Nearby Shenandoah National Park not only offers stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains but affords plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing. White-tail deer are most commonly viewed though bobcat, black bear, and coyote can also be spotted. With more than 190 resident and migratory birds Shenandoah National park is also a haven for birders.
Just an hour's drive from Charlottesville you'll find Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical-drop waterfall in the eastern United States. A moderate two-and-a-half mile loop trail ascends more than 1,200 feet with stunning views of the falls' five major cascades; allow two to three hours for the full hike. A viewing platform at the base of the first overlook can be reached by a wide, paved trail making Crabtree Falls accessible for most visitors.
Charlottesville is only 30 minutes from the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park, a 200,000 acre preserve that highlights the natural beauty of western Virginia. Explore hidden waterfalls, spectacular vistas and take in some of the best hiking on the east coast. Shenandoah is home to 105 miles of the Appalachian Trail which is popular for both day hikes as well as with through hikers.
Montpelier, home to the fourth president of the United States James Madison and his wife Dolly, hosts immersive five-day programs where participants live and work alongside professional archeologists to uncover the history of the Madison plantation.
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello is the only home in the United States to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Founding father, third president and author of the Declaration of Independence; Thomas Jefferson's ideals and intellectual curiosity are on display at his mountaintop home of Monticello. This 5,000 acre plantation was also home to more than 150 enslaved workers and Monticello delves into the realities of slavery and the lives of individual slaves. Tours of Monticello are offered daily and it's highly recommended to reserve your tour ahead of time.
No trip to Charlottesville is complete without exploring the beautiful grounds of the University of Virginia. Also a UNESCO World Heritage site along with Monticello, the grounds of the University of Virginia were designed by Thomas Jefferson to foster academic pursuit and features the Rotunda, a half-scale replica of Rome's Pantheon.
Visitors flock to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello but most people don't know that President James Monroe also called Charlottesville home. A few miles down the road from Monticello you can learn about the life of the United States' fifth president at his official residence, Highland. The home also features exhibits that explore the experiences of enslaved African-Americans.
Neighborhood to Explore
Dating back to the 1890s the Belmont neighborhood is experiencing a renaissance. With a growing number of cafes and shops and a location within walking distance to downtown, this neighborhood is attracting young professionals and new retirees looking to be close to the action. Locals and in-the-know visitors head to the Belmont neighborhood to savor some of Charlottesville's hottest restaurants including Tavola, Mas Tapas, and Lampo.
The Downtown Mall, an eight block brick-paved pedestrian only street is a gathering place for everyone from locals and students to out of town visitors. The Downtown Mall is home to more than 120 locally owned shops and 30 restaurants, many of which offer al fresco dining. Free concerts, art walks, and a Saturday morning farmer's market make the Downtown Mall a destination for everyone.
Sip and Savor
Some of the country's best vineyards dot the hills surrounding Charlottesville and there is a vintage to suit every palate. Cabernet franc and viognier best represent Virginia's terroir but you can find everything from light sparkling wines to bold red blends at more than 30 wineries.