1. Humpback Rock
Sometimes putting in a little work warrants a more satisfying reward. Pack your best picnic blanket and bring sandwiches for a fun-filled late afternoon adventure. The strenuous hike up into the mountains guarantees a better vantage point with panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley, and the sunset will never disappoint. This spot frequented by locals and visitors alike can be quite popular — especially in the late spring and early summer months. Don’t forget to bring flashlights for the hike down!
2. Top of the Emmet-Ivy, Culbreth Road or Elliewood Avenue Parking Garages
Typically not the first plan of action for someone craving a better view of the sunset — elevated parking decks provide a space that is quiet and comfortable for a Charlottesville sunset viewing. American industrialism and urban sprawl have given us the perfect place to see the sunset, uninterrupted by the more natural landscapes of trees and other foliage. I think there is something oddly charming about parking garage sunsets — they bring back fleeting memories of me trying to feel cool in high school — maybe I should take a quick drive over to one. And don't forget your parking pass!
3. The observatory at Observatory Hill
Sometimes the perfect place to observe a sunset is at a place made for that specific action. The observatory’s dome looks extremely handsome under the glow of a Charlottesville sunset. Nestled comfortably on the peak of Observatory Hill, the dome is like a lonesome viewer, passively taking in its surroundings and making the natural landscape more interesting and beautiful. As the sun begins to set, make a visit to the observatory and be greeted by beautiful views and an even more beautiful sky.
4. Any Blue Ridge Parkway viewpoint
If you have a car, then this is for you. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a wonderful place for those who wish to find the perfect sunset view. Luckily, there are many beautiful vistas that are convenient for travelers on the immediate sides of the road. Just a quick pull off to the left or right, and you are looking at a real-life version of those awesome countryside paintings that everyone’s grandparents seem to have. Beautiful mountains, cotton candy skies and fluffy clouds serve as the perfect backdrop for an even more perfect sunset.
5. Top of the Graduate Charlottesville hotel
The top of the Graduate Charlottesville hotel is home to the Camp Ten Four restaurant, but it also functions as an amazing viewpoint for a sunset. Seeing the Corner under the sunset is a sight to behold, but the Graduate Charlottesville takes it one step further. Being above the Corner lets you take in the sights, sounds and smells of the Corner while also bearing witness to an incredible bird’s eye view of our stomping ground. I personally recommend listening to smooth jazz while watching the sun descend amongst the apartments, businesses and the University. It feels oddly sentimental, but also refreshing and exciting — the perfect way to view a Charlottesville sunset.
As a disclaimer, this sunset spot is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, so your sunset-watching from this particular vantage point will unfortunately need to wait.
6. An apartment balcony
This one may require some imagination. Yes, I am talking to those unfortunate souls that have a ground-level balcony at The Wedge Apartments — I feel for you all. However, any balcony can serve as a perfect place to spend the sunset hour. Grab a roommate, a bag of chips and your homework and watch the sunset from wherever you call home. Hearing the crickets chirping to an autumn sunset, the passing cars of a winter sunset and the birds chirping to a spring sunset really makes me feel some sort of way. I wish I had a balcony.
7. A winery or vineyard
Wineries and vineyards are beauties, and a sunset in the Piedmont region is never going to disappoint. Wineries and sunsets are like bread and butter because they pair extremely well — dare I say, a match made in heaven. Grab your friends and enjoy a wonderful dinner in the Virginia countryside and bear witness to amazing sunsets. Wineries and vineyards capitalize on their natural beauty, so make sure to make a reservation to see the sunset. For those who do not drink, wineries tend to have excellent food selections that pair perfectly with a stunning sunset.
8. Carter Mountain
Carter Mountain is a popular destination for both Charlottesville locals and visitors alike. Bring a picnic blanket and your friends and see the sun descend into a splash of vibrant colors from Carter Mountain. I believe that a Carter Mountain sunset is paired well with some warm apple cider or some famous cider donuts. As the sweetness of food and drink meld with the vibrant sunset, the perfect photo opportunity arises. So snap a photo with friends as the sunset serves as the perfect backdrop.
Monticello is perfectly placed for sunset views — I guess Thomas Jefferson knew what he was doing. Monticello was smartly placed at the peak of a hill, so it provides a comprehensive panoramic view of the Charlottesville area and the University. As the sun settles into the Shenandoah Valley, watch as the sky changes from blue to orange to indigo to darkness, just as Thomas Jefferson did all those years ago.
10. The Lawn
The Lawn is the quintessential place for the University student. Experiencing a Lawn sunset is a must for any student at the University. The gentle glow of orange light on the columns that form the perimeter of the Lawn embrace central grounds in a magical glow of sunlight that is impossible to explain. There is something magical about the Lawn at sunset, and I hope that every University student will be able to feel that magic at least once in their time here on Grounds.