Charlottesville, often called C’ville by locals, is a beautiful and highly historic city.
With a mild climate and beautiful, verdant greenery, the independent location has quite a reputation among tourists!
Its wide stretches of farms, hardwood forests, and mountains have ensured that everyone knows just how majestic this place can be.
It’s no secret that this metropolis and county seat of Albemarle County has a legacy attached to it.
Named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Charlottesville has a lengthy, storied history.
It’s the place that Thomas Jefferson – and a few other American figures – called home.
That’s probably why the city is teeming with museums, galleries, and all sorts of educational centers.
There are lots of other tourist hotspots, too, especially ones related to art, culture, and wine.
So, what should you do during your C’ville trip?
Here are our picks for the 25 best and fun things to do in Charlottesville, Virginia!
Things To Do In Charlottesville, VA
1. University of Virginia
Few people would think that an educational institution should be on their list of what to do in the city of Charlottesville.
But the University of Virginia is special.
It’s the very paramount of the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and is the first American university to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers and the 3rd President of the United States, was dedicated to education.
He founded the University of Virginia in 1819 as the nation’s first non-religious university.
It’s famous for its magnificent grounds and for its continuing legacy in American education.
There are 10 pavilions and numerous gardens to explore, as well as a number of historic buildings and institutions open to the public.
Visiting the university is a delightful option among free things to do in the city of Charlottesville.
The Neoclassical architecture is a true delight, and tours are offered at no fee during class hours.
Each tour starts at the gorgeous Rotunda, the core of the university, which is built in a style similar to the Pantheon of Rome.
Even the Rotunda has curiosities to offer, such as the hidden chemical hearth that may be a part of what was the first education chemistry lab in the country.
The hearth was accidentally discovered in a fire that crumbled the exterior that hid it!
While you’re at the university, you should also check out The Raven Room, which is used by the Raven Society.
The room was once the dorm of Edgar Allen Poe and is decked out in related items and artifacts, such as a stuffed raven, a stone bust of Pallas, and a settee from Poe’s own home.
There’s also the Cemetery and Columbarium.
Here, you can see the headstone of Anna Anderson, who claimed for her entire life that she was Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Anastasia.
There’s also something else to keep an eye out for.
Throughout the university, you’ll spot numerous odd and unexplained symbols, such as the number “7”, the letter “Z”, the alpha and omega symbols, and the infinity sign.
These symbols are a mark of the Seven Society, a secretive philanthropic group that supports the university with mysterious donations filled with the number 7.
It’s like a little treasure hunt to go and find these symbols!
Plus, that might keep you busy enough to stick around till the sun sets.
At night, regular public programs are held in numerous different buildings on campus!
Address: Charlottesville, VA, United States
2. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
It’s almost a crime to visit Charlottesville without viewing Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
It is here that the Founding Father built his working farm, plantation, and homestead.
It was built in 1772 and has earned places on the National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
The Italian and Parisian inspiration in architecture sets Monticello apart from the get-go.
The grounds, spanning 5,000 acres, are nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Guided tours bring you to the first floor of the mansion and teach detailed lessons on history during the American Revolution.
Here, you can look at Jefferson’s letter copying machine, books, furniture, and papers.
Additional fees are required for upper-floor tours.
Tours of the grounds allow you to gain a fuller picture of Monticello and its harsh realities through the lens of yesterday and today.
You’ll learn about who slavery was used to build America and the experiences of the 400 enslaved individuals who worked at the plantation.
The Hemings Family Tour speaks of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who gave birth to at least six children of Jefferson.
While here, don’t forget to visit the vegetable garden and fruitery.
These are among the most stunning culinary gardens in America.
The vegetable garden spans 2 acres and has over 70 heirloom vegetable species across 330 varieties.
The fruitery covers 8 acres and boasts 400 trees with 170 historically notable varieties across 30 fruit species.
