17 Best Things to Do in Albemarle County, VA

Albemarle County, VA

Welcome to my home, Albemarle County, Virginia.

Nestled amidst the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, this county is a charming blend of picturesque landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture.

I have been captivated by the county's endless beauty and diverse attractions for years.

It offers the perfect blend of small-town charm and big-city amenities, making it an ideal destination for travelers.

From the rolling vineyards to the grand historic estates, there's a story waiting to be discovered around every corner.

As a resident, I am delighted to guide you through some of the best experiences the county has to offer.

So, put on your explorer hat, and let's delve into the best things to do in Albemarle County, Virginia.

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Explore the History of Monticello

Exterior of the Monticello
N8Allen / Shutterstock.com

On any given day, you'll find me exploring the beautiful area of Monticello.

I remember the first time I drove to this stately 1769 mansion that was once home to President Jefferson; it was a sight to behold.

Located in my neighborhood, the place offers so much to take in from the mansion itself, the museum, and the extensive plantation showcasing the harsh history of slave labor.

Nestled among the rolling hills, Monticello invites you to step back in time.

The guided tour is a gem, filled with stories and insights about different events that took place here.

Walking through the mansion feels like a unique history lesson and seeing the replica Declaration of Independence is always a humbling experience.

It's one of fewer than 50 known in existence - a marvel to behold.

The walkways are lined with stunning views of the plantation and the surrounding landscape.

It's a must-see for anyone wanting to better understand the lives of our founding fathers.

I often take my kids here, and they, too, have grown to appreciate the history behind this place.

Beyond just the tours, Monticello is also a lesson in organization.

Entrance doors of the Monticello house
Daniel M. Silva / Shutterstock.com

Every visit is seamless, thanks to the fantastic staff and well-planned schedules.

Reserving tickets online is incredibly easy, and the shuttle bus service to the top is quick and prompt.

Tours covering enslaved labor are additional insights that I highly recommend.

It's a significant aspect of history that's well-presented here.

And the fact that you can attend additional tours at no extra cost once you've paid for entry is a testament to Monticello's commitment to education and history.

For those planning a visit, bring a reusable water bottle and comfortable walking shoes.

There's a good bit of walking involved, and hydration stations are conveniently located near the restrooms.

It's definitely a site that deserves a full day's exploration.

The grounds of the Monticello
Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Learn the Struggles and Successes of Expeditioners at the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center

You wouldn't believe my excitement when I first heard about the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center opening in our town.

And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

For someone like me who's always been captivated by the illustrious expedition of Lewis and Clark, this place is akin to a treasure trove.

Nestled on the outskirts of my peaceful town, it offers a picturesque view of the Rivanna River alongside a plethora of interactive exhibits that bring history to life.

I distinctly remember my first visit.

The moment I stepped inside, I was transported back to the early 1800s as I followed the explorers' footsteps through their meticulously replicated journey westward.

One of the major highlights for me is the hands-on boat exhibit.

It is not just a sight to behold, but it offers a chance to step onto a boat similar to the ones used by the explorers.

The feeling of standing there, imagining the challenges and triumphs Lewis and Clark must have experienced, is truly a unique experience.

The center also has some fascinating educational programs.

On one of my visits, I had the privilege to witness a group of young students engrossed in a lively presentation about the expedition.

It was heartening to see the seeds of curiosity being sown in these young minds

Go Hiking at Preddy Creek Trail Park

It's hard to describe the satisfaction I get when I lace up my boots and step into the sprawling 571-acre sanctuary of Preddy Creek Trail Park.

Nestled near Barbourville, just outside Charlottesville, this trail park has become my weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

I must say, the trails out here are simply marvelous.

You've got miles and miles of them, perfect for a leisurely hike, a heart-pounding mountain bike ride, or even a peaceful horseback ride.

I've lost count of how many times I've hiked the full Preddy Trail Loop.

With each trip taking about 2 hours and 20 minutes, it offers a wonderful workout in the heart of nature.

Trust me when I say this trail is more than just a walk in the woods.

Pet owners will be pleased to know that Preddy Creek Trail Park is very pet-friendly.

I recall once bringing my trusty old Labrador to Preddy Creek Trail Park, who had the time of his life, sniffing and romping around the trail loop.

Just note that if it rained recently, you might want to wait a few days before heading out as the trails can get muddy.

One of my favorite features of this park is the mountain bike trail complete with an obstacle course for experts.

The trails are a bit uneven and rocky, which adds to the thrill of the ride. Runners frequent these trails too, but just a word of caution - watch your step.

