Y’all may remember the massive round-up I did for my Travel Guide: The Best of Richmond. It’s one of my most popular posts and one I send to readers and friends again and again when they’re planning a trip down to Richmond. Every one of my Richmond recommendations is rounded up into one central place – and it was only a matter of time before I did the same thing for my favorite city in the world, Charlottesville, Virginia. For my Charlottesville travel guide, I’m going to run through the same format I did a while back for Richmond and tell y’all why to go, where to stay, where to eat, where to drink, and what to do. Also, just a heads up that a fall weekend in Charlottesville travel post is coming to the blog in about 2 weeks!
WHY GO TO CHARLOTTESVILLE?
Well, first of all, it’s my favorite city. It’s where I went to college, it’s where I’m getting married, it’s where I would love to retire one day. But, if that’s not enough reason, it’s a beautiful mountain town just 2 hours from DC where you’ll find a vibrant city, sweeping equestrian landscapes, and outdoor activities galore for the outdoorsy among us. There’s everything you could want in a big city – in a small town. It’s laid-back, artsy, and quirky, while still maintaining the best parts of old Virginia tradition.
Also, since I reference it a lot in this post but don’t explain it until the “What to Do” section, the Downtown Mall is a charming pedestrian area right downtown. Not a mall in the shopping mall sense!
OUTFIT NOTES: WHITE JEANS / JEAN JACKET / STRIPED T-SHIRT / EARRINGS / BLUE SUEDE HEELS (c/o) / LONGCHAMP MINI TOTE
WHERE TO STAY
While you have lots of options for where to stay in Charlottesville – a quick Google search will turn up a myriad of local and national options – I’m just going to speak to the few I have stayed in. Also, I’ll make a quick note that I’ve heard the new Draftsman Autograph Collection hotel that just opened is great, though I haven’t been.
- Oakhurst Inn: I stayed at this darling boutique hotel right near campus a few years ago and I’m staying there again in a couple weeks. There’s a wonderful cafe and the rooms are cozy yet modern.
- South Street Inn: My go-to for a budget-friendly, yet cozy and quaint, stay on the downtown mall, I’m actually staying at South Street Inn again this winter when I’m in town for my wedding (but before we head out to stay at the next hotel on this list…)
- The Farmhouse at Veritas: This is a bit more of a splurge, but I’m partial to it since we’re getting married here in December. The food is unreal, the decor is so on point, and the rooms are traditional, but modern.
- The Graduate Charlottesville: If you need a spot right on the Corner to stay, you’ll want to choose The Graduate. And, even if you don’t stay here, stop by their rooftop restaurant.
- Airbnb: Of course, there’s always the Airbnb option. I’ve stayed in many in the area, some are hit, some are miss. I’ve found the ones in town or out in the country to be great, the ones that are more in the suburbs tend to be people looking to make a quick buck on a football weekend…and they leave something (a lot of something) to be desired.
WHERE TO EAT
Oh my gosh, I didn’t even know where to start this section. Perhaps everyone is partial to the food in their college town, but, seriously, I think the food in Charlottesville cannot be beat. I’m dreaming of Bodo’s Bagels as we speak (luckily, I alwayshave some frozen in the freezer).
- Bodo’s Bagels: A classic water bagel recipe, Adam buys a dozen of these each time we find ourselves in C’ville.
- Bluegrass Grill & Bakery: You’ll probably wait at this Southern breakfast spot right near South Street Inn, but just pop in the bakery to grab something (like the chocolate-pretzel-peanut butter cookie) to tide you over.
- The Nook: A diner on the downtown mall, there’s often a line, but it’s the best place to get your go-to hungover breakfast.
- Java Java: Just pop in here to grab a coffee while you wait on your breakfast table next door at The Nook.
- C’ville Coffee: Grab coffee and a bite to eat in this spacious spot before exploring a few of the shops that are tucked away in this little neighborhood right off of downtown.
LET’S DO LUNCH
- Take It Away: The best sandwiches in Charlottesville – make sure to get a side (or a jar) of the house dressing! Also, I just noticed on their website they have a page dedicated to day-of catering for weddings. Read my mind.
- Riverside Lunch: A staple among locals, these thin-patty burgers and thin fries are what my fast food dreams are made of.
- Bellair Market: Yes, it’s a gas station, and, yes, you’ll get the Jefferson, a gourmet Thanksgiving sandwich.
