Just east of the Blue Ridge Parkway exit on I-64 is the Afton Overlook. Here you can see miles into the Virginia Piedmont. This is located 20 miles west of the Charlottesville area. Well worth the stop.
Make sure you visit the Downtown Mall. There are all sorts of fine shopping, high-end restaurants and coffee bars; it's a great place for a cheap person like me to window-shop : )
In the summer, Charlottesville hosts free concerts every Friday night in the bandshell at the south end of the Mall. It's a great time for singles or families. My son loved to run around on the grass and listen to the music; every week features a different band with a different sound.
Also on the Mall, for those of you with kids, there is the Virginia Discovery Muesum. It's a great place to pass an afternoon. It's small but packed with activities for ages infant to at least age 10. There is a baby room with little Legos, musical instruments, a playhouse with a slide and a huge dollhouse. There are clothes for dress-up (my son always liked the firefighter clothes) and a replica of a Colonial log cabin, complete with plastic food for the kids to cook in the 'fireplace.' Everything about the museum is hands on, giving kids the opportunity to direct their own play while learning at the same time. It's nice to be able to sneak some education in there when they are usually so reisitant to it! The rear of the museum houses a rotating exhibition space; there is also a permanent exhibit of a bee hive. You can watch the bees go in and out through the plexiglass and the Queen is even tagged. Playing 'Find the Queen' is a good way to keep the kids quiet for half an hour since she is one of 1000 bees, only slightly bigger and tagged only with a blue dot.
Afterward, try one of the diners along the Mall for Ice Cream Sodas (We liked the Hardware Store) and let the kids run it off end to end.
There are several:
The University of Virginia itself, designed by Thomas Jefferson and founded in 1819, is both beautiful and historic. Sir Kenneth Clarke, the great British art historian, even featured it in one of the episodes of his seminal 'Civilisation' series!!! Tour buses full of Japanese and elderly American tourists are always getting trapped in side streets and stuck under bridges around here, but if you drop by around dusk you can have a peaceful, charming tour of the buildings and gardens.
Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate, is obviously a must-see and one of the most important historic sites in America. There is a hefty entrance fee, but it is a very interesting estate and worth the price.
Ash-Lawn/Highland Plantation, the estate of fifth president James Monroe, is also interesting - but also see their summer music festival.
For a listing of other sites, see here.
Previously a dwelling for a succession of free workmen and enslaved laborers, this building is believed to have been altered to house Monticello's textile and weaving operation.
This was where the service area was to possibly store wood for the home. Now, this exhibit highlights the domestic work at Monticello and those who toiled here.
The beer cellar shows the bottling process. Jefferson earliest designs for his plantation included spaces for brewing and storing beer, a popular beverage in early America.
The pavilion was used by Jefferson as a quiet retreat where he could read in the evening.
For more information on the gardens at Monticello please visit the website listed below.
Statesman, Metaphysician, Architect, Slaveholder, Scientist, Chicken Strangler: the many faces of Thomas Jefferson
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