Whether it's for a family outing or a solitary retreat, Preddy Creek Trail Park never disappoints.

It's a beautiful park, proximal to the city, yet far enough to offer a serene escape.

I've had countless memorable experiences here, and I'm sure there are many more awaiting me.

Sample Apples at Carter Mountain Orchard and Country Store

Signage of Carter Mountain Orchard and Country Store
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

There I was, one sunny afternoon at Carter Mountain Orchard and Country Store, a place that captures the heart of the community.

Its charm lies not just in its seasonal fruit picking but also in the country store and bakery that offers an array of produce and specialty foods.

It was my first time picking apples during the season, and the experience was delightful.

The orchard offered a myriad of apple varieties to choose from and even allowed sampling.

Savoring the crisp, sweet fruit right there in the open air was an experience I'll cherish.

I also took some amazing pictures on the platform area overlooking the sprawling orchards which added a special touch to the apple picking adventure.

The country store was equally enchanting, stocked with a wealth of local goods that spoke volumes about the community and its farmers.

The prices were a tad on the higher side, but the quality of the products made every penny worthwhile.

The ice cream there was especially heavenly, a perfect way to cool down after a day in the sun.

One of the highlights of my visit at Carter Mountain Orchard and Country Store was the apple cider donuts.

Paired with their wine tasting, it was a combination that sat well on the palate.

But what really stood out was the warmth and friendliness of the staff.

They seemed genuinely happy, which added to the charm of the place.

In fact, a winter visit offered a unique experience too.

There were ample cooking apples available, creating a different kind of apple-picking experience.

Plus, the apple-based products and trinkets on offer were too tempting not to indulge in.

Discover Local Art and History at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

Every now and then, when the monotony of daily life starts getting to me, I take a turn off the bustling highway and find myself stepping into the amazing world of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia.

The moment you enter, you are welcomed by an explosion of color, texture, and expressions that hit you straight in the feels.

I still remember the first time I visited - I knew absolutely nothing about Aboriginal art.

With every visit, I learn a little more, and my appreciation for this art form deepens.

One of the exhibits that completely took my breath away was the 50 Years of Papunya Tula Artists.

If you are planning a visit, I recommend you check to see if it's still on.

The best part? Admission to this treasure trove of culture and art is absolutely free!

Situated on a scenic hill, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection building and its surroundings are a sight to behold in themselves.

If you're like me and enjoy the great outdoors, you might want to consider packing a picnic - the open grassy area is the perfect spot to relax after soaking in all that art and history.

Oh, and before I forget, make sure to stop by their lovely little gift shop.

Filled with unique, reasonably-priced items, it's the perfect place to pick up a little memento or a gift for a loved one.

Join a Tournament at The Club at Glenmore

You wouldn't believe the time I had at The Club at Glenmore.

It was at the Annual Bill Howard Golf for Alzheimer's tournament, and let me tell you - they know how to put on an event!

Carts stocked to the brim with ice and refreshments, a spread of hors d'oeuvres that would make a Michelin-star restaurant envious, all working towards a noble cause.

It was the kind of day that sticks in your memory.

It wasn't just the tournament that left an impression on me.

I've had the opportunity to dine at The Club at Glenmore on several occasions, and it's always been a delightful experience.

Once, they hosted our office "Christmas in July" party - in the middle of summer, mind you!

But the Glenmore team pulled it off spectacularly, their attention to detail transforming the room into a winter wonderland.

The ambiance alone was enough to make the night special, but the food - oh, the food!

The chef's talents shine through every dish, making our culinary adventure one for the books.

Perhaps what makes The Club at Glenmore truly exceptional is the service.

The staff here are always friendly, attentive and go out of their way to ensure you have everything you need.

It's evident that they take great pride in providing a top-tier dining experience.

This extends to their event planning as well.

When Stacey organized a 75th birthday party for my wife, it was a memorable and seamless experience.

From the delicious food to the fantastic service, everything was simply perfect.

Go Biking at at Riverview Park

Rivanna river at Riverview Park
Gerry Bishop / Shutterstock.com

Living just around the corner, I often find myself gravitating toward Riverview Park.

A haven tucked away in Charlottesville, it has become my go-to spot for those tranquil moments away from the hustle-bustle of city life.

The park, spanning a massive 27 acres, is a harmonious blend of natural beauty and well-maintained amenities.

Nestled along the river, it provides a serene backdrop for a leisurely stroll or a vigorous bike ride.

The park has this adjacent biking and walking trail that seems to cascade alongside the river.

