From the moment you step On Grounds, you know that the University of Virginia or “UVA” is special. It’s a place full of tradition and community, of innovation and passion, of creativity and exploration. If you’re in Charlottesville visiting a student, conducting business, or just for fun, here’s a list of the must sees and dos around UVA’s campus (which the students refer to as Grounds):
Must see: The Rotunda
The Rotunda, or “Tundy” for short, is the pride and joy of every UVA student. Originally built from 1822-1826 by Thomas Jefferson upon the University’s inception, it still casts a majestic presence from the top of the lawn. Inside, you will find a reading room, Thomas Jefferson’s statue, and even a planetarium.
If you’re interested, go inside and ask the desk for a tour. They are always happy to show people around and explain more about Tundy’s history and traditions.
Must see: The Lawn
On just about any sunny day, you will find gaggles of UVA students dispersed across The Lawn. From the top at the Rotunda, all the way down to the Homer statue at the opposite end, there will be groups of students reading, listening to music, playing Spike-ball, etc. It is the epitome of college camaraderie.
However, it is also a great place to take your kids or dogs if you need to get outside. There’s ample room for them to run around, and you might even consider bringing a picnic.
Lining The Lawn are the lawn rooms and pavilions. The lawn rooms are inhabited by fourth-year students who have been selected to live there due to their great accomplishments during their time at the University. It is a great honor to live in one, but they share the wealth with everybody by always having their doors open. If you are strolling around, Edgar Allen Poe lived in West Range #13 during his time at the University.
The larger pavilions you will come across are for the Deans of the school. The pavilions are their homes, so you unfortunately can’t go inside. However, on the backside of the pavilions are gardens that are open to the public and fun to explore.
Must see: Berlin Wall
Located outside of Alderman Library, is a piece of the Berlin Wall. Four slats from the original wall were donated to the University in 2014. To the University and its students, they are a symbol of the power found among the people and demonstrate how liberated change comes from within.
Must do: Food Trucks
Surrounding the Amphitheater, adjacent to the bottom of the lawn, are a handful of food trucks with delicious lunch options. From kabobs to dumplings to mini pies, there are ample choices for students to grab a quick bite in between classes.
If you can get to the food trucks when students are in class the lines are minimal. Line or no line, the dumplings are definitely worth the wait – a staple of any UVA student diet.
Must do: Historical Tour
The University offers student-led historical tours of The Rotunda and the surrounding Academic Village, which is what lawn rooms and pavilions used to be called when they housed the University’s only students and classes. They are provided daily during the academic year at 10 am, 11 am, and 2 pm and there is no need to book in advance. For meeting points, directions, and parking please click here.
Must do: Fralin Museum
The Fralin Museum of Art on average has four to five exhibitions. Current exhibitions that will be live during your visit can be found here.
If you are visiting the last Friday of the month, Fralin Museum has “Final Fridays”. From 5:30-7:30 there are complimentary drinks and food for visitors to enjoy while they mingle and enjoy the exhibits. Entrance is free for students and $3 for other visitors.
Must do: John Paul Jones Arena (JPJ)
Home to the 2019 NCAA National Basketball Champions, JPJ is the place to be on game night. The electric energy the team, students, and fans bring to the court is contagious whether you’re directly a UVA fan or not. Join the sea of orange and blue and root for the Hoos.
With world famous artists performing regularly, JPJ also hosts an extensive year-round concert line-up. Upcoming shows and ticket information can be found here.
If you’re looking for a quick sit-down meal before you head to JPJ, there are several options nearby in Barracks Road Shopping Center. Sedona has a full and well-rounded menu with a wide selection of local and national beers. Zinburger Wine and Burger Bar is a local favorite with over a dozen burger options and the best milkshakes in town. Peter Chang China Grill, led by an award winning chef, has the most authentic and delicious Chinese food in Charlottesville.
By Caroline Smith
Caroline is a 2020 graduate of the University of Virginia studying IT and Marketing.