Even though I was a student at the university for almost two and a half years – a year and a half if you exclude the completely out-of-the-way COVID-19 year – I’d never really thought about the specific aspects of the university that contributed to my appreciation for all that it did is and what it can be. At least that was until I got the chance to work with Emanda Seifu, an Assistant Lifestyles Editor for Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Times. In preparation for the upcoming Commonwealth Cup, we sat down and came up with some of the key traditions and places that make us love our universities.
Center of the site
Before we start talking about hot spots on campus, let’s be clear – most university students call our campus “grounds”. With that clarified, the lawn is undoubtedly a focus of student activities on the site. On any given day, the students are lounging on the lawn, doing schoolwork, having lunch with friends, playing ultimate frisbee or petting the many fluffy companions who are walking around the grounds.
At the top of the lawn is the rotunda, the symbol of the university. It proudly overlooks the 54 lawn rooms occupied by exceptional fourth year students and the statue of Homer at the far end of the lawn. On the other side of the rotunda is the corner, another focus of student life. En route to class or to eat, students walk the seven blocks filled with restaurants, bars, apartments, and local businesses. It is also a central place for the weekend student nightlife.
One of the larger events at the university is Rotunda Sing, which kicks off the fall semester with an a cappella show by more than 15 talented a cappella groups on the premises. The event shows the university community’s interest in a cappella and gives freshmen an opportunity to meet other hoos.
Shortly after this event, a trick or a treat comes up on the lawn. The event has been canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in a normal year, Charlottesville students and parishioners come to the Lawn Rooms in Halloween costumes. Another popular event at the university is the lawn lighting – a light show projected onto the rotunda that takes place every year on the last Thursday before class ends. It originally began promoting unity and remembrance after the events of September 11th, but has since grown into a celebratory event that promotes unity between the University and Charlottesville communities through vivid lighting and cheerful music.
Every study place on Grounds has its own atmosphere. One of the most important study places for students is 1515 on the corner. As one of the most sought-after places on Grounds, it’s harder to get a spot on a weekday afternoon, but the more casual, café-like atmosphere appeals to all students. The spot also has a game and lounge area on the ground floor with a pool table and arcade games, perfect for a spontaneous study break.
More central to Grounds are Clemons, commonly known as Clem, and the Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library, commonly known as Clark due to its location in Clark Hall. Clem is the most modern Feeling library and is spread over four floors. Each floor has a different atmosphere and offers something for every student, whether they are looking for a quiet zone with high concentration or a lively place to chat and catch up while working.
Clark is a more traditional library and is closest to the college dorms, making it a popular spot for newer hoos. Aside from these three locations, there are tons of hidden gems like the Music Library under Old Cabell Hall and the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library at the University Hospital.
In addition to libraries, the university has three multicultural student centers including the LGBTQ Center, Latinx Student Center, and the Multicultural Student Center – all in Newcomb Hall – where students are welcome to study. Each provides resources and a safe space for students from diverse backgrounds to connect and study.
The university’s location in Charlottesville – a dream city for aspiring foodies – makes it difficult to find just a few highlights. However, there are some places that are great for the university student’s experience. The first is Root’s Natural Kitchen, which was founded by college graduates in 2015 and is located on the corner. The fast-casual-style eatery serves customizable grain bowls and salads, with an emphasis on natural foods. On a typical day, the queue is at the door for this university staple, but it’s well worth the wait.
Also on the corner is Christian’s Pizza, which has its busiest hours after 11 p.m. on weekends. The pizza is warmed up fresh with every order, making it the perfect late-night snack with friends. For those less willing to hike for an off-site meal, the Observatory Hill Dining Room, or O’Hill for short, is a great option that caters to most dietary needs. In the dining room there is a vegan bar, a pizza and pasta bar, a breakfast yoghurt bar and a salad bar, in addition to the main meals offered daily.
The university also has many restaurants on the premises such as Pavilion XI which doubles as a miniature food court and is home to a subway, Chick-fil-a, Ben & Jerry’s, and Bento Sushi.
Hot spots for students in Charlottesville
Beyond the university bubble is the vibrant community of Charlottesville. A few blocks from the corner is Downtown Mall, which is where students can find a variety of local businesses. Scattered among the many restaurants are used bookstores, clothing boutiques, the Paramount Theater, other concert halls and even pastry shops. There are plenty of shops to explore with friends and family.
Also near the Ground is IX Art Park, which hosts events dozens of times a year showcasing a range of immersive art experiences like black light body paint parties and a kaleidoscope cave.
Another popular spot for college students is Carter’s Mountain Orchard, which is popular with college students and community members for their Sunset Series from spring through fall. The event allows students to pick apples, enjoy some fall treats, and watch the sunset over Charlottesville from a bird’s eye view. The various wineries in the surrounding districts are even further away from Grounds. The beautiful landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains paired with live music or polo games and good company is the perfect weekend getaway for older students.
Brunch spots on game day
For those looking for a place to have a bite to eat before the soccer game, some notable brunch locations stand out from the rest. One special place that is popular with all members of the university community is Bodo’s Bagels. The famous bagel shop is exclusive to Charlottesville and offers inexpensive but delicious cream cheese smears and bagel sandwiches. The extensive menu has something for everyone and is perfect for large families looking for a casual pre-game meal.
Another student favorite is FIG, which is on the corner. The quaint restaurant has a cozy open-air alley where families can take a seat on request to enjoy their southern or Mediterranean brunch.
Further down on West Main Street in the Downtown Mall is Bizou, the former diner now offers a modern take on classic American cuisine. No matter what families are looking for, Charlottesville’s foodie culture has something for everyone.
I hope this short guide on the various places and traditions that make the university so unique is helpful for the students and families exploring the university and Charlottesville in this upcoming game. We hope everyone will have a safe visit and enjoy their visit to our beautiful grounds.