Updated: Apr 22, 2022
Recently, I got to make a trip that I’ve been hoping to make for such a long time – a weekend trip to Charlottesville! Just a few hours from Washington, DC and nestled into the mountains, there are so many cool things to do in Charlottesville, VA. It’s probably best known for its wine and hiking, but it’s also an incredible arts destination.
You cannot skip the amazing arts scene while there and I’m so excited to share how to spend an art-filled weekend in Charlottesville! Don’t worry of course there are still some wineries in this list of things to do in Charlottesville, VA.
The drive from DC to Charlottesville is stunning! As you’re driving you’ll notice the landscape changing to rolling hills and white picket fences. There are so many beautiful spots to stop too. Don’t be afraid to make it a leisurely drive into Charlottesville! This works best as you’ll want to leave early enough in the afternoon that you don’t hit the traffic leaving the city.
Happy Hour and Check in to the Quirk
There’s no better place to start your weekend than a stay at the Quirk Hotel in Charlottesville. Not only is this hotel adorable, comfortable, and has great service, but it’s actually your first arts destination! The Quirk has a rotating art gallery where you will find an upper and lower gallery with rotating artists to enjoy.
After freshening up and checking out some art, head upstairs to the Quirk Rooftop for happy hour and some awesome views. I loved how on theme they were with the pink drinks and fun decor throughout! It was a great way to start off the trip.
The Quirk also has a great restaurant or you can head to the Downtown Mall to grab some food at one of the many spots along main street. You’ll be back later for some art galleries and shopping on Sunday!
Find more about the Quirk Hotel and a full review of our stay here.
MarieBette Cafe and Charlottesville Mural Project
On Sunday we started off the day with a local bakery and coffee shop MarieBette cafe. They serve up delicious pasteries, sandwiches, salads and more. We got a criossant and pan chocolat that were a perfect with our iced lattes to start the day!
We chose to walk there so we could make some stops along the way and back at some of the fun murals you can find around town as part of the Charlottesville Mural Project!
Designed to to showcase the talents of artists locally, regionally and abroad, they’ve commissioned artists to create some beautiful art all around town. They also have a map that includes every mural and arts destination that makes planning a walk to see the murals even easier.
Located in IX Art Park is The Looking Glass, Virginia’s first and only immersive art space. It features a larger-than-life interactive enchanted forest and fun space for any age. We really enjoyed the swings, mazes, and fun colorful spaces that the Looking Glass has to offer.
We loved how there were parts of the forest that only came alive when we touched it and how we could be fully interactive throughout our whole visit. There’s something really special about an immersive art experience because you can really become a part of a whole different world. This was definitely one of my favorite things to do in Charlottesville, VA.
$15 for adults
10am to 8pm on Saturdays
IX Art Park and Farmer’s Market
IX Art Park is a space created for both locals and visitors to get up close and personal with art experiences. I mentioned that we went to a music performance there, but they are open daily with all kinds of events from artists shows, to interactive experiences, to the farmers market Saturdays from 8:00 am-12:00 pm.
Since we were there on a Saturday, we got to experience the huge farmers market they have every week! The market has everything from local art, to farmers, to live music performances. There’s something for everyone here and made a great spot to grab some lunch before heading off to a fun afternoon.
What is something you can do in Charlottesville and not anywhere else in the United States? Visit the only museum dedicated to Indigenous Australian art and culture, the Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection. This museum is free to visit and just incredible.
As someone who was new to Australian Indigenous art, I loved this museum. They’ve been so thoughtful in how they set up exhibits and involve the artists every step of the way in their process. We loved getting to go behind the scenes and visit their archives to see all of the incredible art they have in their collection. You can schedule a tour to go behind the scenes on their website.
They’ve also got a great outdoor space with art on display from UVA on an interactive art walk. Plus, the views are just beautiful from there! Who would not want to visit such a unique art museum?!
Reservations recommended, but the museum is free
10 am – 4 pm Tuesday – Wednesday, Saturday
10 am – 8 pm Thursday
1 pm – 5 pm Sunday
Downtown Mall and a Show
After visiting museums and seeing some incredible art, head back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for a night on the town! The Downtown Mall is full of great options for food as I mentioned, but you also have a lot of live entertainment to enjoy around the Downtown Mall.
The Downtown Mall in Charlottesville is home to over 120 shops and 30 restaurants, many with outdoor seating. It was buzzing on the weekend with street musicians, local vendors, shoppers, and restaurants full. It was a great place for a stroll and dinner.
We chose to have dinner at Citizen Burger right in the heart of downtown. It was incredible! The burgers were huge, the fries were tasty, and we got the shishito peppers as an appetizer to start. Needless to say, we did not walk away hungry.
