Monticello- Charlottesville's top history site. Home of Thomas Jefferson, this house is depicted on the reverse side of the nickel and draws nearly half a million visitors each year. Even if you've already toured the house, the grounds offer impressive gardens and commanding views.
Entrance fee: $24 adults ($17 Nov-Feb); $16 children 12-18 from May 27-Sept. 2; $8 children 6-11; children under 6 free. Tours conducted 9am-5pm every day of the year except Christmas. Tips: Arrive when it's not crowded or order advance tickets online. Summer is busiest; September and spring are sublime. Local residents who bring out-of-town guests get in free. 984-9822

 UVA Grounds- Widely considered the most beautiful college campus in the world. Designed by Thomas Jefferson as the heart of his so-called "Academical Village," the Lawn's centerpiece is the Rotunda.The man himself lived to see it open in the summer of 1825. Seventy years later, the Rotunda burned to its brick shell, then was "restored" by architect Stanford White, and restored again to Jefferson's essential design in time for the American Bicentennial in 1976. Free tours of the Rotunda and Lawn include a peek at Edgar Allan Poe's room, #13 of course. The tours meet daily (except during the winter when students are on vacation and the first of May until after graduation) at 10 and 11am, and 2, 3, and 4pm inside the main entrance of the Rotunda. 924-1019

Parking around UVA- Enjoying UVA is easy once you've found a map and a place to park. Two garages, one on Culbreth Road Garage that offers free public parking after 5pm and all weekend, and the one under the bookstore on Emmet, which charges $1 per half hour, provides Central Grounds access. There is also street parking and several meters around Grounds. One trick is just parking wherever— as UVA waives non-serious tickets once every 12 months.

The Corner- At this enclave of shops, bars, and restaurants surrounding the university, parking is tighter than anywhere else in town, but the streetscapes are lively and the shops eclectic.

–>>See our special section on UVA.

Downtown Mall- One of the few pedestrian malls in America that actually works, it's the commercial and artistic hub of the city. A nine-block stretch of bricks with over 60 restaurants and lots of shopping, it's the place to see and be seen. The  nTelos Wireless  Pavilion (245-4910) at the Mall's East End plays host to all sorts of musical entertainment, from B.B. King, to Willie Nelson, to ZZ Top, to Sheryl Crow, to Arcade Fire, to local acts who perform at Fridays After 5. Technically a City-owned park, the Mall gets a boost from a business group called the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville. 295-9073

Walking tours of downtown are offered at 5:30pm Saturdays at 10am April to October by the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society which has a small museum in its foyer at 200 Second St. NE (the marble-columned building facing Lee Park). Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat 10am-1pm (office closed). 296-1492.

–>>See our special section on Shopping.

Main visitors center- It's operated by the Charlottesville/Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, and located at the east end of the Downtown Mall (293-6789), in the newish Transit Center near the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, the fanciest brochure-distribution spot we've ever seen. Open 9-5 daily, closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Ditto for UVA's visitors center on Ivy Road. 924-0311.

>>See Kid Stuff section for more.

>>See Art Galleries section for more.

Montpelier- A 40-minute drive north of Charlottesville in Orange County, James Madison's home re-opened in 2008, after a five-year effort to restore the home to its original 19th Century conditions. To learn more about this Fourth President and "Father of the Constitution," there are mansion tours between 10am and 4pm during the summer (winter hours are abbreviated between November and March). Open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:30-5:30pm, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Adults $18, kids 6-14 $7, kids under 6 are free. Also the site of Montpelier Hunt Races (Nov. 2, 2013) 540-672-2728

Ash Lawn-Highland- Located anywhere else in America, the home of President James Monroe would be a town's huge claim to fame, but standing here in the shadow of Monticello (and Montpelier), it's overshadowed. But as fans of foreign relations doctrines can attest, the "Era of Good Feelings" president was an important one. Tours 9am-6pm April-October and 11am-5pm November-March. $14 adults, $8 kids ages 6-11. Locals get in for $8, or free with full-paying nonresidents. 293-8000

Michie Tavern- An actual old tavern that dates from the 1700s, this building was moved 17 miles from Earlysville around the time Monticello re-opened in the 1920s and offers a traditional Southern fried chicken lunch served by staff in Colonial garb. Museum is open 9am-5pm daily with free tours for locals (lunch served 11:15am-3:30pm April-October, 11:30am-3pm November-March). Located just this side of Monticello on Rt. 53. 977-1234

Environment- It may not be in the heart of the Rockies, but Charlottesville has more than its fair share of outdoor and environmental opportunities. The Rivanna Trails Foundation, as part of its campaign to build a footpath around the city, sponsors all sorts of hikes and work days (, as do the folks at the Ivy Creek Foundation (973-7772). If you're looking for a little more action and adventure, the Outdoor Adventure Social Club of Greater Charlottesville sponsors outdoorsy trips and social gatherings all over the Blue Ridge and beyond. 760-HIKE

–>>See our Sports and Recreation section for more.

The Miller Center- Studies and informs the national and international policies of the United States with a special focus on the American Presidency. Offers frequent 11am free weekday forums with leading speakers who have included former President Jimmy Carter, journalist Bob Woodward, and actor Richard Dreyfuss. 2201 Old Ivy Road. 924-7236

Revolutionary War- British General Banastre Tarleton camped here after almost capturing then-governor Thomas Jefferson, but a speedy 27-year-old horseman named Jack Jouett heard about the plan at Cuckoo Tavern in Louisa and hustled to Charlottesville with the warning. There was no southern Longfellow to give Jouett the Paul Revere ("one if by land, two if by sea") treatment, so except for Monticello and a few houses here and there, there's not much to see locally except a plaque honoring Jouett in Court Square and a middle school named for him.

Civil War- Charlottesville had just one little skirmish in the "recent unpleasantness" at Rio Hill (now a shopping center), when George Custer burned down a bridge over the Rivanna River. Charlottesville does have a few monuments, including equestrian statues of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee in the middle of their namesake downtown parks— not to mention the obligatory cannon at the County Courthouse.

Wineries galore- See our Wine Section

Restaurants galore— See our Food Section.