Situated in the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia, the city of Charlottesville is awash with spectacular scenery along with an array of cultural and historic landmarks. Myriad rivers and lakes provide the perfect setting for watersports enthusiasts and the magnificent Shenandoah National Park is nearby.
As for man-made attractions, the city’s rich history is showcased by an assortment of first-class museums and galleries, as well as the venerable University of Virginia, while Charlottesville is also tailor made for more relaxed exploration, with its charming boutiques, antique shops, antiquarian bookstores and distinguished local wineries.
There’s plenty to keep you engaged and entertained in Charlottesville. Below are some of the more off-the-beaten-track things to see and do here.
1. Telegraph Art & Comics
Even in a world of hyper-digitisation, comics continue to capture the imagination of millions of people around the world – of every age, gender and class. In Charlottesville, the place to come if you’re a comic book lover is Telegraph Art & Comics, a one-stop shop for all things comic-related. Located in one of the city’s most historic districts, the quaint store stocks a wide selection of monthly titles, graphic novels, and trade paperbacks, including an extensive selection of manga and kids comics. Its owners also pride themselves on working with smaller publishers and independent artists, meaning you’ll often find self-published comics, zines and limited edition art prints here. The shop also hosts regular signings and other special events.
LOCATION 211 W Main Street HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm
2. The Raven Room
The great American writer Edgar Allan Poe only studied at the University of Virginia for one year during the early 19th century, but his dorm room has been preserved by a dedicated group of students who are still thought to hold clandestine, midnight initiations here. Known today as The Raven Room – after the Raven Society which was established in 1904 to honour scholarly pursuits – Dorm 13, West Range has retained a number of original features from when Poe resided here, including a sofa and a writing desk complete with black feather quill. Visitors can view the room through a glass door and listen to an accompanying audio display about Poe’s life
LOCATION University of Virginia, 13 West Range
3. Three Notch’d Brewing Co.
Virginia’s ultimate destination for craft beer and food lovers, the new Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery features a scratch kitchen that has curated a locally sourced, beer infused menu, signature cocktails, wine, cider, craft sodas brewed in-house, along with signature award-winning Three Notch’d craft beers on tap. The large, family friendly main dining room and outdoor patio are open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, and a private event space accommodates parties of any size.
LOCATION IX Art Park, 946 Grady Avenue Drive HOURS Mon-Thurs 4pm-10pm, Fri 3pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-8pm
4. Ash Lawn–Highland
Located a couple of miles outside of Charlottesville, this large, picturesque estate boasts a prestigious past, having once been the home of James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States. Monroe and his family settled here in 1799 where they remained for almost a quarter of a century before selling up due to personal debt. Today the estate is owned by Monroe’s alma mater, the College of William and Mary, and serves as a working farm, museum and performance site for arts. It is open to the public all year round.
LOCATION 2050 James Monroe Parkway HOURS 9am-6pm daily
5. Brew Ridge Trail
Virginia has a thriving craft beer scene and there’s few better ways to immerse yourself within it than on this self-guided brewery tour. The tour, which can be enjoyed over several days, invites beer lovers to explore some of America’s finest craft breweries, all dotted along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Nelson and Albemarle Counties, as well as passing through Charlottesville itself. Tours can be individually tailored to your requirements and there’s a range of activities to enjoy along the way, including live music, shops and beer pairing dinners. There’s also a wide choice of local lodging options at various stops along the trail.
LOCATION VA Route 29
6. University of Virginia’s Hidden Chemical Hearth
Hidden for 165 years at the University of Virginia, inside a building designed by Thomas Jefferson, are the remains of what experts believe could be America’s first educational chemistry lab. Sealed behind a brick wall in the university’s original library (known as the Rotunda), the hearth was discovered during a renovation project in 2015 and was soon hailed as “maybe the oldest intact example of early chemical education in this country” by the school’s senior historic preservation planner. The restoration team decided to preserve the hearth behind transparent glass and surround it with educational materials for public viewing upon the building’s reopening, where it remains today.
LOCATION University of Virginia, 1721 University Avenue HOURS 9am-5pm daily
7. Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society
History buffs will love exploring this hugely impressive cultural institution, whose museum is home to over 1,500 artefacts. Located in the historic McIntire Building in downtown Charlottesville, the society was founded in 1940 with the purpose of studying, preserving and promoting the history of the city and wider region. Visitors can come here and enjoy a variety of public programs, including exhibits, lectures, walking tours and oral history interviews.
LOCATION 200 2nd St NE HOURS Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-1pm