This town is known for many things—
Thomas Jefferson, the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains, its thriving food, music and literary scenes, and, of course, the University of Virginia. The city has a way of charming its inhabitants, making it easy to love and hard to leave. A look beyond well-known favorites like Monticello and the Rotunda reveals some of the smaller, more unexpected things that make Charlottesville and the University so special.

by Anna Katherine Clemmons, Michelle Koidin Jaffee & Molly Minturn
Illustrations by Joel Felix

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When picking season begins, Virginians from around the state travel to Charlottesville to fill a bag or two with a variety of apples, enjoy donuts and cider and take in the views atop beautiful Carter Mountain Orchard. Another can’t-miss spot is Crozet’s Chiles Peach Orchard, which offers apples, peaches, cherries, strawberries and pumpkins.

Photo Credit: Radifera

Carter Mountain Orchard

The men’s basketball team has won 30 games in each of the past two seasons, and Tony Bennett picked up the National Coach of the Year award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association this past March. Bennett’s pack-line defense led the nation in scoring defense, and the Cavaliers have compiled an impressive 30-3 record in John Paul Jones Arena over the past two seasons. The future looks just as bright—although the team loses two starters, UVA is ranked No. 5 by ESPN for next year.

Photo Credit: UVA Sports Information/matt riley

City Market

Running every Saturday from April through November, Charlottesville’s packed downtown market is the best place to find a variety of goods and fresh treats. Local farmers sell everything from eggs and meats to vegetables and fruits, while vendors offer delights such as fresh-baked pies, tacos, bagel sandwiches and fresh kombucha.

Photo Credit: yolonda c. jones


Mornings mean the scent of donuts hot out of the oven. Charlottesville has several offerings, starting with Spudnuts, which has offered classic donuts made with potato flour since opening its doors in 1969. More recent additions include Carpe Donut’s delectable organic fare and Duck Donuts, which made its name on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Photo Credit: yolonda c. jones


Charlottesville has been recognized as one of the healthiest places to live in America by publications such as Men’s Journal and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Whether you’re a runner, a cyclist or a meditation devotee, options abound. Avid runners won’t miss the annual Charlottesville Ten Miler, Women’s Four Miler or the Charlottesville Marathon; for a daily fitness fix, walk or hike the Monticello Trail.

Humpback Rock

Photo Credit: mcguirt

Fridays After Five

Fantastic live music, beer trucks, kettle corn and socializing—whether you’re a swinging single or part of a family of four, this outdoor Friday-evening staple is the perfect way to end the workweek. Now in its 28th year, this concert series inside downtown’s nTelos Wireless Pavilion starts in mid-April and runs through early September.

Photo Credit:


The UVA Pavilion Gardens were largely the brainchild of Thomas Jefferson, who intended for Pavilion residents to plant and maintain their own gardens. The serpentine garden walls, finished in the 1820s, have withstood the test of time. The gardens were restored in the 1950s and ’60s by the Garden Club of Virginia, filled with plants that Jefferson would have known.

Photo Credit: dan addison

Photo Credit: dan addison

Halloween on the Lawn

Bumblebees, fairies and firefighters—children from throughout the Charlottesville area, as well as UVA students—dress up and walk around UVA’s hallowed Lawn to trick-or-treat outside residents’ rooms. For many families, this has become a festive annual tradition as they celebrate this favorite October holiday.

Photo Credit: sanjay suchak

International Center

Tucked away on University Circle, UVA’s Lorna Sundberg International Center, founded in 1972, offers language jumpstart classes, book discussion groups and dance workshops to UVA students and Charlottesville community members. The center’s free cooking classes are its most popular events, showcasing cuisine from around the world, from Bengali pithas to Tunisian couscous.

Photo Credit: stephanie gross

James River Tubing

When warm weather arrives, Charlottesville residents head to nearby Scottsville for tubing adventures down the James River. Local outfitters offer drop-offs, pick-ups and tubes (renting a tube for your beverage cooler is an option) so you can sit back, relax and float your way through the Blue Ridge foothills.

Photo Credit:

Kluge-Ruhe Museum

The only museum in the U.S. dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal art, Kluge-Ruhe opened in Charlottesville in 1997. The collection is housed in a museum in Charlottesville’s Pantops area and other works are displayed around Grounds. The museum also offers the toddler-focused Tots and Dots, a visual literacy program.

Photo Credit: jane haley

Lighting of the Lawn

To kick off the holiday season and take a respite from the stress of fall-semester finals, throngs of students join community members for the Lighting of the Lawn, enjoying hot chocolate, a cappella performances, a dazzling light show against the night sky and the recitation of a poem recapping the past year. The annual event culminates in the illumination of thousands of bulbs dotting the Rotunda and the perimeter of the Lawn.

Photo Credit: sanjay suchak


From East Market Street, where a rainbow of bikes adorns a retaining wall, to Buford Middle School, where its students teamed up with those from UVA to paint a garden landscape on the bricks of the gymnasium, murals can be found all over town. The Charlottesville Mural Project links painters, illustrators and graffiti artists to local youth. Since its founding in 2011, the project has created nine murals around the city.

