The Top 50 Things to Enjoy About Charlottesville
Charlottesville, Virginia and the surrounding area have
so many things to recommend it. A couple of months ago the Real Estate Weekly
published their list of the 50 top things to enjoy about Charlottesville. They
have generously offered to let us use the list and I would like to share it with
Top 50 Things to Enjoy About Charlottesville NO BYLINE There are many things
to enjoy about Charlottesville and it was very difficult to narrow it down to
50. The basic criterion used to develop this list was uniqueness to Charlottesville.
In other words, the Top 50 are things that can only be found in Charlottesville
or things that we have at least in some way put our unique stamp on. There were
no scientific methods used to develop this list and there are many worthy things
that are omitted. In addition, these 50 items are not ranked, but are displayed
in alphabetical order. If you enjoy the list, you will enjoy Charlottesville.
Did we leave out something you enjoy about Charlottesville? Would you like
to share your opinion on the list? We invite readers to post their comments
on the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS? blog, www.caarblog.com/?cat=20.
- 4th of July Fireworks in McIntire Park There are two places in the country
that must always celebrate the 4th of July ? Philadelphia and Charlottesville.
In the shadow of Thomas Jefferson?s home, Charlottesville hosts a fantastic
4th of July Festival at McIntire Park. The show is put on by the all-volunteer
Save the Fireworks Foundation and up to 25,000 people enjoy the spectacular
fireworks display each year.
- Albemarle County Fair Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of agriculture and
the Albemarle County Fair is a great celebration of his emphasis on placing
your hands in the earth. The Albemarle Fair is similar to other fairs around
the country, but Albemarle has a great story to tell. Throw in a funnel cake,
some cotton candy, and carnival rides and you have a great time for the entire
- Bodo?s Bagels The number one thing people miss when they move away from
Charlottesville is Bodo?s Bagels. Eating at Bodo?s is an experience. At peak
times, there is always a line that moves amazingly quickly. Breakfast and
lunch are both very popular and the price is also a hit with students and
- Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad The Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue
Squad (CARS) is an all-volunteer service that serves the City of Charlottesville,
half of Albemarle County, and the University of Virginia. With 160 volunteers
they run 16,000 calls each year, which earned them the title of the busiest
volunteer rescue squad in the country. Funding for CARS comes primarily from
donations, making CARS a special community service.
- Carter?s Mountain If you want a stunning view of the Charlottesville area,
historic Carter?s Mountain is the place to go. There are many reasons to visit
Carter?s Mountain, but the best is the Apple Harvest Festival. Plan a few
hours for this trip, because there is only one windy road in and one road
out. The cider, fritters, fresh apples, and pumpkins make the trip enjoyable,
but the views are worth the trip. At other times of the year you can pick
peaches and nectarines.
- Charitable Giving It is no secret that there is a lot of money in Charlottesville,
or that locals are very generous in their support of local non-profit programs.
There are two special Charlottesville twists to philanthropy that are notable.
First, we have the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation (CACF) that serves
as a master foundation for many of the local funds. With only a small minimum
deposit, anyone can start a charitable giving fund and have the strength of
CACF behind it. There are many large and small funds held by CACF, but the
most recognized is the Bama Works Fund of Dave Matthews Band. Bama Works has
given millions of dollars over the years to support local activities that
better the community.
- Charlottesville Radio Group Radio is big in Charlottesville. We seem to
have a bunch of good radio stations for a small community and most of those
stations are part of the Charlottesville Radio Group. The main station in
the Group is WINA, which features news and talk and is the flagship station
for U.Va. sports. Music, news, talk, and sports are nice, but the real great
thing about the Charlottesville Radio Group is that they are very supportive
of the community. From Plug Away Monday, where callers are allowed to promote
their non-profit organization, to partnerships with many charity events, the
Radio Group is a great corporate citizen.