With its historic value and beauty, it’s easy to see why Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is among the top 10 things to do in Charlottesville, VA!
Address: 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
3. Historic Downtown Mall
The pedestrian-only location is home to more than 30 eateries and over 120 different shops.
Here, all sites are situated within a seven-block area that is entirely made up of historic buildings.
Streets are paved with brick and lined with trees.
As you walk around the Historic Downtown Mall, you’ll be impressed by the whimsical restored buildings.
Restaurants with outdoor seating feel romantic and fountains add to the atmosphere.
There are also theaters and cinemas that are home to plays, movies, and performances.
Even if you don’t plan to spend any money here, it’s worth a trip just for the sightseeing!
Stroll through the mall for some relaxing, laidback fun this weekend in Charlottesville, or stop by on Saturdays for the Farmers Market.
Address: E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
4. Carter Mountain Orchard
Carter Mountain Orchard, on Carters Mountain Trail, is filled with things to see.
It is open from April to November and is a large family-friendly attraction in Charlottesville.
It boasts beautiful views and delightfully fresh fruits that you’re encouraged to pick for yourself.
Strawberries, apples, peaches, nectarines, and various vegetables await!
Carter Mountain Orchard also hosts a special event each Thursday called the Evening Sunset Series.
It’s one of the best romantic things to do in the city!
You’ll get to have picnic dinners on lawn chairs and picnic as you sip wine and cider and gaze out at the sunset.
There are also numerous annual events, such as the Easter Egg Hunt, the Apple Harvest Celebration, and the Peach Festival.
At different times of the year, you can even go on hayrides or watch musical performances!
Address: 1435 Carters Mountain Trail, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
5. James Monroe’s Highland
James Monroe’s Highland was the plantation home of 5th American President and Founding Father James Monroe.
The important Charlottesville landmark is near Monticello and is one of the historic places to visit in this part of the state.
The beautiful property is very well-preserved and acts as both a working farm and museum today.
Finished in 1793, Highland spans 535 acres and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Touring the property gives you the chance to learn about the life of Monroe and what the world was like in his time.
You’ll be able to have fun viewing multiple different buildings, including its 1818 guesthouse and various other reconstructed buildings.
These are a smokehouse, farmhouse, overseer’s cabin, ice storage house, and slave quarters.
Monroe originally purchased the property at 1,000 acres but had to sell it in 1825 due to his financial debt.
The location is designed to mimic the property as it was in its heyday and offer picturesque scenery offset by sobering reality.
Over 250 people were enslaved by Monroe in his lifetime, even though he supported abolition.
At Highland, you’ll be able to learn about the lives those people led and read the biographies of those who were enslaved here.
Address: 2050 James Monroe Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
6. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is situated on the grounds of the University of Virginia.
It’s one of the most interesting and unique free things to do in Charlottesville, VA.
It is housed at Pantops Farm, which was once owned by Thomas Jefferson himself.
The art museum holds the honor of being the only museum in America that is devoted entirely to Australian Aboriginal art.
It has a large collection, one of the world’s finest!
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is named after John W. Kluge, who donated his collection in 1997.
The museum itself opened in 1999 and displays over 1,700 different items, including sculptures, artifacts, and paintings.
Aboriginal culture is among the oldest continuous ones on the planet, but the art displayed is contemporary, tackling numerous issues faced by its people.
If you’re going on vacation in Charlottesville, this is a site that you simply shouldn’t miss!
Address: 400 Worrell Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22911, United States
7. Fralin Museum of Art
The Fralin Museum of Art is another one of the tourist attractions within the campus of the University of Virginia.
Specifically, it’s in the 1935-made Thomas H. Bayly Memorial Building.
It holds a collection of an impressive 14,000 or so different objects of art.
Displayed artifacts date back to ancient times, leading all the way up to the present.
At the Fralin Museum of Art, you’ll be able to view ancient Mediterranean art, sculptures spanning five centuries, and photography by big names.
