Annual events

Annual Events (and a few semi-annual and seasonal events)

Ash Lawn Opera Festival - Since 1978, opera fans and others who just like a country picnic and music have enjoyed operas in English and special events for children at the home of James Monroe. Now productions are staged inside at the Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall, which will be the home for the festival's running productions of Puccini's La Bohème and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. $47-$65. 293-4500 (July & August 2013).

Albemarle County Fair - Head to Ash Lawn-Highland Fairgrounds, once the home of President Monroe for a county fair experience to remember. Check out entertainment and activities that emphasize the agriculture of Central Virginia and enjoy crafts, games and live music as well. Email (August 1-3, 2013) .

First UVA football game - Scott Stadium- This year it's against Brigham Young University. The night before marks Paint the Town Orange night, a sort of city-wide pep rally sure to get the orange-and-blue blood flowing. Ticket info: 800-542-UVA1 or locally 924-UVA1 (August 31, 2013 @ 3:30 p.m.)

Charlottesville Women's Four-Miler- Starting in June, several thousand women train together for the late summer race, which raises money for breast cancer research. The race happens out at Foxfield on Garth Road. Make sure to register early for 2014— this race, the largest all women's walking/running event in Virginia, fills up fast! (August 31, 2013)

Interlocken Music Festival- Zac Brown, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the String Cheese Incident, The Black Crowes and many more bands are expected to attract over 30,000 music lovers to the Oak Ridge Estate in Nelson County this September. Charlottesville has gained quite the reputation as one of the best music destinations in the state, and this festival will only bolster that status. Visit the festival website for tickets or email (September 5-8, 2013).

Louisa County Air Show- A real barn-stormin' festival with parachutists, biplanes, and aerial stunts. Free admission, but canned food donations encouraged. Louisa County Airport/Freeman Field. 540-967-0050 (September 7, 2013 from 11am to 4pm)

Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival- UVA's Old Cabell Hall- Does Mozart get your motor runnin'? Does Haydn make the hair on your arms stand up? If so, get your dose of chamber music and then some at this month-long event. Most recent prices, $6-$22/individual concerts, $25-$100/serious subscription. (September 8-22 at the Paramount Theater and Old Cabell Hall). Call 295-5395 or email 

Foxfield Steeplechase Races- Garth Road- The fall Foxfield horse races are more family-oriented, so you don't have to worry about events like the one which made the business almost have its license yanked because some youthful attendees find public intoxication (and urination) to be part of the fun. With pony rides, Jack Russell Terrier races, and a stroll around the course, the whole family can get in on the excitement. Tickets go quickly amongst the horsey locals, so be sure to snatch them when they go on sale September 1. 293-9501 (September 29, 2013).

Fall Fiber Festival- James Madison's Montpelier- Not to be confused with a shindig celebrating Metamucil, this one's all about the fleece. Sheep-shearing and wool spinning, knitting, rug-weaving, a fiber fashion show, and a fleece sale allows shepherds to make their own fleeces available. $5 adults; under-16 free. (October 5-6, 2013). Email

The Festy- This three-day music festival happening at the Concert Ground of Devil's Backbone Brewing Company features some of the top national and regional music acts. And there's camping for people who plan in advance. (October 11-13, 2013). See website for more information and ticket pricing. 

Martha's Market- John Paul Jones Arena- More than 70 boutiques from around the country set up shop in John Paul Jones Arena for a one-of-a-kind marketplace experience. Put on by the Women's Committee of Martha Jefferson Hospital for the 20th consecutive year, all vendors donate a percentage of their sales to benefit breast cancer treatment at the hospital. 654-8173 (October 4-6, 2013; Preview Party October 3)

Crozet Arts and Crafts Festival- Claudius Crozet Park- Pottery, textiles, leather, glass, wood, metal, photography, and art provide a tantalizing array of beautiful handmade articles for sale. This two-day event makes a fine outing for the entire family. $6/adults; under-12/free. 823-2211 (October 12-13, 2013) 

Virginia Wine & Garlic Festival- Rebec Vineyard, Rt. 29 south just north of Amherst- Leave all of your olfactory concerns at the door, because this festival is part feast, part comedy routine, and all fun. Kids activities, contests, food, petting zoos, crafts fair, magicians, wine tastings, live music, and more. Don't miss the crowning of the Garlic King! Tickets between $14-$19 online, $20-$25 online, and discounts are available if you buy them in advance or in a group. 946-5168 (October 12-13, 2013)

Halloween happenings:

The Spirit Walk- Downtown- Since 1995, the local historical society has been mixing ghouls and history, and history always wins in this clever walking tour taking in ghostly haunts such as the Maplewood Cemetery and infamous murder sites downtown. Tours get started at the Historical Society's building just off the Downtown Mall. 296-1492. Dates yet to be finalized, but the walks usually happen two weeks before Halloween. 

