From Past to Present: Discover Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s Historical Landscape

May 21, 2024

Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia hold history going back to our nation’s founding.

With this history comes a spread of wonderful educational opportunities, largely thanks to the welcoming attractions who love to see student groups come through and work hard to provide an elevated experience.

Let’s take a look at a few of the top student travel destinations across the greater Charlottesville area.



Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Monticello has a fascinating and complex history, between the architectural creations of Thomas Jefferson acting as an expression of self, his impact on the course of American history—as author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia—and his enslaving of more than 600 people throughout his life.

At this UNESCO world heritage site, you can use the educational resources listed above to help guide your visit, whether it’s by taking a tour and tying it back to the classroom, or bringing it directly into your class with live virtual tours and digital learning experiences. The historic home is always adding new exhibits and tours to tell a more complete story of this complex site, and included in the tour, students can explore the iconic gardens, grounds, and visitor center.

James Monroe’s Highland
Just a few miles down the road, you can visit the home of our 5th President, James Monroe. In fact, they can both be seen in the same day!

Highland also grapples with a complex history of overlapping stories, from 50-year political career of James Monroe ultimately culminating in presidency to the scores of enslaved people who labored and lived on the property over the years. From historical records, we know of 178 individuals who led part of their lives enslaved by Monroe, which is complicated by his own calls for the abolition of slavery.

There’s much to discuss and learn about the legacy of such an influential historical figure here, along with a variety of engaging group tours facilitated by a Highland educator. Join for an in-person Here’s Highland tour, which includes a 30-minute outdoor history walk, discussing not just its many occupants across history but how recent archaeological discoveries have upturned the understanding of this plantation. Then, you can head in for a self-paced visit of the 1818 Guesthouse and interior exhibit spaces.

Michie Tavern
After a day of tours, it’s time for a tasty meal at a historic landmark, Michie Tavern, less than a mile away from Monticello. The tavern has gone through a number of changes over the course of its life since first opening in 1784, when it served as the social center of its community.

Here, you can enjoy hearty Midday Fare in a rustic tavern setting, with servers dressed in period attire taking care of your every need. For tour groups, you can get a taste of the 18th-century with a buffet of southern fried chicken, stewed tomatoes, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, green beans, coleslaw, baby beets, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread and peach cobbler for dessert.

Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center
Next on your journey is the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center, a site dedicated to the famous explorers’ expedition. Here, students can engage with interactive exhibits that bring the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition to life. The center features replicas of the explorers’ boats, hands-on activities, and trails that allow groups to experience a natural environment similar to what the explorers would have encountered.


Photo by Brantley Ussery.


University of Virginia
Next, head to the prestigious University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson. This esteemed institution not only boasts academic excellence but also beautiful and historic grounds. The Rotunda and “The Lawn” area, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site with Monticello, are a must-see. Nearby you’ll find the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers and the Fralin Museum of Art as well! Students can walk through the same grounds Jefferson envisioned for intellectual pursuit and civic engagement. Additionally, visiting the room where Edgar Allan Poe lived as a student offers a fascinating glimpse into the past of one of America’s most famous writers. The Small Collections Library, adjacent to the Rotunda, is another highlight, providing access to more than 16 million rare books, manuscripts, artifacts, photographs, video recordings and more!

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection
For a dose of global culture, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is unparalleled. This museum is dedicated to the art of Indigenous Australians and offers a unique opportunity for students to explore diverse artistic traditions. The collection includes contemporary and traditional works, providing a broad perspective on Aboriginal culture and history. Guided tours and educational programs are available to deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of the art.

Dairy Market
After a day of exploration, a visit to the Dairy Market is the perfect way to unwind. Central Virginia’s first food hall, the Dairy Market, offers a variety of dining options to suit any palate. Students can enjoy a snack or a meal before heading home. Be sure to check out Moo Thru for some of the best ice cream in town—a sweet ending to an educational adventure.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s blend of historical, cultural, and culinary experiences makes it an ideal destination for student groups. To plan your trip with the experts, head to or contact [email protected].

Photos Courtesy of Visit Charlottesville.