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North America > United States > Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia Beach Williamsburg




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Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Charlottesville is an area of unique beauty and a bastion of history. Each year over half a million travelers visit the Charlottesville area, enjoying the natural beauty of the mountains, Skyline Drive, Monticello, and the University of Virginia (UVA).

 

For those who enjoy history, there are few more richly endowed settings than Charlottesville. The area is identified with Thomas Jefferson and his legacy of leadership and free thought, which laid the foundation for what Charlottesville is today. The values and traditions of Jefferson, the nation’s third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, are on display at his home, Monticello, and at the University of Virginia.

 

It was in Charlottesville that Thomas Jefferson designed and built his magnificent mountaintop home, Monticello, and created what he described as his "academical village," the University of Virginia. It was Jefferson’s belief that the college experience should take place within a place where shared learning infused daily life. Plans were developed for ten Pavilions, which were stately, neoclassical faculty homes with living quarters upstairs, and classrooms downstairs that were attached to two rows of student rooms and connected by an inward-facing colonnade. The buildings face a long lawn, anchored at one end by a Pantheon-inspired Rotunda. Each Pavilion was identified with a subject to be studied and inhabited by the professor who taught that subject.

 

Jefferson corresponded with scholars in America and Europe, seeking the best faculty to teach in the areas of philosophy, the arts, foreign languages, science, law, and medicine. In March, 1825, the University of Virginia opened to serve its first 123 students. Through the years, the University has grown and developed from its original composition of white males (sons of wealthy plantation owners) to include men and women of all ethnic and economic backgrounds with the emphasis on academic excellence and adherence to an individual and communal “Code of Honor”.

 

In 1993, U.S. News and World Report ranked UVA the nation's best public university. It has remained at the top of that annual list ever since. The University of Virginia consistently ranks well whether judged by popularity with students, retention and graduation rates, or overall excellence and remains committed to fulfilling the vision of its founder. Regularly scheduled official tours of the university are offered. One of the tour points is the university's West Range, where Woodrow Wilson and Edgar Allan Poe each lived when they were students

 

Monticello is located just 3 miles southeast of town. Thomas Jefferson was an inventor, and some of his discoveries are displayed at Monticello. Among these are: a seven-day calendar clock; semiautomatic glass doors; and a built-in bed that Jefferson could enter from his bedroom, on one side, or his study, on the other. Jefferson’s memory is honored at the family cemetery on the Monticello grounds.

 

Slightly more than two miles from Monticello is Ash Lawn-Highland, the restored home of America’s fifth president, James Monroe. This 550-acre estate features gardens, farm-craft demonstrations, and a hiking trail. The scene of many special events such as the Summer Festival, It now hosts tours, concerts and occasional wine tastings.

 

Also in Charlottesville can be found the home of James Madison, fourth president and author of the Constitution. Charlottesville and Albemarle County proudly display their historical treasures: Monticello; the grounds of the University of Virginia; Historic Court Square; Michie Tavern, and countless others. Tours, special events, and educational programs for the entire family attract many visitors to the area.

 

The university's influence on the town of Charlottesville is evident in the number of art galleries, musical venues, bookstores, and trendy restaurants that line the brick streets of downtown. The town has even adopted the university's famous honor policy: yellow bicycles are left at major intersections for anyone to use, provided they return them when they are finished. (Biking is a great way to get around Charlottesville.) The town offers the best in dining, shopping and education in a sophisticated, small town atmosphere.

 

Charlottesville borders Shenandoah National Park, whose 300 square miles stretch out along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, serving as a reminder of the great hardwood forests that once blanketed the northeastern United States and of the wildlife that inhabited them. The park offers protection to the animals and plants that thrive within its boundaries. A roadway bisects the park affording spectacular views into the valley below. This is a place to bicycle, to hike, to canoe, and to drive with the Appalachian Trail running for 100 miles through the entire park.

 

Take a picnic and drive into the countryside in any direction from Charlottesville and you will discover numerous Civil War sites and historical markers detailing more than two hundred years of history. Beautiful estates, bounded by split-rail fences and cedar trees, dot the rolling, hilly landscape. In and around Charlottesville, history comes alive, enriching our understanding of the past and its relationship to the present.

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