Store provide a one-of-a-kind experience.

Tour the Local Art Scene at the Les Yeux du Monde Art Gallery

Located along Wolf Trap Road, the Les Yeux du Monde Art Gallery is a local art gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was founded in 1995 and means “The Eyes of the World” in French.

The gallery features various local artists, including painters, sculptors, photographers, and more.

Some exhibits include the works of William Albert Allard, Anne Harris Massie, and Russ Warren.

They also offer classes and workshops for both adults and children.

If you’re looking for a place to see some local art, the Les Yeux du Monde Art Gallery is the place for you!

Grab Dinner at the Virginian

Exterior of the Virginian

Smash the Iron Cage, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Virginian is Charlottesville’s oldest restaurant, located at the corner of University Avenue.

It was founded in 1923 and has served delicious food ever since.

Virginian offers a variety of sandwiches and burgers on its menu, such as the famous Virginian Burger, Coal Miner Burger, La Casa Burger, and the Famous Virginian Club Sandwich.

They also serve pasta dishes, Southern Fried Chicken, and their signature Virginian Steak.

They also have a wide selection of wine, beer, and cocktails.

The Virginian is a popular spot for weddings and private events.

They have two different event spaces that can accommodate up to 150 guests.

Likewise, they offer a variety of catering options.

For visitors looking for an old-school steakhouse experience, the Virginian is the place for you!

Final Thoughts

These are the best things to do in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Whether you’re looking for a place to eat, drink, or shop, or you’re looking for a place to explore the outdoors, Charlottesville has something for everyone.

So what are you waiting for?

Start planning your trip today!

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