- Charlottesville Tomorrow Civic engagement is a tradition in the Charlottesville
area. Public hearings often draw huge crowds. In 2005, a non-partisan organization
called Charlottesville Tomorrow was formed to help inform the public of things
going on in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Charlottesville Tomorrow
uses new media tools to bring a massive amount of information to local residents
in a simple and convenient format. You can listen to a podcast of a City Council
meeting or read the blog about the latest emotional public hearing.
- Christian?s Pizza & Crozet Pizza If you are looking for a unique pizza experience,
Charlottesville has two legendary places to take care of you. At Christian?s
Pizza, you wait in line (often out the front door on a busy night) to select
slices of exotic pizzas that are prepped in advance. You order a couple slices
with fancy toppings and they cook them for you while you wait in line to pay.
That may not sound good to the uninitiated, but once you?ve tasted the pizza,
you?re hooked. The other Charlottesville pizza experience you should try is
Crozet Pizza. Since 1977, Crozet Pizza has been hand-making their pizza and
people use to call-in days in advance to reserve oven space because demand
was so high.
- Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport If you are from the Charlottesville area,
you laugh when you read the standard airport warning to get there two hours
before your flight. If you did arrive that early at the Charlottesville-Albemarle
Airport (CHO), you?d have about an hour and 45 minutes to read a book while
waiting for your flight. Sure, we have to fly small planes with propellers
and there are very few direct flights, but it beats wasting an hour of your
life going through check-in and security in a large airport. At least one
of John Grisham?s books, ?The Summons,? features CHO and you might just run
into the famous author on a flight to Dulles.
- Craft Shows There are several very talented local artisans in and around
Charlottesville. We also have several craft shows, with the two best being
Martha?s Market and Crozet Arts and Craft Festival. Martha?s Market, which
started in 1994 and is generally held in October, is a fundraiser for the
Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation to support women?s health care issues.
The 70 vendors at the Market contribute 15% of their proceeds to the charity.
The Crozet Festival is held twice a year (May and October) and features 120
exhibits under large tents in Crozet Park.
- Dogwood Festival Originally named the Apple Harvest Festival when it started
back in 1950, the event was moved to April and renamed the Dogwood Festival
in 1958. This multifaceted event is highlighted by a parade, fair rides, and
fireworks. There is a little something for everyone at the Dogwood Festival.
- Downtown Mall The heart of Charlottesville has to be the historic Downtown
Mall. It is where people of all ages go, hangout, eat, drink, and be merry.
At one end of the Mall is the Ice Park, where you can play hockey or free
skate and at the other end is the Pavilion, where many great concerts are
held. In the middle is the Paramount Theater and great restaurants, many with
outdoor dining. On a Friday night in the summer, you can barely walk down
the street because so many people are strolling the Mall. This is a special
place in a special city.
- First Fridays On the First Friday of each month, art is front and center
on the Charlottesville scene. Several downtown art galleries hold open houses
and serve wine, snacks, and fun. You can walk from gallery to gallery and
see local and nationally recognized works. To finish off a great evening,
stop in for dessert at one of the many local restaurants on the Downtown Mall.
- First Night? Virginia On December 31, Charlottesville celebrates First Night
Virginia along with 130 other cities around the world. Our First Night is
the second-oldest and features 75 different performances in 24 different venues,
all in one night. This great community event is family friendly and a great
way to welcome in the New Year.
- Foxfield Races Twice a year, half of Charlottesville heads out scenic Garth
Road to attend the Foxfield Races, a steeplechase horse race that is really
just an excuse to gather (no offense to the racers). In recent years, these
two races have taken on a split personality. In the spring, the race is a
combination of a frat party and a football tailgate party. In the fall, the
event turns into a ?Family Day.?
- Fridays After Five Every Friday during the spring and summer months, locals
gather at the Pavilion in downtown Charlottesville for a party called Friday?s
After Five. This free event features local and regional bands and allows spectators
to bring in a picnic dinner. Thousands attend each Friday, hang out with their
neighbors, and then stroll down the Downtown Mall and eat at an outdoor restaurant.
