Charlottesville and the area surrounding it are steeped in natural beauty
and American history. A town of some 120,000 inhabitants, Charlottesville
sits at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.
It is a favorite tourist destination due to its historical significance,
location, and many amenities. Charlottesville was ranked the #1 City to
Live in the Country by Sperling's Best Places, the 4th Best Place to
Live in the Country by Kiplinger's Magazine, one of Top 5 Destinations
Every American Should Visit by Orbitz Worldwide, the Best College Town
in America by Traveler's Today, one of the Top Five New American Foodie
Cities by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and number 9 in America's Favorite
Mountain Towns by Travel + Leisure Magazine.
Founded in 1762, Charlottesville is perhaps best known as home to two U.S.
Presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. A third president, James Madison,
had his home Montpelier some thirty minutes away from Charlottesville.
One of Jefferson's proudest achievements --- one of three he had inscribed
on his grave --- was the founding of the University of Virginia. The heart
of the modern university is Jefferson's Academical Village. It was called
``the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years''
by the AIA Journal in their United States Bicentennial issue, and
along with Jefferson's mountain-top home, Monticello, is a UNESCO World Heritage
Site. The University has long since outgrown Jefferson's original plans to
become one of the top-rated institutions in the country.
Much of the early history of the United States was played out within
150 miles of Charlottesville. While the ambiance of Charlottesville is
colonial and Revolutionary America, those who would like to see an even
earlier era in colonial history should visit Williamsburg, Virginia on
the Yorktown Peninsula, a two hour drive away. Williamsburg is a restored
colonial village and is one of the oldest settlements in the United States.
Near Williamsburg is Yorktown, the site of Cornwallis' surrender to General
George Washington, which signaled the end of the Revolutionary War. Finally,
Washington, D.C. is only 100 miles distance from Charlottesville.
Many attractions from the Civil War era are nearby. Richmond, the capital
of the Confederacy, lies 80 miles to the east of Charlottesville. Many of
the major battles of the U.S. Civil War between Lee's Army of Northern
Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac were fought close to Charlottesville.
First and Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania,
Cold Harbor, Petersburg and finally, Appomattox Court House were among the
largest battles ever fought in the western hemisphere. Charlottesville was
spared any major damage during the Civil War. A minor skirmish north of town
ended as a victory of the Confederates of Union soldiers led by George A.
Custer. Early the next year the citizens of Charlottesville (already dominated
by academics from the University) showed their grit and resolve to resist
the northern invader by offering Custer the keys to the city.
For those more interested in nature than history, Shenandoah National Park
is only a half hour's drive away from Charlottesville. West Virginia's
New River, a three-and-a-half hour drive away, has been rated one of the
world's top 10 whitewater rafting destinations by Frommer's, with
its Class IV-V rapids.