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Charlottesville VA Travel Guide

All About Charlottesville, VA

Charlottesville, a city of almost fifty thousand people, lies where the Virginia Piedmont begins to rise into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Founded in 1762, Charlottesville was the home of two US presidents and has many present-day reminders of its foundation in history. The city provides many landmarks and places to visit whether you are there for a weekend visit or plan to make it your home.


The University of Virginia, founded by former US President Thomas Jefferson, is at the heart of the city with over twenty thousand students and a health care system that serves many of the surrounding counties. There are many restaurants to explore starting at the edge of the University with “The Corner” and stretching down West Main street to the downtown walking mall. Food for almost any craving can be found here. If you’re looking for a light breakfast or lunch option, try Bodo’s Bagels. If you’re looking for a lunch or dinner option that gives you a chance to eat locally sourced ingredients, Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria can be a great place to try near the walking mall. If you’re on the mall and want some good burgers and local brews, Citizen Burger Bar is a place you’ll want to put on the list.


Charlottesville is a great place to be for great music venues that provide quality shows on a weekly basis. Many of the breweries and vineyards surrounding the city will have local and regional bands, but downtown The Jefferson Theater will have great nationally touring acts no matter what style of music you’re looking for. The Southern Cafe and Music Hall provides a bit more laid back environment to listen while you enjoy some of the cafe’s food and drink.


There is no shortage of entertainment in town with places like the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema where you can find newly released movies and have great food and drink ordered to your seat. The University of Virginia provides the Fralin Museum of Art for a more cultured display of the visual arts. You can find more information on their website about the rotating exhibitions and schedule of faculty lectures.


The city of Charlottesville can be divided up into several prominent historic neighborhoods. Each area has its own unique character and can provide any type of living for those looking to buy a home or rent in the city. The downtown area contains much of the dining and retail space in the city, but also has new developments that are adding residential options to what was previously commercial space. Norcross Station is one of the developments that has taken old commercial space and redeveloped it into 1-2 bedroom apts within a five-minute walk to downtown. Fifeville is another neighborhood that has experienced significant revitalization in the past several years. The Fifeville Neighborhood Association is actively involved in creating a plan that will ensure sustainable development for the area. In the southeast corner of the city where Route 20 leaves the city, the historic Belmont neighborhood provides one of the most charming places to live in the city. At over 400 acres of quiet streets and Belmont park at it’s center, the neighborhood is family friendly and enjoyable. Belmont not only has residential streets though, at its western side is the IX Art Park where Three Notch’d Brewery and many other eating options can be found.


The Economy of Charlottesville is centered around the University and Health Care System which are the number one and two employers in the city. There are also numerous start-up companies primarily in the IT services industry. The median household income was $50,727 in 2016, and the total population of the city was 48,019 in 2017 (US Census). Both the population and economy has grown significantly in the past 10 years, with over a 10% growth from 2010-2017. One just has to walk through the downtown area to witness the millions of dollars being poured into the redevelopment of old commercial spaces and construction of new apartment buildings.


Albemarle County


Albemarle County surrounds the city of Charlottesville and has a population of 107,702 as of 2017. It was formed in 1744 and like many of the surrounding counties has many landmarks and dwellings of great historical significance. Most of the county is part of the Piedmont rolling hills and provides some of the most sought after living in all of Central Virginia.


Just outside of Charlottesville is the most famous landmark in the county, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It sits atop the 1200 ft high Montalto only 3 miles from the City. It can be toured regularly and the grounds and dwelling offer some of the most impressive views of the surrounding country. It is the only private home in the United States to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site; needless to say it is well worth the visit. More information about scheduling a tour and buying tickets can be found on their website. If a more informal activity is needed, Carter Mountain Orchard is a great place to take the family to enjoy great food, music, and pick your own fruit. It is only over the hill from Monticello, and provides even more stunning views of the City of Charlottesville and the surrounding mountains. Any time of the year can be a great time to visit, but fall with the brightly covered mountains and apples ready to be picked is certainly a memorable time to visit.


With over 25 wineries and breweries scattered throughout the county, there are many options to visit the rural parts of Albemarle County. And while you’re there, why not make a day of it and visit three or four tasting rooms? With places like Keswick Vineyards and Castle Hill Cider in the Keswick area of the county, it is easy to explore all of what Albemarle county has to offer.


There are other historical places to visit in Albemarle County, including the home of the fifth President of the US, James Monroe. The Highland Estate, located just a few miles outside of Charlottesville and adjacent to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, provides a window into the time of the early 1800’s when it was James Monroe’s home.


