DescriptionNo matter where your interests take you, you'll find it easy to visualize Charlottesville's many esteemed former citizens working and playing in this lively settlement in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors to the University of Virginia “see” Thomas Jefferson strolling the grounds of the prestigious school he founded and designed. Nearby, outdoor enthusiasts ambling through the Ragged Mountain Natural Area imagine themselves hiking alongside Edgar Allan Poe. (The Gothic writer frequented the dense woods during his 10-month stint as a UVA student in 1826. Unless you're fainthearted, try reading his short story “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” before exploring the 980-acre natural area.) Meanwhile, across town, sightseers reading an interpretive marker on Park Street envision tall, slender James Monroe as he dashes into the old courthouse.
These “ghosts” of Charlottesville are revered by present-day residents. For a few choice tidbits about the fascinating people who helped shape the area, sign up for a guided walking tour. On Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings from early April to late October, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society offers a tour focusing on the development of the original downtown district; phone (434) 296-1492.
On the east end of Main Street, about 2 blocks south of Charlottesville's historic Court Square, the tree-lined Downtown Pedestrian Mall features more than 150 shops and eateries. (Stop at the lunch counter inside Timberlake's Drug Store, 322 E. Main St., for a refreshing drink from its old-fashioned soda fountain.) The mall also is home to the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, which presents outdoor musical events spring through fall, including the free Fridays After Five summer concert series. Phone (434) 245-4910 or (877) 272-8849 for nTelos Wireless Pavilion schedule and ticket information.
Look for the marquee of the Greek Revival-style Paramount on Main Street for year-round entertainment options. While you can still catch classic films in this grand movie palace built in 1931, the restored theater now hosts comedians, dance troupes and bands regularly; phone (434) 979-1333. Known for its innovative theatrical presentations, Live Arts delivers everything from the avant-garde to bold interpretations of classic plays. Shows take place October through July in the 199-seat DownStage theater, off Main Street at 123 E. Water St.; phone (434) 977-4177.
Although there are several leisure activities available on and around the pedestrian mall, a trolley traverses Charlottesville and connects downtown with the UVA campus. The free trolleys operate Mon.-Sat. 6:40 a.m.-midnight, Sun. 8-6; phone (434) 970-3649.
Outdoor enthusiasts don't have to travel far for down-and-dirty fun in the sun. The Ragged Mountain Natural Area off US 29, open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk, features about 4 miles of trails encircling the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. A number of other trails exist in Charlottesville, some connecting parks, schools and other public spaces. Starting at Riverview Park, the multipurpose Rivanna Trail at the end of Chesapeake Street curves 2.3-miles north along the Rivanna River. The placid waterway, which begins approximately 6 miles northeast of Charlottesville and continues 42 miles south and east to Columbia affords additional recreational opportunities, including boating, canoeing, fishing and swimming.
Visitor InfoCharlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau 610 E. Main St. CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA 22902. Phone:(434)293-6789 or (877)386-1103
ShoppingBarracks Road Shopping Center (1117 Emmet St. N.) features some 80 upscale stores. Charlottesville Fashion Square (1600 Rio Rd. E.) has more than 70 stores, including Belk, Eddie Bauer, JCPenney and Sears. Charlottesville's Historic Downtown Pedestrian Mall offers art galleries, restaurants and various specialty shops on and around Main Street. The Shops at Stonefield (1954 Swanson Dr.) draws locals with the latest in luxury movie theaters along with shopping at Trader Joe's, Brooks Brothers and Pier 1 Imports.
Self-guiding toursBrochures outlining self-guiding walking tours of Charlottesville's historic downtown and the University of Virginia are available at the convention and visitors bureau.
Things to SeeJames Madison's Montpelier