The perfect place to explore our nation’s past or our nation’s future, Charlottesville has been winning accolades for years. Here’s our curated guide of the best Charlottesville, VA attractions, events, and things to do in “America’s Happiest City” (per US Bureau of Economic Research)… enjoy your visit!

Monticello house

Presidents’ Homes

Three of our nation’s Founding Fathers (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe) lived here and you can still visit their homes today. These good friends, deep thinkers, and eventual U.S. Presidents composed several of our nation’s founding documents right here in Central Virginia (or the rough drafts, anyway). Jefferson’s Monticello is the only private home in the U.S. to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby Highland was the home of James Monroe, the 5th president of the U.S., and author of the Monroe Doctrine. Montpelier was the lifelong home of James Madison, author of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A Virginia vinyard with a bounty of grape vines

Charlottesville Wineries

Virginia has a fascinating history of wine dating to the colonial era. In 1619, Jamestown’s Representative Assembly passed a law requiring each male colonist to grow at least 10 grapevines! That’s right, it was the law… Virginian’s had to grow grapes! Today, Central Virginia is one of the “Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations” in the world! With over 30 Charlottesville area vineyards on the “Monticello Wine Trail”, popular nearby wineries include:

A man with a beard looking at a painting in a museum

Charlottesville Museums

If you’re looking for a dose of history, you’ll find it in Charlottesville, Virginia. Indeed, many of our nation’s founding documents were written here! You’ll also find museums showcasing Civil War history, art, and even television. Some of our favorites include:

Hiking trail in Shenandoah National Park

Outdoor Activities

Charlottesville and Central Virginia offer a wide array of unique, outdoor things to do: Hike 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park; Swim, fish and ski at Lake Anna (Virginia’s 2nd largest lake); Pick apples at Carter Mountain Orchard (Jefferson’s next-door neighbor); Capture the perfect selfie in front of cascading waterfalls or within gorgeous trails along the awe-inspiring Skyline Drive. With hot-air balloon rides, award-winning golf, river rafting, and Charlottesville’s own urban hiking trail, you’ll find something fun (and exhausting) for all ages!

University of Virginia red brick building with white columns

University of Virginia

Originally Thomas Jefferson’s “Academical Village”, the Lawn and the Rotunda are now iconic figures in one of the premier learning institutions in America. Unlike other universities of the day, Jefferson placed a library, rather than a chapel, at the center of his school’s campus. Today the University of Virginia is a leading research university, as well as home of the 2019 NCAA National Championship basketball team! Free tours are offered daily (while you’re there, grab lunch at “The Corner”, a thriving eight-block collection of bars, restaurants, bookstores, and restaurants… located just across the street).

Downtown Charlottesville street with shops

Downtown Pedestrian Mall

The Downtown Pedestrian Mall is one of the centerpieces of Charlottesville and has become a happening tourist destination, as well as a defining element of Charlottesville’s civic culture. Eight blocks long, the Historic Downtown Mall is home to more than 120 shops, 30 restaurants (many with outdoor seating), 10 art galleries, various street musicians, multiple (indoor and outdoor) performance venues and a Saturday farmers market.

A close up of food at a festival

Events & Festivals

With almost too much to list, Charlottesville’s calendar is packed with major festivals and fun events that you don’t want to miss! Some of our annual favorites include: