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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 you.

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.

  1. 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.
  3. 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     family.
  5. 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     townsfolk.
  7. 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.
  9. 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.
  11. 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.
  13. 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.
  15. 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.
  17. 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.
  19. 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.
  21. 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.
  23. 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.
  25. 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.
  27. 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.  
  29. 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.
  31. 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.?
  33. 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.  
  35. 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.
  37. 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.
  39. 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.
  41. 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.
  43. 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.
  45. 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.
  47. 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.
  49. 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.
  51. 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.
  53. 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.
  55. 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.  
  57. 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.
  59. 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.
  61. 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.
  63. 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.
  65. 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.
  67. 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.
  69. 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.
  71. 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.  
  73. 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.  
  75. 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.
  77. 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.
  79. 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.
  81. 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.
  83. 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.
  85. 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.
  87. 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.
  89. 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.
  91. 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.
  93. 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.  
  95. 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
  97. 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.
  99. 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.
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