If you’re looking for the best things to do in Charlottesville Virginia, look no further as you are in the right place!
We have carefully compiled for you a list of the very best things to do in Charlottesville VA you shouldn’t miss.
From Carter Mountain Orchard to Virginia Discovery Museum for Kids, the best bars and restaurants as well as the Downtown Mall for some shopping and fun, there is something in this list for everyone!
Whether you’re planning a family getaway, a road trip with friends, or even a romantic vacation with your significant other, Charlottesville VA is a great town with so much to see and do!
And it’s a great region too, with stunning Shenandoah National Park a short 30 minute drive away! It’s the perfect spot for a day trip, particularly if you’re staying in the area for more than a few days.
Read on to find out more about all the best attractions in Charlottesville VA! And don’t forget to check out our list of the best things to do in Virginia – ultimate VA bucket list, if you’re travelling further afield in this beautiful state!
15 Best Things to do in Charlottesville Virginia You Shouldn’t Miss
IX Art Park
IX Art Park is hands down one of the best activities in Charlottesville Virginia.
Marketing itself as Virginia’s first and only immersive art space, featuring a larger than life interactive enchanted forest and psychedelic cave, this place certainly does what it says on the tin, and very well too!
The art park is a free, 24 hour mural and sculpture destination promoting the idea that everyone is an artist! We love this place not only for the attraction it is but the values it celebrates – inclusivity, empowerment, creativity and collaboration. What’s not to love?
You’ll want to check local guides to see what’s on while you’re in town. Oh and the site hosts regular farmer’s markets too!
If you’re looking for great free things to do in Charlottesville VA, you’ll want to add IX Art Park to your list!
Carter Mountain Orchard
Just a short drive from Charlottesville Virginia, Carter Mountain Orchard is a delightful day out for the whole family, it’s one of our favourite things to do near Charlottesville VA.
A picturesque setting overlooking incredible views of the valley below, you can enjoy picking apples and peaches while basking in the fresh air and sunshine
There’s also a country store and bakery selling amazing treats including fresh apple cider doughnuts, apple pies, other (non pick your own) produce and gifts.
As if that’s not awesome enough, there’s also seasonal food trucks through the fall and summer in the weekends. We definitely recommend checking ahead so you can plan your day but whenever you go, an empty tummy is a must!
Carter Mountain Orchard offers the very best of produce, a fun day out, and a memorable experience. It’s one of the best things to do in Charlottesville VA!
Virginia Discovery Museum for Kids
The Virginia Discovery Museum for Kids is one of the must-see things to do in Charlottesville Virginia with kids!
With a bold mission to foster intellectual curiosity and development for all children, the Virginia Discovery Museum for Kids works hard to deliver on this goal.
While fairly small, at around 6,000 square feet, the museum really packs a punch, with numerous hands-on, interactive and imaginative exhibits and play spaces. It’s educational but fun, learning by exploration and discovery!
Designed for children aged from infancy to eight years old, we reckon the little ones in your life will love it here, and your second hand joy will make it one of the most memorable places you visit on your trip.
For ideas about what to do in Charlottesville VA, definitely swing by the Virginia Discovery Museum for Kids. We love it, and you will too!
The Downtown Mall is the heart and soul of Charlottesville Virginia, we love it! If you’re looking for free things to do in Charlottesville VA, you’ll want to start here!
Since the mid-70s this location has been the trendy beating heart of Charlottesville VA, with night clubs, live music venues, art galleries and so much more. Shopping? Yes! There’s bookshops, comic stores, jewellery stores, clothing boutiques, gift shops and more! Restaurants and cafés? Naturally. There’s pizza, coffee, ice cream, and so much more. Did we mention there’s also a movie theatre?
The best thing about it is that so many of the stores are family owned, making it a truly unique destination.
If you’re around on the weekend you’ll definitely want to swing by for the farmer’s market too.
It’s one of the top things to do in Charlottesville VA for couples because any outing will be romantic here, but families and friends will also find themselves at home in the Downtown Mall.
Shenandoah National Park
If you find yourself in Charlottesville Virginia for a few days, you’ll want to add Shenandoah National Park to your to do list, it’s one of the best things to do near Charlottesville VA for sure!
Shenandoah promises itself to be a destination brimming with ‘cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, fields of wildflowers, and quiet wooded hollows’. Wow. Just wow!
