The charming city of Charlottesville, Virginia is located along the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The historic city was the home of Thomas Jefferson and offers a look at life in the 1700s to current modern-day Virginia. It’s a great city to explore and you will find tons of fun things to do in Charlottesville, VA with kids.
Start out exploring Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation and have a hearty midday fare at Michie Tavern. In Charlottesville, see Jefferson’s architectural designs in the buildings at the University of Virginia (UVA).
Then stroll through the lovely Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall & visit the Virginia Discovery Museum. Spend some time enjoying nature in the nearby Shenandoah National Park and Shenandoah Valley.
There are so many amazing things to do while visiting the Charlottesville area. Let me help you plan your next trip there.
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Top Things to Do in Charlottesville VA with Kids
Monticello was the primary home to Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s third President and author of the Declaration of Independence. The home was designed by Jefferson and has been completely restored to reflect how the family had lived in the home.
President Jefferson loved to have the newest inventions of the time and they are on display in his home and the small museum on the grounds. You can explore the gardens, visit the main home, and learn about the slaves who worked on the plantation.
There are two guided tours we really enjoyed with the kids. Monticello has a great Family Tour of the home which is geared specifically toward kids. The guide has props and stories to explain the life of Jefferson’s on the plantation which really kept the kids engaged.
Afterward, we took the Slavery at Monticello Tour which focused on the experiences of enslaved people whole lived and labored on the plantation. The tour will take you through the old slave quarters and shops. It really brought the reality of living on a plantation to our whole family. You’ll find the guides at Monticello to be really friendly and knowledgeable of the history of the plantation.
After the tour, stroll the grounds to see the beautiful gardens, smaller working areas of the plantation, and the new Sally Hemmings history display. All have great signage to teach you about life on a plantation. Lastly, make sure to stop into the Griffin Discovery Room for hands-on kid’s activities and reproductions from the house that the kids can actually touch and play with.
Learn more about tickets, tours and tips in the Compete Guide to Visiting Monticello. Make sure to allow several hours for your visit to take in all the fun things to do.
Location – 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA
University of Virginia – UVA
The University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson as a beacon for intellectual learning. This beautiful campus originally sketched by Jefferson showcases his love of architecture and learning. Walk the campus to see the iconic Rotunda, beautiful gardens, and the historic Chapel. To learn more about the history of the campus, consider taking a historic tour available during the academic school year.
UVA Address – 1826 University Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22904
Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall
The 8 blocks of brick-lined paths of Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall are filled with over 120 shops and 30 restaurants. Many of the restaurants have outdoor seating in the mall to enjoy the fun atmosphere. The mall is a mix of restored and renovated buildings which really gives you the historical feel as you stroll along. Visit the unique shops or simply spend time window shopping. At the end of the mall, you will find a Visitor Center to help you plan your trip. You will also find bathroom facilities.
Kids will enjoy a huge water painting wall near the visitor center. For entertainment, you’ll find a live theater, music concerts, and cinemas. This is a great spot to spend the evening after a long day exploring Monticello and the UVA campus.
Parking Garage – 200 E. Water Street, Charlottesville, VA
Virginia Discovery Museum
The Virginia Discovery Museum is a small, hands-on children’s museum located on the east end of the Mall. You’ll find exhibits on history, science, math, literacy, and art for your kids to explore. It’s a great place to stop for an hour or two to let the kids play while you’re visiting the Downtown Mall. The museum is recommended for families with newborns to age 8. Keep in mind that it can get very crowded on busy summer days. Learn more about hours and admission prices on the Virginia Discovery Museum website.
Location – 524 East Main Street, Charlottesville VA
Want to feel like you are back in the 1700’s having lunch at a local inn? The rustic Michie Tavern is located just a 1/2 mile from Monticello and has over 200 years of history serving food, drink, and lodging. When you approach, you will find staff dressed in period clothing from the 1700s. The tavern hosts Midday Fare from 11:30-3 pm with a buffet of 18th-century southern recipes. Families will dine on fried chicken, hand-pulled pork BBQ, biscuits, mashed potatoes, green beans, and more southern sides. Eat up as your plate will be replenished by the friendly wait staff. Find discounts on the Michie Tavern website before you go.
After you eat, walk off your big meal by visiting the row of small shops in the period buildings next door. We found this to be a great place to stop after touring Monticello.
Location – 683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA
Shenandoah National Park
While you’re in Virginia, you will want to visit the beautiful Shenandoah National Park. Located only 40 minutes away from Charlottesville, this is an easy day trip. Your family will love driving the scenic Skyline Drive with amazing views of the mountains. Then get out and hike on their family-friendly trails. Stop into the visitor centers to learn more about the parks’ history with their interactive displays or to take a ranger-led tour.
Hiking through the park is a great way to spend an unplugged family day together. To learn more about the best family hikes and what to expect when visiting the park, read my 7 Top Shenandoah National Park Trails & Guide.
Day Trip to Shenandoah Valley
Just west of Charlottesville, you will find the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Visit the historic downtown of Winchester and Staunton for cute shops, restaurants, and small historic museums. In Winchester, you’ll find Shenandoah Valley Children’s Museum, a great hands-on museum to entertain the kids.
If you want to be in complete awe, you have to visit Luray Caverns, the largest caverns in the eastern United States. Take a guided tour through the paved walkways of this 10 stories high cave.
You’ll be amazed by the stalagmites and stalactites as well as the small lake that reflects the beauty of the cave. Afterward, visit the Car & Carriage Museum, Luray Valley Museum, and Toy Town Junction before panning for gold in the 19th-century farming village.
Plan your day in Shenandoah Valley with Best Things to Do in Shenandoah Valley With kids.
Are you ready to get out and explore all the fun things to do in Charlottesville, VA? Visiting this diverse and historic area was one of our favorite family trips and we hope your family will love it too.
You can visit this area as a fun weekend getaway or plan a whole week exploring Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley. Do you have tips or questions about the area? Please share it in the comments. I love to hear from my readers.
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