It’s official: Charlottesville, Virginia is the happiest city in America.
Last year, a comprehensive study by the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed Charlottesville residents are the happiest group in the country.
And, after just one year here as a UVA student, I can see why. Charlottesville is simply a place no one wants to leave — not even for one semester (don’t even mention graduation). Anyone who lives in or has ever visited Charlottesville probably isn’t very surprised by these results, either.
With a great college town, temperate weather, the great outdoors and a thriving arts culture, Charlottesville is the perfect environment for happiness to flourish.
A perfect balance between southern living and northern liberalism, Charlottesville really does have something for everyone. While northern cities are hotbeds for stress, insolence, rapidity and impatience, Charlottesville breeds relaxation and optimism.
I have compiled a series of attributes that together define this wonderful city and the happy people who inhabit it:
1. The Foodies
There are around 500 restaurants in Charlottesville (48 on the Downtown Mall alone), which makes choosing one nearly impossible.
Here is where you consult the Charlottesville dining experts who can tell you which restaurants take reservations, which ones to bring your parents to, which ones serve locally produced meat and dairy products, etc.
Charlottesville has a never-ending supply of deliciousness and diversity. My favorites? Ten (for sushi lovers), Bella’s and The Local. But to be completely honest, it’s hard to go wrong in Charlottesville.
2. The Wahoos
Charlottesville is bigger than UVA, but the Wahoos do make up an important part of its culture.
The Wahoos are both students and Charlottesville residents who love to tailgate, own pretty much everything blue and orange and will spend hours refreshing their browsers until they can get free tickets.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing little kids in blue and orange tailgating with their parents in the parking lot on football Saturdays.
The feeling of immense pride you get when everyone in the football stadium stands, puts their arms around one another and sings “The Good ‘Ole Song” is like nothing else. It’ll make you want to be a Wahoo.
3. The Basketball Team
This one pretty much goes without explanation. We’ll miss you, Justin.
1. The Rotunda and The Corner
Although Charlottesville is much larger than simply UVA, it is hard to differentiate the two, especially once you are on The Corner.
The Rotunda is the most famous building on UVA grounds, set at the top of The Lawn as the authority of education and reason.
Inspired by the Roman Pantheon, Thomas Jefferson built The Rotunda to exemplify a lifelong dedication to education in a centralized Academical Village.
Just past The Rotunda is The Corner, which is a stretch of restaurants, bars and boutiques. It is home to one of Charlottesville’s finest eateries, Bodo’s Bagels.
Not only are they delicious, but these bagels are also one of the only things in Charlottesville you can get for fewer than $3 (that includes parking, beware).
2. Downtown Mall
The Downtown Mall is the center of eccentricity in Charlottesville. We may be home to the “guys in ties, girls in pearls” rule, but we also have our artistic crowd.
The Downtown Mall is where many of Charlottesville’s great restaurants reside, as well as funky clothing stores, outdoor vendors and live music.
If you’re going to visit Charlottesville, you might be coming to check out Thomas Jefferson’s famous home, Monticello.
This beautiful and iconic plantation whose name means “little mountain” was built in 1772 by our own third president, Thomas Jefferson.
Charlottesville has a rich history that is deeply intertwined with American presidential history and our founding fathers.
Thomas Jefferson isn’t the only one whose home is in Charlottesville; James Monroe also lived there in a charming estate called Ash Lawn-Highland, which you can also tour.
You can even stay in Thomas Jefferson’s daughter’s home, which has been turned into an inn called the Clifton.
Also be sure to check out my home, which is one of the most beautiful college campuses in America. Our founding father, TJ, also built UVA.
In Jefferson’s final years, he’d hoped his home would create wines that rivaled those of Europe.
It wasn’t until 200 years later that Virginia fulfilled this wish and became an eastern leader in the wine industry.
There are more than 20 wineries in Charlottesville — offering tours and tastes of fine, rich wine — which have acquired local and national acclaim.
Charlottesville may be a city, but it is located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Charlottesville has great hiking trails for beginners and advanced outdoorsmen, as well as the Sky Line Drive for anyone who would rather ride in a car than get his or her boots dirty.
But whatever way you choose, taking a ride or walk up to the Blue Ridge Mountains is definitely worth the trip.
Charlottesville was voted the happiest city in America because it has something for everyone: A great university with strong sports and even stronger school spirit, a vibrant artistic culture, rich American history, beautiful outdoors and great food.
Thomas Jefferson built a city that is modern and historic, southern with a northern flare, locally focused and globally inspired.
It’s why so many people who come to Charlottesville never want to leave and why even when they do, they almost always end up coming back.