Last month, I traveled with my mom to beautiful Charlottesville, Va. to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend with my brother from Washington, D.C. Together, the three of us explored this lovely city, which is nestled in the picturesque Southwest Mountains of Virginia. None of us had ever visited Charlottesville before, so it was extra nice to experience it for the first time together. Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite things we did, in case you’re planning a trip to Charlottesville. (And you should. Highly worth it!)
Mom and I left Charlotte on a Thursday afternoon. Gorgeous farms and rolling hills flanked the highway all the way there — it was so lovely just to look out the window as we drove. This is why I love road trips so much!
We rented an Airbnb for the weekend, a 138-year-old farmhouse in Crozet, Va., just on the outskirts of Charlottesville. (You can rent it here!) The grounds were full of lush trees and the house was charming, full of history and old fixtures like this claw-foot tub. The host, Jo, lives on site and she was really sweet to us. She even left us farm-fresh eggs in the fridge for our breakfasts!
Click below for more about my trip to Charlottesville!
On out first full day in Charlottesville, we headed to Monticello, President Thomas Jefferson’s home. I loved exploring the grounds and gardens, and the view from his “little mountain” was incredible. Included with our tickets, there were guided tours of both the house and the gardens, as well as a ‘Slavery at Monticello’ tour.
Pro tip: Try to visit Monticello on a weekday to avoid crowds. If possible, book tickets ahead of time, or go early in the morning. Plan to spend at least 3 to 4 hours there, or more if you want to go on all the tours. Oh, and definitely wear your walking shoes.
I also loved checking out Jefferson’s kitchen, even though it’s almost certain he never cooked in it himself. It was fascinating to see how another generation cooked exclusively without electricity and with handmade wares.
Charlottesville is known for its wineries, so our next stop had to be a vineyard. Lots of friends recommended wineries in the area. We settled on King Family Vineyards because of its proximity to our rental. It did not disappoint. We did a wine tasting, and then we shared a bottle of wine and a cheese plate on the patio. It was an excellent way to spend an afternoon!
On our first day in Charlottesville, we drove by a gorgeous graffitied wall on our way to dinner. I saved a drop pin on my phone, and I decided to bring us back for photo ops the next day. It turns out, we had stumbled across the IX Art Park, a public, non-commercial, interactive space for residents and visitors that’s part of the IX Project. There were buildings covered in murals and graffiti, sculptures made from recycled materials and painted streets and sidewalks dotting the grounds. There was so much to photograph, and we had a lot of fun taking portraits of each other.
One of the nice things about staying in an Airbnb versus a hotel is having access to a kitchen. It means you can cook and not spend as much money as you might by eating out. So for dessert, we picked up some cupcakes from Sweethaus. They have lots of candies and coffees to buy as well! It was a great jaunt, and the cupcakes were so tasty.
Another activity for a trip to Charlottesville is planning to spend at least an afternoon on the Downtown Mall. Located in the heart of the city, it’s considered an urban park, so there are lots of trees and benches throughout this brick-lined alley. The shops and restaurants on both sides mean there’s always something to do or see. It reminds me of the plazas and squares in Europe.
On our last morning in Charlottesville, I insisted we stop by the University of Virginia. I’ve always heard of its beauty and I loved learning about Jefferson’s design in a college art history class. The campus, especially the famous Quad, is full of important examples of Federal-style architecture. It’s worth walking around or enjoying a picnic on the grounds!
Before my brother, my mom and I went our separate ways, we stopped for coffee and bagels on University Avenue. At least three people recommended Bodo’s Bagels to me, so we had to grab something to take with us. I wished we’d had time to stop at Para Coffee, another recommendation from a friend, but I was glad to see its pretty building on this shady street on the way to our car.
We had such a great time in Charlottesville! Did I miss anything awesome? What should I do on my next visit? (Hopefully there will be another one soon!) // susannah