The city is one of many in Virginia set attractively in agricultural land against mountains, in this case the Blue Ridge. It is home to the dignified University of Virginia, which was founded and designed by Thomas Jefferson in the 18th century as an architectural model for a university. The city possesses a special mix of college-town and historic amenities. The commercial downtown area is separated from the campus and a small commercial area by a railroad grade; that small commercial area and the campus could star in any film about college life. Streets all through town, including the residential districts near campus, are shaded with abundant magnolias and other shade trees. Most of the town is easily accessed by foot or bicycle.
Growth pressure has brought some relatively unappealing areas of commercial development mostly north and west but so far the city has resisted most unattractive sprawl. What commercial strips do exist are attractively laid out and avoid most of the hectic and crowded feel found in most areas. Further north, excellent suburbs lie in well-planned communities, and the surrounding countryside is dotted with farms and some residential areas. The school brings an assortment of amenities and entertainment, and there are recreational opportunities in the nearby mountains and Shenandoah National Park. Washington, D.C., about 2 hours away, supplies any missing services and adds to the area’s interest.
Charlottesville is located on a wooded plateau at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Surrounding hills are mostly wooded and steep with areas of agriculture in the valleys. To the west the mountains rise to 3,200 feet. The area has a mid-Atlantic, modified continental climate influenced by the ocean to the east and mountains to the west. Summers are warm and humid but not excessively hot. Winters are generally mild with mountain shelter from severe storms and cold. Most of the heavier storms travel up the Atlantic coast or arrive from the southwest bringing periods of unstable weather and thunderstorms in summer and mixed rain and snow in winter. Fall is usually dry and warm with beautiful color. First freeze is early October, last is early April.