I love to cycle along this trail, soaking in the tranquil views of the river.

And oh, the playground! It's always a delight to see kids frolicking around, their laughter echoing through the park.

The swings, the slides, the climbers - they make it a paradise for the little ones.

There are also these picnic spots scattered around, perfect for a family outing or a quiet lunch with a book in hand.

Parking is a breeze here.

The lot is spacious and conveniently located near the entrance.

This makes it easy to offload your picnic gear or your bicycles and set off on your park adventure without wasting any time.

Riverview Park, to me, is not just a park; it is a preserve of tranquility, fun, and natural beauty.

Cool Off at Booker T. Washington Park

The moment I step into Booker T. Washington Park, I feel an immediate sense of tranquility.

Nestled in the heart of Charlottesville, this public recreation area is my go-to spot whenever I crave a retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The moment I walk in, I'm greeted by an outdoor pool that's perfect for those sweltering summer days.

It's a perfect place to cool off – I'm planning to return soon to take a refreshing dip.

The park is brimming with various athletic fields and courts, offering something for everyone.

Personally, I enjoy the occasional game of pick-up basketball with friends.

The courts are well-maintained, and there's always someone willing to join in for a game or two.

The picnic spots scattered throughout the park provide a great setting for a lazy Sunday brunch.

Pack a basket, gather some friends, and you're set for a delightful day outdoors.

But it's the playground that's the star attraction, especially if you have little ones.

It's shaded for the most part of the day, making it a safe haven for kids to run around even on hot afternoons.

The equipment is well-kept and suitable for both small and older children.

A word of caution though, there have been instances of not-so-friendly folks near the top playground by the restrooms.

Best to keep an eye out.

The park also boasts a fun nature walk – the perfect way to commune with nature without leaving the city limits.

The trail winds through lush greenery, offering an invigorating escape from urban life.

And on snowy winter days, the park’s hill transforms into a sleigh-riding wonderland, much to the delight of everyone around.

I have to give a special mention to the ample parking available.

It's such a relief not to worry about finding a spot on a busy day.

With its various amenities and serene environment, Booker T. Washington Park has something for everyone, making it a treasured part of our community.

Have a Picnic at Mint Springs Valley Park

I've been living near the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains for a while now, and I must say, I have never seen as much beauty and tranquility as I have at Mint Springs Valley Park.

Nestled in this serene location, the park offers a perfect blend of nature and recreation.

Being an outdoorsman, the hiking trails are my personal paradise.

Even on a busy day, you'll find only friendly folks enjoying the different intensities of trails.

With good markers and ample parking, it's easy to find your way around.

There's one trail that takes you up a hill, it's a bit of a challenge, but that quad burn is certainly worth the stunning view you are rewarded with at the top.

The park is also a fantastic spot to bring the family.

With three ponds and picnic tables scattered around, it's easy to enjoy a day out in the sunshine.

And in the summer, the beach area opens for swimming - a feature I haven't yet experienced, but it looks inviting!

Not just for humans, it's a haven for our four-legged friends too!

My hound absolutely loves our long walks here.

Although there's no off-leash area, your dogs won't mind.

The excitement of the fire trail is more than enough to keep them entertained.

If you fancy a day of hiking or just need a peaceful spot to unwind, Mint Springs Valley Park is the place to be.

So, pack some water, maybe a picnic, leash up your hound if you have one and hit the trails!

Discovering the Hidden Gems at The Fralin Museum of Art

Exterior of The Fralin Museum of Art
SharpCrumbs, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just tucked away in the heart of the University of Virginia campus lies a hidden gem known as The Fralin Museum of Art.

Now, you may not expect much from a small university museum, but don't let the size fool you.

This quaint place is brimming with a diverse range of artwork from various cultures and time periods that can captivate any art lover.

One fine afternoon, while waiting for a friend on campus, I decided to pass the time by diving into the world of art, housed within The Fralin Museum of Art.

Expecting a typical display, I was taken aback by the fascinating exhibit of ancient Mayan ceramics.

The detailed explanations accompanying the artifacts only added to the charm.

The one that caught my attention was a dish painted with a rather playful depiction of a heron, which struck me as being delightfully imaginative.

The surprise didn't stop there.

Walking further, I found myself spellbound by abstract paintings, each piece telling an intriguing story.

Some works seemed to echo the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson, a collection dedicated to him adding another layer to the museum's allure.

What seemed like a casual stroll turned into an enlightening experience.

This small, tasteful museum has a way of drawing you in with its interesting exhibits.