There are works from America, Europe, and Asia, including significant Native American works.
Tours, led by docents, shed more light on this gem, and lectures, special events, and rotating exhibits make each visit unique.
If you’re an art aficionado, you’ll have fun visiting this spot in Charlottesville!
Address: 155 Rugby Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22904, United States
8. Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Looking for stuff to do as you visit Charlottesville in your own vehicle?
Take a nice drive down Skyline Drive, the best way to quickly experience Shenandoah National Park!
The road is a National Historic Landmark, a site on the Register of Historic Places, and a National Scenic Byway.
It’s easy to see that it’s quite an iconic drive!
Easily accessible from the city, Skyline Drive offers numerous stops along the length of its run.
You’ll see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background and will be able to stop and enter the Shenandoah National Park for hiking opportunities.
Numerous lookout points provide even more excuses to stop and get out to take in the view, with your eyes or with a camera!
Spanning 105 miles, Skyline Drive is the 200,000-acre national park’s only public road.
If you’re lucky, you might see some wildlife crossing the road, such as black bears, deer, and turkeys.
Just be sure to keep to the 35 mph speed limit for your own safety!
Address: VA, United States
9. McGuffey Art Center
The McGuffey Art Center is one of the most fun things to do in Charlottesville, VA for art lovers and fanatics.
It’s the home of numerous contemporary artworks, featuring primarily creations by artisans from Charlottesville and other locals.
Founded in 1975, it is managed by Virginia artists and conducts multiple expert-led workshops, activities, and educational programs.
The McGuffey Art Center is housed in what was once a building for an elementary school.
It’s open to the public and boasts new free exhibitions on a monthly basis.
You’ll be able to go into studios and watch artists as they perform their craft.
Address: 201 2nd St NW, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
Feast! is one of the top places to go in the city of Charlottesville for foodies.
The vibrant, cheery location may be described in some ways as a gourmet shop and in others as a gallery.
The unusual concept sells all sorts of gourmet foods and even sells meals, all wrapped up in artistic presentation that will wow and impress.
Feast! saw its beginnings in 2002, run by a married couple.
It had humble beginnings but a clear, avant-garde charm, with elements of deep red, bright yellow, and hardwood.
The middle of the store had an “olive tree”, or an olive oil table.
It was a round furnishing with a base made of steel rods, holding a tree of French bottles filled with olive oils and vinegar.
At the time, it had little more than 10 meat types and 40 artisan kinds of cheese.
Since then, Feast! has only grown and gotten more artistic.
It now spans a whopping 8,000 square feet and sells 60 different kinds of deli and cured meats, as well as about 75 different gourmet kinds of cheese.
There are local wines, fresh produce, organic oils, international condiments, artisanal bread, and specialty vinegar to pursue.
It has a lunch cafe with a full menu that sells yummy daily specials, soups, and sandwiches made with the very ingredients they sell!
Address: 416 W Main St suite h, Charlottesville, VA 22903, United States
11. Virginia Discovery Museum
Wondering what to do in Charlottesville with children?
The Virginia Discovery Museum is a fun and exciting option filled with interactive and hands-on exhibits!
Kids who visit this delightful location will learn a huge amount about various different topics.
The sciences, history, arts, nature, humanities, and more are thrilling to explore, especially for children aged 8 and below.
The Virginia Discovery Museum was opened in 1981 and moved to its current location in 1990.
It began its life as an organization that traveled across the central part of the state with exhibits.
Now, it has a permanent home in Downtown Pedestrian Mall.
Kids will be able to solve puzzles, engage their brains, prompt imagination, and gain awareness of their surroundings.
The museum has unique exhibits like Little C’Ville, A-Mazing Airways, and Pollination Station that are sure to excite young minds!
There are also regular annual events, such as December’s Santa Pancake Breakfast, October’s Boo Bash, and May’s Discovery Dash.
