Charlottesville with Teens: A Perfect Family Day

Charlottesville with Teens: A Family Vacation


Charlottesville is one of the most beautiful and fun cities in Virginia and an easy drive from the Washington, D.C. area. Whether you live in D.C. or are visiting our nation's capital, a day trip to Charlottesville, Va., is a must for a family vacation with teens.

Charlottesville is home to Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia, which is the one of the most classic-looking universities in this country. With the stark contrast of red brick to white domes, columns and trim, teens will fall in love with the school at first sight. However, the beauty of the university is not skin-deep, and there are plenty of things to do in Charlottesville, so let's get started!


Start your visit in Charlottesville with a tour of the UVA campus. Make sure you arrive with enough time to park at Central Grounds Parking, which is right by the student bookstore and Newcomb student union. You'll meet your tour guide at the UVA Rotunda, which is on the north side of the Lawn. If you have extra time before the tour, visit the bookstore or go inside the Rotunda to see Thomas Jefferson's library. Don't leave the Lawn without taking some pictures in front of this beautiful and classic building.

Your teen will likely be spellbound by your guide, a male or female student specially chosen for his or her ability to eloquently tell you why he or she loves UVA. You'll visit all the typical buildings on the tour – the library, dorms and classroom buildings. Note the secret society markings painted on the streets and steps of buildings throughout the UVA campus. You'll see codes like IMP, Z and 7.

If you're not hungry by the end of the tour, have some fun on the Lawn, play soccer or throw a football around, and take a peek in some of the dorm rooms. You have to apply to live on the Lawn and only the top contributors at the school are chosen. It's an honor. The rooms are small but cozy and have no heat so look for fireplaces and wood stacked outside if it's cold during your visit. If you're there before noon, you'll be sure to see at least one of the residents walking around in a bathrobe as there are no bathrooms or showers in the individual rooms either.

For one final stop on the Lawn your teen will never forget, look for the ever unlucky Room #13, which was home to Edgar Allan Poe for one semester in 1826 before he left due to lack of money. It has been kept in pristine condition by students of the Raven Society since the early 1900s.

The University of Virginia
Office of Admission
Peabody Hall, McCormick Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Admission is free; tours begin at 11AM and 2PM Mon-Fri, 11AM Sat and seasonally from April – September on Sun at 11AM


By now you're probably full of history, but plenty hungry. No trip to Charlottesville is complete without a visit to The Corner, a large group of shops and restaurants across the street from the University. Grab some delicious sandwiches at an alumni favorite, the University Avenue location of Bodo's Bagels.

Next, if your teens are sports fans, or even if they're not, try to plan your visit during football season and catch a UVA game in the afternoon. Tickets are available from the UVA ticket office, or you can probably find someone outside Scott Stadium that is willing to sell you their ticket for face value or less.

Don't worry too much about where the seats are – there are no bad seats in the house. Plus, your teen may have more fun in the student section, which is a grassy knoll at one of the end zones where there is no assigned seating. People watching there is great fun, and your teens will see who's dressed to impress and will get a good feel of life at UVA.

One thing you may want to learn beforehand is the UVA Good Old Song, as it's sung after every touchdown the team makes, and hopefully there will be a lot of them during the game you see. Once you've got it down, put your arms around your family, sway to the beat and sing along! This will be one of the memories from your family vacation to Charlottesville with teens that you'll never forget.

Another option for your family is to head over to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate, which is approximately five miles from the school. You can buy your tickets online for a scheduled tour, and you need to arrive 30 minutes before your tour is supposed to leave. You'll definitely want to get the House Tour and Grounds Ticket, which includes two optional tours. Teens will especially like the Plantation Tour, which shows you Monticello through the eyes of the slaves that lived and worked there.

One other place you'll want to save time for is the Griffin Discovery Room where teens can learn about the polygraph that Jefferson owned and try it out for themselves. As you know, Jefferson wasn't part of CSI, so in this case, a polygraph is not a lie-detector machine. You'll have to visit to find out what a polygraph was during his time.

Bodo's Bagels
1609 University Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Hours: 7AM-8PM Mon-Fri, 8AM-8PM Sat, 8AM-4PM Sun
Prices from .70 for bagels to $5.75 for entrees

University of Virginia Scott Stadium/Ticket Office
1815 Stadium Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Hours: 9AM-5PM Mon-Fri, will call is open 3 hours prior to kickoff time on game days
Ticket prices and availability vary; visit website or call for more information

931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Hours: Daily 9AM-5PM Mar-Nov and 10AM-4PM Dec-Feb. Closed Christmas Day.
Admission prices are $22 for adults from Mar-Nov, $17 for adults from Dec-Feb, $6 for children ages 6-11 (year-round) and children under 6 are free.


You'll be hungry again by the end of the game, so before wrapping up your family adventure in Charlottesville, head back down to The Corner, which is sure to be bustling at this time.

Grown-ups, teens and kids of all ages will love Mellow Mushroom for dinner. It's the hottest pizza place around with the most delicious crust and toppings. Finish up the night by walking around The Corner and running into Starbucks for a coffee or dessert. And if you're hungry late at night, stop at The White Spot to get a Gus Burger (a cheeseburger with a fried egg on top). Look sharp – this place is easy to miss because it's the smallest restaurant on The Corner.

If you're spending the night and looking for other things to do with teens around Charlottesville beyond the University and Monticello, there are two other presidential estates within a short drive: James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland and James Madison's Montpelier.

Mellow Mushroom Charlottesville
1321 West Main Street
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Hours: 11AM-10PM Sun-Thurs, 11AM-11PM Fri-Sat; Bar Daily 11AM-2AM
Menu prices average $12 for pizzas and $7 for salads, hoagies and calzones

1601 University Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Hours: 6AM-11PM Mon-Sat, 6:30AM-11PM Sun

The White Spot
1407 University Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Hours: Daily from 8AM-late

Ash Lawn-Highland
1000 James Monroe Parkway
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Hours: 9AM-6PM Apr-Oct, 11AM-5PM Nov-Mar
Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors 60 and up, $5 for children 6-11 and $5 for residents of select surrounding counties.

11407 Constitution Highway
Montpelier Station, VA 22957
Hours: Daily 9AM-4PM Nov-Mar, 9AM-5PM Apr-Oct. Closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving.
Admission is $16 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-14 and free for children under 6.
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