Charlottesville Off The Beaten Path

I recently spent a month in Charlottesville, VA, and was able to take my time exploring the city and living like a local. While Charlottesville is well known for its historical attractions (I'm looking at you, Monticello), It has much to offer aside from the typical tourist experience. I narrowed down my favorite Charlottesville Off The Beaten Path locations, shown here in no particular order. Check them out for yourself!

1) IX Art Park - We were drawn to IX for a couple of reasons: Kyle wanted a place to paint, and I needed some consistent wifi. What we ended up getting was so, so much more. IX calls itself "a public, non-commercial, interactive space for spontaneous dreaming." Featuring art painted on every surface (including an awesome mural by Kyle), huge interactive sculptures, the "Before I Die" interactive chalk wall, extensive live events calendar, shops, and restaurants, the IX experience is one you won't forget.
FOOD BONUS: Since, you know, food is one of my favorite things, I couldn't recommend IX without highlighting my favorite eateries nearby. I don't think these businesses are technically considered a part of the park, but they all butt right up to it and are bound to increase your experience. 

  • Brazos has some of the most delicious tacos, a beautiful dog-friendly patio, and a decent beer selection. Perfect lunch spot for a day at the park. 
    You gotta try: The Triple Pickle Vegetarian taco!
  • Bluegrass Creamery made my day on the hottest afternoon of our stay. Not only was their ice cream delicious, but their dedication to earth and socially conscious treats excited me to no end. They offer grass-fed and vegan ice cream, gluten-free waffle cones, and everything comes on a sliding pay-as-you-can scale. 
    You gotta try: The vegan ice cream in a GF waffle cup!
  • Three Notch'd Brewing Co has a great selection of beer, good food, and a family-friendly environment. Their tables are big enough to fit large parties, so if you're here for a wedding or work event, put it on your list!
    You gotta try: The Ghost of the 43rd American Pale Ale

2) Clover Top Creamery - One of the memories that will always stand out to me about my visit to Charlottesville was the morning I spend hanging out with goats at Clover Top Creamery. They have a farm store on-site and offer full tours for a small fee.  I wrote an extensive blog about my experience at Clover Top Creamery here which just goes to show that it was one of my favorite experiences in Charlottesville!
FOOD BONUS: I'm not much of a cheese person, but my sister Cali (who is very much a cheese person) swears by Clover Top's goat cheese, which can be found at the local farmers market, or at their onsite farm store. 

3) Historic Belmont Neighborhood - Located in the south-east quadrant of Charlottesville, the Belmont neighborhood is chalk full of charm. It's close to downtown, has a spirit all it's own. We spent quite a bit of time in Belmont while Kyle painted a mural for locally owned and run JPH Woodworks. While it's a neighborhood of industry, you'll also find plenty of art, shopping, and some of the best dining in Charlottesville in the Belmont area. 
FOOD BONUS: I love pizza as much as the next guy, but like I said earlier, I don't eat cheese. That's why I was THRILLED when we went to Lampo and saw their Marinara D.O.C - a cheeseless Napoli style pizza. I ordered that, and everyone else ordered pizzas that suited them. It was hands down my favorite pizza I have ever. had. 

4) Breweries / Wineries - I already wrote a lengthy blog about my experience touring wineries in Charlottesville, and it may not be the least touristy thing on this list, but if you're a fan of adult beverages, you should absolutely not miss the breadth of wineries in the area. I fully recommend taking a day to do a winery/distillery/brewery tour through Monticello Wine Tours & Coach Co - having a personal driver and someone to coordinate tours for you is a serious bonus - but if you're not looking to make a full day of it, you should absolutely not miss out on:

  • Jefferson Vineyards - Probably my favorite vineyard of them all. We visited Jefferson Vineyards prior to taking a tour of Monticello (By and large the most "tourist-y" thing I did during my stay. 100% worth it, but you can read about it on any other blog about Charlottesville). The service at Jefferson Vineyards was second to none. Rather than just rattling off some fancy sounding words about the wine we were drinking, our Sommelier really took her time, showing us the best way to taste wine, and explaining everything to how the grapes contribute to the wines color, to the history of the label art. 
  • Carter Mountain Orchard - Every corner of Charlottesville is absolutely beautiful, but Carter Mountain Orchard is the best place to see it in all its glory. At Carter Mountain Orchard, you can easily spend an afternoon picking apples, drinking hard cider, noshing on donuts, playing 'corn hole' and shopping at their country store. I recommend staying until sunset to take in the full majesty of this beautiful mountain spot. 
  • Champion Brewing Co. - I spent more time at Champion than I should probably admit. This brewery is run by beer nuts, for beer nuts. Champion is delightfully simple, with an excellent understated menu, and a beer (or two) for every palate. The pub isn't huge, but their outdoor seating area is. Oh, and they have pinball!

5) McGuffey Art Center - Kyle and I stopped by the McGuffey Art Center to meet Megan Elizabeth Read, a painter he came across on Instagram. It was the final day of her gallery show, and she was kind enough to not only talk with us about her incredible realistic oil paintings, but also give us a tour of the McGuffey Art Center. This space is a creative co-op, featuring gallery exhibits as well as studios for painters, sculptors, photographers and the like. At the time of our visit, the whole top floor featured work from very talented local high school kids.
Tip for traveling artists: McGuffey offers 4 open figure sessions per week. For $10 per session, you'll have your chance to paint, draw or sketch a live model (bring your own materials) 

So there you have it! Have you been to Charlottesville? Are you planning a trip? Where are some of your favorite spots,  or what other kinds of places would you like to hear about? Tell me in the comments below!