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Charlottesville, Virginia is the thriving Mid-Atlantic city of which you’ve been dreaming, a Southern oasis of deep blue and lush verdure, flanked on either side by azure mountains. It’s home to some of the most popular real estate in the region; the city is an hour west of the state’s capital in Richmond, and a little over two hours south of Washington, D.C., providing inroads to markets both north and south. It’s one of the most unique cities in America, combining small-town charm with the resources, amenities and access of a big city, with the Blue Ridge Mountains only a few minutes out of town. This quality is rare; you have room to grow and spread roots, but you can still be minutes away from a bustling downtown scene. It’s a place where dedicated local farmers can travel a handful of miles and sell their wares to award-winning, world class chefs. You can check out nationally-touring musicians like the Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen or head down to smaller venues to enjoy some truly talented local groups, and anywhere in between. It’s a place of endless possibilities, a city to thrive, grow, and prosper.
But don’t just take our word for it. In recent years, Charlottesville has won a host of accolades celebrating its health, positivity, culinary clout, and the overall happiness of its citizens, from a diverse number of publications: by the Guardian and the National Bureau of Economic Research, #1 Best Place to Retire by LPL Financial, #15 Smartest City in America by Luminosity, #1 City to Live by Yahoo! Real Estate, Top 5 New American Foodie Cities by Wine Enthusiast Magazine...you get the picture. In recent years, Charlottesville has become a veritable mecca for hard-working professionals and their young families. It attracts people who are looking for a stable, community-driven atmosphere imbued with the youthful vigor and excitement of a college town. Indeed, the University of Virginia is one of the cornerstones of Charlottesville, both economically (the University of Virginia Medical Center has been the city’s top employer for some time) and on a more cultural level. UVa is responsible for a regular influx of art, sports, and music that helps the town maintain a buoyant, young-at-heart feel best represented by the pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown Charlottesville. The mall itself is something of a town center; it houses court square the police station, and all the government buildings. It also hosts some of the city’s best events, including but not limited to: The Virginia Film Festival, The Virginia Dogwood Festival, The Virginia Festival of the Book, the LOOK3 Photography Festival, Fridays After Five, and so many more.
An independent city, Charlottesville is an enclave, fully located inside Albemarle County without being an official part of the county. Despite this, the city and county have a close, highly functional, mutually beneficial relationship. It’s been home to many celebrated figures, past and present, but Charlottesville is most heavily associated with our third U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson. He was born in Shadwell, VA--just a few miles southeast of Charlottesville in Albemarle--and laid to rest inside the city limits. The area is imbued with Jefferson’s spirit and rife with his influence, and the more tangible contributions are manifestations of the man and his passions. The University which he founded after a lifetime of public service represents his towering intellect and thirst for knowledge. And his home at Monticello, located on land in Albemarle County just east of Charlottesville is a testament to his fascination with architecture, particularly the neo-Classical forms, consistent with his admiration of Greek culture and aesthetics overall (he once called Greek the “perfect language.”) Jefferson started designing Monticello when he was 26. His architectural style was influenced tremendously by Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. Buildings designed by Jefferson retain the symmetry and perspective of Ancient Greek and Roman temples. Monticello, a sprawling estate, with its 43 rooms and 5,000 acres was “first” completed in 1772, before the death of Jefferson’s wife Martha. But in 1784, he spent several years in Europe for his position as Minister of the United States to France. The time in Europe recontextualized his approach to architecture, giving him firsthand access to some of the buildings, techniques, and ideas that he had previously only experienced through drawings or written descriptions. After his tenure as Secretary of State, Jefferson started to remodel Monticello, beginning in 1794 and continuing into his presidency and afterwards.
Other buildings around Charlottesville were designed or influenced by Jefferson, notably the Rotunda, located at the end of the Lawn at UVa. He modeled it after the Pantheon in Rome and described it as a tribute to the "authority of nature and power of reason." He also helped design Poplar Forest, located near Lynchburg….rumors say it was his refuge from the hordes of admirers that flocked to Monticello. And they continue to flock, coming in droves to experience a part of history….from kids on field trips to history buffs to professional archaeologists, so many people are drawn to Monticello.