- Garden Week For the past 76 years, Historic Garden Week has been celebrated
in Virginia and Charlottesville has several homes on the tour each year. The
Charlottesville area has several historic estates with beautiful gardens and
landscapes, and this opportunity to visit should not be missed.
- Gourmet Gas Stations When asked where to get the best sandwich in Charlottesville,
many locals will answer a local gas station. Huh? No, we are not talking about
a pre-packaged egg salad on white bread. How does chicken salad with a cranberry
relish on sourdough bread sound? Several local gas stations have a sandwich
shop inside called The Market where you can get what they call Gourmet to
Go. If you can get over the ambiance, these are truly great sandwiches.
- Great Local Musical Talent The local music scene in Charlottesville is deep
in talent and diversity. There is a ton of support in both teaching programs
and in small venues for musicians to play. The local high school programs
are very solid and the young talent seems to never end. In addition to great
local bands, many national acts that visit Charlottesville feature a local
musician as part of the band. The reach of the Charlottesville music scene
appears to be never-ending.
- Great Running Events This is a big running town. In 2006, Outside Magazine
rated Charlottesville as one of the towns with the best running trails. We
have some great charity races like the Women?s 4 Miler to benefit the U.Va.
Cancer Center Breast Care Program and the Charlottesville 10 Miler that collected
1,000 pounds of food for the local food bank. A newer event, the Charlottesville
Marathon/Half Marathon, has become very popular. This event has a marvelous
historic course to follow and has 3,500 participants.
- Hot Air Balloons If you live in Charlottesville, you get to enjoy beautiful
vistas as you walk or drive around town. But, there is another way to see
the natural beauty of the area ? from a hot air balloon. Even if you are afraid
of heights, just seeing these colorful and graceful crafts floating around
town is a thrill. Often you will see three balloons drifting about, sometimes
low enough to yell a friendly hello, and they have been known to land in a
cul-de-sac or parking lot.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Have you ever seen a car commercial
that shows footage of crash test dummies demonstrating air bags? It is likely
that that test-crash was filmed in the Charlottesville area at the research
facility of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Unfortunately,
they do not allow spectators, but they do publish great videos of the crashes
and their efforts help make us all safer on the road.
- JABA and The Senior Center Charlottesville has often been rated as a top
place for seniors, and two significant factors in earning those accolades
are the Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) and The Senior Center. JABA?s
mission is to create a sustainable community for healthy aging and they have
developed a 2020 Plan to help prepare our community to be livable for all
ages by 2020. The Senior Center was Virginia?s first nationally accredited
senior center and serves as a wonderful social and cultural center for seniors.
- JAUNT The award-winning JAUNT transportation service was organized in 1975
to offer a unique solution to Central Virginia?s transit needs. If you need
a ride to work, the doctor, or shopping, you can schedule a JAUNT van to take
care of the driving for a very low cost. This great community service helps
prevent road congestion and benefits the environment.
- John Paul Jones Arena U.Va.?s John Paul Jones Arena (JPJ) is perhaps the
best new addition to the awesome facilities in this community in many years.
In fact, JPJ was named the Best New Concert Venue in 2007. Of course concerts
are just one of the uses to which JPJ has already been adapted. U.Va.?s basketball
team has enjoyed a significant home court advantage in the Arena and events
as diverse as monster truck shows and Broadway plays have been scheduled in
JPJ. Concerts, however, are the real addition that JPJ has brought to the
community. Big names like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Kenny Chesney
would never have come to Charlottesville until JPJ was built.
- Kluge Children?s Rehabilitation Center If you have a special-needs child,
or your child has been seriously injured, the Kluge Children?s Rehabilitation
Center (KCRC) will be a huge asset for you and your child. KCRC is part of
U.Va.?s Children Hospital and works with children from all over the world.
