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Surrounded by green farmland, fruit orchards, and the azure-tinted Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville stands at the center of the lush Albemarle County, which Thomas Jefferson fondly referred to as the "Eden of the United States." With such spectacular natural beauty to be found here, it's no wonder that both the former president and fifth president James Monroe chose to make the Charlottesville area their home. A visit to this small and enchanting city offers outdoor paradise, a wealth of early US history, and vibrant cultural attractions right at your fingertips. Between all the things to see and do in Charlottesville, your only difficulty will be deciding how to narrow down your itinerary.
When strolling around Charlottesville, it's easy to find signs of its colonial-era roots, but the city also brims with the energy of its lively, modern side. In its different neighborhoods, beautiful brick buildings, up-and-coming restaurants, and quaint shops invite you to discover an enchanting mix of old and new.
Charlottesville's original Downtown district is defined by its popular Downtown Mall, an 8-block pedestrian area lined with oak trees and packed with shopping and dining possibilities. For a slice of local culture, wander into art galleries, or catch a performance at the restored Jefferson Theater.
Founded by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia showcases stunning Jeffersonian architecture and remains the only UNESCO-listed university in the US. After admiring the grassy Lawn and Pantheon-inspired Rotunda in the Academical Village, hit up The Corner to stock up on Cavaliers merchandise.
Breathtaking Virginia scenery awaits on the Skyline Drive, which picks up just outside of Charlottesville and winds for over 105 miles (170 km) through Shenandoah National Park. As you venture deep into the Blue Ridge Mountains, stop at 75 different overlooks to gaze down on the verdant Shenandoah Valley.
As the home of two Founding Fathers, the Charlottesville area boasts its fair share of rich history. Walk in the shoes of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, his magnificent mountaintop plantation and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the grand neoclassical main house and beautiful grounds, and then head just down the road to the more modest Ash-Lawn Highland, which was once the home of fifth president James Monroe. If you're hungry for even more US history, join a historian for a private tour of Civil War sites in Charlottesville, which include the University of Virginia and Rio Hill.
When searching for things to do in Charlottesville, you'll find yourself spoiled for choice. Explore the beauty in the city's backyard with a hike on the Saunders-Monticello Trail, or visit the Carter Mountain Orchard for a chance to pick your own apples and peaches right off the tree. If you're on the hunt for spots to eat and drink, chocolate tours and craft beer tours can be arranged, or you can delve into Charlotte's authentic southern fare at historic restaurants like the 18th-century Michie Tavern. Charlottesville's climate offers ideal conditions for growing grapes, so stop in to try red and white varietals at acclaimed wineries such as Jefferson Vineyards and Blenheim Vineyards. And for a taste of the city's thriving arts scene, catch the latest production at the Paramount Theater, or find out what local artists are working on at the McGuffey Art Center, one of the oldest cooperative art centers in the US. While visiting the University of Virginia, set aside time to check out the Kluge-Ruge Aboriginal Art Collection for a fascinating look at a fine collection of indigenous Australian art.