Montpelier, the home of America’s fourth president, James Madison is near Charlottesville. It’s located in Orange County, less than an hour north of town and has developed into a notable tourist attraction in and of itself. The original building belonged to James Madison’s father, who constructed it around 1764; two stories built in the Flemish bond pattern . Madison added additions to it throughout his life, most notably were a Tuscan portico and a single-story flat-roofed addition creating separate living quarters. The Du Pont family owned Montpelier for most of the 20th century. The National Trust for Historic Preservation , in 1984, took over and started a $25 million dollar restoration to return Montpelier to the period when inhabited by James and Dolley Madison.
Education is important to Charlottesville, not least because of the academic legacy of Thomas Jefferson and UVa. Charlottesville has great public schools, including Charlottesville High School. The greater Charlottesville area (Albemarle) has three more high schools: Albemarle High School, Western Albemarle High School (sometimes referred to as Western) and Monticello High School. The schools offer low teacher-to-student ratios as well as a diverse array of sports, arts, and extracurricular activities which prove instrumental in fleshing out young personalities. There are also many private schools with even smaller class sizes and different teaching methods. If you want your child to have a different educational experience than s/he would find at a public school, you have options like The Covenant School, Tandem Friends, Montessori, or St. Anne’s-Belfield...whatever environment your children need to excel.
After retiring from a historic political career, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819 as a place where the country’s youth could “drink from the cup of knowledge.” Since its inception, UVa has been one of the most challenging and prestigious public universities in the country, cementing its status as a Public Ivy early on. In a city with a population of under 50,000, the university is a dependable economic buffer. A reliable influx of students keeps people employed in times of financial uncertainty. Besides providing thousands of jobs to the Charlottesville community, UVa is a cultural resource. The institution and its young population attract a wide berth of artistic pursuits across a variety of mediums. Every year, the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at UVa hosts the Virginia Film Festival
The festival is typically held on one weekend between late October and early November and boasts many short films, features, and animated films, both classic films and pictures which have yet to be released. The films are screened around the Charlottesville area, mostly downtown at the Violet Crown and Paramount Theaters and at UVa’s Culbreth Theatre closer to campus. Not only do you have the pleasure of seeing some of your favorite films on the big screen for the first time, the Virginia Film Festival makes it a point to recruit as many personnel as they can to participate in lectures, or question-and-answer sessions. Imagine watching Hunt for Red October and then sitting in on a discussion with Ron Howard right after!
In the absence of any national sports teams, college sports dominate Charlottesville. The city comes alive on Saturday morning football days, when the Cavaliers play against formidable squads from all over the country. UVa’s produced some serious football talent: heavy-hitters like defensive end Chris Long (St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots) and legendary running back Tiki Barber (New York Giants). A few years removed from the dominant era of Ralph Sampson, the Cavalier Men’s Basketball Team has retaken its rightful designation as one of the best teams in the ACC. Over the past couple of years, under the leadership of Head Coach Tony Bennett, the Men’s Basketball Team has ascended to new heights. UVa’s defense proves to be one of the most impenetrable forces in the country, holding back typically high-scoring teams to crushing lows while succeeding offensively. And when it comes to spring sports, UVa is without equal. The Cavalier Men’s Soccer Team has won the College Cup seven times (most recently in 2014) and has made the College Cup bracket for a record 34 years (consecutively). The baseball team netted a College World Series win as recently as 2015 and is one of the most feared teams in the nation. The Cavalier lacrosse team has reached the NCAA tournament 37 times with five tournament wins, and the tennis team...well you get the idea.
The spirit of altruism is strong in Charlottesville! There are student volunteers for just about everything. There will never be any shortage of tutors for students, no matter your age. The Madison House is UVa’s premier volunteer center. It’s an organization that sources and delegates volunteers, promotes community outreach, mentors local students, and coordinates larger, more intensive volunteer efforts...surely an invaluable resource in any community. Camp Kesem is a self-sustained sleepaway camp for children whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer. By self-sustained, we mean that UVa students raise funds entirely on their own, through bake sales, drives, and community initiatives. They invest a tremendous amount of time and effort even before the actual camp, and during the weeklong event, they help provide support and foster coping skills while also giving some families a much-needed break...at no cost to them!