Perfect for a quick break from the routine, where you can savor the art during a lunch break tour or while passing an hour on the campus.

Play a Ball Game with your Kids at McIntire Park

A certain peacefulness embraces you as you step foot into McIntire Park.

The park, with its calming woods and bubbling streams, is a breath of fresh air in the midst of the city.

The playground might not be grand, but it's a great spot for younger kids to burn some energy while their older siblings are busy with a baseball or softball match on the fields.

One of the things I love about the park is the skate park.

There's nothing quite like the feeling of the wind rushing past your face as you whirl and twirl on your board.

The best part is it's a place that welcomes everyone, regardless of age and skill level.

From kids just beginning to find their balance to seasoned adults, you'll always find someone having a great time.

And if you're not one for skateboarding, the park also has a wonderful trail system for birding and hiking.

It's not often you can enjoy the serenity of nature while still being within the city limits.

Just remember to park at the skate park's parking lot and use the pedestrian overpass to cross the train tracks - it's the safest way to get across!

Whether it's an overcast Saturday or a sunny Wednesday, McIntire Park is always buzzing with activity.

In most places, McIntire Park is stroller-friendly, making it ideal for families with little ones.

The trail system between the park and school also adds a fun element of exploration for the older kids.

If you ask me, it's the perfect place for some fun under the sun, irrespective of your age or interests.

Just remember - don't forget to bring your spirit of adventure along!

Stroll the Walnut Creek Park

Have you ever experienced a slice of heaven right here on Earth?

That's what it feels like to spend a day at Walnut Creek Park.

Nestled in Virginia's enchanting countryside, this park is my go-to place for solace and adventure alike.

The moment I step into the park, the noise of city life fades away, replaced by the melodic rustling of leaves, the soothing sound of flowing water, and the distant chirping of birds.

As I stroll along the well-maintained trails, I can't help but admire the diverse flora that paints a beautiful picture against the backdrop of the clear blue sky.

As an avid mountain bike enthusiast, the park's intricate system of trails is something I look forward to.

The thrill of maneuvering my bike through the narrow pathways, up and down the steep slopes, stimulates a sense of exhilaration like no other.

For those who enjoy a more laid-back experience, Walnut Creek Park offers delightful picnic spots with breathtaking lake views.

The gentle breeze that wafts across the water's surface, carrying the mild fragrance of fresh blooms, adds to the charm of the picnic experience.

The park's tranquil lake, home to a variety of fish, is perfect for a serene afternoon of fishing.

The anticipation of the tug on the line, followed by the thrill of the catch, is an experience that never gets old.

Walk through Presidential History at James Monroe's Highland

Main house at James Monroe's Highland
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

If there's one place I never tire of visiting, it's the historic James Monroe's Highland.

Nestled in the heart of my hometown, it's a wonderful reminder of our nation's rich history and heritage.

Though President Monroe's original home no longer stands due to a fire, the reconstructed estate is nothing short of remarkable.

Each artifact, piece of furniture, and painting tells a story of a bygone era, allowing us locals to take a peek into the lives of our early presidents.

The staff here are absolutely wonderful; they've become like friends over the years.

One of the highlights of my visits to the Highland is the guided tours.

They are informative and engaging, uncloaking historical facts that even we locals find new and fascinating every time.

Cabins at James Monroe's Highland
Rob Pauley / Shutterstock.com

Ambling around the well-maintained grounds of  James Monroe's Highland, you can't help but feel a sense of peace.

The lush gardens, teeming with vibrant flowers and plants, are a sight to behold.

The chirping of birds and the occasional bleating of farm animals add to the rustic charm of the place.

The Highland is more than just a historical site.

It's a place where the community comes together to celebrate our shared heritage.

They hold occasional events that are a hit with us locals - from historical reenactments to festive celebrations; there's always something exciting happening.

Curved road trail at James Monroe's Highland
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Get Active at Crozet Park Aquatics and Fitness Center

If there's a place that's been a real haven for me in Crozet, it's the Crozet Park Aquatics and Fitness Center.

Its appeal goes beyond just being a place to work out. It’s a place where I can escape and unwind, exercise my body and refresh my mind simultaneously.

Crozet Park Aquatics and Fitness Center has an excellent gym.

The weight machines, cardio equipment, and free weights are always in top-notch condition, and there's enough variety to keep my workouts interesting and challenging.

Then there's the pool - a shimmering blue oasis that's perfect for cooling down after a hard gym session or for dedicated swim workouts.

But this place is more than just about fitness.