Trick or Treat on the UVA Lawn- What started as a big brother/big sister gig now brings several thousand parents and kids to the Academical Village each Halloween afternoon for the most car-free trick or treating on the planet. (Usually takes place on Halloween night, October 31, 2013  from 4-6pm)

Virginia Film Festival- UVA and Downtown- Founded by the state with a little help from local benefactor Patricia Kluge back in 1988, this is the event that has brought to town such stars as Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall, Vanessa Redgrave, Ann-Margret, Nicolas Cage, and Sigourney Weaver. 982-5277 or for tickets call 924-3376. (November 7-10, 2013)

The Montpelier Hunt Races- Montpelier Station (45 min. north- Orange County)- A bit farther away than Foxfield, but it may actually take less time thanks to its smaller scale. And unlike Foxfield's reputation as a boozefest rather than an athletic event, this Montpelier Hunt Race will be the 77th running and is one of the nation's oldest and most respected steeplechase events. Admission/$15, under-12/free, parking/$20, or spend anywhere from $1,750 to $9,000 to make a private, all-accoutrements-included party of it. 540-672-0027 (November 2, 2013)

Jeffersonian History Festival- Grace Covenant Church across from City Hall. Gone are the days when a parade on the Downtown Mall and reenactments would launch the Thanksgiving season, but there's still history fun to be had. This year, there's a sort of public discussion– in costume! (November 11, 2013)

Last home UVA football game- Scott Stadium- UVA takes on instate rival Virginia Tech. Ticket info: 800-542-UVA1 or locally 924-UVA1 (November 30, 2013)

Graves Mountain Lodge Thanksgiving Dinner- For a delicious and hassle-free Thanksgiving, make reservations for you and yours at Graves Mountain Lodge (540-923-4231) in Madison County for the all-you-can-eat buffet-style Thanksgiving dinner. Not only do they serve turkey with all the trimmings, but also Old Dominion delicacies like Virginia ham and fried oysters.

Downtown for the Holidays- Downtown Mall- Holiday City Market. The festival offers a variety of holiday events along the Mall, helping families enjoy the spirit of the season. Don't forget to check out the tree lighting on the 28th, Santa when he comes to town on the 29th, and book your tickets for the Holly Trolly! (November 24-December 22, 2012 8am-1pm)

McGuffey Art Center Holiday Open House- McGuffey Art Center, Second St.- It's the rarity of rarities: all studios in the subsidized-rent palace of art will probably be open. There's entertainment, and, in the Gallery, a holiday group show by all members. 295-7973 (December 7 or 14)

First Night Virginia- All over Downtown- For years, visitors have enjoyed entertainment, food, alcohol-free events, and fireworks. The program attracts huge crowds to the festivities every New Year, and as always an admission button gets you into everything. Prices have yet to be set for this coming year, but last year prices were $15/adults, $5/kids ages 6-16, kids under 5/free. Discounts on pre-sale tickets and family packs. 975-8269 (December 31, 2013)

ACC Basketball at UVA- John Paul Jones Arena- For decades, the Atlantic Coast Conference has been the premiere conference in the nation for men's and women's college basketball. Led by former Washington State coach Tony Bennet, the men's team had a fairly successful season going 23-12 and 11-7 in the ACC. Ticket info: 800-542-UVA1 or locally 924-UVA1 (Schedule TBA)

Virginia Festival of the Book- All over town- Bringing together noted authors and eager author groupies, this popular event celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2014. The event has featured such luminaries as Garrison Keillor, Helen Thomas, the Fellowship of Southern Writers, Clyde Edgerton, Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Chabon. Most events at the five-day fest are free. 924-7548 (March 19-23, 2014)

Charlottesville Marathon, Half Marathon and 8K- All over town and then some- To paraphrase Merle Haggard, it seems Charlottesvillians were born the running kind. After years of the Ten-Miler growing in popularity, Charlottesville had its first marathon and half-marathon in 2002, and it's been a hit every year since. It's become so popular that the New York Times rated it one of the top five marathon destinations in the country. The starting gun goes off at 6:30am. (April 5, 2014)

Charlottesville Ten-Miler- Streets of Downtown- The town's biggest running race draws participants from all over the state and beyond, and blocks off city roads, streets, and alleys. In 2012, 2,244 entrants participated. Fee to run to be determined (probably $15-20). Fee to watch? Priceless. (TBA, mid-spring 2014) Email 

Tom Tom Founders Festival- Started in 2012 as a month-long affair spotlighting innovation, the second Tom Tom was a shorter— but no less inspiring— event spanning three days in mid-April and featuring dozens of musical performances, lectures by local luminaries, and entreprenueurial competitions sponsored by UVA's Darden School. A smaller offshoot event, Tomtoberfest, celebrates innovation at UVA and beyond grounds with celebrations on the Corner. (TBA, April 2014)

Annual Dogwood Festival- McIntire Park, Downtown and other sites- Two weeks packed with events: the biggies are the Dogwood Festival Parade the City's major annual struttin' happenin', and the Dogwood Queen's Ball, both on April 26, 2014. Along the way, there's the coronation of the Dogwood Queen, Garden Week, and even fireworks lighting up city skies. Some events are free; most have a modest entry fee. 961-9824 (TBA, mid April 2013)

