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Attractions Across Virginia

Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall

Some people might be the type to cringe when they hear the phrase “open air mall,” the kind of shopping centers that have become so trendy in the posh parts of American cities.

Although the fountains and park-like settings are definite pluses, these malls usually are just mirrored images of their indoor counterparts, complete with chains and big-box types of stores.

Then there’s the Downtown Mall.

Downtown Charlottesville offers a different kind of open-air mall to its residents and visitors. In fact, this mall has the distinction of being the longest pedestrian mall in the entire country. The Downtown Mall offers an eclectic mix of outdoor jewelry and fashion vendors, independently owned stores, and some of the best eateries in the entire Charlottesville area.

The beautifully designed mall features al fresco dining areas along the brick and cobblestone streets that have a European flair and make patrons feel like they’re in a larger, greener city.

It has a host of ethnic restaurants, from an elegant French establishment to a hole-in-the-wall Himalayan joint and a Moroccan restaurant that features belly dancing on Saturday nights. A number of farm-to-table restaurants have opened in recent years, putting the agricultural bounty and splendor of the surrounding area on display.

Visitors will find themselves browsing antique shops, playing in toy stores, trying on clothes in unique boutiques—and they may even get the chance to do a little skating. Anyone looking for jewelry, rugs, books, or handmade items is are guaranteed to find it downtown.

Weekend nights are lively with music and street vendors, proving to be a popular time to hang out. The outdoor nTelos Wireless Pavilion draws big-ticket acts such as The Pixies, Fiona Apple, and Nickel Creek. Plus, The Jefferson Center has been painstakingly and lovingly restored to its original glory and brings in artists like Ben Folds, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, and Blues Traveler. There are also a few movie theaters on this giant walking strip, as well as bars and nightclubs.

Since this is a pedestrian mall, parking is what might be called limited. However, there is always the Water Street garage that is within walking distance and several side streets that provide metered parking for shoppers and visitors.

A visit to Charlottesville’s downtown mall will absolutely change someone's definition of what an open-air mall is, and what an open-air mall should be.

Hours and Location

Location: Charlottesville
Web site:
Latitude: 38.077670
Longitude: -78.472836
Categories > Central Virginia > Charlottesville > Cultural

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