Charlottesville Travel Guide

Autumn fall orange foliage season rural countryside landscape at Charlottesville winery vineyard in blue ridge mountains of Virginia with cloudy sky and rolling hills

Autumn fall orange foliage season rural countryside landscape at Charlottesville winery vineyard in blue ridge mountains of Virginia with cloudy sky and rolling hills

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Charlottesville, Virginia, while home to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, is more than just a college town — although the University of Virginia is central to its history, culture, and residential population. Blue and orange may reign supreme, especially during basketball and lacrosse seasons, but the area also boasts numerous museums, art galleries, boutique hotels, and farm-to-table menus rivaling some of the best restaurants in the world.

If you only have a weekend in Albemarle County, you’ll want to take an entire day to explore Charlottesville’s university and Historic District — think cobblestones, 19th-century architecture, and the nostalgia-inducing hum of a bustling college campus. The other day should be spent in the great outdoors, taking in the resplendent Virginia vistas at one of the many local wineries or from Skyline Drive, a 105-mile drive alongside Shenandoah National Park.

There’s a decidedly special quality to this small Southern city with an impressive footprint. To visitors, Charlottesville feels simultaneously humble yet celebrated, groundbreaking but still connected to its roots. For locals and UVA alumni, it maintains a sense of home, no matter how long they’ve been away. Planning a trip to central Virginia in the near future? The T+L Charlottesville travel guide has everything you need to know about the history-rich area — from family-friendly activities to the best bookstores, cideries, and late-night meals.

>> Those looking to forego a typical summer vacation at the beach can turn to Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia, for fresh mountain air; scenic biking and walking trails; vineyards pouring crisp white and rosé wines; and fewer crowds. Learn more.

Sponsored by Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau

Time Zone

Eastern Standard Time

Best Time to Go

The best time to go to Charlottesville is during the late spring and early summer. May, June, and July — when the university is not in session — will be less crowded. Wine festivals dot the social calendar in May, but you’ll want to avoid graduation weekend, when most accommodations will be full (and pricier). June is ideal for exploring the blooming gardens of Monticello, but come the end of July, the muggy Virginia weather will be out in full force.

Autumn in Charlottesville is both beautiful and busy. Fall foliage blankets the landscape, and college football brings crowds from across the country. If you plan to join the collegial fun of a UVA Homecoming or Family Weekend in October, you’ll need to book your accommodations months in advance.

Things to Know

While the official mascot of the University of Virginia is the Cavalier, students, alumni, and sports teams are known as the Wahoos, or ‘Hoos for short. Expect to hear chants of “Wahoowa” while rooting on the Cavs.

The Virginia city has been home to many famous faces over the years — including Georgia O’Keefe, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tina Fey, and Dave Matthews.

In 1987, UNESCO named the university, along with Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, a World Heritage Site.

There are more than 40 wineries in Charlottesville, not to mention the cideries, distilleries, and breweries in the area.

How to Get Around

Downtown Charlottesville is certainly walkable, but you’ll want to have a car to explore the greater region, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah Valley National Park, or any of the local wineries. Those flying into Charlottesville Albermarle Airport (CHO) can rent a car at the location — just be sure to reserve ahead of time. Uber and Lyft rides are also available in the area.

The Charlottesville Area Transit bus service is currently free to all users due to COVID-19; most bus routes begin and end at Charlottesville’s Downtown Transit Station. Charlottesville also provides free trolley services (route map can be found here), a great option if you’re looking to explore both the University of Virginia and the Downtown Mall.E-bikes and e-scooters can be rented through the Veo app, but be sure to brush up on the city’s rules before taking one out for a spin.

Best Hotels

Keswick Hall

Address: 701 Club Dr, Keswick, VA 22947
Phone: (434) 979-3440
Book Now

A 20-minute drive from downtown Charlottesville, Keswick Hall reopened in the fall of 2021 after a complete renovation and property expansion. With 80 new rooms, a Jean-Georges restaurant, an additional building to house a spa, upgraded tennis facilities, and an infinity pool that looks out onto the property’s golf course, the luxury hotel is the ultimate Virginia retreat.