There is a unique culinary culture in Charlottesville; in the last decade it’s accrued a host of accolades, drawing national attention to what on paper appears to be an unlikely foodie destination. But when you think about it, it really makes sense. The city of Charlottesville itself has more than 300 restaurants, second only to New York for most restaurants per capita. The area’s burgeoning culinary reputation has caused many a talented chef to land in Charlottesville, taking advantage of the city’s amenable cost of living and a relatively low profile (at least compared with some of the other, more established food towns like New York City, New Orleans, San Francisco and the like. The Alley Light and The Ivy Inn are two area restaurants that have been in contention for James Beard Awards, one of the highest culinary honors in the United States
Take the city’s dense plethora of culinary talent and add it to the sprawling, fertile uplands and rolling pastures of the land in central Virginia and you have the perfect place for the farm-to-table aesthetic. Charlottesville has great access to farms in Albemarle County, Madison, etc that it’s easy for restaurateurs to source fresh produce and livestock from their immediate surroundings and actually use these ingredients thoughtfully and consistently. The land around Charlottesville contains many small farms, several of them organic, and because of the farm-to-table movement, these men and women have a sizable customer base just a few miles down the road. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that makes everybody happy...especially the lucky patrons who get to eat. We’re living in a time in American history wherein farmland is at its most consolidated, wherein the level of detachment between producers and their crops could not be more pronounced. It’s rare that you can get in a car and drive a couple of miles to buy produce and livestock fresh from the source. You don’t even have to be a chef! On Saturdays during the warmer months, you can visit the Charlottesville Farmers' Market or some of the other local farmers’ markets to purchase (or just ogle) some truly gorgeous produce. Most of the farms in the Greater Charlottesville area use the various farmers’ markets to meet potential customers. This is a real opportunity to talk shop with the people who actually grow your food.
Charlottesville’s unique farmer-patron relationship has spilled out into the nonprofit sector via the Local Food Hub, an organization committed to helping local farmers sell and distribute their wares. It’s a valuable resource in an economic climate that pits local farmers against the dominant factory farms who have the benefits of scale economies on their side; farmers can focus on growing and raising quality food products and the Local Food Hub can focus on getting their products in the hands of consumers. It’s also very helpful for busy restaurants who don’t have time to go out and source their own ingredients. Just one more thing that sets Charlottesville apart from other cities.
Music is a huge part of Charlottesville, and it has been for several years. It’s a cornerstone of the nightlife here, similar to cities like Austin, Texas or San Francisco where instead of (or perhaps in addition to) clubs and bars, people devote time on the social calendar to checking out live music. Though not quite as selfless as the aforementioned organizations, UVa has a plethora of musical groups encompassing a variety of genres and styles. True to the collegiate tradition, a capella groups are very popular at the university and can often be seen serenading the community both on and off campus. Some of the more popular groups are the Sil’hooettes, the Virginia Gentlemen, and Hullabahoos. UVa’s McIntire Department of Music is instrumental in bringing some of the most celebrated jazz and classical musicians to the university; individuals like Philip Glass and Tony Williams who have been venerated at the pantheon of original American art. The auditorium at Old Cabell Hall has some of the best acoustics in the city and hosts a dizzying array of shows, so many it’s hard to keep track: in a given week you may see a jazz ensemble with 20-odd members or a septet playing traditional klezmer music, and everything in between. The Student Hip-Hop Organization (SHHO) is an incredible resource, a diehard, committed group of UVa students who have proven to be some of the best talent scouts in the area. The group has an uncanny ability to predict and act on hip-hop intuition, having booked some of today’s most popular rappers and hip-hop artists months, even years before they ascend superstardom. They booked Grammy Award-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar for a $15 show at UVa in 2011, before he had released either his seminal debut album...the same artist now sells out arenas and tickets are rarely under $100.