Fridays After 5- Every Friday from early May to late September, this massive free party fills the air with sounds from some of the region's (and nation's) best musical artists. Attendance is still free, but a cup of beer's gonna cost you $5. 817-0220 (May through late September 2013 & 2014)

Historic Garden Week in Virginia- Various backyards and estates- This is a chance to visit the gardens– and in a few cases the interiors– of some rich and famous locals. Recent years have included John Grisham's secret garden and Coran Capshaw's elegant Seven Oaks in Greenwood– as well as those perennial favorites, UVA Lawn Pavilions. Tickets range from $15- $40. 804-644-7776 (April 26- May 3, 2014). 

The City Market- Downtown in the public parking lot at Water and First streets- In most cities, this is called the Farmers' Market, but then again, in most cities, the local college has a "campus." Fresh fruits, veggies, baked goods, flower bouquets and plants are offered for sale, while a spirit of civil disobedience simmers with goats' milk cheese purveyors– who since the state banned their sales, have given away their yummy products as of late! Saturdays, 7am-noon. 970-3371 (April through December 2014)

Foxfield Spring Races- Garth Road- Same concept as the fall races, except this shindig is heavily attended by UVA undergrads–more often intoxicated than not. Popular to purchase some tent space, and grill out or hang with a group of friends. Tickets can usually be purchased right up to the date of the event. 293-9501. (Date TBA)

Montpelier Wine Festival- Orange County- No other Virginia wine festival can compare to this two-day extravaganza at Montpelier, the home of James Madison 45 minutes north of town. Price of admission includes tastings, a commemorative glass, food, live music and a lot more. $15 advance, $25 the days of the festival. 1-800-594-8499 or 540-672-5216 (TBA May 2014)

Charlottesville Festival of Cultures- A free, family-friendly celebration of diversity in our community with performances, cultural exhibits, hands-on activities, vendors, service agency information booths. 245-2819. (TBA, May 2014)

Bike to Work Day- Nationally, this is an important event. Unfortunately and ironically in a town with so many "green" efforts, no local organizer has really claimed ownership of the event. Heck, we don't even know when it might happen in 2014, even though it usually happens sometime in May. (TBA, May 2014)

Design House- For the interior decorator and fancy house voyeur in all of us. (TBA, May 2014)

The Discovery Dash- This used to be a cute little photo opportunity for the kiddies on the Downtown Mall. Now, in its 23rd year, the race is a full-blown running competition held at Monticello High School. 977-1025 (TBA, May 2014)

James River Batteau Festival- This annual week-long river float has revived the days of moving hogsheads (big barrels) of tobacco along the James. The batteaux put in at various stops along the River from Stapleton (east of Lynchburg) to Maidens (west of Richmond). Free. 528-3950 (June 14-21, 2014)

Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph- Every spring, the trees on the Downtown Mall are suddenly adorned with massive, gorgeous photographs and it can mean only one thing: the Look3 Festival of the Photograph is approaching. Bringing big name photographers to present their work and dozens of events aimed at shutterbugs professional and amatuer, Look3 has become a highly anticipated annual staple.


July 4 happenings

Monticello Independence Day and Naturalization Ceremony- Monticello- Naturalization of approximately 75 new citizens. Guest speakers have included Secretary of State Colin Powell, architect I. M. Pei, large-scale artist Christo, former President George W. Bush, and most recently, Dave Matthews. Patriotic music by the Charlottesville Municipal Band helps set the tone. Admission to ceremony and grounds is free but tickets are issued by reservation. 984-9828

McIntire Park Fireworks- Fees for some events, but the fireworks are free. The premiere fireworks show in Charlottesville. 

Crozet Carnival- Claudius Crozet Park- Games, rides, live bands, a parade, and great fair food. Hosted by the town's volunteer fire department. 823-4758

Scottsville Parade- Scottsville- The little river town pulls out all the stops for the Fourth, starting with a big parade through town. Arts and crafts vendors, food, an antiques fair, a flea market, live music at The Rhythm on the River concert, and fireworks keep the festive mood going all day. 286-9267.

Putting on your own fireworks display at home? Anything more serious than sparklers, spinners, and fountains is prohibited in both Charlottesville and Albemarle. Not okay: bottle rockets, roman candles, and M-80s.

Charlottesville Restaurant Week- all over town- Twice annually, fine restaurants all over this foodie Mecca of ours throw open their doors and, for one week, offer a special three-course, prix fixe meal for the low, low price of $26 ($1 goes to a local charity). Last time, restaurants booked up weeks in advance, so make yours early! More info at 295-8700 ext. 227. (TBA, January and July 2014)

African-American Cultural Arts Festival- Booker T. Washington Park- Education and entertainment celebrating the heritage of people of African descent. Events include storytelling, crafts, live music, and dance performances. Free. See website for more information. (Last weekend of July 2014)