The museum is entirely non-profit, so you know you’re giving to a good cause in the process!
Address: 524 E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
12. The Glass Palette – Interactive Glass Art Studio
The Glass Palette, an interactive glass art studio, is one of the best activities you can engage in this weekend at Charlottesville.
Situated on East Market Street, this is the only studio in the whole state that lets you make glass art for yourself!
The studio provides a wide range of tools, materials, and instructions, with workshops and classes for people in their late teens and above.
The Glass Palette won’t leave you to flounder!
Classes for people of all skill levels allow you to learn from scratch or sharpen your skills.
There are Glass Art Experience classes, BYOB Glass Art Experiences, private party bookings, and weekend events.
Many of the provided classes come with snacks and drinks, too.
At the end of your experience, you can head to The Glass Palette’s gift gallery.
Here, you’ll see shelves of handmade glassworks that you can purchase!
The studio, which is run by a mother and daughter, really provides such an enchanting experience.
No wonder it’s among the coolest hands-on things to do in Charlottesville, VA!
Address: 1304 E Market St, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
13. Blenheim Vineyards
Blenheim Vineyards‘ land was once the favorite location of Thomas Jefferson and his wife, and today, it’s among the top drink-related Charlottesville attractions!
The vineyard had existed for a long time, but it wasn’t known by its current name until 2000.
You’ll never guess who purchased this Charlottesville plot: Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews band!
The popular location of Blenheim Vineyards is both picturesque and historic.
Despite its relatively small size, it provides fine wine and stunning beauty, with a lovely tasting room and outdoor terrace.
It’s also a part of the Monticello Wine Trail!
Address: 31 Blenheim Farm, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
14. Visit A Theater
Charlottesville offers a fair few options for entertainment, but visiting a local theater is probably the most fun way to get a taste of local culture.
There are tons of shows and things to see, with two main popular theaters to choose between.
The first is Jefferson Theater, found in Downtown Mall.
The major venue was finished in 1912 as a stage for live performers, vaudeville acts, and silent films.
It’s been a host to great acts like Harry Houdini and the Three Stooges.
In 2009, the theater was restored with modern, high-tech advancements that maintained its stunning old style.
It’s a true gem of Virginia!
Secondly, there’s the non-profit Paramount Theater, which is near many great dining establishments.
It opened its doors in 1931 as a movie theater and is now a performing arts venue.
Shows are arranged wonderfully year-round and are both elegant and intimate in atmosphere.
15. Jefferson Vineyards
Jefferson Vineyards is among the city’s best places to visit for delicious wine tastings.
It’s known throughout Charlottesville for being a local favorite, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson and boasting 22 acres to its name.
The location is convenient, in the heart of great Virginia historic attractions
At Jefferson Vineyards, you’ll get to grab a nice bottle and sit in an indoor area or outdoor patio.
The quality of the wine is impressive, and since it opened in 1774, its premium creations have been the subject of adoration.
In addition, you’re likely used to pricey winery tasting fees.
But the fee here is very affordable, so a visit is widely considered one of the cheap things to do in the city!
Address: 1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
16. Kemper Park and the Saunders-Monticello Trail
Kemper Park is a claiming 89-acre expanse of picturesque greenery and rejuvenation.
If you’re looking for a way to escape the busyness of Charlottesville, this is a great bet!
It’s the perfect spot for various relaxing activities, with a 2-acre pond, several trails, and an arboretum to check out.
Its overlook is simply stunning, so bring your camera along!
The most popular trail at Kemper Park is the 4-mile span of the scenic Saunders-Monticello Trail.
The trail brings you through Monticello is a delightful and fun sightseeing experience.
Between yet, it’s one of the free things to do in Charlottesville, VA, so it’s light on the wallet!
If you head to Carter Overlook, you’ll be able to gaze out over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Along the way, you’ll see valleys, hardwood forests, woodland paths with rustic charm, simple boardwalks, and gravel walkways.