It’s not uncommon for someone to mention live music as a destination in answer to the question “What are you up to this weekend?” Events like Fridays After Five do a great job connecting local heavy-hitters with the community. During the summer and early fall, the nTelos Pavilion puts on a free show once a week, featuring some of the best local bands in the region, artists you’d have to pay to see in ordinary circumstances. The event is 100% free and 100% family friendly and given that it usually starts between 5:30 and 6pm, it’s the perfect after work activity. Food trucks, beer trucks, and amazing local talent...Charlottesville in a nutshell. The city is a stop for some of America’s most prominent musicians...we’re talking Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and the Allman Brothers, and Fleetwood Mac, all of whom have played in Charlottesville within the last two years. And that’s not to mention the legion of talented local bands chomping at the bit for their chance in the limelight. It wasn’t too long ago that Dave Matthews was fronting one of those bands while working part-time behind the bar in downtown Charlottesville at Miller’s (possibly Cville’s most authentic dive bar). 25 years later and he’s one of the most acclaimed rock musicians of his generation, a homegrown hero with international stardom!
The land in central Virginia is some of the most gorgeous on the east coast. Owning property near Charlottesville means access to breathtaking mountain views, verdant stretches of bucolic forest and pasture, and everything in between. The Appalachian Trail spans 550 miles of Virginia terrain, occasionally running parallel with and providing access to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.
The Shenandoah National Park is a sprawling testament to unrestrained beauty and the awesome power of the sublime. It’s one of the best representations of central Virginia land: it’s flanked by the Shenandoah River and Valley to the west, encompasses the Blue Ridge Mountains in all their splendor, and consists of 40% of forestland protected by the National Wilderness Preservation System. The park passes through eight counties, including Madison, Greene, and Albemarle. Spanning a transcendent 105 miles, Skyline Drive is the crown jewel of the Shenandoah National Park. For most of the drive, it follows the ridges of the surrounding mountains east of the Shenandoah River. The views are majestic year-round, but Skyline Drive is especially inspiring during the fall, when the leaves are changing. A smattering of bright orange and rusty red hues tumble down from the boughs as if meandering drops of rain, coloring the Blue Ridge terrain in kaleidoscopic visages. The sight is like something out of a poem by William Wordsworth. The road boasts over 70 different outlooks, through which you can soak in awe-inspiring views of the encircling valleys. It’s a great place for an extended bicycle jaunt or for some horseback riding. It’s simply some of the most beautiful land in central Virginia, and the country. It attracts over 2 million people a year and has been designated as a National Scenic Byway, merely a testament to its sweeping effulgence.
There are several other great hiking and swimming spots spread throughout the Charlottesville area, making springs and summers unbeatable. Nestled in a Blue Ridge Mountains site on land in western Albemarle County, Sugar Hollow is a reservoir with boundaries defined by the north and south forks of Moorman’s River. It’s a great place to swim and hike, with trails that parallel the river. There’s also Walnut Creek, a veritable outdoor wonderland. Walnut Creek sits on 525 acres of land in Albemarle County, specifically North Garden. The park has everything...canoes, fishing (with a healthy supply of channel catfish and largemouth bass), 15 miles of trails for hiking and biking, and a disc golf course with 18 holes! You’ll never want to go back inside.
It makes sense that a town with strong artisanal culinary aesthetics would have a contingent of enthusiastic breweries and vineyards; it’s consistent with the careful homegrown approach of the central Virginia farm-to-table scene. There are a number of successful, self-sufficient craft breweries and wineries whose wares have made it onto shelves and draft lists across the country. Starr Hill is perhaps the oldest brewery in the Charlottesville area, having been founded in 1999 inside the city limits. Now located in Crozet, Starr Hill’s brand has permeated the music festival circuit in tandem with the entertainment ventures pioneered by owner Coran Capshaw. With its gorgeous view, roomy patio, and tasteful live music selections, Starr Hill is one of the main stopping points on the Brew Ridge Trail, the famed 40-mile beer crawl through central Virginia’s farmland. Once you get out of Charlottesville and into the county, you ditch the city feel and bask in the endless stretches of lush pasture. Starr Hill, with its bevy of rock ‘n’ roll-themed beers, is just one of many breweries in the area: South Street Brewery (inside Charlottesville’s city limits, two blocks off of the pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown) Devil’s Backbone (recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch), Blue Mountain Brewery (arguably the powerhouse of the region, with delicious, innovative originals like the Full Nelson), and Wild Wolf Brewery (with its focus on fresh, locally-sourced food). Whether you want to get a designated driver and do the entire tour or just make one stop, you have options galore.
