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Charlottesville, Virginia

Named in honor of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III, Charlottesville was settled in the eighteenth century on a hill overlooking the Rivanna River. Today, Charlottesville is a small, thriving city that has kept up with the cultivated tastes of its inhabitants. Money Magazine named Charlottesville among the top cities in the United States for its charm, good public school system, clean environment, absence of crime and style in 1998 (www.money.com/money/depts/tools/citypages/cities/CHARL_VA.html). Charlottesville uniquely offers a picturesque and cultivated countryside rich in historical associations and cultural opportunities that has won praise for years.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County have a combined population of around 150,000, with higher education, tourism, light manufacturing, agriculture, and retail trade constituting their economic base. Over the years, much has been done to preserve the natural beauty and character of Albemarle County. The countryside, especially in the springtime, ranks among the most beautiful sites in the nation. Beautiful estates, tucked against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and bounded by split-rail fences and cedar trees, dot the rolling-hill landscape.

 

Interesting Sites in and Around Charlottesville

The Downtown Mall: Downtown Charlottesville is the legal, financial, and social meeting place of the community. The Downtown Mall, a tree-lined pedestrian walkway connects Charlottesville's convention center and ice-skating rink with the city's new community amphitheatre. The mall has recently experienced a resurgence, as internet coffee house, art galleries, open cafes and restaurants have lured people to the area for business and leisure. Downtown Charlottesville transforms from a sleepy Southern town to a animated small city each day as restaurants and retail stores on the mall open, and as professionals, students, and townspeople stop for coffee or lunch.

The Corner: A collection of student shops, bookstores, cafes, and night spots, the Corner is the center of student life at the University. The Corner is always full of life, but it is especially active midday when faculty, staff, and students break there for lunch. Patrons of its numerous sidewalk cafes can be found spending time leisurely drinking coffee, reading or simply watching people walk by.

Albemarle County & Surrounding Areas

Ash Lawn-Highland: Slightly more than two miles from Monticello. The restored home of President James Monroe, this 550-acre estate features gardens, farm-crafts demonstrations, and a hiking trail. The scene of many special events such as the summer Opera Festival, the Champagne and Candlelight Tour, and the Colonial Crafts Weekend. (Mar.-Oct.: 9-6; Nov.-Feb: 10-5; open daily except Christmas, New Year's Day, and Thanksgiving. Admission is charged.)

Charlottesville/Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau: Route 20S at I-64. A rich source of information about area sites, food, and lodging. The special exhibit, "Thomas Jefferson at Monticello," is an excellent preparation for a visit to Monticello.

Monticello: On Route 53, several miles from the junction of Route 20 South. Monticello is the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson, which he built over a period of forty years as an expression of his architectural genius. (Open seven days a week. Tours every five minutes. Mar-Oct: 8 -5; Nov.-Feb. 9-4:30, open daily except Christmas. Admission is charged.)

Montpelier: A forty-five minute drive north in Orange County on Route 20. Home of President James and Dolley Madison. Restoration in process. (Open daily from 10-4. Admission is charged.)

Virginia Wineries: A number of wineries within easy drive of Charlottesville are generally open from spring to early fall.

Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway: Take Route 250 or I-64 west. Take a beautiful drive or hike in the Appalachian Trail.

 

Seasonal Festivities

Summer :

The Heritage Repertory Theatre: Professional summer theatre on the Grounds of the University of Virginia (June - August).

Ash Lawn-Highland Summer Opera Festival: Outdoor operas and lectures in repertory schedule (June - August).

Fridays after Five: Weekly after-work-celebration includes lively concerts in the grassy amphitheatre at the western end of the historic downtown mall.

Independence Day Celebration: McIntire Park and Monticello.

Fall:

Fall brings regional crafts fairs to the area, wine tasting tours, and breathtaking scenic drives through the Blue Ridge Mountains to view the fall foliage.

  • Albemarle County Fair: North Garden, 29S (September).
  • Foxfield Races: Steeplechase racing on Garth Road (September).
  • Court Days: Regional craft fair in Lee Park, downtown Charlottesville (October).
  • The Monticello Wine & Food Festival: A fall tribute to the grape harvest at local wineries (October).
  • Crozet Arts & Craft Festival: Crafts fun 12 miles west of Charlottesville (October - November).
  • The Montpelier Races: Steeplechase races on the grounds of the Madison estate.
  • UVA Fall Convocation: On the Lawn (October).
  • Annual Virginia Festival of Film: Join directors and writers to learn about film through screenings, workshops, and lectures (October).

Winter:

Every holiday season brings First Night Virginia's New Year's Eve festivities for families, featuring live music, entertainment, and fireworks at midnight.

  • Yuletide Traditions: Candlelit open houses, musical performances, traditional Christmas fare, concerts, and children's programs at Monticello, Ash Lawn-Highland and Historic Michie Tavern (November - December).
  • First Night Virginia: New Year's Eve festivities for families. On the downtown mall, featuring live music, entertainment, and fireworks at midnight (December 31).

Spring:

  • Annual Dogwood Festival: Charlottesville and Albemarle's April celebration of spring includes parades and Historic Garden Week tours of area estates and homes.
  • Thomas Jefferson's Birthday Commemoration: Monticello and UVA (April 13).
  • Charlottesville 10-Miler: Twelve hundred runners race through the streets of Charlottesville each April.
  • Foxfield Races: Spring steeplechase runnings. Prepare a picnic lunch for tailgating before the race (April).
  • Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival: Craftspeople from the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding areas congregate each May in a small community west of Charlottesville.

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