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Navigating Charlottesville, Virginia

At first glance, the city of Charlottesville can be a frightening place. Ascots and Brie cheese run rampant through tailgates, making even the most resolute of football fans slightly uncomfortable. If led astray, the culture shock may cause the visitors to descend into unfathomable confusion. However, with readership of Tomahawk Nation comes a multitude of benefits. Fear not, ‘Noles fans, for DKfromVA is here to guide you through the University of Virginia football weekend experience.

The first step in enjoying a weekend in Charlottesville is having some semblance of a plan. Activities can vary widely depending on your goals for the experience, so I’ve divided the information into two categories. Though the divisions represent some significant differences, sampling each is certainly doable. Let’s start with a few general remarks about the Charlottesville area.

 

 Parking Sucks:

It really does. Everything in the university and downtown areas are very close together, making parking significantly less fun. Also, property owners and the Charlottesville Police Department seem to really enjoy towing people. However, the proximity of everything a given area makes walking a very feasible option. I suggest finding a parking garage in the area of your destination and walking from there. If you happen to be lucky enough to fall on the route of the Charlottesville Free Trolley (Trolley Info), I would definitely advocate its use.

UVA Parking Information

 

The Campus History/Architecture Is Something To Behold:

Visitors of all ages should make it a point to walk around the campus of UVA for a short time, at least. They really do refer to it as “grounds”, but only the true D-bags will actually correct your reference of “campus”. If you run into one of these folks, move away slowly before they begin espousing facts about Thomas Jefferson that no sane person should ever know. The rotunda/lawn area is a must-see, especially for families. It’s conveniently situated right next to the “Corner” area, which is where many restaurants and nightlife areas are located.

 

Two Main Areas of Attraction:

There are really two areas that compose a visit to Charlottesville. First is the Campus/Corner, and it’s pretty intuitive what those entail. The stadium is, as you might guess, in close proximity to the campus buildings. The Corner has a wealth of restaurants and bars, and will be the center of activity for UVA students and visitors over the weekend. The second area is called “Historic Downtown”, though it isn’t your usual downtown area. It’s basically a big plaza lined with shops, restaurants, vendors, etc. Downtown can be reached by continuing to drive down University Avenue (West Main Street) past the corner for another 5 minutes or so.  You won’t be able to miss it. Again, downtown is accessible through the Free Trolley (linked above), and it makes a lot of sense to use it, as parking in that area is limited.

 

Friday Activities:

For those arriving on Friday, there are a few options in deciding how to spend your first evening in Charlottesville. As mentioned above, I’ve divided the possible areas of interest into two categories.

 

Family-Friendly:

Those with family interests will likely want to start by seeing some of the campus. There are many parking garages in the university area, so parking and walking is the best strategy. After seeing all that you wish to see, there are a few options. The first of which is eating at one of the many restaurants on the Corner. These are reasonably priced and numerous, but will be filled with undergraduate college students. If you ‘d prefer to avoid this area, downtown is a great alternative. The restaurants here are generally more expensive. Stores, ice cream parlors, movie theatres, the ice rink, etc., are all located here. It’s a great place to walk around on a nice night, which it should be in early October. There are also bars in the area for those inclined to visit such establishments without having to battle the 18-22 year old crowd. Families or older visitors not wishing to find themselves in the thick of the undergrad scene would probably prefer the downtown area to the Corner.

 

More Adventurous:

I also have some wisdom to impart upon those feeling like immersing themselves in the Charlottesville social scene without particular regard to a family environment. For these such inclined, I would advise parking in the Wertland/14th Street parking garage and spending your night afoot. This gives you the option of seeing some of the campus, but puts you in close proximity to the activities of the Corner. Among the many restaurants, The Virginian, Little John’s, Bodo’s Bagels, and Mellow Mushroom are all favorites of the UVA student population. Bars are many and diverse. In order to keep some sort of organization, I’ll go in descending order down University Avenue. The Backyard and Coupe’s are more outdoor-oriented, often with live music. No. 3 is a nice sports bar, and is located next to a smaller bar (but excellent restaurant) in The Virginian. Trinity Irish Pub turns into more of a club/dance environment upstairs on the weekend. Boylan Heights is the iconic two story bar on the Corner, and will always be packed with students. Mellow Mushroom also features a bar of considerable popularity. Though it is probably unwise to put this idea in the minds of some, there exists a tradition at UVA of a certain late night gallivant down the Lawn with a distinct lack of clothing. I’m not saying it’s an option, I’m just saying. 

 

Tailgate:

With the horrendous news of a noon start to Saturday’s game, the tailgating fervor has certainly decreased. Tailgating in Charlottesville is much the same as any other venue, at least in structure. Stadium lots are where most ticket holders will spend their pregame hours. I’ve been told that the D.C. Boosters organization plans to put on a significant event for the game, although I have no direct knowledge of its whereabouts. If anyone does, please post the info in the comment section.  As you approach the stadium from exit 118B (the exit to which they try to funnel all game day traffic), there are numerous yards/areas available for paid parking. The walk to the stadium isn’t terribly far from any of the directions you may be parking, so tailgating at your car up until game time should be feasible (Note: You will not actually be required to consume wine and/or cheese at your respective tailgate). At the game, the FSU section will be the corner area right above the FSU tunnel, both lower and upper sections. It will be quiet; especially at noon. UVA fans are generally amiable, though there are a few that descend from the nearby mountains to breath from their mouths at Scott Stadium. After the game, walking to the restaurants on the Corner is a popular activity, depending on where you’re parked. If you’re staying Saturday night as well, I’d suggest trying to experience any of the things I’ve listed that you didn’t do on Friday.

 

Hopefully this gives you some idea of what you might be interested in doing during your trip to central Virginia. If you have any questions left unanswered, feel free to leave them in the comment section or send me an e-mail. See you in Charlottesville!

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