It’s all wheelchair accessible and is great for cyclists and on-leash dog-walking, too!
Address: 503 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
17. Michie Tavern
Michie Tavern is one of the homiest tourist attractions in Charlottesville.
It was originally set up in Earlysville, Virginia, in the late 1700s, and has since relocated here.
The historic spot isn’t known for its food, which is somewhat pricey, but for its novel value.
It’s like a step back into the past with southern comfort food, drinks, and a bed for the night.
Michie Tavern is on the National Register of Historic Places and has historic buildings and a museum to prove it.
Onsite, there’s a metalsmith shop, old-fashioned general store, and gift shop.
Better yet, all its staff dress in period colonial clothing!
The tavern is beautifully restored and isn’t far from Monticello.
So if you feel like having some marinated baked chicken, hickory-smoked pork barbecue, or buttermilk biscuits, you know where to go!
Address: 683 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
18. Birdwood Golf Course at Boar’s Head
Birdwood Golf Course at Boar’s Head is fittingly situated on Golf Course Drive.
Whether you like to play or not, this should be on your list of what to see!
The 500-acre course, backed by the Blue Ridge Mountain, was once the site of a 1739 wilderness colony.
It has 18 championship golf holes and also boasts a brand new par-3, six-hole course!
Birdwood Golf Course has become an award-winning site.
Few people realize that golfing is among the fun Charlottesville activities to enjoy!
The University of Virginia’s golf teams call the course home, and it has all sorts of challenges for people of all skill levels.
Events occur regularly throughout the year, too.
Since it’s a part of Boar’s Head Resort, there’s plenty else that you can do here after your game.
At the very least, stop by Birdwood Grill to sample sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and drinks!
Address: 410 Golf Course Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22903, United States
19. Les Yeux du Monde Art Gallery
Les Yeux du Monde Art Gallery can be found on Wolf Trap Road.
Its name translates to “The Eyes of the World” in French.
It was made by Lyn Bolen Warren after earning an Art History doctorate, which spurred her decision to make the gallery in her own home.
Her mountaintop abode, which still houses the gallery now, was made by W. G. Clark.
The architecture is stunning as is, with a glass block and Corten steel make.
Created in 1995, Les Yeux du Monde Art Gallery is dedicated to contemporary art and features local Charlottesville artists as well as national and international creators.
You’ll see works by Russ Warren, William Albert Allard, and Anne Harris Massie here.
It also works with various other art institutions to exhibit numerous works and provide artist lectures.
Tours are fascinating and rotating exhibits mean it always feels fresh.
If you love art, it’s among the best things to do in Charlottesville, VA!
The art gallery works in conjunction with other art institutions such as the Second Street Gallery and the University of Virginia Art Museum.
In addition to exhibiting works of art, the art gallery offers tours and lectures by artists.
Address: 841 Wolf Trap Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22911, United States
If you’re looking for more thrill, why not check out Virginia Beach and Williamsburg? If you plan the trip, here are some of the best things to do in Virginia Beach and some cool things to do in Williamsburg, VA!
20. Albemarle Baking Company
Albemarle Baking Company‘s goods can be found all over Charlottesville and local catering businesses in Virginia.
That’s why it’s one of the chief places to go for foodies!
The fun location is packed with all sorts of baked goods that are just awaiting your sampling.
Tarts, pastries, cakes, bread, and more are all famously made here by hand with high-quality ingredients.
Albemarle Baking Company was founded by a married couple in 1995.
In 2001, it moved out of Downtown Mall and became Main Street Market’s first opened business.
It has won multiple awards for its delicious meals and catering services.
Its selection is pretty diverse, with an everyday selection as well as unique dedicated selections for each day on a weekly rotation.
Their pastry selection changes by time of day!
Address: 418 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903, United States
21. Luray Caverns
Looking for cool things to do?
If you’re willing to leave Charlottesville, you can take a trip to Luray.