Oakhurst Inn

Address: 122 Oakhurst Cir, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 872-0100
Book Now

Oakhurst Inn had a previous life as three boarding houses and the home of a university professor. Now, it’s a charming 36-room boutique hotel that sits across the street from the University of Virginia — the ideal location for travelers who want to immerse themselves in the ‘Hoos culture on campus.

The Clifton

Address: 1296 Clifton Inn Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22911
Phone: (434) 971-1800
Book Now

Sitting on 100 acres of Virginia countryside, The Clifton feels secluded and peaceful, but its location is a mere 8 miles from the hub of Charlottesville. Guests can choose to stay in the Manor House, the Garden Cottages, the Livery Stables, or the Collina Farmhouse; each offers a selection of private bedrooms and access to the hotel’s pool and restaurant, 1799.

Boar’s Head Resort

Address: 200 Ednam Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (844) 611-8066
Book Now

Larger groups and families will find something for everyone at Boar’s Head Resort — tennis, squash, and pickleball courts, golf courses, a newly renovated spa, and plenty of outdoor space and nature trails to soak up the Virginia air. The property has a long, rich history; now owned by the Univ
ersity of Virginia, the land was part of Virginia’s first land grant, dating back to 1734.

Omni Charlottesville Hotel

Address: 212 Ridge McIntire Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 971-5500
Book Now

While many of Charlottesville’s best hotels lean into the pastoral nature of the area, Omni Charlottesville Hotel blends a modern aesthetic — featuring a seven-story glass atrium lobby — into its narrative. A short drive from UVA, the hotel is the perfect starting point for travelers who want to explore both the city and the surrounding nature.

Graduate Charlottesville

Address: 1309 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 295-4333
Book Now

Graduate Charlottesville’s location is unmatched — find it on Historic Main Street, just a 3-minute walk from The Corner, and across the street from the university. The collegiate nostalgia the Graduate hotel group embodies goes hand in hand with cheering on the Cavaliers at Scott Stadium.

Lobby detail at Graduate Hotel in Charlottesville

Lobby detail at Graduate Hotel in Charlottesville

200 South Street Inn

Address: 200 West St, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: (434) 979-0200
Book Now

200 South Street Inn offers Southern hospitality at its finest, including daily continental breakfast and wine and cheese in the afternoon. Spread across two historic homes, the bed and breakfast has a storied history that guests can discover upon arrival. The larger house was once a girls’ finishing school, a brothel, and a boarding house — albeit at different times.

The Draftsman, Charlottesville, University, Autograph Collection Hotel

Address: 1106 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 984-8000
Book Now

Business travelers, families, and prospective college students will find The Draftsman to be comfortable and convenient for all things Charlottesville. Along with a central location — close to campus and countless culinary destinations — The Draftsman has a dog-friendly policy, a penthouse fitness center, and an on-property restaurant called The Ridley.

Best Restaurants

Bodo’s Bagels

Address: 1418 Emmet St. (Rt. 29)
Phone: (434) 977-9598

505 Preston Ave. (Downtown)
Phone: (434) 293-5224

1609 University Ave. (UVA “Corner”)
Phone: (434) 293-6021
Website

You can’t come to Charlottesville without enjoying a bagel (or two) from Bodo’s Bagels. There are three locations in the area; most students go to the location on The Corner. The lines for this Charlottesville staple can be long, especially on a weekend morning, but they move quickly (and even a small wait is worth it for a made-from-scratch bagel smeared with house-made cream cheese).