The staff at KCRC works holistically with the patient and the family to help
the child become as independent and competent as possible. The family-centered
approach to patient care recognizes that the family is the one constant in
the child?s life.
- The Lawn and Rotunda To get a true feel for the history and magnificence
of the University of Virginia, you must visit the famous Rotunda and The Lawn
that lies hidden behind the distinct fa?ade. Taking one of the daily historic
tours is a must to understand the foundation of the University of Virginia.
The Rotunda and The Lawn, Jefferson?s Academic Village, were truly his life?s
work and they were completed in the last year of his life in 1826. To live
in one of the rustic dorm rooms on The Lawn is a major honor and graduation
ceremonies are held in this amazing setting. On a lighter side, trick-or-treating
at Halloween and streaking The Lawn at the first snow are also Lawn traditions.
- Live Arts Charlottesville With an annual attendance of 20,000 and 500 volunteers,
Live Arts has made its mark on Charlottesville since its beginning in 1990.
This unique performing arts organization blurs the lines of artistic genres
and is truly part of the community. Live Arts does not accept government subsidies
and is totally dependent on the support of the community.
- Local Celebrities One of the cool aspects of life in Charlottesville is
the random celebrity sightings. Seldom do you see locals mobbing the local
celebrities for autographs and pictures. For the most part, locals just act
cool and then brag later about their brush with fame. You might see Dave Matthews
in a local bookstore, or John Grisham dining at a local restaurant, or play
golf in a local charity tournament with Howie Long. It is just part of life
in this small community.
- Local Winery Tours Nationally, Virginia ranks 6th in wine production and
that was the vision of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson brought back many vines
from France and is credited with being one of the fathers of wine production
in the United States. The Charlottesville area is rich with wineries and a
great way to spend a day is to meander through the beautiful countryside and
taste the local wines.
- MACAA?s Men Who Cook MACAA, the Monticello Area Community Action Agency,
works to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of people living in our community.
One of the major fundraisers for this non-profit is an event called Men Who
Cook. The event involves 50 male chefs (mostly amateurs, some celebrities)
cooking their favorite dish and serving it to paying customers. This very
fun evening also includes a silent auction and after-dinner dance.
- McCormick Observatory In 1885, when the McCormick Observatory was dedicated
on Thomas Jefferson?s birthday (April 13), the 26-inch refractor telescope
was the second largest in the world. On the first and third Friday of each
month, the Observatory is open to the public for two hours. When the weather
is nice, expect a long line.
- Monticello and Ash Lawn Virginia was home to seven presidents, and two of
them were neighbors in the Charlottesville area. Monticello, home of our 3rd
President, Thomas Jefferson, is arguably the most famous home in the United
States (just look at the back side of most nickels). Just around the corner
(literally) is Ash Lawn, home of the 5th President, James Monroe. Both homes
are open for tours. If that is not enough, Montpelier, the home of our 4th
President, James Madison, is located a few miles north of the Charlottesville
area and the boyhood home of 28th President Woodrow Wilson is located a few
miles to the west. An ambitious tourist could see all four homes in one day.
For the best historic reality check, walk up to Monticello and stop at Michie
Tavern for lunch.
- Music Resource Center This town not only supports young local musicians
with great venues and training, but also with the Music Resource Center. In
typical Charlottesville style, we did this one BIG. Membership in the MRC
is limited to 7th ? 12th grade students who are currently enrolled in local
area schools. Originally the Center was housed in the old practice space for
the Dave Matthews Band (DMB), but was moved into its own space--a renovated
church on Ridge Street. In addition to support from DMB, the main driver to
the Center back in 1992 was John Hornsby, who co-wrote songs with his brother
Bruce while he attended U.Va.
- National Ground Intelligence Center This one is a secret, so don?t share
this with anyone. One of the area?s largest employers is the National Ground
Intelligence Center (NGIC). No one really knows what goes on in their secluded
compound off 29 North, or at least, no one talks about it. That?s good, because
we assume our national security and the safety of our troops depends on what
goes on there. Over the next few years, the facility will be expanded to include
800 to 1,000 more government employees that are being relocated to the area.
