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blue ridge parkway
Unbelievable views toward Charlottesville from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

9 Reasons Charlottesville is Gonna Get You

Nestled into the easternmost fold of the Appalachian Mountains, Charlottesville would be worth the visit if only as the gateway to two huge National Park Parcels with countless hikes and breathtaking views. But almost a force of nature himself, Thomas Jefferson left countless gems in his hometown. From Monticello and the “hobby of his old age” the University of Virginia, to the 30 members of the Monticello Wine Trail littered around the valley his impression is indelible. Nature, history, food and drinks… we’re in!

1. Marvel at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Although Thomas Jefferson began and ended his life on the same property, his epic tale spanned the Atlantic. After gathering wisdom from Virginia’s finest, he drafted the Declaration of Independence then served as the Ambassador to France, first Secretary of State, Vice President and the 3rd President of the US. Standing as a monument to the eclectic interests Jefferson developed through his ventures, his home Monticello is one of the most interesting historical buildings our family has toured. From the first domed roof in a US residential building and immaculate gardens to the museum-like entry and clever life-hack details, Monticello offers a glimpse into the mind of one of our most influential founders. Check out our full experience here!

Entrance to Monticello through trees planted by Thomas Jefferson.

2. Explore 2 Fabulous National Parks

Just west of Charlottesville, the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway turns into the 100-mile-long Skyline Drive of the Shenandoah National Park. Both parks were created to preserve the nature and history of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. Each offers scenic drives sprinkled with fabulous outlooks and hikes to beautiful waterfalls. Humpback Rocks Visitor Center, Historical Farm and strenuous hike is great taste of the mountains a short 20 minutes from town. Check out our exhausting (but worth it) experience here.

humpback rocks
View of Shenandoah Valley through the Humpback Rocks along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

3. Grab a drink along Nelson 151

While certainly a lover of American ale, Jefferson’s time in France dramatically refined his palate and lust for fine wine. Working with an Italian viniculturist, Jefferson’s seven experiments in wine making failed due to war, weather and pestilence. It wasn’t until 1984 that the first official winery at Monticello began successfully bottling wine. Trailing along the eastern side of the Blue Ridge, Nelson 151 provides something for every palette. We certainly didn’t have time to try all 17 distilleries, cideries, breweries and wineries, but we savored a fantastic meal with a view at the Blue Mountain Brewery.

fight at blue mountain brewery
The flight at the Blue Mountain Brewery was good to the last drop.

4. Pick your own snack at a local farm

Founded as an agrarian colony, it’s no wonder Virginia’s landscape continues to be dotted by farmland. After passing dozens of you-pick-it signs, we finally stopped by Critzer Family Farm after lunch on our last day in the area. The kids loved spying the perfect blackberries along the manicured rows and relished their well-earned ice cream cone after a hard 20 minutes of work:)

picking berries at Critzer Family Farm
Late June is the perfect time to pick blackberries at the Critzer Family Farm.

5. Stroll through the Blue Ridge mountains

Grab your flashlight and a jacket and head into the Blue Ridge Tunnel. At the time of its construction, it was the longest railroad tunnel in the US. Built to improve travel across the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains, today it’s a super fun trail through one of the oldest mountains on Earth. With parking and trail heads at both ends, this path is a cool treat on a hot summer’s day.

Blue Ridge tunnel will take you through some of the oldest rocks in the world.

6. Wait… another President’s home?

Holding the record as the birthplace of 8 US Presidents, it’s not surprising to run across one of their homes in Viginia. But only in Charlottesville can you find neighboring homesites of two Presidents whose mentorship became a lifelong friendship. Not only did James Monroe purchase his home adjacent to Thomas Jefferson, but he also mirrored his prolific career as governor, congressman, governor, US Ambassador and Secretary positions followed by two terms in the White House. The main house at Highland burned down shortly after Monroe sold it to the bank, but the guest house, grounds and artifacts continue to tell his impressive story.

monroe home
Monroe’s guest house at his Highland estate. (Photo from Highland.org)

7. Visit the first University built by Presidents

After retiring from politics and completing his home, Jefferson set his sights on creating the University of Virginia. Considered as his “last act of usefulness”, Jefferson’s fingerprints are evident in the campus design. Friend, neighbor and 5th President James Monroe aided Jefferson’s vision, laying the cornerstone of the first building and serving on the board after Jefferson’s death. Jefferson donated his third library to the university and completed the arboretum just days before his death.

uv rotunda
University of Virginia library (UVA Today photo)

8. Dine back in time at the Mitchie Tavern

Originally called “The Ordinary”, this structure began serving weary travelers in 1784. Years of evolution into a meeting place, schoolhouse and even post office ended with the tavern turning into a private residence by the early 1900s. Relocated board by board to its current location just below Monticello in 1928, the Mitchie Tavern serves delicious Virginian lunch complimented with local beverages. Check out more about our visit here.

Mitchie Tavern
Beautifully manicured property of Mitchie Tavern is the perfect bite of history on the way to Monticello.

9. Relax at the Misty Mountain RV Resort

After motoring 2200 miles in 7 days, we were ready put the jacks down and our feet up. With huge bouncy pillow illuminated late into the night, swimming pool, sprawling playground and well stocked fishing pond, this place was so perfect we added an extra day! Optimally located halfway between Charlottesville and the Blue Ridge, Misty Mountain Camp Resort offers sites for campers with their own gear and cabins for those who haven’t any. Open 365 days a year, we wouldn’t look to stay anywhere else on our next trip to the area.

misty mountain camp resort
Arlo watching the kids play from the dog park at the Misty Mountain Camp Resort.

What did we miss?

What are your favorite experiences in Charlottesville? Share with us in the comments!


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