This university town nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains is synonymous with Thomas Jefferson. His creative ideas about architecture are evident on the lovely grounds of the University of Virginia, which he founded. Jefferson's pleasing design was for an academical village—two rows of neoclassical buildings face a long lawn, anchored at one end by a Pantheon-inspired rotunda. Try to take one of the official tours of the university. You'll see the West Range, where Woodrow Wilson and Edgar Allan Poe both lived when they were students. The university's influence on the town of Charlottesville is evident in the number of art galleries, musicians, bookstores and trendy restaurants lining the brick streets of downtown.

Charlottesville loves festivals. You're virtually guaranteed to bump into one in any given week of the year. Besides small celebrations to honor treats such as apple butter or salsa, individual wineries in the area host special events at least once a month. Some of the more notable events are the Virginia Festival of the Book (March;, Historic Garden Week (April; and the Virginia Film Festival (October; The town has even adopted the university's famous honor policy: Yellow bikes are left at major intersections for anyone to use, provided they return them when they're finished. (Biking is actually a great way to get around Charlottesville.)

Although Charlottesville and UVA are worth visiting in their own rights, many visitors go to the area to see Monticello, one of the greatest architectural treasures in the U.S and the historic home of Thomas Jefferson.

A few minutes' drive past Monticello is another presidential estate, Ash Lawn-Highland. This expansive plantation was the home of President James Monroe, a good friend of Jefferson. These days it hosts tours, concerts and occasional wine tastings.

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