What to do in Charlottesville, VA

Activities, attractions and tours
Charlottesville featuring a house, a park and forests

Charlottesville Attractions

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.

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What to do in Charlottesville

Free Things to Do in Charlottesville

They say the best things in life are free. Be sure to visit the following around Charlottesville:

The Fralin Museum of Art - Approach the friendly staff or curator and find out about the collections housed here.

Albemarle County Court House - Stroll around this historic place and discover a couple of secrets from yesteryear.

Historic Court Square - This is a thriving location where you can absorb the atmosphere and experience local life.

University of Virginia Hospital - Make room in your to-do list to look at this place of local importance.

Rivanna Trails - Take a break from the urban jungle and spend time in Mother Nature at this inspiring spot.

Areas & Neighborhoods in Charlottesville

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.

University of Virginia

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.

Shenandoah National Park

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.

Things to See in Charlottesville

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.

Sightseeing in Charlottesville

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.

Things to Do in Charlottesville with Kids

You'll find loads of great things to do in Charlottesville with the young ones. Make some new memories together with these family friendly experiences:


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Frequently asked questions

What to do in Charlottesville on a rainy day?
If it’s dark and drizzly out there, check out some indoor activities, like a Edgar Allan Poe Escape Room or a “The British Are Coming” Escape Room.
What is Charlottesville famous for?
Monticello lives up to its reputation as an iconic attraction that you shouldn’t miss.
What should I not miss in Charlottesville?
You simply can’t go home without crossing off the following list of superb sights:

  • University of Virginia
  • Downtown Mall
  • Scott Stadium
  • Montpelier

Are there cheap things to do in Charlottesville?
You can easily make your vacation savings go further with these terrific cheap tours and activities:

What can you do in Charlottesville for free?
You’ll hardly have time to grab your wallet out of your bag with so many fantastic free things to do:

  • University of Virginia
  • Downtown Mall
  • Montpelier
  • University of Virginia Hospital

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