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Many of Charlottesville’s attractions involve history, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. From cheering on the University of Virginia Cavaliers at a sporting event to wine tasting at vineyards just outside of town, you won’t be bored during your stay in Charlottesville. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to see and do in Charlottesville:
1. Discover Monticello. This hilltop estate is a classic example of American architecture. Both the house and gardens were designed by Thomas Jefferson himself and are worthy of a visit. Most of the interior furnishings are the originals, adding to Monticello’s deep history. A tour of the estate includes a walk through its vineyard, orchard and vegetable garden.
2. Taste some wine. Though not as famous as California’s Napa Valley, Virginia produces some top-notch wine from its numerous vineyards. Like most things in Virginia, winemaking here dates back to Thomas Jefferson. These days, you can hop on the Monticello Wine Trail for a tour of the various vineyards, or visit each one on your own.
3. Cheer on the horses. At the end of each April, thousands of people flock to the track to watch the Foxfield Spring Races. It’s one of Charlottesville’s major social events, attracting tons of college students and locals. There’s another race in September, which is geared more toward families.
4. Explore Ash Lawn-Highland. The 535-acre estate that was once home to President James Monroe is now owned by Monroe’s alma mater, College of William and Mary. This early 19th-century working plantation offers guided tours of the house, spinning and weaving demonstrations, old boxwood gardens, peacocks and picnic spots.
5. Hike in the park. Head to nearby Shenandoah National Park where you’ll find a portion of the Appalachian Trail. While you don’t have to hike along the rugged trail, you can explore the more than 500 miles of trails that the national park has to offer.
“Virginia Is for Lovers,” and Charlottesville and Central Virginia are certainly no exception to that iconic slogan. Whether you love history, food and wine, the outdoors, the arts or shopping, the region offers it all.
History. Three presidential homes are in the Charlottesville area, including Jefferson’s Monticello (just five minutes from Keswick Hall), Madison’s Montpelier and Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland. History buffs will also enjoy a visit to the University of Virginia campus for a tour of Jefferson’s Academic Village and a glimpse of Edgar Allan Poe’s room on the Lawn.
Food and wine. Central Virginia is known for its abundance of wineries and the exceptional wines being produced. With more than 20 vineyards, enjoyable afternoons may be spent sampling at favorites such as Keswick, Barboursville, Jefferson, Veritas and King Family wineries. The region is also home to several breweries, including Star Hill, Blue Mountain, Devils Backbone, Wild Wolf and South Street, each putting their own unique spin on beer. The countryside is dotted with orchards for picking your own fruit and farmers’ markets filled with fresh produce, cheeses, homemade preserves and crafts from local farmers and artisans. And, a thriving restaurant scene offers everything from Southern casual to fine dining and includes Keswick Hall’s own Fossett’s Restaurant, featuring regional ingredients for a uniquely Charlottesville dining experience.
The outdoors. Whether you prefer a peaceful walk, jog or bike ride on Keswick Hall's miles of nature trails; an afternoon of fly-fishing in the resort’s creek; hot air ballooning from the resort’s on-site launch site; an afternoon of golf on our new Pete Dye golf course (opening late summer 2014); a tennis match; a swim in one of the three outdoor pools; an archery lesson; or a game of croquet, the options within the resort are vast. A short drive outside the resort allows you to enjoy more adventurous trails for hiking or biking, beautiful rivers for fly-fishing, horseback riding and a variety of seasonal festivals and sporting events.
The arts. A vivacious arts community in Charlottesville provides year-round opportunities. The museums at University of Virginia offer ever-changing exhibitions across a variety of mediums. The performing arts, ranging from opera to national recording artists, can be enjoyed at any number of venues within the area. Festivals, such as the fall Virginia Film Festival and the spring Virginia Festival of the Book, draw visitors from around the world.
Shopping. No visit to the area is complete without a visit to the Downtown Mall, a pedestrian-only area lined with shops and restaurants that are each unique to Charlottesville.