72 Hours in Charlottesville
Updated: May 16, 2020
Charlottesville, Virginia is a small beautiful town that screams history from every corner: buildings and courtyards that were evident to some essential historical stories; three presidents lived nearby; and lots of beer and wine.
We came to Charlottesville due to an invitation my wife Liat got to attend a conference at the University of Virginia. This unique historic compound holds remarkable stories and beautiful buildings and gardens. It was just a few days after the violent demonstrations that took place here, which ended in the murder of an anti-fascist protester. The sharp contrast between the stunning pastoralism of this small university town and the inconceivable violence is a vivid example of a history of contradictions: On the one hand, three of the first presidents of the United States, those who drafted human rights and great American liberties, live nearby. On the other hand, the three of them were slave owners, and the city itself is an inherent part of the deep south that enjoyed many years of slavery. It is scary and fascinating at the same time.
We came to Charlottesville from another conference that took place in Milwaukee. We flew to one of Washington D.C. airports and rented a car over there. The drive to Charlottesville was easy and went on without any problems. We arrived at our hotel in the afternoon - an excellent hotel located in the center of the city. Liat went directly to her conference while I started to explore the town.
Our hotel was located just next to the beautiful Downtown Mall at the historic district: a charming pedestrians-only street that is full of restaurants, shops, and entertainment hosted in restored or renovated buildings. I walked directly to the Information Center next to the train station at the end of the street. The nice guy who works there gave me ideas for the itinerary, marked them on a big useful map, and attached some helpful brochures - sending me away with everything a traveler needs to enjoy almost three full days in Charlottesville. He also told me that there are free bus shuttles around the city – every 15 minutes. As he suggested, I started my tour walking in the historic Jefferson Street.
My day ended in a lovely local brewery restaurant called South Street Brewery. I ordered samples of local beers (they call a series of beer samples – a Flight) and a burger.
The next day was kind of presidentially. I drove to James Madison's Montpelier – the mansion of the 4th president of the United States, one of the founding fathers of the country and who considered being "the father of the constitution."
The next stop of my visit was the Highland – the mansion of the 5th president, James Monroe.
On my way back to Charlottesville, I stopped for a few minutes at Carter Orchard – a local farm with fresh fruits, locally crafted ciders, and a great view of the whole region.
Afterward, I Joined my wife Liat and her colleagues for a guided tour of the old University of Virginia.
On the third day, I went to explore the Grand Caverns – a unique cavern system that was discovered more than 200 years ago, an hour drive from Charlottesville.
I had enough time to explore the University itself for a couple of hours and closed the day with a lovely dinner at Hamilton's at First & Main restaurant.
In the fourth and last day of my trip, Liat came with me to visit the Monticello – the plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the founder of the University of Virginia.
Before driving to the airport near Washington, DC, we stopped for a traditional Virginia's lunch at the old Michie Tavern.
Those 72 hours at Charlottesville and around were full of history, beer, and great views of Virginia's autumn.