The location, which is quite near, has one of the top options for what to do in Virginia for fans of the unusual!
Here, you’ll find Luray Caverns, the most popular and biggest caves in Eastern America.
With over 4 million centuries of existence under their belt, the caverns are filled with dramatic and majestic stone formations and natural wonders.
Some rooms in Luray Cavern are as high as ten stories.
Columns, clear pools, and natural draperies are truly stunning and marvelous.
But the attraction that takes the cake is the Great Stalacpipe Organ.
The musical instrument is made with geological features, namely hollowed stalactites of different thicknesses and lengths.
Soft rubber mallets play the stalactites, which are spread out over 3.5 acres but all reverberate with equal volume.
Address: 101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835, United States
22. The Ivy Inn Restaurant
The Ivy Inn Restaurant is a gorgeous dining establishment housed inside an 18th-century Charlottesville building.
The elegant restaurant is relaxing, with a welcoming and pleasant atmosphere and cozy furnishings.
You’ll get the clear sense that you’re in the South and that you’re enjoying its famous hospitality!
The Ivy Inn Restaurant has four dining rooms and a covered outdoor patio.
Seasonal ingredients, locally sourced, create American dishes with small twists that make them more cosmopolitan.
With the tranquil atmosphere and the long wine list, having dinner here is probably among the most romantic things to do in Charlottesville, VA this weekend.
Don’t forget to order dessert!
Address: 2244 Old Ivy Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903, United States
23. Bodo’s Bagels
No visit to Charlottesville is complete without a stop at Bodo’s Bagels.
This establishment is one of many food-related Charlottesville attractions!
Opened in 1988, it’s a favorite haunt of students from the University of Virginia and is known for offering the city’s greatest bagels.
Bodo’s Bagels has a casual atmosphere, low prices, and tons of flavors and variations of bites.
It’s a fun spot to stop by for a quick way to sate your peckishness!
There are New York-style water bagels in multiple options, each one made in-house and from scratch daily.
Cream cheese and spreads of all sorts add to the deliciousness!
There are sides and salads served, too, for those who want something different, and some simple drinks can be purchased alongside them.
Address: 505 Preston Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22903, United States
24. Rivanna River Trail
Looking to visit one of the most beautiful places in the US?
The Rivanna River Trail is packed with things to see and is a beautiful spot to check out during your Virginia vacation.
Spanning 19.5 miles in a loop, the trail wraps around Charlottesville and seamlessly mixes wild verdancy and urban comfort.
It brings you through six different parks in the city and offers a number of stops for activities along the way.
As you make your way through the Rivanna River Trail, you’ll see creeks, bridges, streams, hardwood forests, a railroad trestle, and lots of bikers and hikers.
You’ll even get to walk through different neighborhoods.
Since there are so many access points, it’s easy to start and stop your walk at any time!
Address: Charlottesville, VA 22911, United States
25. MarieBette Cafe and Bakery
MarieBette Cafe and Bakery is easily one of Charlottesville’s most visited establishments of its kind.
Take a culinary trip with its lovely, European-inspired fare.
It’s one of the nicest places to visit for a good brunch or on-the-go pastries and coffee, with fun high-quality bites at every corner!
Some of the menu items at MarieBette Cafe and Bakery are brioche feuilletée and croissant breakfast sandwiches.
The establishment sells healthy salads and sandwiches, delicious donuts, and bread baked fresh daily.
There tends to be a bit of a line for sit-down meals, so be prepared to wait!
Address: 700 Rose Hill Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22903, United States
Start Planning Your Trip To Charlottesville, VA
C’ville is the kind of city that one keeps wanting to come back to!
With history on every corner, forested greenery that’s easy on the eyes, delicious food, and teeming culture, it’s a great place for any trip.
This list should help you decide what you’ll do while you’re enjoying your time in the gorgeous city of Charlottesville, Virginia!