There’s an equally thriving wine culture in Charlottesville, one that has gained more legitimacy as time has gone on. It’s tough to compete in national markets against producers from Napa Valley or Sonoma (indeed, it’s estimated that 89% of all American wine is produced in California) but the Monticello American Viticultural Area is slowly carving out a place in the hearts and minds of American wine connoisseurs. Much of the land in central Virginia is very ideal for wineries; the swelling uplands are reminiscent of the Mediterranean climate in Southern Italy.
The Monticello Wine Trail is the cousin to the Brew Ridge Trail. It’s a non-profit organization that spans 30 wineries (all on land within 25 miles of Charlottesville), and it’s the best representation of the Monticello AVA. Every spring, the MWT puts on the Taste of Monticello Festival in downtown Charlottesville. It’s a celebration of the area’s great wines and deep terroir. Over 20 esteemed wineries are featured at the festival every year
Check out this guide if you’re thinking about buying land near Charlottesville and are interested in setting up a brewery or vineyard!
Of particular note is Barboursville Vineyards, probably one of the most successful vineyards in Virginia’s history. It was founded in 1976 by Gianni Zonin, an Italian winemaker. It’s his only American venture and one that he’s devoted much time and energy into developing. The 870 acres are on the Barboursville ruins, the onetime estate of Virginia governor James Barbour. Thomas Jefferson designed Barbour’s estate on land between Albemarle and Orange County. It was destroyed in a great fire in 1884, though a near-century later, the ruins proved fertile ground for winemaking. To date, vineyard manager Gabriele Rausse (working on behalf of Barboursville) remains the only individual to successfully coax Vitis vinifera out of the central Virginia soil...even the famous polymath and Renaissance man Thomas Jefferson, with his wide variety of fruitful endeavors, failed when it came to vinifera cultivation. So you know Barboursville Vineyards means business. Such prestige have these winemakers attained that in 2007, Queen Elizabeth II was served some wine from Barboursville Vineyards on her visit to the U.S. Not bad for a bunch of folks living in central Virginia.
It’s hard to pin Charlottesville down to just one idea or sum it up in a nutshell...it has a multifaceted personality, and it means different things to different people. It encapsulates the idea of “big city in a small town,” providing access to several amenities that seem characteristic of big cities: huge arenas and stadiums where international acts perform; exciting, engaging collegiate sports that draw enormous crowds; locally sourced food prepared by some of the most celebrated, award-winning chefs in the country; sprawling outdoor adventures including 550 miles of the Appalachian Trail, waterfalls, and lush green forests; and one of the best public universities in the country. The combination of big city feel and natural outdoor splendor is hard to beat.
Moving to a new area is always difficult. It helps to have a team on the inside...people with a keen knowledge of the area, tested by years of experience both in the field and in the neighborhood. People who’ve called the central Virginia area home before it attracted national attention for being the Mid-Atlantic paradise town it is. People who know every last thing about the Piedmont region. Gayle Harvey Real Estate has seen this area change and develop into the thriving, multicultural place it is, and we have a thumb on the pulse. We were one of the first companies in the area to pioneer the use of the Internet to connect to both buyers and sellers. Whether you’re looking for an urban dwelling in the heart of downtown Charlottesville or a secluded, bucolic mountain retreat, you can’t beat the knowledge and familiarity offered up by the Gayle Harvey Real Estate agents and brokers.Contact Us for prompt and courteous service! ...the home of your dreams is waiting.