MarieBette Café and Bakery

Address: 700 Rose Hill Drive Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 529-6118
Website

MarieBette is a European-inspired cafe in the Rose Hill neighborhood, with breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch menus alongside coffee and a variety of pastries and baked goods. If you only have time for a grab-and-go, make sure to get the cafe’s brioche feuilletée, a flaky pastry that many describe as a cross between a donut, croissant, and a brioche.

Pastries at MarieBette Cafe and Bakery in Charlottesville

Pastries at MarieBette Cafe and Bakery in Charlottesville

C & O

Address: 515 E Water St, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: (434) 971-7044
Website

It may have a humble exterior, but the inside of C&O is quite cozy and romantic. The menu is French, so you can expect a wonderful wine list to round out your meal, with many of the varieties grown in the Virginia wine region.

Citizen Burger Bar

Address: 212 E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: (434) 979-9944
Website

As the name implies, Citizen Burger Bar is known for its locally sourced burgers, best paired with their french fries and a local craft beer. If you don’t see a burger combination that speaks to you on the menu, you can create a unique masterpiece with your choice of bun, cheese, and toppings. If you’re feeling peckish after late-night cocktails, make your way to the Downtown Mall location; the kitchen is open until 10:30 p.m. during the week and 11:30 p.m. on weekends.

The Virginian

Address: 1521 University Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 984-4667
Website

The Virginian claims the title of “Charlottesville’s oldest restaurant,” with its doors first opening in 1923, and it continues its legacy of Corner culture. The food might not be Michelin-starred, but that’s not what The Virginian is about; it’s about the history, the tradition, and the famous made-to-order “Stumble Down Mac N’ Cheese,” topped with a cheddar potato cake.

The Local

Address: 824 Hinton Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: (434) 984-9749
Website

Appalachian fare is on the menu at The Local, which, true to its name, serves a variety of dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Cris
py fried trout, “Buffalo Creek Beef” Short Ribs, and the Gnocchi Bolognese top the list of must-eats, and visitors can wash it all down with a local cider, wine, or one of the seasonal cocktails.

Public Fish & Oyster

Address: 513 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 995-5542
Website

You’ll find oysters on the half shell, moules frittes, and fresh fish at Public Fish & Oyster, a dinner-only restaurant on Charlottesville’s West Main Street. Reservations are recommended, but bar seating is first-come, first-serve. Fans of lobster will want to stop by for happy hour and indulge in the lobster roll, which is only available until 6 p.m.

Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar

Address: 416 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 975-6796
Website

The Mediterranean menu at Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar is a welcome reprieve from the heavier burger-and-a-beer vibe of many of Charlottesville’s culinary establishments. A couple of blocks from the Downtown Mall and inside Main Street Market, Orzo serves up dishes with French, Italian, Greek, and Spanish flavors — with the added flair of regionally grown and sourced ingredients.

Things to Do

Tour the University of Virginia Campus

Address: 1827 University Avenue, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
Phone: (434) 924-0311
Website

You can’t come to Charlottesville without walking around the UVA campus. Begin your tour at the Lawn, a grassy area designed by Thomas Jefferson to be the center of the university. The Lawn is surrounded by academic and residential buildings dating back to the early 1800s. To this day, students in their final year can live in some of the original buildings on the Lawn — a prestigious honor.  At the north end, you’ll see the Rotunda, one of the most recognizable buildings on campus. During the academic year, tours of the Rotunda are offered every day at 11am.

Visitors should also take the time to see the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers (MEL) at the University of Virginia, just a short walk east of the Rotunda. Completed in spring 2020, the memorial honors the estimated 4,000 enslaved individuals who built and maintained the university over four decades.

If you continue north, you’ll come across Beta Bridge on Rugby Road. Thanks to its passionate alumni, UVA has countless traditions, one of which is painting the bridge with messages of support, activism, love, and remembrance. Messages constantly change — so much so that the bridge has developed a thick layer of paint over the years — but most students give each new message at least a day before painting over it.