It's about community and recreation too.

The beautiful lake is a perfect backdrop for a leisurely walk or a brisk jog.

The paved trail that surrounds the park is my favorite spot for biking - the lush greenery, and fresh air make it a truly invigorating experience.

The park's sports fields are always buzzing with energy.

Whether it's kids playing soccer or softball or adults engaged in a friendly game of basketball, the sight brings a sense of joy and camaraderie.

Then there are the play parks, two for kids and one for dogs.

They're always clean and well-maintained, and I love the sound of children's laughter floating in the air as they enjoy the swings and slides.

Play with your Furry Friends at Darden Towe Park

Maple trees at Darden Towe Park
Gerry Bishop / Shutterstock.com

Ever since I moved to this neighborhood, Darden Towe Park has been my sanctuary. Just a few minutes from where I live in Virginia, this park has turned into my weekend go-to spot.

It's a place that offers a refreshing change from the concrete jungles and suits everyone's taste.

Walking my dog, Max, in the early morning while the sun slowly breaks free from its dawn cradle is one of my favorite moments of the day.

The park houses a dedicated dog area and Max has a ball of a time running around and making new friends.

It's almost as if he knows the way to Darden Towe Park just as well as I do!

For the active bunch, the tennis courts, soccer field, and canoe launch are fantastic amenities.

My son has just started playing soccer at the park's well-maintained fields.

The joy on his face when he kicked his first goal was priceless!

But Darden Towe Park isn't just for sports enthusiasts.

The picnic areas are always buzzing with families enjoying their lunches with the backdrop of beautiful trees.

The serene walking trails, which I frequent for my evening strolls, wind along the Rivanna River and offer breathtaking views.

The park also hosts the annual 4th of July fireworks.

Watching the fireworks light up the sky with the Charlottesville community is an unforgettable experience every year.

Go Winetasting at Stinson Vineyards

If you happen to find yourself in the vicinity of Charlottesville and are in the mood for some fine wine tasting, then look no further.

Stinson Vineyards, a modest yet absolutely stunning winery, is my usual go-to place.

You'll discover it nestled amidst the picturesque Virginia countryside, just a leisurely 30-minute drive from town. Don't be fooled by its quaintness, though.

This small vineyard is a hidden gem that surprises everyone with its charm.

My favorite time to visit is during the colder months like one serene afternoon I remember in February.

The place was quiet, with the beautiful mountains making a breathtaking backdrop.

Stinson Vineyards was starting to wake up from its winter slumber, and I got to sample their 2019 Cabernet that had just won a prize.

Imagine sitting on the patio, the sight of the vines in front promising spring, while savoring a glass of award-winning wine.

It's an experience you wouldn't trade for anything else.

On a sunny day, you'd definitely want to sit on one of those Adirondack chairs by the vines.

The vineyard may have a smaller tasting room, so I highly recommend saving your visit for a good-weather day.

Trust me; you'll appreciate the intimacy more than the hustle and bustle of larger places.

Try the Wines of Trump Winery

Signage of Trump Winery
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Every time I visit Trump Winery, I'm reminded of just how splendid it truly is.

The aura of the place is nothing short of spectacular.

Each visit has its own unique charm that keeps me coming back for more.

Whether it's the friendly staff, the charming gift shop, or their special lite fare, everything is crafted to perfection.

And the wines? Simply awesome.

The property is situated along the scenic Monticello Wine Trail.

Trump Winery one of the most stunning views I've ever seen - a sight that never gets old no matter how many times I've seen it.

The grandeur of the vineyard is hard to describe, but it's a sight that can rival any other vineyard in Virginia.

My personal favorite experience is indulging in a tasting session.

Choosing between the Reds and the Summer Favorites, which are all white wines, is a delightful dilemma.

Scenic view of Trump Winery
Alex_Zhang / Shutterstock.com

These tastings are served in cute mini carafes instead of the usual plastic cups, adding a touch of elegance to the experience.

But the true star of the show is the Sparkling Rosé.

The tantalizing taste of this wine, I must say, is the best I've ever had.

It's a definite must-try during your visit.

Though I haven't tried the food yet, the aroma that wafts from the kitchen has always been inviting.

I've heard great things about their dining experience, and it's definitely on my list for the next visit.

Aerial view of Trump Winery
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

Albemarle County is truly a gem tucked away in the heart of Virginia.

It offers a charming blend of history, outdoor activities, and cultural experiences.

As someone who has experienced all of these wonders, I can truly say that Albemarle County is not just a place to visit but a place to call home.

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