After dinner, it’s time for a show. Charlottesville is home to many different live music venues you can choose from and we were a bit overwhelmed trying to pick from all the awesome events going on. There’s something for everyone from theater performances to dance to local musicians performing around town. A few spots to choose from are below:
The Paramount Theater (movies, performances, and more)
Live Arts Theater (drama, dance, comedy, music, and performance art)
The Southern Cafe and Music Hall (music)
IX Art Park (perforance art, dance, music, comedy, and more)
The Front Porch (music)
We chose to hang out at IX Art Park for the evening at a local hip hop show. Not only is IX Art Park stunning, but we had a fun time hanging out at North American Sake Brewery, Virginia’s first Sake brewery as well while watching local hip hop artists perform.
There are lots of amazing spots to stop for a coffee or grab brunch in Charlottesville. We chose a quick, local favorite near the Quirk Hotel, Bodo’s Bagels. The lines can be crazy on a weekend so if you decide to go, get there early! This came at the suggestion of a friend who had recently visited and we’re glad we made the stop!
Around 10 am, it was time to head to Monticello, the plantation home of Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers who also enslaved over 600 people during his life. Our trip to Monticello was really impactful and I thought they did an excellent job sharing both the positive and negative contributions to the US that Thomas Jefferson made.
While there you can scan the QR codes to take a self-guided tour of the grounds and house, enjoy local product from the farm still operating at Monticello, enjoy the art galleries there, and take guided history tours. We decided to take the Slavery at Monticello tour. I thought it was really informative and important to learn this part of history. Guides shared stories of the enslaved African Americans who lived and labored on this plantation, confronted Jefferson’s conflicting ideas on freedom and race, and discuss legacies of American slavery.
You’ll also want to make a stop at the Shop at Monticello, located in the Visitor Center. You’ll find products made with ingredients grown at Monticello, vegetable/fruit/flower/garden seeds (many historic varieties), books, wine, and much more. There’s also awesome rootbeer and chocolate made with the same recipe used back in the late 1700s. There’s lots to try here!
$32 for adults, $10 for children 12-18
Timed entry, open every day but Christmas 9 am – 6:30 pm
Nearby is Jefferson Vineyards. While Thomas Jefferson himself never figured out how to grow grapes in Virginia, the area around Charlottesville is full of wineries to explore today. Jefferson Vineyards is a 5 minute drive from Monticello and made the perfect spot for a mid-day picnic with some wine. Not only is the wine excellent, but you’ll love the view overlooking the vineyard and rolling hills.
Visit Art Galleries
There are some excellent art museums and spaces to view art, but a weekend in Charlottesville isn’t complete without getting involved in seeing local artist work and immersing yourself into their process too. One of the best ways to do this is by visiting one of the many different art galleries around town.
While on our trip we got the chance to visit several galleries. I’ll list them all out below, but a few of our favorites were C’ville Arts and McGuffey Arts Center.
At C’ville Arts, we walked in to find over 50 local artists work. Often, they bring artists in for visits and to showcase their artistic process. While we were there we stopped to admire an artists work and it turns out, she was there in the gallery! We were able to talk with her, hear about her process and honestly, that just makes the art so much more special.
Next we walked over to McGuffey Arts Center. Walk right in and you’ll find local artists work displayed along the walls. Contiune walking and you’ll get to their gallery where they have a rotating exhibit showcasing an artist’s work. My favorite thing though about this spot was the open artist studios. While there, walk around the two floors of artist studios and walk inside any that have “open studio” signs. You can meet the artists, see them in action, and get a real look at their process. I loved this!
Other galleries to consider visiting are Second Street Art Gallery and Chroma Projects or any of the great spots you come to around the Downtown Mall.
Carter Mountain Orchard
After visiting some great art galleries, we were ready to experience a few spots on the way home. Right outside is Carter Mountain Orchard. This year round orchard has peaches in the summer, pumpkins and apples in fall, berries in the spring, and cider year round.
Basically, no matter what time of year you decide to visit, you’ll find something great to do there! Since our visit was during the summer, we got to pick some peaches to take home! Plus, the view from here is stunning.
Eastwood Farm and Winery
Our last stop before heading home was for an early dinner, some games, and wine at Eastwood Farm and Winery. On weekends, the winery has local food vendors, wine slushies, and live music – making it a really fun place to spend the afternoon!
They’ve also got lawn games like cornhole and giant Jenga. We had a great time here as our last stop on our arts filled weekend in Charlottesville.
Virginia is such a beautiful state, I’m so glad we got to take this trip to Charlottesville. There are so many amazing things to do in Charlottesville, VA! With all the art, history, and culture you can find here, there’s something for everyone on a fun weekend trip to Charlottesville.