By the way, we would NOT suggest calling ahead for tour times and prices.
- Paramount Theater The historic Paramount Theater originally opened in 1931
and was renovated and re-opened in December 2004. Located on the Downtown
Mall, it is the perfect set-up for a date featuring dinner and a show. The
Paramount hosts a variety of shows including plays, comedians, and many different
types of music. The intent is to provide a little something for everyone.
- Pavilion The Charlottesville Pavilion is an outdoor amphitheater that hosts
great concerts ranging from local bands to national recording stars like Willie
Nelson and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The Pavilion also hosts the Fridays After
Five events and an occasional political rally.
- Piedmont Housing Alliance Just like every community, Charlottesville has
issues with housing. Fortunately, we have the Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA)
to help with credit issues, down payment assistance, and special financing
options. PHA helps hundreds of local residents and first-time homebuyers navigate
the complicated processes and programs. In addition, PHA provides training
and counseling in Fair Housing to make sure all members of the community have
an equal opportunity to obtain suitable living quarters.
- Rivanna Trail The Rivanna Trail is like the Underground Railroad for nature
lovers in Charlottesville. The trail winds along the Rivanna River and other
scenic sections of the city to form a beltway around Charlottesville. As you
walk along the trail when the leaves are on the trees, you can hardly notice
that houses and office buildings are just a few hundred feet away. From the
opposite viewpoint, you can be sitting in your office or home and not even
realize this hidden jewel is so accessible.
- Skyline Drive / Blue Ridge Parkway In 2006, the Skyline Drive celebrated
its 75th anniversary. The Blue Ridge Parkway is an early name given to the
stretch of the road that runs from Jarman Gap to Rockfish Gap (8.5 miles).
The complete Skyline Drive follows the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains from
Front Royal to Rockfish Gap (105.5 miles) and is one of the most scenic cruises
you will ever take. There are many designated overlooks along the way and
on a clear day you just might be able to see heaven.
- Spudnuts Spudnuts is Charlottesville?s most famous doughnut shop. As the
name implies, the tasty fried treats are actually made from potato flour.
The local Spudnuts location was opened in 1969 and is still owned by the same
family. The original founder, Richard Wingfield, passed away in 2005, but
the shop and the legend live on. If you have never had a warm, chocolate-glazed
Spudnut, you haven?t really lived.
- Starr Hill Brewery The mission of Starr Hill Brewery is to ?bring the gift
of great beer to the world.? Since the brewery was founded in 1999, it has
become the most award-winning brewery on the East Coast and is well respected
nationally. The brewery started in a little storefront on East Main Street
and has since moved to a much larger facility in Crozet. There are big plans
for the facility in Crozet, but already it is well worth a visit to the tasting
room and tour of the brewery. If you love beer, you?ll love Starr Hill and
Master Brewer Mark Thompson.
- The Corner The Corner is literally across the street from U.Va.?s Grounds
and the Medical Center and is both a symbolic and actual center of life for
students, faculty, and employees of U.Va. Shops, restaurants, banks, and bookstores
line one side of the street as it migrates from a north/south to an east/west
route and becomes Main Street. On the other side of the street are the Rotunda
and the Medical Center. Be careful if you drive The Corner, because students
are trained to step out into the crosswalks without regard for traffic. Cars
magically stop to allow pedestrians to pass. If you want to experience what
being a U.Va. employee or student feels like, visit The Corner at lunchtime
on a sunny day and watch students, faculty, and locals mingle.
- The White Spot Look up ?greasy spoon? in the dictionary and you will likely
see a picture of the White Spot Restaurant. Located on The Corner adjacent
to the U.Va. Grounds is this 50+-year-old classic diner that is perhaps the
secret to U.Va.?s rise to the top ranks of academic institutions. Students
studying or partying late into the night will stop in The White Spot for a
famous Gus Burger and a Grillswith (fried doughnut topped with ice cream).
