Four months ago, a few weeks after graduation, I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia without ever having visited. This was a pretty big risk, even by my standards, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve found. After a summer of many visitors (thanks friends!), I’ve gotten the tour down pat, so if you find yourself in Cville, make sure to try some of these local spots.
There is much more variety in Charlottesville than I expected. Read: international foods and healthy options as well as southern staples like BBQ. These are some of my favorites:
- Marco and Luca – Dumplings are a thing here, and Marco and Luca does it best. Everything in the restaurant is so. dang. cheap. There are only a handful of items on the menu, including pork dumplings, veggie buns, pork buns, and sesame noodles. Of which I’ve tried…them all. The dumplings are bomb, and at 6 for $3.50, it’s definitely worth a try.
- Roots – I am obsessed with Roots. I’ve tried explaining it to other people and they typically meet me with the “so…it’s a salad place?” line. Trust me on this one (and every equally obsessed UVA student – apparently there is frequently a line out the door during the school year), it is not just a salad place. The Mayweather (beets, goat cheese, chicken, kale, etc.) and BBQ Tofu bowl are my favorites.
- DOMA – This Korean BBQ restaurant opened over the summer on the weird stretch of Main Street between downtown and the corner, but it is worth struggling to find parking for. They have a Chipotle-style stir-fry bar as well as Bimbimbop (order it with the Bulgogi beef, as shown below) and Kimchi fried rice.
- Continental Divide – Also downtown, also hard to find parking, but SO DAMN GOOD. It’s unlike any other Mexican place I’ve been to. I highly recommend the Red Hot Blues (blue corn chips with goat cheese, jack cheese and onions), and the Santa Fe Enchilada. The latter comes with a pumpkin muffin, year round. Yes.
If you’re not a drinker, don’t visit Charlottesville. Just kidding, but there are literally dozens of wineries, breweries, and cideries (didn’t know that was a thing until I moved here), in and around Charlottesville. It would be a shame to come and not visit any, even if just for the views (or the apple cider donuts at Carter Mountain).
- Carter Mountain – Just 15 minutes out of town, Carter Mountain sells Bold Rock (my favorite cider), and has a winery right next door. The views are spectacular, and food trucks usually come by in the afternoon in case you get hungry. Plus, you can pick fruit year round – since I’ve been here, I’ve gone for strawberries, blueberries, peaches and apples.
- Devil’s Backbone – This is my favorite to bring out-of-towners to. It has outdoor activities like cornhole, bucket beer pong, and bocce ball, and food and drinks inside and outside. The food is delicious, and despite being a brewery, there are a fair amount of wine and cider options too.
- Veritas – During the summer, Veritas’ Starry Nights series is a must. Hundreds of people picnic on the lawn while live bands play, and Veritas has some of the best wine around. Sign up for the wine club for free entrance and tastings!
After you’re done eating and drinking your way around town, head to one of these fun (and cheap!) locations to walk off some of those calories.
- Humpback Rocks – This is a super fun hike for showing off Charlottesville. It’s short but strenuous; plan for a steep half hour up to the top, and then some time taking in the views.
- Ix Park – This is kind of a random spot in town, but worth a walk to from the downtown mall. It’s an outdoor art park with a classic “Before I Die” chalkboard wall (as often seen on Instagram), murals, graffiti, and a giant butt. Yep, you read that right. Floridians, think of a small-scale Wynwood.
- Daedaelus Bookstore – Probably my favorite spot in Charlottesville. Daedaelus looks tiny from the outside, but inside, it never ends. There are books covering every inch of the store, and every genre you can think of is represented. Plus, since they are mostly used books, you can walk out with a haul without breaking the bank.