- Feast: Located right on Main Street, this is a great place to pick up a local, freshly made lunch.
- Wayside Fried Chicken: I’m not a fried chicken person, but Adam says this might be the best fried chicken he’s ever had, so I figured I had to include it.
TAKE ME OUT TO DINNER
- The Local: I had to put the Local first because this is where we’re having our rehearsal dinner! The gnocchi bolognese is one of my favorite all-time dishes anywhere.
- C&O Restaurant: A wonderful spot for a nice dinner, I actually prefer C&O’s late night menu. You walk in a side door, take a seat in the dimly lit, wood paneled room, and order warm comfort food. It’s one of the best experiences in Charlottesville.
- Oakhart Social: This bright, white space is a fun place to come with a group, order some pizzas, some appetizers, and dig in.
- Bang!: One of my favorite restaurants over a decade ago, I’m so glad Bang!’s Asian fusion is still served out of a tiny rowhouse right off the downtown mall.
- Mas Tapas: This was probably the first restaurant where I encountered the small plate concept and it’s still one of the best.
- Ten: When we were feeling trendy back in college, this was the date night spot. I haven’t been in probably 10 years, but I noticed last month that it’s still going strong on the downtown mall, and I definitely want to revisit.
- Maya: Charlottesville does Southern food well, and Maya takes it a step above with locally sourced, inventive Southern dishes.
- Duner’s: Located a bit outside the city on Ivy Road, this is where you go for excellently prepared, consistent fine dining that isn’t too stuffy.
- Continental Divide: Another fun spot to take a group, this a loud, buzzy, delicious Mexican restaurant.
OTHER PLACES TO GRAB A BITE
- Christian’s Pizza: While they’ve now expanded to include locations in Richmond and all over C’ville, back in my day, this was only on the downtown mall. And I always ordered the avocado and feta pizza. Why? I don’t know. But, I still do. Those kids that now have access to Christian’s late night on the corner have no idea how good they have it.
- Little John’s: Get the pepperoni pizza sub late night. You won’t regret it. And, yes, it’s worth the line.
- The White Spot: Right on the corner, this is the place where you order an egg on a burger late night. It’s been around since my dad was at U.Va. and it’s still going strong.
- Arch’s Frozen Yogurt: I don’t love that they’ve gone to a self-serve format like all of the trendy fro-yo places, but it still has a special place in my heart. Get the gooey brownie. It’s life-changing.
- College Inn: My mouth is watering thinking about the cheesy bread with a side of ranch. When I was in C’ville at some point over the last year, Adam and I ordered this late night and stood outside the completely dark restaurant waiting for our order. Adam tried to convince me that it was definitely closed and our food was not coming. No, I told him, it’s coming. This place is just SUPER shady. Then a man appeared from a side door down an alley and quietly handed us a large pizza and cheesy bread. I’ve perhaps never been more grateful to a dark shadow in the night.
WHERE TO DRINK
There are, of course, the vineyards, but for the purposes of this post, I‘m going to stick to bars and breweries, most of which are in Charlottesville proper.
- Whiskey Jar: With bourbon, Southern food, and live music, you can’t go wrong.
- Champion Brewing Company: A huge, open brewery downtown, this is great space to watch sports.
- Three Notch’d Brewery: Some of my favorite goses come from here, so if you’re into sours, check it out.
- Blue Mountain Brewery: Located near our wedding venue, an excellent spot to grab a craft beer and a pizza.
- Skybar: Charlottesville doesn’t get too trendy, but this rooftop on the downtown mall is as close as it gets.
- South Street Brewery: Right downtown, this is a great spot for some bar food and a craft beer.
- The Virginian: If you venture over to U.Va’s campus, make a stop by this institution.
- Coupe’s: This is where I lived much of college – if it’s a reunion weekend, chances are we’re stopping by.
WHAT TO DO
If you’re into the outdoors, you’ll love Charlottesville. If you’re into history, you’ll love Charlottesville. If you’re into wine, you’ll love Charlottesville. If you’re into music, you’ll love Charlottesville. There truly is something for everyone in this town.
- Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s home is a perfect stop for history buffs.
- University of Virginia: Stroll down the Lawn of Thomas Jefferson’s University before exploring the shops and restaurants on the Corner.
- Football: I have to give a shoutout to UVA football for two reasons – the first being I’m a fan despite how terrible they often are, but second, if you’re planning a fall visit, you may want to check the schedule before committing to a weekend. Maybe you want to go to a game…or maybe you’d rather not deal with the crowds.