Every college town probably has such a place that provides students the chance
to fill their belly and keep on going when most places have shut down. Legend
has it that The White Spot got its name from the previous business in the
space ? a barbershop. Evidently, when the barber chair was removed it left
a white spot on the floor. There is much more history and legend associated
with the Spot ? just ask any U.Va. alum from the past 50 years.
- University of Virginia We?ll never know what Charlottesville would be without
the University of Virginia, but we do know that U.Va. is a large part of what
makes this community a special place. Founded by Thomas Jefferson and opened
in 1825, there is so much history we cannot begin to cover it here. What is
not covered in the history books is that The University is the heart and soul
of the community. U.Va. is the area?s largest employer (by far) and provides
the local economy with a steady, reliable engine that insulates us from the
dramatic swings often seen in the national economy. With so many local families
tied to a top-rated University, there is a lot of pride that spills over into
the entire community. This pride is what inspires such a small community to
think big and act big.
- U.Va. Medical Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital Two of the main reasons
Charlottesville has been ranked nationally as the 7th-healthiest place to
live are the two outstanding hospitals we have in town. In fact, Charlottesville
ranks 4th in the number of physicians per capita for metro areas in the U.S.
The U.Va. Health System is a regional trauma center and is served by Pegasus,
an air and ground medical transport service. Martha Jefferson has a very popular
Women?s Health Center and has been serving the community for over 100 years.
- U.Va. Sports This is a small town, but we are fortunate to host some big-time
college sporting events thanks to the University of Virginia. The ultimate
fun is tailgating at a U.Va. football game on a sunny fall Saturday, but the
real treats of U.Va. sports are found watching the U.Va. soccer, lacrosse,
and baseball/softball teams play other national powerhouses. The weather is
often fantastic for these sports and the competition is top notch. And when
the weather gets too cold, the recently built John Paul Jones Arena is a great
place to take in an ACC basketball game and root for the Hoos! Homepage: http://www.virginiasports.com/
Independent news on U.VA. sports: http://www.thesabre.com/home
- Virginia Festival of the Book Did you know that Charlottesville has the
second-highest concentration of authors of any metropolitan area in the United
States? John Grisham, the most popular local writer, is also very active in
the community. What better place to hold the Virginia Festival of the Book?
The stated mission of the Virginia Festival of the Book is ?to bring together
writers and readers and to promote and celebrate books, reading, literacy,
and literary culture.? This annual March event is in its 15th year and is
scheduled for March 18-22, 2009. The statistics for this year?s event were
impressive, with over 23,000 attendees, 170 different events, and participation
by 373 literary professionals. One of the most popular events during the festival
is the Business Book Breakfast that sells out quickly and features well-known
writers like Malcolm Gladwell (?Blink?) and this year?s speaker Roger Mudd,
(?The Place to Be?). Charlottesville, it seems, is the place to be if you
love to read or write.
- Virginia Film Festival The Charlottesville area has long been known for
having a strong link to Hollywood. There are many movie stars that either
live or spend time here on a regular basis. We won?t drop any names because
we are bound to leave someone BIG out, but these celebrities would probably
prefer not to be mentioned anyway. In fact, one of the reasons they choose
to live here is that the local residents leave them alone. With this plethora
of movie stars, it only seems natural that Charlottesville hosts an annual
film festival. Technically, the Virginia Film Festival is a program of the
College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia and is generally
held in late October or early November. This year?s events will be held October
30 to November 2, 2008 with an ?Alien? theme. Past themes include last year?s
?Kin Flicks? and the very first Festival in 1990, ?Music and the Movies.?
The event features dozens of films each year and celebrity speakers that have
included Hollywood elites like Jimmy Stewart, Sandra Bullock, and Morgan Freeman.