Spanning 200,000 acres, Shenandoah is home to bears, deer and many beautiful birds. Our favourite thing about Shenandoah is the night sky. Without the light pollution of a big nearby town, you can watch the universe drift by like never before.
With accommodation options including camping, and cabins, stunning picnic areas, a range of hiking options, and even dining places available, a weekend here will be an opportunity to really kick back and immerse yourself in the spectacular natural environment. By the way, if you’re keen on trails, do check out our list of the best trails for hiking in Virginia!
Shenandoah National Park is a must see destination, one of the best things to do near Charlottesville VA. We love it!
Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s home, and as a person of historical significance this makes it one of the top things to do in Charlottesville Virginia.
There is no doubt that the house and grounds are stunning. But you will no doubt wish to pause and reflect on this history that we take for granted but has so many implications for the world we live in and the pain caused to so many.
The truth is, Thomas Jefferson enslaved over 600 people in his lifetime. This is horrifying, and we encourage you to use your visit to Monticello to learn more about these men, women and children.
Monticello does not shy away from this terrible reality, and nor should they, although they do celebrate Jefferson the man in a way that perhaps the modern American is less inclined to do so.
Whatever your reason for visiting Monticello, you will find it to be a worthwhile day out at what is indisputably one of the top attractions in Charlottesville VA.
The Whiskey Jar
Located in Charlottesville Virginia’s historic pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown Charlottesville, the Whiskey Jar offers a fresh seasonal menu, with locally sourced and reasonably priced dishes. It’s one of the best things to do in Charlottesville VA.
Primarily the Whiskey Jar is a place for whiskey lovers to meet and sample whiskeys from all around the world. And while their focus is on bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey, nothing is off the table.
The food here is glorious. We love their fried chicken sandwich – chicken breast, lettuce, pickles, green tomato, mayonnaise in brioche, and their bbq nachos – hickory smoked pulled pork, cheese sauce, house bbq sauce, jalapenos and scallions.
Seriously though, everything here is a winner. And they post amazing photos of their food on socials, so if you’re in two minds about what to order, have a peruse and see what takes your fancy!
Definitely add the Whiskey Jar to your Charlottesville VA bucket list, it’s one of our favourite things to do in Charlottesville at night!
The Grand Caverns is one of the most fun things to do near Charlottesville Virginia!
This cave has been operating as a tourist attraction since it was first discovered in the early 1800s! That’s amazing! It’s had many names and owners in its time, but it’s now owned by the Town of Grottoes and it’s truly somewhere special.
Book a tour of the caves and be in awe of this world away from the world.
The park at Grand Caverns is also packed with exciting things to do, including gorgeous trails for hiking and cycling, as well as picnic spots and a mini golf course. There’s also fishing available, and a delightful playground for the kids.
If you’re looking for a great day out, Grand Caverns is one of the best things to do in Charlottesville with kids, and being only a short drive away, you won’t regret a day spent here!
Charlottesville Scavenger Hunt: Centuries of Charlottesville
The Charlottesville Scavenger Hunt: Centuries of Charlottesville is one of the most fun things to do in Charlottesville Virginia!
A great way to spend two hours exploring downtown Charlottesville VA, the Charlottesville Scavenger Hunt: Centuries of Charlottesville includes solving puzzles and completing challenges while exploring the city. And you will learn as you go – an educational and fun experience!
Over six stops and 1.5 miles, you’ll get to see the best of Charlottesville VA the best way of all – by foot! This is always a great idea if you’re new to an area.
You can play on your own schedule which means it’s super flexible and even more appealing.
Whether you’re playing with the family, your lover, or your friends, the Charlottesville Scavenger Hunt: Centuries of Charlottesville will be enjoyed by everyone, it’s definitely one of the best Charlottesville VA activities!
The Dairy Market is amazing! It’s one of our favourite places to visit in Charlottesville Virginia and we know it will be one of yours too!
It’s a food market like no other, a celebration of all the best local food and beverages Charlottesville has to offer, under one roof.
From coffee to ice cream, cheese to craft beer, and food from a range of cuisines around the world, there’s something delicious here for every palate.
Dairy Market is situated in the Monticello Dairy Building in downtown Charlottesville VA, this delightful market hall has up to 18 vendors across its almost 12,000 feet.
They also have regular special events including family games nights and vinyl nights, so check ahead before you visit to see what’s on!
