Charlottesville is a picturesque town in central Virginia set in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. There are so many great things to do in Charlottesville, VA between the downtown mall area, the arts and museums and the nearby wineries. While we had always known Charlottesville for being home to the University of Virginia and great wineries, we came to love it for the arts in the area as well. (In fact, the arts, culture and museums in Charlottesville, VA are the main reason we were visiting this time around!)
Although we recently experienced Charlottesville with kids, it’s one of the best Virginia weekend trips for couples or friends as well. Keep reading for where to stay, where to eat and things to do on an art filled Charlottesville, VA weekend getaway.
Special thank you to Charlottesville-Albemarle Visitors Center and IX Art Park for hosting us as part of the Charlottesville Arts Excursion. As always, all thoughts are my own.
Charlottesville Weekend Getaway
Itinerary for an Artsy Weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia
- Check into the Quirk Hotel Charlottesville
- Walk around the Charlottesville downtown mall (+ explore the Virginia Discovery Museum if visiting with kids)
- Eat dinner at The Pink Grouse and enjoy drinks on the Quirk Rooftop Bar
- Breakfast at Iron Paffles & Coffee
- IX Art Park Farmer’s Market
- The Looking Glass at IX Art Park
- Lunch at Three Notch’d Brewery
- Walk Around Downtown + C’Ville Arts Cooperative
- Dinner at Maya Restaurant
- Ice Creem at Moo Thru in the Charlottesville Dairy Market
- Breakfast & coffee at Quirk Cafe
- Explore Monticello
- Lunch at Michie Tavern
- Jefferson Vineyards
Where to Stay in Charlottesville, VA
After our recent Virginia weekend trip, the Quirk Hotel in Charlottesville quickly became one of our favorite hotels to date. This boutique art hotel is filled with beautiful art from artists near and far, and it’s essentially an art gallery in itself. Whether you’re visiting this adorable town with family or looking for a romantic getaway in Charlottesville, it’s the perfect place for anyone looking for a boutique hotel that differentiates itself from the normal chain hotels.
From the moment you enter the lobby at Quirk, you’re greeted with friendly staff and a cheerful pink and white palette throughout. The art installations at Quirk are one of the highlights, along with the beautiful furniture like large wrap-around couches that invites guests to interact with one another. You also won’t go hungry (or thirsty!) as there are a number of places to dine and drink at the hotel. They include The Pink Grouse for upscale casual dining, Quirk Cafe for amazing espresso drinks, and the Quirk Charlottesville rooftop bar.
The rooms at Quirk are just as beautifully decorated with the pink and white color scheme as well as a variety of art pieces throughout. We stayed in a Double Queen Deluxe room, which has a great seating area and a bathroom with a tub. (Perfect if you’re visiting Charlottesville with kiddos like us!)
Art Gallery at Quirk Hotel in Charlottesville
Another focal point of Quirk is the in house art gallery, which features a rotating collection of Charlottesville art. At the time of our visit, Molly Evans’ show titled ‘Peel’ was being featured. It includes quilts, steel and other art mediums to make up hard and soft sculptures that represent our history and complex human layers. It was super unique and we loved getting to see her quilted artwork every time we walked to the elevator as well.
You can check updated availability and book Quirk Hotel Charlottesville here.
Things to Do in Charlottesville, Virginia
If you’re planning a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, there’s no shortage of things to do in this historical, college town. We specifically visited to enjoy some of the amazing art and museums in Charlottesville, but there really is something for everyone.
IX Art Park & Farmer’s Market
IX Art Park is an outdoor haven for a variety of arts in Charlottesville. The grounds around the park are painted with colorful murals throughout. You can also find a variety of other sculptures, paintings and other works of art everywhere you look.
If you’re visiting Charlottesville during summer, you can’t miss the Saturday morning farmer’s market at IX Park. This Charlottesville, VA farmers market is from 8am-12pm weekly. It’s a great way to sample food and drinks from local vendors and support many Charlottesville artists as well. They also have several events including salsa dancing, an arts festival and more. If you’re looking for Charlottesville art classes, there are also several workshops and art classes at IX Art Park for all ages.
The Looking Glass
This immersive art experience is part of IX Art Park, and it’s easily one of the most unique things to do in Charlottesville, VA. Although it’s a small space, it’s filled with a variety of sights, sounds and different art mediums. Together they create a sensory overload in the best way possible. Some of the highlights of visiting The Looking Glass include:
- An enchanted garden area with a fairy chair and hammocks hanging from the trees
- A neon walkway with a laser pen you can use to guide you through through a painted maze
- A wooded area with a small house that you can interact with, as well as several woodland creatures throughout
- The garden of the gods, which has 5 goddesses that make sounds when you touch them
- A dark quiet area that resembles outer space to wander through and relax after you’ve taken everything in
The Looking Glass uses timed tickets to manage the number of guests at any one time. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Monticello is one of the most popular Charlottesville things to do. (And although it’s only a few miles from town, it’s great if you’re looking for day trips from Charlottesville.) Based on our experience, it’s tough to really take everything in with less than 3 hours. If you have 3.5-4 hours when visiting Monticello, that’s ideal!
