The summer season is an especially beautiful and fun time to visit Charlottesville & Albemarle County! The area is home to world-renowned historic attractions, the prestigious University of Virginia, a booming craft beverage scene including wine, beer, artisanal cider, and spirits, one of the longest pedestrian malls in the entire country , all while being nestled against the backdrop of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains. The hardest part of planning your trip will be trying to figure out which activities to choose, so the best bet is to extend your stay, so you can take advantage of everything. Check out this three-day itinerary that will deliver on many of the best things that the Charlottesville area has to offer!
Your visit to Charlottesville & Albemarle County will begin by exploring some of the area’s iconic historic attractions. Home to three former presidents (Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison), this region is steeped in a history and tradition dating back to our nation’s formative years. Visit and tour the homes of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and James Monroe’s Highland for a glimpse back in time at how these former presidents lived, worked, and played. The two homes are located a short drive from one another and both can be visited and toured in half a day.
After your historic home tours, you will have probably worked up an appetite – and luckily for you, the historic Michie Tavern is conveniently located on the drive back into Charlottesville! Here, you will be able to enjoy a buffet of traditional Southern fare, including some legendary fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, and buttery biscuits. After lunch, be sure to experience more of the 18th Century way of life by exploring Michie Tavern’s general store, tavern gift shop, armory and artifacts shop, and metal smith shop. Self-guided tours are available of the property and games from the time period are available for the kids to play. Pro tip – purchase a Neighborhood Pass , which will give you discounted admission to all 3 of the aforementioned stops. Save even more money by purchasing this pass online!
After touring Michie Tavern, prepare for some of the best views around as you visit Carter Mountain Orchard! Peaches are in season and you will be able to pick your own fragrant fruit straight from the tree, or let the folks at Carter Mountain do the work for you! While you are there, be sure to get a dozen (or two) of the legendary apple cider donuts, straight from the fryer. They will melt in your mouth! Pro tip – enjoy these donuts on the back deck which overlooks the city of Charlottesville and the neighboring Blue Ridge Mountains with stunning panoramic views!
As you begin your descent back down the mountain, get ready to become immersed in history once again with a visit to the prestigious University of Virginia. Founded by Thomas Jefferson (and also a UNESCO World Heritage site), the University of Virginia is consistently ranked as one of the top public universities in the country, plus its architecture and Grounds are sure to leave you impressed. Located at the center of this University is the area referred to as the Academical Village and The Lawn, which also serves as a home for the iconic Rotunda. This structure, with its renowned columns, distinctive marble capitals, and white-dome roof, is well known throughout the world and serves as the University’s centerpiece, as well as a popular gathering space for students. Free tours are also available to learn more about the history of this recently-renovated, magnificent building. While you are here, be sure to stop by and visit the room where Edgar Allan Poe studied when he was a student at the University of Virginia and listen to an audio recording about his time studying there!
After a good night’s rest, gear up for another jam-packed day of discovering Charlottesville & Albemarle County. You will start your day by exploring the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall, located at the epicenter of the city. This eight-block avenue paved with brick and lined with mature oak trees is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the entire country! Once you are here, you will have your pick of dining options, with plenty of restaurants to choose from, many of which offer outdoor patio seating for dining al fresco! These outdoor patios are perfect spots to catch some shade from the trees above and listen to street musicians who can often be found serenading people here with their lovely tunes. After your meal, browse and meander the plethora of shops, stores, and galleries, which feature an abundance of locally-produced and crafted items for purchase. The Downtown Mall is also home to three major performance venues, the historic Paramount Theater, the Jefferson Theater, and the Sprint Pavilion, all of which are great options for catching a show or live music act. The Sprint Pavilion is located at the east end of the Downtown Mall and hosts many terrific musical acts throughout the year and a free, family-friendly concert series that takes place on Friday afternoons called Fridays After Five. Music lovers will definitely not be disappointed in the Charlottesville area – after all, this region is home to the legendary musician Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band!
After your excursion on the Downtown Mall, continue to explore the streets adjacent to it, many of which contain fascinating and unique stores, and check out West Main Street for even more restaurants! The amount of dining options in this area is staggering and it’s no surprise that the Charlottesville region has been dubbed the “Locavore Capital of the World” by Forbes. This area has been leading the pack in the farm-to-table movement and the chefs here always use locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. It’s the ultimate destination for foodies far and wide!
Once you have finished exploring the downtown area, it’s time to get out into the surrounding countryside to explore Virginia wine country! Charlottesville & Albemarle County features more than 30 wineries, most of which have several prestigious awards and accolades under their belts. The region was even named one of the top wine destinations in the world by Wine Enthusiast magazine! Several transportation companies offer wine tours so you can travel from vineyard to vineyard and ensure you are sipping safely. The wineries are all located on beautiful plots of land, with perfect views of the rolling landscape and mountains from the tasting rooms and grounds. The destination is also home to a booming craft beer scene, several artisanal cideries, and even a few distilleries, so there are leisure beverage options available for any preference you might have. Finish up your day by catching a show at the Heritage Theater Festival at the University of Virginia or listening to a performance of the Charlottesville Opera at the historic Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall.
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors in Charlottesville & Albemarle County. The area presents loads of outdoors adventures ranging from hiking, cycling, kayaking, fly fishing, and even floating down the river on a tube! Start your day with a short and scenic drive westbound to the picturesque Shenandoah National Park. Here, you will find abundant trails perfect for hiking in the clean, cool mountain air. There are hikes for those of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to even the most experienced hikers. After you’ve gotten in a quick hike and enjoyed the incredible views from the many scenic overlooks located along Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, head back to Charlottesville for a quick trip south to the charming town of Scottsville. Situated on the lazy banks of the James River, this town is the perfect summer hangout spot. Several reeling and rafting companies are available to help you plan your perfect river experience, whether it’s on a canoe, a kayak, or the ever-popular tube option. Nothing says relaxation like a lazy float down the James River, watching the clouds pass by overhead as you enjoy the crisp, cool water on a warm Virginia afternoon. After your tubing adventure, grab a quick bite to eat at one of the several restaurants located along Scottsville’s main street – plus, there is even a brewery, so you can sample the brewmaster’s latest carbonated concoction!
With a plethora of lodging options to choose from in Charlottesville & Albemarle County, there is something for every family (and budget). You can find charming inns and B&Bs, boutique hotels, chain hotels, and even high-end resorts with luxurious amenities all within reach!
This list only begins to scratch the surface of everything that Charlottesville & Albemarle County has to offer. We encourage you to explore our website to find a more comprehensive sampling of lodging options and activities, or to find out more details about the attractions and activities listed in this itinerary. Once you arrive, be sure to check out one of our visitor centers for even more information. One is conveniently located on the Downtown Mall and the other is located in the historic train depot in Crozet, a short and scenic drive from Charlottesville. So go ahead and start planning that perfect summer trip to Charlottesville & Albemarle County. We look forward to seeing you!
Written by Brantley Ussery for Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Featured image provided by Courtesy of Charlottesville and Albemarle County
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