The Dairy Market is a gem of Charlottesville VA. Although it’s one of the best things to do in Charlottesville VA for adults, there’s plenty here for the kids to love too!
Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is a truly exciting destination, as it is the only museum in the United States that is dedicated to Aboriginal Australian art. In fact, it is the only place of its kind outside Australia! And it is one of our favourite attractions in Charlottesville Virginia.
Located at the University of Virginia, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is named for the two men who collected most of the artwork starting in the 1980s.
Eventually, the collection was donated to the university in 1997 and the museum opened in 1999.
Home to more than 300 pieces of Australian Aboriginal art, the best thing about this place is that it is committed to consultation with Aboriginal people, and has hosted more than 400 Aboriginal artists and scholars in the last two decades.
Free tours are offered but we recommend booking in advance!
The Kluge-Ruge Aboriginal Art Collection is absolutely one of the best things to do in Charlottesville VA. It’s stunning. And important. It’s wonderful.
The same family has operated Jefferson Vineyards for three generations, and we love it. It is an unmissable stop on your Charlottesville itinerary, one of the most fun things to do in Charlottesville VA.
Enjoy stunning views of the rolling green vistas while you sample the gorgeous range of wines on offer. Or, if you’re visiting in the fall, stop by for Music in the Garden, where musicians entertain ever Sunday afternoon in the delightful afternoon sunshine. Why not both?
The outdoor decking here is a great place to sit and watch the world go by, or you can bring your own picnic rug and sprawl out on the lush green grass.
Either way, it’s truly a great way to spend a few hours, no matter who you’re travelling with, everyone will enjoy an afternoon here at Jefferson Vineyards. It’s hands down one of the best activities in Charlottesville VA!
MarieBette Cafe and Bakery
MarieBette Café and Bakery is an absolute must-see spot, one of the best things to do in Charlottesville Virginia, no doubt about it!
Named after the owners’ daughters, this gorgeous café is ‘inspired by ingredients and traditions near and far’, and they are certainly not kidding!
If you’re planning to dine in, do check ahead as to whether the dining room is open, but if it’s not, don’t miss out, grab your goodies and find a spot in the sunshine.
There’s bread, pastries, breakfast and lunch items. And coffee. Such. Good. Coffee.
They also have a sister bakery, Petite Mariebette, just off the Downtown Mall! Amazing!
You’ll want to go hungry to this wonderful Charlottesville VA mainstay. Everything here is delicious. If you’re roaming the town, or just in pursuit of the best breakfast, brunch or lunch in Charlottesville VA, you will not want to miss MarieBette Café and Bakery!
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is such a great landmark, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Charlottesville for couples and adults.
Steeped in history, the beautiful buildings and grounds are perfect for a romantic stroll with your significant other. If you’re keen on history you might want to book into a historical campus tour, otherwise there’s also more general walking tours as well.
There’s also a range of cultural events around the university throughout the year, so definitely check ahead to see what will be on when you’re in town. There’s nothing more lovely than to kick back on the gorgeous grounds of this beautiful campus and chill out at an open air concert.
Whether you’re travelling solo, on a romantic getaway, with friends or family, no visit to Charlottesville VA is completed without a visit to the University of Virginia – one of favourite things to do in Charlottesville VA! Don’t forget, if you are looking for ideas for romantic getaways, don’t miss out list of the best romantic getaways in Virginia you must try!
The Ivy Inn Restaurant
If you’re looking to splash out on a gorgeous and decadent meal out, we highly recommend a visit to the Ivy Inn Restaurant, one of the best things to do in Charlottesville Virginia at night.
Boasting locally inspired seasonal American cuisine, the Ivy Inn Restaurant offers incredible food in gorgeous surroundings, either in-house or on the patio.
As for the food, we love the mustard-herb crusted rack of lamb, served with couscous, butterbean hummus, merguez, and butternut squash. Or the sauteed duck breast, served with sweet potato pave, brussels sprouts, and creamy black truffle sauce – to die for, seriously!
For dessert, their crème brulee served with honey shortbread is unmissable!
If you’re short on ideas of what to do in Charlottesville VA, and where to eat, the Ivy Inn Restaurant will not disappoint. On the contrary, you will be delighted and make memories to last a lifetime. Don’t forget to tell them we sent you!
For more great restaurants in Charlottesville, check out our list of the best restaurants in Charlottesville Virginia you must try!