Charlottesville VA is 100 miles southwest of Washington D.C. and home to about 45,000 people. Although small, it has a rich historic past including being the home to presidents James Monroe, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Charlottesville is also a popular place to visit for wine and beer tours, hiking, ballooning, and top of the line entertainment. Attractions The homes of the three presidents, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe are all very popular places to visit. Jefferson’s planation, Monticello is located only a few miles from downtown. Down the road from Monticello is Ash Lawn-Highland, which was the home of Monroe. About 25 miles northeast of Charlottesville is Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison. The University of Virginia, a historical college in the U.S., is located to the west of Charlottesville. The Thomas Jefferson Academical Village, known as "The Lawn", stands as the centerpiece of the university. It has two prominent structures. One is the Rotunda designed by Jefferson and the other is Old Cabell Hall designed by Stanford White. One block from The Rotunda is the University of Virginia Art Museum. The museum has exhibits from a collection of over 10,000 pieces as well as traveling national exhibitions. Only 22 miles west of Charlottesville is Shenandoah National Park and it offers beautiful scenery and activities such as biking and hiking. There are also many scenic drives to take in the park including Skyline drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway drive. Annual Events Many annual events draw people to Charlottesville including the Virginia Film Festival held in October and the Festival of Books in March. In June one can enjoy the Festival of Photographs. Monticello holds a Fourth of July celebration including a naturalization ceremony. It also features many microbrewery tours that have become more and more popular. The Lighting of the Lawn is an annual event held at the University of Virginia. Shopping and Dining The downtown center is home to the Downtown Mall and is the best place to go for stores, restaurants, and social attractions. It is one of the largest pedestrian malls in the United States and includes the Paramount Theater, Virginia Discovery Museum, and Court Square that dates back to 1762 The Corner is the commercial district and near the University of Virginia. It is a college atmosphere with many eateries, shops, and bars. Finding a good place to eat is easy in Charlottesville. There are many local favorites including sandwich shops such as Salt Artisan Market, Spudnut Shop, The Ivy Inn Restaurant, and Bodo’s Bagels. There is the Sultan Kebab and Afghan Kabob that serves the best Turkish and Afghan cuisine. Threepenny Café serves wonderful seafood. Given the small feel of this historic town, all one needs to do to find a good place to eat is just ask one of the friendly locals. Charlottesville is full of history and a great place to visit. What makes it more unique than surrounding historic places is its quaint and charming size. One can walk The Downtown Mall or through the grounds at the university and soak in art, architecture, and history without fighting the larger tourist crowds that one would find in neighboring Richmond or Washington D.C.