Wintertime has finally arrived. The beautiful and dazzling leaves have all fallen from their branches. The nights are a little longer. The days are a little colder. But winter is still an absolutely ** picture-perfect** time to visit Charlottesville & Albemarle County! In fact, a trip to the Charlottesville area during the winter months can really pay off – quite literally! There are plenty of deals to be had during this time of year with regards to lodging and attractions (some even offering heavily-discounted rates or packages), which is just an added incentive to take a trip to Charlottesville & Albemarle County this winter season!
Winters typically tend to be on the milder side in Central Virginia, with major, disruptive snow and ice events rather uncommon. Since heavy snow is such a rarity, when the snowflakes do start to fly, they contain a sense of magic, wonder and excitement, while turning the already picturesque historic Downtown Mall and surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains into a winter wonderland! Visitors can expect cool and crisp temperatures during the day and slightly below freezing conditions during the overnight hours – perfect for relaxing by a roaring, crackling fireplace. Now that you’re up to speed on all of the essentials, here are some suggested things to do in the Charlottesville area this winter, which are guaranteed to leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside!
Start your trip to Charlottesville & Albemarle County by taking a trip up the hill to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Whether you choose a basic house tour or a more elaborate behind-the-scenes tour, you will marvel at our third president’s ingenuity, passion, and knowledge. Plus, this presidential home (prominently featured on the U.S. nickel) has received the prestigious distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located just a few miles away, you’ll find another presidential home – James Monroe’s Highland! Like Monticello, this home is also full of history and has a wonderful, constantly-evolving story to tell its visitors. Plus, if you visit around the holidays, you can even take special evening tours, which aren’t typically available at other times of the year. After your tours, you will have probably worked up a serious appetite, so your next stop should be at the historic Michie Tavern for an 18th century, hearty, and delicious midday meal by the fireplace. ( ** Pro tip: don’t pass up the fried chicken – it’s legendary!** ) After your meal, be sure to visit the museum at Michie Tavern as well as the beautiful shops filled with Virginia-related items (some edible, some not) to take home.
To burn off some of the calories you just consumed at lunch, how about a leisurely hike along the Saunders-Monticello trail? Again, with average high temperatures in the 40s and 50s during the winter months, a hike along this winding path can be quite delightful at this time of the year, especially on a sunny day! Totaling two miles in length each way, this easy, meandering path takes you from the intersection of routes 53 and 20 all the way up to the visitor center at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
After you check-in at one of the area’s fine lodging establishments, you can relax before heading out to grab dinner at one of the dozens of restaurants located on or near the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall. The Downtown Mall is an icon in the Charlottesville area and is one of the longest pedestrian malls of its kind in the entire country. In addition to restaurants, you will also find a wide variety of shops and boutiques. After dinner, you can catch a show at one of the many music venues also located on this pedestrian avenue, such as the historic Paramount Theater, the Jefferson Theater, The Southern Cafe and Music Hall, Miller’s, or The Whiskey Jar. The hardest part will be deciding which show to watch!
After a night of rest and relaxation, it’s now time to explore Albemarle County’s spectacular wine, craft beer, artisanal cider, and spirits scene.There’s no need to worry about driving, as one of our local tour companies will pick you up at your hotel and take you to multiple stops where you can enjoy these delicious beverages, along with a scrumptious lunch which will be provided to you along the way.
At each stop, you will linger and relax (sometimes by a fireplace or fire pit) and you may even be able to strike up a conversation with the wine maker, brew master, or cider maker during your visit! After a day of enjoying your leisure beverage of choice and soaking in the pastoral landscapes and countryside, it’s time to cheer on the Hoos at the John Paul Jones Arena with a lively college basketball game! Wahoowa!
If you’re feeling adventurous, a short but beautiful drive through Nelson County to Wintergreen Resort will do the trick. There, you can enjoy downhill skiing, snowboarding, and much more. If extreme sports are not your cup of tea, why not visit one of Charlottesville’s fine museums such as the Fralin Art Museum, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum, the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center, or the University of Virginia Small Collections Library, where historical documents are on exhibit. While you’re at the University of Virginia, don’t forget to stop by the recently renovated Rotunda for a tour of this iconic building, then head down a brick path to see the room where Edgar Allan Poe lived while he was a student there. Then right across the street, you can even see a large chunk of the Berlin Wall on display.
If you prefer to find your inner artist, an afternoon spent at The Glass Palette (to make beautiful glass art), at City Clay (to create your own pottery masterpiece), or at Wine & Design (to really let those creative juices flow!) are all fun and unique wintertime activities!
Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget about the shopping! Shoppers will be in total paradise in Charlottesville & Albemarle County. From the 120+ shops and stores located on and around the Downtown Mall, to malls such as the Barracks Road Shopping Center, the Shops at Stonefield, or Fashion Square Mall, there are options to fit everybody’s tastes. For even more unique shopping ideas, be sure to take a leisurely drive along the Monticello Artisan Trail, where you are certain to find items that are truly one-of-a-kind, hand crafted by some of the Charlottesville area’s finest local artisans. For even more artisanal treasures, swing by the Crozet Artisan Depot located a short and scenic drive west of Charlottesville, where you will find more unique and lovely arts & crafts for sale. In the very same building, you will find the Albemarle Tourism & Adventure Center, staffed with knowledgeable travel specialists, who can assist you with any questions you might have about what to do, where to go, and what to see while you’re in the Charlottesville area. And right across the street, don’t forget to stop by the famous Crozet Pizza for a cheesy, gooey slice of awesomeness, recognized by National Geographic as having some of the best pizza pies in the world.
When planning your ultimate winter visit, be sure to check out the event calendar found on our website. Special events such as First Night Virginia, holiday concerts, or Restaurant Week all take place during the winter months, as well as other special events and festivals! Hopefully this list is a great starting point for your winter visit to Charlottesville & Albemarle County! There’s no way we could possibly touch on everything in just one blog article, so feel free to explore our website for other terrific ideas. Now all you have left to do is bundle up, pack up, and get ready for a terrific time in the Charlottesville area this winter!
Written by Brantley Ussery for Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Featured image provided by Courtesy of Charlottesville and Albemarle County
Nestled amid the foothills of the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains and about a hundred miles South of Washington, D.C., the greater Charlottesville region offers visitors a thriving community and vanguard of arts and culture that’s both boldly innovative and grounded in rich tradition.