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia. Built in 1826 at the public university in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia. Built in 1826 at the public university in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Visit a Charlottesville Winery

Website

Wine tasting at a Charlottesville vineyard or wine festival is basically a rite of passage. After all, it doesn’t get more relaxing than sipping a glass of sauvignon blanc while taking in the bucolic scenes of the Virginia mountains. The Monticello Wine Trail has an extensive list of wineries — all within a 25-mile drive of Charlottesville — to visit. If you’re looking to just hit one or two vineyards, though, Blenheim Vineyards, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, King Family Vineyards, and Veritas Vineyards and Winery are all popular picks.

Drink Virginia cider at Castle Hill Cidery

Address: 6065 Turkey Sag Rd, Keswick, VA 22947
Phone: (434) 296-0047
Website

If you don’t love the taste of wine, there’s always cider. At Castle Hill, guests can order their Virginia-made cider by the flight, glass, or bottle. Pair it with a charcuterie board and the Sage Apple Crumble Ice Cream, and there isn’t a more idyllic afternoon in all of Charlottesville.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Address: 1050 Monticello Loop Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: (434) 984-9800
Website

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is open for visitors to explore his house and gardens and learn about the history of both Jefferson and the enslaved individuals who lived and worked on the plantation. Purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended, with several options of tours, including a self-guided tour, the Hemings Family tour, and a Gardens and Grounds tour. Once you’ve finished your tour, make sure to stop by Michie Tavern, a historic tavern located a half-mile from Monticello — yes, the servers are in period attire, and yes, you’ll want more than one of their biscuits.

James Monroe’s Highland

Address: 2050 James Monroe Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: (434) 293-8000
Website

Highland, fifth president James Monroe’s home, sits two and a half miles from Monticello. Now owned by the College of William & Mary, Monroe’s alma mater, Highland is open for both tours and events. Highland not only allows visitors to learn more about Monroe, but also about the enslaved people who lived and labored on the property.

Carter Mountain Orchard

Address: 1435 Carters Mountain Trail, Charlo
ttesville, VA 22902
Phone: (434) 977-1833
Website

Fun for the whole family, Carter Mountain Orchard is open year-round, but the offerings do change by season. Visitors looking to pick their own apples or indulge in fresh-pressed apple cider and apple cider doughnuts have from mid-August until mid-December to stop by the orchard.

Hike Old Rag Mountain

Website

Outdoor enthusiasts visiting Charlottesville can’t pass up a hike through the majestic Shenandoah National Park. One of those hikes is Old Rag Mountain (or “Old Rag” for short), a popular yet challenging loop trail. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but the 360-degree views that reward hikers when they’ve reached the summit are worth the sweat. Most need a full day to complete the hike, as the 9.5-mile loop usually takes around five hours. For ideal conditions, plan to hike Old Rag between May and October — just be sure to pick up both your park entrance pass and your Old Rag day-use ticket beforehand.

Devil's Knob Overlook with fence and green grass field meadow at Wintergreen resort town village in Blue Ridge mountains in summer clouds mist fog

Devil’s Knob Overlook with fence and green grass field meadow at Wintergreen resort town village in Blue Ridge mountains in summer clouds mist fog

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia

Address: 400 Worrell Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22911
Phone: (434) 244-0234
Website

With more than 2,200 artifacts, paintings, and sculptures, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is the only museum in the United States exclusively devoted to Australian Aboriginal art. Housed at Pantops Farm, once owned by Thomas Jefferson, the collection is free to visit, and tours are offered each day. It is, however, recommended to make a reservation for a specific time, as only eight people can visit the museum at once.

Best Shopping

Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall

Address: 108 5th St. NE Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Phone: (434) 295-9073
Website 

More than 120 shops and 30 restaurants can be found in the historic buildings along Main Street. The Downtown Mall has several art galleries, like C’ville Arts, and jewelry stores — stop in Angelo Jewelry and Tuel Jewelers — as well as several book stores; bibliophiles can take their pick from New Dominion Bookshop, 2nd Act Books, and Daedalus Books.

