The most famous attraction in Charlottesville, VA is Monticello, the home of founding father Thomas Jefferson, however there are many things to do in Charlottesville, VA that go beyond this historic site, including museums, shopping, wineries, and outdoor activities.
Below is a list of some of the top sites in Charlottesville. Many of these recommendations come from myself, while others were provided by a good friend of mine, who is an alumni of the University of Virginia, and spent many years exploring the area.
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Table of Contents
- Downtown Mall
- The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia
- Virginia Discovery Museum
- Charlottesville Wineries
- Carter Mountain Orchard
- Where to Stay in Charlottesville
- Where to Eat in Charlottesville
|Where to Stay in Charlottesville, Virginia|
|Omni Charlotteville Hotel |
Great for all the Amenities
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Great Boutique Hotel
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Inn at Court Square
Great for Historic Charm
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Monticello is the most famous attraction in Charlottesville. It was designed and built by founding father, Thomas Jefferson, who was the third President of the United States, the first Secretary of State under George Washington, the main author of the Declaration of Independence, and the founder of the University of Virginia, which is also located in Charlottesville.
The historic home is set in a gorgeous setting amidst the rolling foothills of the Shenandoah mountains. A visit to Monticello includes a guided tour of parts of the main house, as well as the opportunity to walk around the surrounding gardens, other structures, and a cemetery.
A highlight of a trip to Monticello is the new Sally Hemings exhibit, entitled The Life of Sally Hemings, which features an excellent, and long overdue, tribute to Sally Hemings.
There are numerous ticket packages that can be purchased through the Monticello website.
Open Daily: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Please note that the historic mountaintop opens 30 minutes later. The last tour starts 50 minutes before closing.
3 to 4+ hours
It is recommended that you purchase tickets ahead of time. There are numerous special tour packages available, including the Behind-the-Scenes Day Pass, Highlights Tour, Slavery at Monticello Tours, Gardens and Grounds Tours, and VIP After Hours Tour.
The Downtown Mall is a great central hub of restaurants and stores in downtown Charlottesville. It is an outdoor walking mall featuring brick sidewalks and historic charm. The mall features more than 120 stores and 30 restaurants.
There are a large number of fantastic home decor shops, including Oyster House Antiques, which features gorgeous unique pieces directly purchased in China; Mead Antique Oriental Rugs; and Consignment House Unlimited. There are also clothing stores like Arsenic and Old Lace Vintage, Low Vintage, and Magpie Knits.
You can also find many specialty arts stores like Cville Arts. And you can find many additional specialty stores including New Dominion Bookshop, Daedalus Bookshop, 2nd Act Books, Rockbridge Guitar Company, Melody Supreme, and Telegraph Art & Comics.
Some of my favorite restaurants include the Japanese Restaurant Ten, C&O Restaurant, Bang!, and The Alley Light. You can find even more of my favorite Charlottesville restaurants here.
The Downtown Mall has something for just about anyone. I especially love it for the numerous eclectic bookstores and music stores, as well as the unique home decor shops. They’re fun for window shopping, or for unique gift shopping around the holidays.
Vary by store. Please refer here for specific stores and hours.
3 to 4+ hours
The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia
Charlottesville has several excellent options for art lovers, including the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. The museum collection contains over 14,000 works ranging from American and European paintings, African Art, and American Indian Art, and photography. The museum is free to the public.
Be sure to check out the Exhibitions page for current special exhibits.
Tuesday: 10am – 5pm
Wednesday: 10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 5pm
Friday: 10am – 8pm
Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sunday: 12pm – 5pm
2 to 3 hours
Virginia Discovery Museum
The Virginia Discovery Museum is a great option for children and families. It features many hands-on activities for children that focus on science, music, reading, the outdoors, and much more.
Some of the activities include:
Sound and Music Studio
Along with the above activities, the Virginia Discovery Museum also offers drop-in and drop-off classes, Summer Camps, and Party and Event Rentals for special occasions.
Ticket information can be found here.
Monday to Saturday: 9:30am – 5pm
3 to 4+ hours
Charlottesville features many excellent wineries in the surrounding areas. Many are within an hour drive or less of the town.
Some of my favorite wineries include:
Barboursville Vineyards, which is the largest vineyard in the state of Virginia, and features some really amazing historic ruins to explore on the grounds.
Veritas Vineyards, which features a fabulous restaurant plus Bed and Breakfast on site.
Jefferson Vineyards, which sits at the historic location where Thomas Jefferson first tried to start a vineyard in Virginia.
A full list of my favorite vineyards can be found here.
Along with visiting the above wineries, I highly recommend booking a guided tour of the local wineries. These tours will drive you to several wineries, which takes away the stress and hassle of driving to them yourself.
Below are some of my favorite options for Guided Wine Tours in Charlottesville:
Wish Wish Wine Tours. I took several wine tours with Wish Wish Wine Tours during a recent extended weekend trip to Charlottesville and it was a great experience. They offer both wine and beer tours. Each tour visits up to 3 or 4 local wineries, spending several hours at each place, which is more than enough time to enjoy a flight, and sit back and relax. The prices are affordable and it eliminates the stress of planning and driving.
Private Wine Tour via Viator. This is a 5 hour wine tour offered via Viator. It offers a private tour to a local Charlottesville winery of your choice. I have taken many Viator tours over the years, in many different cities, and I have always had a great experience.
Custom Wine Tour via Viator. This is another 5 hour wine tour offered via Viator. It includes private transportation to 3-4 vineyards of your own choice. It also includes an experienced personal Wine Trail guide and optional lunch.
Vary by location
3 to 4+ hours, depending on how many wineries you visit
Guided tours can be found above.
Carter Mountain Orchard
Set amidst a gorgeous setting in the nearby hills outside Charlottesville, Carter Mountain Orchard is a great place for outdoor activities like peach and apple picking. You can also enjoy apple cider and wine slushees, plus get treats like donuts at the Country Store & Bakery.
In addition, the Chiswell Farm & Winery is scheduled to open in late 2021.
The orchard is open year round, however some special highlights include seeing gorgeous sunsets with a view in the Summer, and going apple picking in the Fall.
Tickets are required on select dates. More information can be found here.
Open Daily: 9am – 6pm (note that hours vary by season.)
3 to 4 hours
Where to Stay in Charlottesville
For a list of hotel recommendations in Charlottesville, please visit this article.
Where to Eat in Charlottesville
For a list of restaurant recommendations in Charlottesville, please visit this article.