- Downtown Mall: A pedestrian mall (not a shopping mall!) full of vintage shops, home and stationary stores, bars, restaurants, and local C’ville hippies. You’ll find concerts at the Amphitheater at the end of the mall during the summer.
- Hiking: I’m not a hiker, but even I have ventured into the Blue Ridge Mountains a time or two. Old Rag and Humpback Rock are two of the most popular destinations.
- Apple Picking at Carter Mountain Orchard: During the fall, apple picking and apple cider donuts bring in a crowd that stops traffic all the way down the mountain.
- Wine Tasting: I’m going to do a separate post entirely on wine tasting, but you’ll want to check out Pippin Hill, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Castle Hill Cider, King Family Vineyards, and, of course, Veritas.
- Foxfield Races: Yes, you can do this like a college student, or you can go to the twice a year steeplechase race with a well planned out tailgate, craft cocktails, and get the full equestrian experience.
- Charlottesville City Market: If you find yourself in Charlottesville from April to October, stop by this farmer’s market off the downtown mall on Saturday mornings.
- The Jefferson Theater: Check out the concert lineup at the Jefferson Theater and swing by a show while you’re in town.
LET ME KNOW YOUR CHARLOTTESVILLE FAVORITES
I’m actually headed back down to Charlottesville in two weeks for a football game, working on a fall Charlottesville travel guide, and spending a non-wedding planning weekend in the area! So, I’d love to know if you’ve found any new (or old!) restaurants that I absolutely need to check out, or maybe there’s a new shop or a new brewery. I know things are always changing and, while I’m down there a lot, I can’t possibly keep tabs on everything that’s going on!
I made an absurd word doc that I have added to over the years so thought I would copy paste it for ya ha
But bottom line try mariabette go there
WHY I LOVE CHARLOTTESVILLE…
–so there are oodles more I have not even tried or most likely forgot to include…but here is a starter list!
THINGS TO DO:
-walk the lawn
-go to the corner– Has arch’s, Rev Soup (awesome food!!) and Finch (clothing store that sometimes has cute stuff)
-Tubing in the summer: you rent a tube and are driven upstream, jump in and float downstream, with tubes designated for cooler/drinks
-there are multiple movie theaters which they thankfully revamped—one has la-z-boy chairs and tables etc
-vineyards of course—so many to chose from
-Fridays after 5—during the summer open concert for free downtown mall with lots of food trucks
-UVA always has events going on by students (halloween your kids can trick or treat on the lawn)
-many concert venues—jefferson, pavilion, southern cafe, the garage
-trivia nights at lots of the places
-polo games are fun to watch
-so many breweries now and more that have opened since I left (see booze below)
-apple picking at Carter Mountain/peaches and apples and Chiles Orchard in crozet
-the market at gelen (45 minutes away)
-farmers market (see below in downtown mall)
-safari park is in lexington virginia—drive through animal park where you can feed wild animals through you car window, bring the not so nice car (when i went a bison head bunted my friends car trying to put its head through the window for food)
-cycle and run!!—huge running and cycling community, people joke all the time how many runners there are during the days on the streets, lots of great routes
-blue hole (swim hole you hike to)
-Old Rag (whole day adventure) http://www.realcentralva.com/2012/07/19/a-few-of-my-favorite-hikes-around-charlottesville/ -crabtree falls
-white oak canyon
-there are a couple shorter ones in cville you can probably find by googling
Downtown Mall–LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS PLACE
-great to grab a cup of coffee at mud house and hang out
–MY FAV STORE–oh suzannah…seriously amazing…stationary, card, paper product and cute amazingness heaven
-has a crepe stand which is fun—The Flat
-two concert venues…and they have tons of great concerts—The Jefferson and nTelos Wireless Pavilion (where fridays after 5 is)
-splendoras gelato, chaps classic ice cream
-FARMERS MARKET!!- every Saturday near the downtown mall http:// vendors.charlottesvillecitymarket.com/
PLACES TO EAT:
-Blue Mountain Brewery- brewery with food, best when warm because of tons of outdoor seating and can bring dogs and kids and play corn hole etc
-Duners—amazing amazing amazing…menu changes every day depending on what they have… gets super crowded though
-Take it Away-sandwiches on corner
-Greenwood Grocery–of this and the above two sandwich places this is by far the best…but is way out in crozet, has great drink options as well
-Maya- my parents fav place
-Zocalo—tex mex upscale
-Beer Run-so many beer options and dinner, they also just opened another place for spring that will have tons of outdoor seating
-Crozet Pizza- great hippie pizza place
-Citizen Burger Bar—can create your own, lots of great options
-Archs- fro yo with raw gooey brownie (eggless so now worries about salmonella)….yup -Pie Chest: place on downtown mall with meat and sweet pies
-Bizou- semi nice dinner on downtown mall
– Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie—heard great things, out of town though
-Bodos- bagels, they don’t toast them so don’t ask ha, really cheap
-Christians Pizza- pizza on corner and downtown mall….weird toppings, love the avocado feta one -Continental Divide-hole in the wall mexican place…there isn’t even a sign saying where it is except a neon sign in the window that simply states “get in here”…which you should, come early though
-BBQ Exchange— 30 minutes out of town but great BBQ and sides and desserts
-Mono Loco- mexican on downtown mall, cheaper
-Revolutionary Soup- awesome soups, sandwiches, salads on corner and downtown mall, local apple with every meal!