Monticello is a Virginia plantation packed with information about the time period, Thomas Jefferson and the plantation itself. A few can’t miss things to do at Monticello include:
- Spend time at the visitor’s center at Monticello to learn about about Thomas Jefferson and everything that went into building Monticello.
- Learn about the construction of Monticello at the interactive Griffin Discovery Room in the visitor’s center.
- Take the trail up to Monticello to walk through the back of the house and see the cemetery where Thomas Jefferson was buried. (You can also take the shuttle up the mountain instead- it’s a steep .65 mile walk!)
- Take a guided tour a Monticello. Both the Slavery at Monticello or the Gardens and Grounds tours are included with admission.
- Walk through the house to learn more about the family and the home itself.
- Take a tour of the basement storage and exterior of the house while learning more about Sally Hemings and the women at Monticello.
- Stop at the Farm Stand for a Monticello bottled root beer or some of the ice cream that Jefferson is known for.
Additional Tip: Monticello is operating based on timed tickets. Be sure to arrive well before your ticket time to walk through the visitor’s center before taking the shuttle up to the house.
Downtown Mall in Charlottesville
Charlottesville’s downtown mall area is jam packed with several different shops, restaurants, musicians and art galleries. If you’re visiting Charlottesville for a weekend, it’s definitely worth staying a hotel in walking distance to downtown to experience everything this area has to offer. There are also several events in Charlottesville held at the downtown mall, including First Friday. (This summer event features live music on Fridays at 5pm.)
If you’re visiting to experience the arts in Charlottesville like us, another great stop is the CVille Arts Cooperative Gallery. It’s unique from other Charlottesville art galleries in that it features local Virginia artists with everything from candles and pottery to photography and paintings.
While you’re in downtown Charlottesville, be sure to also look out for the murals under the Charlottesville Mural Project. You can find an interactive map of the murals in Charlottesville here.
Charlottesville, VA Wineries
While we didn’t have time to visit the wineries on our recent Charlottesville weekend getaway, the area is known for its scenic vineyards. There are dozens of wineries in Charlottesville, VA and the neighboring towns. that offer a variety of different wines accompanied by scenic views. A few wineries that were recommended to us and are on our list for the future are below.
- Jefferson Vineyards near Monticello for great wines and expansive outdoor seating with BYO food.
- Merrie Mill Farm and Vineyard for a newer, family owned winery near Charlottesville, VA with a rustic-modern tasting room.
- Potters Craft Cider for a fun cidery near Charlottesville with live music a few days a week.
- Blenheim Vineyards to check out the winery owned by Dave Matthews with a fun vibe and a variety of wines.
- Carter Mountain Orchard for beautiful views, donuts and ice cream in addition to wine.
Where to Eat in Charlottesville, VA
While Charlottesville is a smaller college town, there are so many amazing foods to try in Charlottesville. With it’s locale in Virginia, Charlottesville cuisine is influenced by southern foods like biscuits, fried chicken and grits. (To name a few!) It offers so much more than Southern cuisine though, and we recommend going hungry on your weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Below you can find some of the best restaurants in Charlottesville (and cafes) that we tried during this trip.
We were looking for traditional Southern foods for dinner one night and came across Maya Restaurant. Everything we tried was super flavorful and fresh, with locally influenced ingredients. We had fried oysters and pimento cheese balls as starters and the trout and salmon for our main dishes. The entrees come with a choice of side dishes that includes things like cornbread, collard greens and Brussel sprouts. It’s also a great place for outdoor dining in Charlottesville.
Quirk Hotel Charlottesville Restaurants
We usually try to venture out away from hotel restaurants any time we visit a new city. Quirk Charlottesville was definitely an exception. Everything is so locally influenced that it didn’t feel like we were eating at just another hotel restaurant.
- The Pink Grouse for upscale dining in Charlottesville, VA in a comfortable setting with a locally inspired menu. We went for my birthday celebration over the weekend. Definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a special occasion restaurant in Charlottesville!
- Quirk Cafe for a full espresso bar and cafe that’s great for a yummy lunch or breakfast in Charlottesville. It’s in an old house with a lot of character throughout, along with lots of indoor and outdoor seating. The lattes and breakfast are so good, especially if you’re staying at the hotel and want a convenient option.