Most of the housing development in the county has grown out of the City of Charlottesville. The neighborhoods to the south of town are built for those wanting an easy commute into town. Likewise, much of the development and growth in the county has occurred in the 29 corridors north of Charlottesville. Here construction is underway in the 800-1500 unit Brookhill development that is planned to be a pedestrian-oriented mixed-use area. Crozet is one of the most popular communities to live in Albemarle County, thanks to its small-town feel and proximity to Charlottesville. It is a vibrant place with an active group of community activists and planners. Much of the county’s new construction and real estate development has occurred here and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down


Albemarle County has encouraged high-density growth in designated areas instead of developing rural parts of the county. The result? Much of the rural areas instead have seen significant investment in redeveloping and remodeling instead of new construction. The investment in real estate is evidenced by the growth the county has experienced in the past decade. The recent 8.8% growth in population from 2010 – 2017 has certainly been boosted by the growth in Charlottesville. There are 45,356 housing units with a median value of $317,000, much higher than surrounding counties. This, and the median household income of $70, 342 (US Census) is evidence of the over 50% of the workforce who commute into Charlottesville.


Fluvanna County


Fluvanna County lies to the east of Albemarle and is bordered primarily buy Louisa and Buckingham counties. The county seat is Palmyra, a town on Route 15, the main thoroughfare for the county. It is primarily a rural county, with only 25,000 residents (US Census).


Over a third of the counties, residents live in the gated community of Lake Monticello. It is popular as a retirement community, or for those who want the lake living while also being close enough to Charlottesville to commute to work. Many families also enjoy the lake as a weekend getaway, with many families from Northern Virginia and other parts of Central Virginia owning second homes in the community. The rest of the population of Fluvanna County is scattered throughout the rest of the 209 square miles with small concentrations in both Palmyra and Fork Union.


Although there is not that much development in Fluvanna County, there are still things that can be found for entertainment. The Rivanna River Company hosts float trips that start in Charlottesville but follow the Rivanna River to the take out in Palmyra. There are also some smaller wineries scattered throughout the county, including the Cunningham Creek Winery that hosts wine tastings and live music on most weekends in the summer.


Fluvanna County still enjoys its proximity to Charlottesville with most residents commuting to Charlottesville for work. The median income is $66,425 amongst the 9,829 households. There is moderate growth in the county shown by the 127 building permits applied for in 2017.


Orange County


Orange County begins to the Northeast of Charlottesville and provides some great options for rural living and exploring. It is a county with 36,073 residents and is most densely inhabited in the eastern end of the county in Lake of the Woods and the surrounding development. The town of Orange provides some quieter neighborhoods and the county’s only high school.


In the western side of the county that borders Greene and Albemarle County, Gordonsville and Barboursville both have small and quiet downtown areas. In Gordonsville, The Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum contains exhibits and artifacts from the time that this elegant hotel was transformed into a wartime hospital. Just outside the town of Orange is the home of the Fourth president of the US, James Madison. Montpelier is the third president’s estate to be established in Central Virginia and only lies about thirty minutes North of the homes of Jefferson and Monroe. You can enter the extensive trails and grounds without paying but will need to purchase a ticket to tour the mansion.


The town of Orange boasts several restaurants that are well worth the drive from Charlottesville. As you come into town from the south, the first option is La Finca Grill with Peruvian style latin cuisine.

On E Main street The Light Well offers live music, local beers, and great casual dining.


The economy in Orange County relies primarily on food and beverage establishments. For employment, most residents commute to either Charlottesville or Fredericksburg. The median household income is $66,900 and the median home price is $236,100.




Waynesboro, an independent city in Augusta County, sits just below the Blue Ridge on the west side of Afton Mountain. It’s a city of about 22,000 and provides easy access along the I-64 corridor to both Charlottesville and Staunton.


For a small city, Waynesboro provides plenty of good options for entertainment and dining. In downtown at the Basic City Beer Co. you can find a substantial collection of handcrafted beers brewed on site. Several nights a week there are local food trucks making it a great one stop for an evening. Just a few miles up the road in Afton, Veritas Vineyard and Winery will satisfy any cravings for a nice relaxed wine tasting. With views of the Shenandoah Valley, you can’t go wrong stopping here for an afternoon.


Shenandoah Valley Art Center is a great place to check out regional artist’s work in the rotating monthly exhibits. Anything from pottery to fine art paintings and photography can be found on display here and provides a great taste of what the Shenandoah Valley has to offer. Although it is about a 20-minute drive away in Staunton, the American Shakespeare Center is well worth the short trip. As the only true replica of The Blackfriars Playhouse, it is truly how Shakespeare’s work was meant to be enjoyed. Find out what shows are scheduled here.


Waynesboro has many types of neighborhoods to choose from if looking for a house to buy or rent. In Charleston Park, newer construction of colonial style houses can be found. Two of the larger neighborhoods are closer to downtown though, including The Tree Streets and BCMM and LC. Houses in The Tree Streets are sought after for their quiet streets and historic homes, while houses in BCMM & LC are usually a little bit more affordable.

As an average, Waynesboro is a more affordable place to live than Charlottesville to the East. The median home value is only $158,000 and the median household income is $45,097 (US Census). Employment near Waynesboro is primarily government services, but in nearby Stuarts Draft, Mckee Foods employs nearly one thousand people at their bakery plant. Stuarts Draft also has other significant manufacturing and distribution facilities with a large Hershey Chocolate Factory and Target Distribution Center. Waynesboro can provide a great place to live that has reasonable commutes to numerous job centers.

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