Just 2 hours south of Washington D.C, along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, steeped in presidential history offers a unique experience in a picturesque setting.

Charlottesville is best known as home to movers and shakers in our nation’s history, welcoming visitors eager to see Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello and his lasting academic legacy at the University of Virginia. The famous UNESCO World Heritage site is an architectural masterpiece that reflects its owner and his university. Step back in time with a tour of the house, grounds, and gardens!

And while it’s true that a walking tour of downtown Charlottesville offers a deep look into early-American history, the destination offers far more than just historic sites. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the same sites from a different perspective, kayaking the James or Rivanna, hiking miles of wilderness trails or peddling miles of bike trails and quiet country roads where farmers work land that’s been in their families for generations.

A respite and retreat for handfuls of accomplished musicians, authors, and actors, Charlottesville has developed rich, sustained arts and entertainment scene, especially when it comes to living music. Downtown marquees with famous names in lights pack historic theaters for legendary blues artists, rockstars and internationally acclaimed musicians who bridge genres from folk to classical.

In contrast, just beyond the city, Albemarle County has diligently preserved vast swaths of undeveloped forest and fields around pockets of rural life. The resulting scenic drives are unlike anywhere else in the country, with miles of gentle roads winding over hills and low mountains, opening suddenly to dramatic vistas of open space.

Visitors love the orchards along those roads, flowing into the fields at harvest times throughout the year to wrap their fingers around strawberries, and cherries, peaches and apples. At the same time, those passionate for another fruit – the grape. Enjoy tours and tastings at more than 20 vineyards along the Monticello Wine Trail, and hops-lovers taste still another side of the area’s award-winning small-batch breweries that make up the Brew Ridge Trail.

Shopping can be a fun experience in Charlottesville. The Barracks Road Shopping Center, has boutiques and restaurants all linked with walkways dotted with fountains and outdoor dining. City Market at the corner of Water and First Streets is worth a visit on a Saturday morning, with vendors selling handcrafted ceramics, living herbs, artisanal cheeses, and wines from area. The Downtown Mall packs more than 120 shops into a beautiful stretch of tree-spanned pedestrian-only brick walkways along East Main Street.

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