Where to Retire: Charlottesville, Virginia


Charlottesville has been steeped in history from colonial times. Its most famous son, Thomas Jefferson, founded and designed the University of Virginia, which remains to this day among the most beautiful of American college campuses and the center of life in Charlottesville. History also lives on at Monticello, Jefferson’s home and at Court Square and the historic downtown area.  Charlottesville is a unique place well worth considering for an active retirement.

Landscape: Situated where the Piedmont Plateau meets the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville’s landscape is attractive. A lush southern deciduous forest envelops the city and its picturesque agricultural surroundings.

Climate: Charlottesville’s summers are hot and humid and its winters are mild. Precipitation averages 49 inches annually, with about 24 inches falling as snow. Charlottesville is sunny about 60% of the time and frost free 210 days.

Quality of Life: Excellent. Downtown’s historic Main Street business district, now a charming and vibrant pedestrian mall, is a wonderful center for community life.

Housing: Housing costs are above the national average but housing is not expensive considering its quality. The city has many houses of various styles in attractive neighborhoods.

Goods and Services: Health care costs are below the national average. Costs of most goods and services are above the national average.

Taxes: State and local taxes in Charlottesville are 8.5% of income compared to the U.S. average of 9.7%. Property, sales and excise taxes are below national norms whereas income taxes are above average.

Transportation: Public transit serves downtown and the University of Virginia; intercity rail serves north–south and east–west destinations; Charlottesville–Albemarle Regional Airport offers commuter service.

Retail Services: Charlottesville’s historic downtown pedestrian mall offers hundreds of stores, restaurants, galleries and cinemas. Charlottesville Fashion Square, Barracks Road Shopping Center and Wal-Mart and Kmart discount stores round out the shopping scene.

Health Care: Charlottesville’s University of Virginia Health Sciences Center offers services from wellness programs to the most technologically advanced care. Martha Jefferson Hospital furnishes state-of-the-art health care services to central Virginia.

Community Services: A good selection of community services are available, including games, book reviews, music, travelogues, arts and crafts classes, and parties, picnics and out-of-town trips.

Cultural and Educational Activities: The University of Virginia (UVA) and downtown Charlottesville are dual centers of culture and the arts. Book and film festivals attract visitors from all over the state. UVA and Piedmont Virginia Community College offer comprehensive adult education programs.

Recreational Activities: Diverse recreational options exist in and near Charlottesville, including spectator sports, participatory activities, movie theaters and restaurants. Within an hour’s drive are wineries, the Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, where scenic overlooks provide breathtaking vistas.

Work and Volunteer Activities: Volunteer work is plentiful. Hospitals, libraries, schools, colleges and historic sites such as Monticello and Ashlawn–Highland depend heavily on volunteers.

Crime Rates and Public Safety: Charlottesville’s metropolitan area has lower-than-average rates for violent and property crime, whereas rates in Charlottesville proper are higher. Upscale neighborhoods in the city and its surrounding areas appear quite safe.

Conclusion: Charlottesville is a beautiful college town offering many advantages for retirement. Charlottesville rates as one of America’s best small towns for a physically and mentally stimulating active retirement.


About Warren Bland

Warren R. Bland, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Geography at California State University, Northridge and author of Retire in Style: 60 Outstanding Places Across the USA and Canada, Next Decade, Inc., 2005. For more information about Dr. Bland’s books, go to Next Decade

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