Photo Credits: the Charlottesville Mural Project


‘Transparent’ Mural by Christy Baker

Fitzgerald's Tires

More than 100 restaurants, bars and clubs dot the city. With institutions such as The Virginian (operating since 1923); new concert halls including the Main Street Annex, which features hip-hop and metal shows; the foodie hub of Belmont; and the variety of options on the Downtown Mall, it’s tough to have a dull night out.

Mas Tapas Restaurant

Photo Credit: yolonda c. jones

Office of African-American Affairs

The OAAA was established in 1976 after UVA’s Black Student Alliance marched to Carr’s Hill and submitted a proposal to establish an Office of Minority Affairs to President Hereford. The office’s Peer Advisor Mentoring Program, established in 1984 by associate dean Sylvia Terry (Grad ’72), became a national model for promoting a supportive environment for black students. African-American students at UVA have achieved some of the highest graduation rates among public universities in the country for the past two decades.

Photo Credit: yolonda c. jones


Many Charlottesvillians are accustomed to the sound of a helicopter whirring overhead. Pegasus is the UVA Medical Center’s air and ground transport service for patients in need of critical care. Founded in 1984, the service includes an Agusta 109E Power helicopter that provides emergency rescue as far away as West Virginia and an ambulance specially designed for critical-care transport.

Photo Credit: dan addison

Dogwood Queen

Selected from eight pageant winners from each county around Charlottesville, the Dogwood Queen is a 16- to 22-year-old who serves as representative of the annual spring Dogwood Festival. For more than five decades, the festival has celebrated the blooming of the state flower and features a carnival, parades and many other community events.

Photo Credit: ed roseberry

Rare Book School

Founded in 1983, Charlottesville’s independent, nonprofit Rare Book School offers continuing-education classes for those interested in studying the history of written, printed and digital materials. Experts from UVA (the RBS is located in Alderman Library) and around the country speak on and teach everything from engraving to collecting books on Darwinism.

Photo Credit: rare book school

Skyline Drive

Spanning 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park, this winding road is a favorite destination for locals and travelers alike to take in the vibrant fall foliage. It’s best to meander slowly—the speed limit is 35 mph—not only in case of deer or black bear crossings, but so you can marvel at the breathtaking views from some of the 75 overlooks.

Photo Credit: Collins

Timberlake’s Soda Fountain

Walk through Timberlake’s Drug Store on the Downtown Mall and you will find an old-fashioned soda fountain where red stools line the counter and specialties include egg creams and thick milkshakes. First opened in 1890 two blocks east of its present location at 322 East Main St. (98 years there and counting), Timberlake’s is a spot to grab a bottle of aspirin along with a sweet, cold drink and bit of nostalgia.

Photo Credits: Stacey Evans (2013) & Rufus Holsinger (1917)

University Transit Services

Need a ride from the first-year dorms to the Corner? The hospital to Scott Stadium? No problem, UTS has got you covered—for free. The University’s bus system operates 10 routes, with extended late-night service (until 2:30 a.m.) on two routes Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Most UTS buses are driven by students, all of whom are properly trained.

Photo Credit: yolonda c. jones

Vineyards and Breweries

More than 20 wineries dot the scenic, rolling hills surrounding Charlottesville, drawing oenophiles, tourists and bachelorette parties on tasting tours that lead from one family-run operation to another. Flourishing here too are hop vines, with six breweries establishing the so-called “Brew Ridge Trail” with their own ales, lagers and hard ciders.

Keswick Vineyard

Photo Credit: Coleman


Founded in 1955, WTJU is UVA’s community radio station at 91.1 FM in Charlottesville, offering a mix of jazz, classical and rock, in addition to interviews with local politicians and artists. WUVA, UVA’s original radio station, started in 1947 as a closed-circuit AM station that broadcast to the Old Dorms. In the 1970s, WUVA secured permission from the FCC to operate as a commercial broadcast station. Today its on-air name is 92.7 KISS FM, while its online component is largely student run, offering original reporting on UVA issues.

Pavilion X

The exterior of this pavilion on the Lawn was restored in 2010 to recapture Jefferson’s original design. It stands out for its rooftop parapet and taupe-colored columns and woodwork, which conservationists believe was their original hue. Pavilion X was once the residence of law professor John A.G. Davis, whose murder at the hands of a student in 1840 was, some believe, to be the impetus for UVA’s Honor System.

Photo Credit: erin o’hare


From Bikram to Iyengar, Charlottesville offers styles of yoga to match any practitioner. With more than a dozen yoga studios in town, as well as the Yogaville ashram in Buckingham County, yogis can always find the class they’re looking for. And on Grounds, the Intramural-Recreational Sports department partners with the Contemplative Sciences Center to offer students Ashtanga yoga classes.

Photo Credit: sarah daley

Z Society

One of several student societies founded in the late 19th century, the Z Society became semi-secret about 40 years ago. Large, white-painted Zs are ubiquitous around Grounds; the society repaints them at times to show concern for pressing matters of the day. Other student societies include the Mystic Order of Eli Banana, T.I.L.K.A., the IMPs and the Seven Society, in which membership is revealed to the public only at death.

Photo Credit: dan addison

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