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Best Things to Do in Charlottesville, Virginia

Thomas Jefferson was a controversial but beloved founding father. He had a mind that was always working and left his mark on America.

His influence spread to the town that he lived in, Charlottesville, Virginia. His major legacy was his home, Monticello. He also encouraged wine production and agriculture, built a university, and mentored fifth president James Monroe.

The town of Charlottesville grew after his death. It’s a thriving community with delicious restaurants, natural places to rest, and a thriving Downtown Mall that brings in visitors from everywhere.

Keep watching to learn about the best things to do in Charlottesville.


Thomas Jefferson’s home is the only presidential and private home in the US recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. It includes a mountain, farm, and plantation. The inside has a neoclassical design inspired by Italian artist Andrea Palladio. There are also a few of Thomas’ own ideas sprinkled in.

There are several tours available. The Behind the Scenes Day Pass lets you visit all three floors of the mansion, including the Dome Room. Learn about slavery at Monticello by visiting the Sally Hemings exhibit or going on the Hemings Family Tour.

Monticello also features a visitor center and shop. The Monticello Farm Table is one of Charlottesville’s many wonderful places to eat. It serves lunch made with local fruits and vegetables.

Monticello is open every day except Christmas with varying hours. The gardens are available to visit from April to October.

University of Virginia

This university, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Academic Village within it has the same title.

Many of its best buildings still maintain their original design, which were inspired by the Roman Pantheon. The Rotunda was renovated in 2015 and 2016 but is now one of the most popular places in the university. The Dome Room hosts dinners and lectures.

Fralin Museum of Art and UVA Museum

These two museums within the University are among the best things to do in Charlottesville all on their own. Admission to both is free.

The Fralin Museum has a large collection of art. The UVA museum has over 14,000 paintings, photographs, and more. Its Kluge-Rhue Aboriginal Art Collection is the only Indigenous Australian art exhibition in the United States.

Virginia Discovery Museum

This is one of the best thing things to do in Charlottesville if you want to make sure your trip is educational for your children. It’s a non-profit organization founded in 1981.

The museum features interactive play environments for children ages 1-8. It also hosts educational programs and events throughout the year. They include the Santa Pancake Breakfast in December and Boo Bash in October.

Downtown Mall

This four-foot, eight-block historic meeting place is one of the largest in the US. It has 30 restaurants and cafes and over 120 shops such as the 3-story shop Daedeul Books. Boutiques, art galleries, cinemas, music venues, and nightclubs round it out.

You don’t have to walk through the entire mall yourself. A complimentary trolly takes you through it and to other sites such as the University. There’s also a carousel for children to ride.

The Charlottesville City Market comes around on Saturdays in warm months. The mall also hosts spooky ghost tours and lovable Christmas events.

Crabtree Falls

This is one of the best things to do in Charlottesville if you want to make sure you have a trip full of scenic natural beauty. The 70-foot waterfall is six miles away from the equally beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.

Crabtree Falls is 70 feet tall with five major cascades and a few smaller ones that go up to 1,200 feet. A 2.5-mile loop will take you to it and let you admire all of its beautiful plants. You could also go up the 1.8-mile trail instead.

James Monroe’s Highland

Monticello isn’t the only presidential home in Charlottesville. Thomas Jefferson was James Monroe’s mentor, so he made sure to live close to him. His actual mansion was destroyed by a fire, but its foundation was discovered in 2016.

There are tours offered daily with tours focusing on life during the fifth president’s term. There are even guided or augmented reality tours you can take without stepping on the grounds.

There’s also a museum shop that includes the Virginia Artisans Room. It has Monroe memorabilia and 19th-century souvenirs. You can even go home with a sweet treat by buying local honey or hickory syrup.

Tours are available every day except for major holidays. Hours vary by season.

Like and subscribe to ViewCation to learn about how to find more than just museums in historic towns. Keep watching for more of the best things to do in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Take Time to Eat

National Geographic once called Thomas Jefferson America’s First Foodie. He brought over several dishes, such as ice cream and mac and cheese, from Europe.

That makes it only fitting that the city that he called home would have a range of dining options. They’re delicious but simple enough for anyone to try and have a variety of options.

Crozet Pizza

Eating here is definitely one of the best things to do in Charlottesville if you ask National Geographic. They even included it on their “Best in the World” lists. It’s also won many awards as the best pizza in the state of Virginia.