Historic Downtown Mall - Charlottesville, Virginia USA

Historic Downtown Mall – Charlottesville, Virginia USA

The Corner

Address: 1501 University Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Website

The Corner is a busy intersection and business district across the street from the university; it’s also the center of off-campus student life. Seven blocks of restaurants (including Bodo’s Bagels) and shops, The Corner features 65 different businesses, including Mincer’s UVA Sportswear, Ragged Mountain Running Shop, and Heartwood Books.

Charlottesville City Market

Address: 100 E Water St, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: (434) 970-3371
Website

Open April through November, Charlottesville City Market lays claim to the title of “Charlottesville’s oldest open-air market.” Here, you can get a taste of everything Charlottesville — from artisan bread to fresh fruit and doughnuts. Additionally, there are several vendors (find the full list here) who sell crafts and souvenirs of your time in Charlottesville. One thing to note is that the City Market is for the early risers. In the summer months, it’s open until noon, and in the fall, it closes at 1 p.m.

Barracks Road Shopping Center

Address: 1117 Emmet St N, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 227-5170
Website

For a more typical shopping mall experience, Barracks Road Shopping Center is the plac
e to go. More than 80 shops and restaurants can be found at the center — which is just a 10-minute drive from Downtown Charlottesville — including Warby Parker, Ulta, Madewell, and Athleta.

Neighborhoods to Know

University of Virginia: The center of campus, where you’ll find both the Rotunda and The Lawn, serves as its own neighborhood, though the university extends into other parts of Charlottesville. Surrounding neighborhoods include Venable, Jefferson Park Ave, Poplar Glen, and 10th & Page.

Charlottesville Historic District: Many Charlottesville neighborhoods have “historic district” in their official titles, but if you hear someone mention the Historic District, they’re most likely talking about this brick-paved neighborhood and the Downtown Mall. It’s here where the city’s first taverns and shops opened, and where both students and visitors come to eat, drink, shop, catch a movie, or enjoy live music.

Belmont: Within walking distance of the Downtown Mall, the Belmont neighborhood is quieter and more residential. Belmont sits southeast of the city and combines two neighborhoods in one, Belmont and Carlton.

Barracks/Rugby: As its name suggests, Barracks/Rugby is made up of several neighborhoods. Located in the north-central part of the city, this neighborhood is made of students, professors, and families. The Barracks area, on Barracks Road, features narrow residential roads and elegant homes. Rugby Avenue connects Downtown to the university — here, you’ll find one end of the famous Rugby Road, a street lined with stunning buildings and homes, many housing the school’s fraternities and sororities.

10th & Page: 10th & Page was developed by John West, a formerly enslaved man who bought the land and divided it among Black families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, 10th & Page is mostly residential, and it’s named for one of the intersections near the neighborhood’s center.

Rose Hill: The Rose Hill neighborhood sits in the middle of Charlottesville, between North Downtown and 10th & Page. The area includes Booker T. Washington Park, a public recreation area with fields, courts, an outdoor pool, and a playground.

Weather

Charlottesville is a true four-season city, with spring bringing rise to daffodils, azaleas, and rhododendrons and summer ushering in humidity with the longer days. In autumn, crisp temperatures arrive in the city, and the occasional snowfall occurs in the winter months.

The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month.

January 30°-47°
February 32°-50°
March 39°-59°
April 48°-69°
May 56°-77°
June 64°-84°
July 68°-87°
August 66°-85°
September 59°-79°
October 49°-69°
November 40°-59°
December 33°-50°

Apps to Download

Virginia Wine: events, promotions, and itineraries for Virginia Wine Country
iOs | Android

ETA Spot Mobile App: transportation
iOs | Android

VEORide: transportation, e-scooter, e-bike, or bike
iOs | Android

Karen J. Simmons

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