Charlottesville, Virginia: A Day on the Downtown Mall

Located in the heart of Central Virginia, Charlottesville is the epitome of Southern charm and history, surrounded by the majesty of the breathtakingly Blue Ridge Mountains. At the epicenter of this engaging city is the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall -- eight blocks of restaurants, shops, music venues, and more.

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 Downtown Mall in Charlottesville Virginia
Downtown Mall - Photo Credit - Brantley Ussery

This walking street is lined with buildings that exude history, in an area that was once home to three former presidents -- Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison. Recently celebrating its 40th birthday in July 2016, the Downtown Mall continues to thrive and looks to keep this positive momentum going well into the future.

It's no secret that the Charlottesville area has an ongoing love affair with food. In fact, it's adored and celebrated at every opportunity. After all, the region was leading the pack when the farm-to-table movement began to pick up steam and this culture is still heartily embraced today by the plentiful number of restaurants that line the Downtown Mall and the side streets immediately adjacent to it.

Visitors can stroll up and down this pedestrian walkway, lined with large, mature Oak trees, and have their choice of almost any type of cuisine. For a step back in time, check out The Nook, which offers up delicious diner food reminiscent of what you would expect to find in the 1950s, with a few modern twists. For something a bit more edgy, Zocalo, located at the center of the Downtown Mall, serves up contemporary Latin-inspired cuisine and cocktails in a trendy and hip atmosphere. For something more on the traditional and elegant side, The Downtown Grille offers delicious surf-and-turf entrees, in an upscale white-tablecloth environment. A few doors down, you will find Miller's, which is the legendary restaurant/bar where the world-famous Dave Matthews Band had its humble beginnings, before taking the national and international music scenes by storm.

There are also options for French, Mediterranean, and Himalayan cuisines -- and everything else in between. Plus, many restaurants located on the Downtown Mall have outdoor patio spaces (most of which are pet-friendly), which are perfect spots for enjoying a meal "al fresco" on a gorgeous Virginia day. You may even be treated to a performance from serenading street musicians walking up and down the Mall.

Once you've had your fill of food and drink, the Downtown Mall is lined with boutique shops and stores, brimming with clothing, antiques, sweet treats, books, artwork, toys for the kids, and almost anything else you can imagine. When the weather is nice, street vendors even set up tables in the middle of the Mall, where patrons can browse for a new garment or trinket. You're certain to find that perfect one-of-a-kind gift, as most of the stores located here keep their products and goods as local as possible.

The Downtown Mall also serves as a hub for the arts scene in the Charlottesville area, and several of the most popular music venues in the region can be found here. The Sprint Pavilion, a covered outdoor amphitheater located on the east end of the Downtown Mall, has many talented musical acts grace its stage each year. Past notable performers include: Beck, Hall & Oates, Modest Mouse, and The Avett Brothers, just to name a few. The Sprint Pavilion also hosts other musical events throughout the year, including Fridays After Five, which is a free, family-friendly concert series taking place each Friday afternoon in the spring and summer months. Additionally, the Sprint Pavilion also plays host to wine and craft beer festivals throughout the year.

Downtown Mall in Charlottesville Virginia
Sprint Pavilion - Photo Credit - Jack Looney.jpg

Located in the center of the Downtown Mall is the newly-renovated and restored historic Paramount Theater. Part of the Golden Age of Cinema, the Paramount Theater has been at the center of the arts scene for the better part of a century. It features an octagonal auditorium chamber, intricate detailing, brass chandeliers, and painted tapestries. This historic local landmark had to close its doors in 1974 -- and they would remain closed for the next 30 years. Triumphantly re-opening its doors in December of 2004, the Paramount Theater has once again brought a resurgence of performances to the Downtown Mall. Here, patrons are once again treated to concerts, plays, operas, presentations and talks by guest speakers.

A bit farther west on the Downtown Mall is the Jefferson Theater, which features dozens of musical acts, performances, and even late-night dance parties. With these three venues combined, there's always a show or concert to catch on the Downtown Mall -- no matter the time of year.

Finally, once your day of fun has come to a close, there are plenty of wonderful options for lodging and accommodations near the Downtown Mall. Several hotels, like The Omni or the Residence Inn by Marriott are either on the Mall or are within a short walking distance. There is also a 4-room boutique hotel called The Townsman, located directly on the Downtown Mall. This hotel is not staffed, so guests are provided an electronic code that allows them access to the hotel and their room. The rooms inside are uniquely decorated and some even offer a private balcony overlooking the Downtown Mall. There are also several other inns and B&Bs from which to choose, all located just a block or two from Downtown.

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March 3, 2017

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