-The Local–kind of nice but awesome
-Spudnuts-great doughnut place made from potatoes
-Mas—mexican tapas, super crowded so may need reservation
-Feast—in little shopping center with chocolate shop nearby and bread place, has sandwiches and salads -Mona Lisa Pasta—place that makes fresh pasta to take home!
-Sticks—chain kabob place but cheap and really good
-Fry Spring—pizza pizza pizza
-Public Fish and Oyster—great oyster bar
-Whiskey Jar—great bar, fun atmosphere, southern food
-The Pie Chest— duh pies
-C&O- very expensive but amazing, has a downstairs bar that has cheaper items
-MariaBette Cafe and Bakery—noms coffee and baked goods and brunch
-Pippin Hill—great food even if don’t do wine and can sit outside
-Timbercreek Farm and Market— sells their products and also food they make with it so cool
-sugar shack donuts (out of richmond)
-spudnuts donuts (made from potatoes)
-farm bell kitchen—every time of day options!!
-roots natural kitchen—crunchy smoothie bowl type of place
-la michoacana taco—legit
-Mudhouse Coffee: a couple of locations around town, great coffee, great food, love their power balls and muffins…exp their peach muffin and rosemary goatcheese (I think only serve this one on Fridays)
-Cville Coffee: great food and coffee and place to hang out, has honey bunches which are noms (little oat muffin things that i would eat consistently while studying)
Bluegrass grill-I love this place
Really nice…boars head inn and Clifton inn(reservations)
Commonwealth restaurant and skybar
Bodos for basic bagels—they don’t toast their bagels so don’t ask ha, cheap good food -Ace Biscuit and Barbeque—new and getting LOTS of buzz, still haven’t tried but want to!!
Booze (there are too many places and they are all beautiful):
-beer run has so so so many types of beer and also great food/brunch
-Star Hill Brewery in Crozet (small establishment indoors in middle of where they brew the stuff)
-Blue Mountain Brewery in Crozet: has good food and drinks and great outdoor seating if weather good with views of the mountain, can be crowded
-Devil’s backbone— drive to lexington but fun, has good concerts there too
-champion brewing company
-Wild Wolf Brewery—supposed to be really cool and beautiful but I haven’t been yet
-Pippin hill Farm and Vineyards—great outdoor dining too -Moss Vineyards
-Veritas vineyards—so pretty
OMG! This is AMAZING. There are a ton of places on here that I haven’t been to yet – definitely adding them to my list for the next trip down (in two weeks!).
I just found you through Annaliese’s post but I moved to Charlottesville last month (after spending 4 years visiting) and I just love it so much! Definitely added a few things to my list that I want to try!!
Love, love, love this!! Charlottesville is by far one of my favorites cities around us – and I totally took your word on Bodo’s the last time we were there: AMAZING. Can’t wait to check off a few more from your list the next time I’m there!
Steph | http://www.magnoliastripes.com
Great post! Found it through a link on the Virginia Cider Week Facebook page. Since you seem to love cider, just a quick plug for my restaurant, FIREFLY Restaurant + Game Room, where we always offer at least 4 cider options. During Cider Week starting this Friday we’ll have over a dozen Virginia ciders available. Thanks so much for spreading the Cville love!