Whether you have a few hours or a few days, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in the Charlottesville area. Below, you’ll find our suggestions of how you could spend a day in our beloved backyard, but this is really just the start of the journey.
Curating this list was one of the most difficult things we’ve had to do this year. Sacrifices were made. Bargains were struck. Compromises were reached. But our pain is your gain, so let’s go!
Charlottesville has a lot of great breakfast options, but most UVA alumni would tell you to head straight to Bodo’s Bagels (multiple area locations). Bodo’s is a Charlottesville institution and known for its consistency, affordability and quick service (don’t be deterred by the line!). Believe it or not, getting the No. 1 ticket of the day (Bodo’s organizes orders by ticket numbers) is on many UVA students’ bucket lists. It’s all good, but we recommend the “Deli Egg” on everything.
More of a biscuit person? We are big fans of the ham biscuit at JM Stock Provisions. A biscuit. Tasso ham. Honey. A dash of hot sauce. Perfection. Prefer a pastry? Marie Bette and Paradox Pastry are both worth your time.
After breakfast, grab a cup of coffee at one of C-ville’s many excellent coffee purveyors. Shenandoah Joe (multiple area locations) is always a solid choice. More of a cold brew enthusiast? Check out Darden alumnus Damian Warshall’s (MBA ’14) Snowing in Space in the West Main/Midtown area.
Pro Tip: If you’re visiting on a Saturday in the summer or fall, be sure to swing by the Charlottesville City Market. Hours vary by season, but the market is generally open from 8:00 a.m. until Noon/1:00 pm, and it features over 100 vendors selling everything from artisanal kombucha to heirloom zucchini.
Next, check out the Central Grounds of the University. As you’ve likely heard, the University of Virginia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and no trip to C-ville is complete without a meander on Grounds. The Lawn is the iconic heart of UVA and home to the Rotunda. Rotunda historical tours are offered at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. every day during the academic year.
Just off the Lawn, you will find the forthcoming Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia, which will open to the public this fall.
For lunch, Take It Away on The Corner is always a popular choice, featuring soups, salads, sandwiches on fresh baked bread and their famous house dressing, which is available for purchase by the jar. A few blocks away, you will find Roots Natural Kitchen, a bowl concept that falls somewhere between Chipotle and Sweetgreen. Roots is so popular with Darden students that the restaurant offers daily delivery to Darden. Students can place their order by the end of First Coffee and have a delish salad or bowl by the end of class.
For those interested in venturing beyond The Corner for lunch, catch the free Trolley at the UVA Chapel stop and head to the Downtown Mall, C-ville’s pedestrian mall and cultural heart. For lunch, try the tacos at The Bebedero, a burger at Citizen Burger (and don’t forget the truffle fries) or, for a true blast from the past, a sandwich and lemonade at Timberlake’s Drug Store.
After lunch, we recommend a stroll on the Downtown Mall. The mall features stores, restaurants, no less than four live music venues, Virginia’s oldest independent bookseller and more. In short, there is a lot to see (and do). If you’re in need of refreshment, ice cream (Splendora’s/Chaps), pie (The Pie Chest), crepes (The Flat) and coffee (Mudhouse/Grit) are all close at hand.
Next, head out of town for a few hours. Take a hike or visit a local vineyard, brewery or cidery. Charlottesville is about a 20-minute drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the area features a
number of excellent hikes. Humpback Rock is a short (but steep!) hike with incredible sunrise and sunset views and can easily be completed in an afternoon.
The Monticello Wine Trail features over 30 vineyards within 30 miles of Cville, and the Brew Ridge Trail, home to five breweries, is just a 30-minute drive from Grounds. Of course, this is all just an excuse to be outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Charlottesville in the fall is pretty magical, and no autumnal sojourn is complete without a little leaf peeping.
In the early evening, head back to town for dinner. Rather than recommending a single restaurant (which would be way too hard), we encourage you to explore two neighborhoods — Belmont and West Main/Midtown. Both are home to some of C-ville’s best restaurants and offer dining options at a variety of price points.
Near Belmont, local favorites include Mas (tapas), Lampo (pizza), Tavola (Italian) and Brazos (tacos). In Midtown/West Main, check out Oakhart Social (farm to table), Orzo (mediterranean-inspired), Little Star (Mexican/Spanish fusion) and Continental Divide (southwestern). This just might be your toughest decision of the day, but, as we always say, if one dinner is good, two dinners is better.
After dinner, entertainment awaits. Check out the concert schedule at one of C-ville’s many music venues. Charlottesville has a vibrant music scene and a venue for seemingly every level of performer. Larger shows will pass through the Sprint Pavilion and John Paul Jones arena while The Jefferson Theater and Paramount Theater feature established acts in a more intimate setting. Prefer indie and emerging artists? The Southern on the Downtown Mall is your best bet.
For cinephiles, the Violet Crown is not to be missed. With a bar and restaurant as well as higher-end concessions, the Violet Crown is far from your average movie theater. It features contemporary movie selections as well as classic cuts (your Discover Darden bloggers are particularly excited about the Hal Ashby retrospective that is currently underway). C-ville is home to the Virginia Film Festival, featuring 150 films in 5 days. The 2019 event is scheduled for 23–27 October. Save the date!
Of course, this is just a starting point, and, as we noted at the outset, this (rather long) list could have been much, much longer. It’s always a great time to visit Charlottesville, but fall may just be the best time to visit Charlottesville. We hope to see you soon!