Updated for 2023
According to several publications, Charlottesville, VA, is one of the best US Christmas towns to visit! These include Fodors, Huffington Post, Forbes, and Simplemost. That many people can’t be wrong, and we agree! What makes Charlottesville such a great place to visit during the holiday season?
All of these publications mention the fabulous Downtown Charlottesville Mall. It is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the U.S., stretching to eight blocks. It runs from 6th St NE to Old Preston Ave, extending to Water St. Several side streets, like the main walkway, are paved in brick. On the east end is the Ting Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue. The entire area is closed to traffic, making it the perfect place for shopping and celebrating!
The Grand Illumination
Dates & Times: Dec 1, 2023, 5pm – 8pm
Location: Ting Pavilion, Downtown Charlottesville
One of the things that makes Christmas so special is the lights — lots of twinkling lights! And lights are what the Grand Illumination is all about! First, a large tree is found and transported to the Central Place of the Downtown Mall. The tree features over 20,000 LED lights. Although the festivities begin earlier, you won’t want to miss the tree lighting at 8pm. Other activities include musical performances, a visit from Santa Claus, crafts, and, of course, shopping.
Shopping in the Downtown Mall
You can find something for everyone on your list at the Downtown Mall! Their motto? “Friends don’t let friends shop at chain stores.” Some shops include America’s coolest pet store, yarn, and needlework supplies, a record store dedicated to vinyl, a quaint used book shop with 100,000 books(!), and unique toys for kids and grownups. There are dozens more. Where else can you find such a variety of independent stores where it always feels good to shop there.
When your feet are tired, and your mind and shopping bags overflow with gifts, numerous restaurants around to tame your hunger! With more than 20 different selections, from sandwiches and burgers to fine dining, how can you go wrong?
Downtown Holiday Market
Dates & Times: Saturdays, Nov 25 – Dec 23, 2023, 9am to 1pm
Location: 100 Water St, Downtown Charlottesville
If you are used to the farmers market on Water Street in downtown Charlottesville on Saturdays from May through September, don’t miss the outdoor Holiday Market! Open on Saturdays. You will see craft vendors with holiday ornaments and a vast array of gift options. Wander among booths staffed by local farmers, artists, and artisans to find baked goods and decorations.
Celebrations Outside of the City
With so much to do downtown, don’t forget to plan a visit to some of our historic homes and smaller towns. They have much to offer, as well!
Holiday Events at Monticello
Dates & Times: Nov 25 at 9:30am, Nov 26 at 2pm, Nov 29 at 9:30am,
Dec 1 at 4pm, Dec 2 at 9:30am, Dec 3 at 2pm
Location: 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville
There are several ways to experience the season at Thomas Jefferson’s home of Monticello. Join a 3-hour wreath-making workshop with locally harvested natural elements. This fun activity is extremely popular, so make reservations! You can use these skills to create a holiday memory for years to come.
Dates & Times: Dec 8-9, 15-18, 20-23, 2023, 3 tours per night, starting at 5:15pm
There are also Holiday Evening Tours which provide a rare opportunity to tour public and private areas of the property decorated in the style appropriate for the time. Make sure you can climb steep stairs! These tours also sell out quickly.
Tours at Montpelier
Dates & Times: Every half hour Thursdays – Mondays from 10am – 3pm,
every hour Tuesdays & Wednesdays 10am – 3pm. (Closed Dec 24 & 25)
Location: 1135 Constitution Hwy, Montpelier Station VA
Tours are available at Montpelier, the home of James Madison. The tours can be inside, outside, or both but tickets must be purchased beforehand. The mansion is open for a community holiday event on Friday, December 8, from 4 – 8pm.
Holly Days at James Madison’s Highland
Dates & Times: Dec 2 at 9:30am – 11:30am
Location: 2050 James Monroe Pkwy, Charlottesville
Enjoy cider and doughnuts, as members from the Virginia Discovery Museum bring some crafts and holiday storytelling to James Madison’s Highland on Holly Days.
Other Holiday Celebrations
The Annual Lighting of the Lawn at UVA will occur on December 1 from 7pm – 9pm. The event was founded in the wake of the September 11th attacks to foster unity and inclusion in the UVA and Charlottesville communities, and this original mission rings true today.
The Charlottesville Band performs the Annual Christmas Concert on December 10th at the Paramount Theater. The fun starts at 3:30 pm and will include vocalists, a sing-along, and a visit from Santa.
Live Arts presents a romantic journey to Pemberley in a sequel to Jane Austen’s “Miss Bennet –Christmas at Pemberley.” The heroine in this play is Jane’s bookish middle sister, Mary. This charming production takes place on December 1 – 17.
Winter Wander at Boar’s Head Resort has an illuminated stroll complete with multi-colored Fountain of Dreams, and tunnels of lights. There is also an artificial surfaced skating rink that will allow you to skate in any weather! Check the schedule for select nights from November 17 – January 6.
The Crozet Winter Brews Festival is back for its 5th year, celebrating dark beers and winter brews from local Virginia cideries and breweries. It’s noon to 5pm on December 2.
Veritas Vineyard in nearby Afton has a walking immersive light experience from November 17 – January 7, 2024. There is a timed entry, so book your walk in advance. This year, they have doubled the lights, included two lit tunnels (perfect photo opportunities), and lit stepping stones. Veritas also has a Wintergreen Music Dinner on November 18 and plans for a New Year’s Eve Masked Ball.
With so much still happening, plan now to enjoy the season here in Charlottesville, VA, one of the best Christmas towns. Book your stay at the Foxfield Inn, and plan to shop ’til you drop, then relax and sleep in with visions of sugarplums!