Crozet Pizza was originally opened in Crozen in 1977 but moved to Charlottesville. It’s part of the Old Buddhist Biker Bar and has a down-to-earth vibe to go along with its delicious pizza.

The Virginian

This is one of the best things to do in Charlottesville if you’re hungry for history and a delicious meal. It’s the oldest restaurant in town, founded in 1923.

Thomas Jefferson would be proud that they serve one of his favorite dishes, mac and cheese, but they’ve put their own twist on it. Their Stumble Down Mac N’ Cheese is spicy, creamy, and topped with a crispy cheddar potato cake.

The dining areas all feel like rustic cabins that serve as mental time machines. You can also eat outside to watch the activity on the streets.

Bodo’s Bagels

This is another of Charlotesville’s longest-running restaurants. It’s been around since 1988, serving university students, families, and tourists.

They have delicious bagels made on-site every day as well as a variety of customizable sandwiches. Everything is affordable, and the staff will start to feel like your friends every time you come back for more. Just be prepared for a line that goes out the door on busy mornings. Go to their Preston Avenue or Emmet Street locations if you want your bagel now.

MarieBette Cafe and Bakery

This European-inspired cafe is a popular spot for quick dishes. It offers fresh bread, coffee, pastries, and a light brunch menu.

Baked eggs and a sourdough breakfast sandwich are a few of their standout weekend breakfast options. Come early and be prepared to stand in line, because the wait for a table is often thirty minutes or more.

Public Oyster

This small but wonderful restaurant provides a taste of East Coast seafood. Their best dishes include oysters and lobster rolls. Wash it all down with their craft beer and cocktails while sitting on the in-season patio.

This is another one of Charlottesville’s most popular and crowded restaurants. Make a reservation before you go, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend.

Drink Wine and Cider

Charlottesville is considered one of the best wine regions in the eastern US. There are over 30 wineries within a 30-mile radius in Charlottesville. A tour on the Monticello Wine Trail or CVille Hop On Tour will let you quickly see the best it has to offer, but you can also visit them individually.

You should also make sure to sample one of the area’s other signature drinks; hard cider. You can find it almost anywhere in Charlottesville now, and it’s made with the best local ingredients.

Three Notch’d Brewing

This place serves six flagship beers and a range of other seasonal options. They’re all inspired by Virginian history, letting you feel like you’re learning while you’re drinking.

The Ghost IPA honors Confederate raider, John Mosby. The 40 Mile IPA honors Jack Jouett. He traveled along Three Notch Road to warn Thomas Jefferson about the approach of the British cavalry. It earned him the title of the Paul Revere of the South.

Jefferson Vineyards

Thomas Jefferson provided this land in 1773. He wanted to encourage the cultivation and development of Virginian wine.

The original vines were destroyed in a few years but came back in the 1980s. You can enjoy the wine in a tasting room or large patio. The Adirondack chairs provide unforgettable views of Mt. Alto.

Gabrielle Rausse Winery

This winery features Chasselas Dore, one of our founding fathers’ grapes brought to Monticello. Gabrielle Rausse is now considered the father of Virginian wine.

The winery uses its 16 acres of land to produce its signature varieties. You can sample them all and get a bit of history in the process.

Cider Spots

Sipping cider is one of the best things to do in Charlottesville because you’re spoiled for choice when deciding where to go to get it. Start with a local cidery such as Bold Rock Cidery & Taproom or Castle Hill Cider.

You’ll learn more about the process of creating this delicious drink from local apples. You’ll also get beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile byway. It lets you go through the entirety of Shenandoah National Park and the Virginia Piedmont region.

You’ll see beautiful plants including colorful wildflowers. 75 overlooks connect you with the park’s campgrounds, visitor centers, picnic areas, trailheads, and more. It’s like visiting the best parts of the park in the easiest way possible.

Greenbrier and Kemper Park

Greenbrier Park covers 28.3 acres of natural beauty. You can hike or bike along Meadow Creek. There’s a range of habitats to enjoy, including Sycamore groves, oak-hickory forests, and wetlands. Make sure to visit Greenbrier Marsh, one of the Piedmont region’s only natural marshes.

Kempner Park covers 89 acres along Jefferson Parkway. It’s a favorite for walkers, joggers, bikers, and bird watchers. It’s also one of the best places to access the Saunders-Monticello Trail, one of Charlotteville’s most worthwhile treks.

Who’s your favorite founding father? Let us know in the comments.