- Q Rooftop Bar for beautiful views of the blue mountains at one of the only rooftop bars in Charlottesville, VA. There’s ample indoor and outdoor seating, great drinks and a menu that includes yummy pizza. (If you’re looking for things to do in Charlottesville, VA at night, we highly recommend it!)
In addition to wineries, Charlottesville, VA is historically known for its dairy farms. (At one point, many claimed that Thomas Jefferson originally introduced ice cream to the US.) Dairy Market is housed in the Monticello Dairy Building, the former home of Monticello Dairy, Inc. It’s a cafeteria style concept that aims to bring local chefs and merchants all in one place. Whether you want breakfast, lunch or dinner in Charlottesville, Dairy Market has tons of great options.
If you’re looking for ice cream in Charlottesville, VA, Moo Thru at the Dairy Market is a great option. It’s a Virginia based ice cream franchise with a rotating selection of flavors and yummy rootbeer floats. Other popular Charlottesville ice cream shops include Chaps Ice Cream, Kilwin’s and La Flor Michoacana.
Three Notch’d Brewing Company
If you’re looking for breweries in Charlottesville, Three Notch’d Brewing Company is an awesome IX Art Park Brewery to stop at while exploring the arts. Three Notch’d offers a variety of different IPAs as well as some unique, fruity Gose beers, stouts and more. The food at Three Notch’d Brewery is just as good as the beer. It’s a great place for brunch in Charlottesville, and we highly recommend the avocado toast and huevos rancheros. It’s also super family friendly with a kids menu, making it a great place to eat with kids in Charlottesville as well.
Looking for more breweries in Charlottesville? More Charlottesville, VA breweries right downtown include:
- North American Sake Brewery & Restaurant
- South Street Brewery
- Random Row Brewing Company
- Champion Brewing Company
Michie Tavern in Charlottesville
Michie Tavern is a great stop for lunch if you’re looking for restaurants near Monticello. The tavern first opened in 1784, and it has a long and patriotic history. After shutting down for a while, it reopened in the early 1990s and added several other 18th century buildings to the property. The restaurant aims to keep some of the authenticity of the time period, with employees wearing clothing styles from the 18th century and food served on metal dishes. The buffet style food at Michie Tavern is the highlight. They serve yummy southern style fare like fried chicken, pulled pork, black-eyed peas, biscuits and cornbread. (Just to name a few!)
While you’re there, you can also walk around to see some of the authentic buildings and shops from the time period. (Including the General Store at Michie Tavern.) Michie Tavern only serves “midday faire” in the Ordinary restaurant from 11:30am-3:30pm.
The Corner Juice bar in Charlottesville was the perfect afternoon pick me up after a long drive from Pittsburgh. They offer a variety of smoothies and we tried the green Crocodile pear smoothie. It’s a great option for breakfast in Charlottesville, and they also have sandwiches and other freshly prepared lunch options. The powerballs at Corner Juice (especially the coconut date) are also so good!
Iron Paffles & Coffee
We were looking for breakfast places in Charlottesville, VA and came across the unique and Iron Paffles & Coffee. A Paffle is a puff pastry made in a waffle iron, and it’s absolutely delicious. There are a variety of fillings with anything from savory to sweet. We sampled a few different Paffles including the fried chicken with cheese grits, veggie and egg, and Nutella and banana. Definitely recommend them all!
Getting to Charlottesville, Virginia
With Charlottesville’s location in the mountains of Virginia, it’s one of the most scenic Virginia weekend trips. It’s proximity to several neighboring states a great place to road trip from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland or North Carolina. The drive from Pittsburgh to Charlottesville in particular is beautiful and one of several reasons C-Ville became one of our favorite weekend trips from Pittsburgh. Some great stops on a road trip from PA to Virginia include Berkley Springs in West Virginia, New Market Battlefield and the Shenandoah Valley (including skyline drive.)
Prefer flying to Charlottesville? You can fly into the nearby Richmond Virginia airport. For more flight options, Washington Dulles airport is about 100 miles northeast of Charlottesville. The town’s location in central Virginia makes it a great weekend getaway any of the neighboring states. It’s also an easy pit stop on the way to the Outer Banks or Virginia Beach.
Have you been to Charlottesville, VA before? We’d love any ideas for places to eat or things to do for a future trip!
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4 thoughts on “Unique Things to Do in Charlottesville, VA: Weekend Getaway Guide”
Definitely gonna save this for when we visit Charlottesville. We live in VA and always put off a visit!
That’s awesome! You’ll love it- such a great weekend getaway in Virginia and our kids had the best time!