loved it here and sick missing it.
Want to start by saying we have lived in Boise, San Francisco, Seattle, Corvallis-Oregon, Yakima-Washington, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Manhattan-Kansas, Enterprise-Alabama, Charlottesville, Eugene-Oregon, and now Ann Arbor, Michigan. The college towns of Corvallis, Manhattan, Eugene, and Ann Arbor all had much in common with Charlottesville. But Charlottesville has a southern charm/uniqueness not found anywhere.
The weather is occasionally brutally hot or cold or wet but mostly wonderful.
There are so many restaurants, parks, hiking trails, cultural and sporting events, festivals, art galleries and museums, concerts and just a huge variety of things to do in this town. You have to pick and choose because you cannot do it all--too much going on at all times. Other places we have lived didn't seem to have half as much happening... Even if much bigger.
It is ethnically diverse, has a huge amount of country folk commuting into it everyday giving it somewhat of variety of cultures, and it is just way more quaint and charming than any place I have ever lived--except maybe San Francisco which I found a bit too much for my comfort.
However, the public schools are some of the worst we have seen--other than Baltimore--with many people choosing private or homeschool. And there is a bit of a racism problem--the town still hasn't shed some of its slavery past/white supremacy values quite yet. Sometimes the "white genteel" thing is too much with English riding get-ups and posh clothing boutiques. But, there is some old-fashioned charm there, too. Definitely a town that is experiencing some issues with shedding some parts of it's past.
The crime rate isn't that bad but it could be better. Just comparing it to where we live now, Ann Arbor is also a college town but a bit bigger and the cost of housing is a lot more (but average salaries are also higher). Ann Arbor is also much safer but less Democrat and mostly Lutheran (vs. more flavorful southern Baptist). Ann Arbor schools are top notch but spend a bit less per student--but teachers here are a lot more educated and paid better--although Charlottesville's adult crowd is still fairly educated.
Despite it's small warts, I miss, miss, miss Charlottesville so much. People were way friendlier, more colorful, relaxed, the weather was awesome and housing was more affordable, albeit still expensive. I never felt so much at home as when I lived there. I think we are settled into Ann Arbor for good but it will never quite measure up to Charlottesville.
Personally Charlottesville is number one, followed by Eugene, Corvallis,, Ann Arbor, and Manhattan-Kansas (yes, I did like it there....)
Jason | Baltimore, MD