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This travel guide is a list of 6 places to check out in and around Charlottesville, VA. We love this town and have vacationed here twice. If you are ambitious, you can check them all out in one day. Though, I would recommend hitting up #2-4 Day 1 and the rest Day 2. Happy exploring.
1. University of Virginia
Most people know Thomas Jefferson as a founding father and principal author of the Declaration of Independence. It is for his contributions to education that I have come to know and understand our former President. The University of Virginia was founded by Jefferson in 1819 as the first secular (non-religious) institution in the United States. Jefferson handcrafted nearly every aspect of the University, from its grounds and buildings to its curriculum. Jefferson even selected the first set of professors and served as rector. In many ways, it was the great work of his life. The grounds and architecture are well worth the visit. I read a lot about Jefferson and his attention to details about the grounds, which definitely aided in the understanding of the architectural elements and why buildings were crafted the way they were.
You’ll notice that Thomas Jefferson is present in many areas of Virginia, particularly Charlottesville and Williamsburg. Monticello was his home for most of his life. He began building it at age 26, but never really finished. To tour the building and the grounds is like touring inside of his brain. He was an inventor, an environmentalist, a scholar, a foodie, a green thumb, and a man of many contradictions. After your tour, don’t forget to grab a bite to eat in the museum cafe and stop by the gift shop.
So you think you’ve had fried chicken? I can assure you, you haven’t experienced the best of the best until you have visited Michie Tavern. We have eaten here twice on two different trips. It seems like a kitschy little 18th-century throwback, especially because of the lunch line and all-you-can-eat, but the food is out of this world. The menu changes, but my favorite is the gazpacho, mashed potatoes, cornbread, beets, cole slaw, stewed tomatoes, and, of course, the fried chicken. Visit this place after you spent the morning at Monticello. You will need a nap afterward!
4. Jefferson Vineyards
Jefferson Vineyards makes some of the best wine in the area. We like their reds, but we love the Meritage. (Meritage is pronounced like ‘heritage’ and is a blend of two or more Bordeaux varieties.) The grounds are simply spectacular. Participate in a tasting and then enjoy a bottle on their cute patio.
5. The Whiskey Jar
We are really obsessed with this restaurant almost as much as they seem to be obsessed with whiskey. The owner is pretty serious about farm to table, so much that he owns his own farm and sources everything else within an hour drive. The place is usually packed. People come for the great cocktails and beer selection, unique 3-piece bands, quiet outdoor patio, and the amazing food. Each time we’ve been here, we’ve enjoyed good appetizers, surprisingly delicious salads, and, the one thing my husband cannot live without, the pecan pie. Don’t miss out on their after-dinner aperitif menu. Apple port? Don’t mind if I do.
6. The Pedestrian Mall and Shops
I love towns that are bold enough to block off some streets for people to enjoy being outside in the quiet. Downtown Charlottesville features plenty of shops and many restaurants that offer outdoor seating when you get thirsty or hungry after a day of shopping (including The Whiskey Jar). Partake in some people watching, sip some cocktails, and just enjoy the quiet outside.