Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small Town, Big Adventures

Magnet # 96: Sites of Charlottesville

Material: Wood, Laminated Paper

Purchased By: Me

Charlottesville was the first city I stopped at during my Mid-Atlantic tour, and if I had to pick one spot to go back to, this would be it. I think on a subsequent visit to this area, I would later head west to the Shenandoah National Park and perhaps West Virginia. I'd also like to see James Madison's home, Montpelier, which is north of the city. I guess I just didn't have enough time to take advantage of all this lovely area has to offer.

Charlottesville is considered one of the nicest areas in the country, and has topped more than one list of the best places to live in the United States. I could definitely see why during my visit there. It's a charming area with a down home feel and lots of beautiful architecture. Thomas Jefferson even provided some of it himself - the Rotunda at the University of Virginia (which I unfortunately didn't get a chance to see), and his home, Monticello (which I absolutely toured - it was a must on my list). I think it's the only city that can claim three U.S. Presidents as permanent residents - Jefferson, of course, as well as Madison, and James Monroe, whose home, Ash-Lawn Highland is just down the road from Jefferson's Monticello. Both of them, along with the historic Michie Tavern, are just a few minutes away from the Downtown area.

I stayed in the Downtown area, at a Hampton Inn & Suites that I would definitely book again if I ever revisit the area. Once again, reserving the room through AAA came in handy as the lady at the front desk was impressed with the low rate I'd gotten. Their lobby was particularly attractive and decorated with murals of sites around the area. Best of all, they had a shuttle I used to get over to the Downtown Mall, one of Charlottesville's most touristy areas. I had read in a guide book that parking there is not always easy, so the shuttle was a big relief. It is one of the biggest outdoor pedestrian malls in the country and is filled with unusual shops, colorful performers, and tasty eateries. My Dad is familiar with the area from his business trips and suggested I have dinner at Christian's Pizza. I found it and was impressed by some of the unusual offerings they had - I even saw one pizza with tortellini on it! You can order what they have on the counter by the slice, so I ended up getting one with artichokes and other tasty veggies on it. They re-warm it and it is still very delicious. There are plenty of other nice restaurants there, but I recommend this one, particularly if you'd like to save a few bucks. The Downtown Mall wasn't the best place to find magnets, but I bought some at a couple of stores, including a Hallmark, where I found this one. It was interesting to see City Hall at one end, with its reliefs of the three Presidents from the area, and the Charlottesville Pavilion, a rather large outdoor amphitheatre with an unusual covering that has hosted all sorts of high-profile musicians. There's also a long wall that people are encouraged to write on with chalk, that is provided. Kids were having lots of fun there. There's a Virginia Discovery Museum at the Downtown Mall that's supposed to be really nice, but it had closed before I got there. It is surprising that such a small town can have so many interesting tourist attractions and events, but I guess that's what makes Charlottesville special.

I think I will return to Charlottesville someday and take a second trip to Monticello, along with a first trip to some of the area's other noteworthy attractions. This city, although small, offers some of the best sites to visit of any place in the United States, all with a laidback attitude. If you haven't had a chance to discover it for yourself, you might want to consider it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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