A few months ago I visited a place I’d never been to before, Charlottesville, Virginia. After a few days spent wining and dining and exploring the area, it’s safe to say, I was extremely charmed by Charlottesville. I haven’t spent much time in smaller towns up and down the Eastern seaboard, but Charlottesville was the perfect place to get my feet wet in, and I’ll most definitely be back. I’m excited to finally share my Charlottesville travel guide with you!
Home to the University of Virginia, Charlottesville is a quintessential college town. P.S. did I mention, I love college towns? Usually a hub of energy and fun, Charlottesville definitely lived up to the college town vibe! Nestled amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains, I’d heard from so many who had previously visited that they’re quite the sight to see, and boy were they right. Honestly, I had never been somewhere in my recent memory where the roads wound along through gorgeous greenery and have been there long enough for some historical stories.
I took the non-direct route to Charlottesville and flew in to Greenville, South Carolina to meet up with some other blogger gals who’d be heading up to Charlottesville, too. Along with Jenny of bohostylefile.com and Paula of paularallis.com, we made the 6-hour road trip with comfort and ease in a brand new BMW X5 thanks to Century BMW of Greenville. The trunk space was seriously ample and the SUV drove like a dream through the long stretches of highway and hugged the curves toward the vineyards.
I’ve shared a lot of outfits from my trip, which you can find here. But, let’s not waste another moment, and hop right into this Charlottesville travel guide! Hope it helps when you’re planning your next trip out East.
Places to stay
The Graduate Charlottesville // Situated in the heart of the UVA campus, this darling hotel is quirky yet chic – perfect for a college campus. Our stay at The Graduate was cozy and fun. A hub for visitors, business people and students alike, The Graduate is home to an onsite coffee bar and study area, called the Sheepdog Cafe for guests and students. Head up a level and there’s a traditional game room, outdoor patio and workout center. Plus on the top floor, a darling restaurant, Heirloom, complete with a large bar and patio seating which overlooks Charlottesville and the UVA campus. The vintage, yet modern mixture of decor is both quirky and fun. There are definitely hints of East Coast prep tied in as well, the carpet in our room was a gorgeous tartan green plaid. I felt right at home during our stay at The Graduate!
Where to eat
Greenwood Grocery // An unassuming gem off the highway, we heard about this spot from one of the employees of a vineyard we visited. For someone like me who hasn’t spent tons of time on the East Coast, I felt like I was walking back into time in this spot. A darling gourmet grocery, with a delicious menu of sandwiches. The sandwiches are made to order daily until 4pm. I personally indulged in the Landrance, and ate every last crumb.
Heirloom // Situated on the top floor of the Graduate Charlottesville, this spot is perfect for grabbing drinks with friends, or lunch alfresco on the patio when the weather is right! Fresh farm-to-table bites and shared plates kept us satisfied, and the drinks were delicious.
Lampo Pizzeria // We were told this spot is awesome. If we had one more day, we would’ve been eating at Lampo. An Italian food lovers’ dream, and I mean the real Italian – perfectly thin crust pizzas, antipasti that makes your mouth water, and a delicious menu of Salami and Cheese.
Mas Tapas // The perfect casual neighborhood spot, Mas Tapas is just that – a spot with more Tapas. You wouldn’t think you could get full from small, shared plates, but you’d be so surprised.
The Nook // Situated in downtown Charlottesville, this old-school diner is a cute stop for a traditional diner breakfast or a yummy treat like a malt or milkshake.
The Pie Chest // Fresh, seasonal pies can be found here, reminding you of the pies your grandmother or mom made on special occasions or holidays. Find sweet or savory pies, plus breakfast hand pies here, too.
Red Pump Kitchen // We stopped in at Red Pump for a pre-dinner cocktail and appetizer combination. Right along Charlottesville’s historic pedestrian mall, there is plenty of people watching both inside and out. Featuring delicious Italian and Tuscan fare, we loved this cozy spot and would come back again soon.
The Salad Maker // There’s nothing I love more than a delicious and fresh salad. These salads looked so delicious, and with a slogan as simple as “Farm to Bowl,” what’s not to love?
Travola // We stumbled upon this spot at the recommendation of some locals, and what a serious neighborhood gem we found. Situated in the Belmont neighborhood, Travola is a charming and rustic spot where the people waiting for a table far out number the actual tables inside. We enjoyed delicious Italian wine and savory homemade pasta. What more does a girl need?
Monticello // Home to the United States’ 3rd president, Thomas Jefferson, this estate and grounds are continually ranked as one of the top places to visit in the country. There are multiple types of tour options including the day pass and house tour, grounds and gardens tours and more.
Shenandoah National Park // Take a drive, hike or camp through this National Park. You’ll see the Blue Ridge Mountains and portions of the Appalachian Trail. I’m hoping to make it back soon so I can take it all in via Skyline Drive which runs the length of the Park.
Visit UVA campus // Kind of a no-brainer when visiting Charlottesville. This campus is gorgeous and filled with historical significance (the history buff in me loves that!). Thomas Jefferson designed his ‘ideal Academic Village’ which today remains at the heart of UVA. Did you know in 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named UVA and Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s residence) a World Heritage Site? This distinction is only given to some of world’s rarest culturally significant landmarks.
Wineries // A large majority of people who reached out while I was on my trip, asked if we were visiting wineries. As a diehard lover of California wines, the thought of East Coast wine, especially Virginia wines, was extremely interesting to me. Y’all, the hype is real! The wines we had at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard and King Family Vineyards were absolutely delicious. It didn’t hurt that each face out to the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, which are absolutely gorgeous in real life. Our vineyard visits were serious highlights of my trip, and I can’t wait to bring my hubby back to do it again.
*Angela Zion photography