top of page

Your Charlottesville, Virginia Weekend Cute College Town Full of History, Great Restaurants and Wineries

By Bill Malcolm



I grew up in a college town and always love them. But Charlottesville,Virginia (less than two hours south ofD.C.) is the best one I have ever visited. Lots of history (Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello), a cute

downtown outdoor mall, the historic grounds of the University of Virginia(which Jefferson founded), and a great foodie scene make this a memorable weekend. The hilly countryside sits just east of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains which are part of Appalachia.

GETTING THERE

I took my new favorite airline(sorry Southwest), American Airlines through Charlotte to CHO (the airport

code for the city). You can also take the Cardinal Amtrak train from Chicago or from D.C. and parts north. The Amtrak Northeast Regional train also runs twice a day to Charlottesville. Amtrak’s Crescent

Line also serves the city. (United Airlines also goes nonstop to CHO.) The city is a short drive from DC as

well and lies just seventy miles westof Richmond.

WHERE TO STAY

I stayed at the beautiful new Forum Hotel (part of the Kimpton chain) on the north side of the UVA

grounds which features a five-acre arboretum and hiking trails. You can use the UVA student rec center for $10 so I went swimming every day. They have a free happy hour daily from 5 to 6 p.m. and free bicycles during warmer weather. Just down the hill you will find a Harris Teeter (SE grocery store) as well as an excellent restaurant, Sedona. The hotel has restaurants, but I grabbed breakfast at the law school next door.Best of all, they did not charge an annoying resort fee like so many

hotels do.

WHAT TO DO

Take a tour of Monticello which sits on a hill and is a short Uber ride away. Historic Monticello was the

plantation of Thomas Jefferson, a self-taught architect. Jefferson was also our third president and wrote the Declaration of Independence which, as the tour points out, did not include everyone. The tour guide was very upfront that Jefferson owned slaves and only freed two during his life. Jefferson also founded the University of Virginia, one of the first public universities, and designed the

Rotunda building on the grounds. The restaurant at Monticello is another highlight. Jefferson

commissioned Lewis and Clark’s expedition from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast and they brought back seeds which are planted in the grounds of Monticello. Lots of azaleas and rhododendrons plus spring wildflowers to be found. The Farm Table café at Monticello is excellent. Jefferson was also an

ambassador to France for a while and loved French foods including mac n cheese (as well as vanilla ice

cream). He also liked wine and grew his own grapes. Who knew?

Walk around the beautiful and historic University of Virginia grounds, home of the Cavaliers. They call themselves Wahoos (or Hoos for short). Enjoy the Fralin Museum.Check out the Rotunda and the

Memorial to Enslaved Laborers as well as Edgar Allan Poe’s old dorm

room.

Check out the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection which is the only art museum dedicated to

Australian Aboriginal art outside ofAustralia.

Enjoy the outdoor downtown walking mall which is full of eclectic shops and restaurants.Charlottesville is not over run with cookie cutter chain restaurants and stores.Have lunch at the Dairy Market which is Charlottesville’s first food hall. There are more than a dozen food vendors serving cuisine from around the world. I liked Maizal which features Latin American street food. Have dinner at the Forum restaurant, Birch and Bloom. Try the Virginia trout. Hang out with the gang at the Sedona Restaurant which features local microbrews. It is just down the hill from The Forum Hotel. The

nachos were excellent as was the IPA.

Taste Virginia wines (or head out to one of the 40 wineries). White Hall Vineyards was my favorite. The

Montifalco Vineyard is LGBTQ owned. Enjoy the Route11 potato chips.They are thick and extra crunchy and made with Virginia potatoes.The Local is the best restaurant I have ever been to.

The steak and French fries (pomme frittes) were excellent as were the side dishes and appetizers. Local

small farms andartisan cheese makers supply the ingredients for their tasty dishes and the

service is top notch.Take a hike in the arboretum behind the Forum. Also nearby, a new city

trail goes all the way to downtown.


OTHER TIPS

Rental car not needed. The cityis very walkable, and Uber and Lyft are available. The buses are all free.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

C-Ville is your weekly. Visit Charlottesville has great ideas on what to do. Plan your trip

at visitcharlottesville.org. For a perfect weekend or stop en route to the nearby Blue Ridge

Mountains, put Charlottesville on your bucket list. It’s a unique small town with a vibrant downtown and

lacks the cookie cutter chains that define so much of America. There is truly nowhere else like it.

Bill Malcolm is an award-winning LGBTQ+ syndicated travel columnist whose work appears in LGBTQ+

publications across North America.He wishes to give a Special thanks to

Visit Charlottesville and The ForumHotel for their travel tips. Also,

special recognition to EmbraceMagazine of Florida which carries his

column which was awarded the 2023 Excellence in Journalism Award for

travel writing by the Florida Press Club for his Milan and Chicago travel columns.





Comments


bottom of page