Despite being a student at the University for almost two-and-a-half years — one-and-a-half if you exclude the entirely remote COVID-19 year — I’d never really given much thought to what specific aspects of the University contributed to my appreciation for all it is and all it can be. Or at least, that was the case until I was given the opportunity to collaborate 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 Grounds
Before beginning the conversation about hot spots around campus, we should get one thing straight — most University students call our campus “Grounds.” Now that we’ve cleared that up, one focal point of student activity on Grounds is undoubtedly the Lawn. On any given day, students can be found lounging around on the grass doing schoolwork, eating lunch with friends, playing ultimate frisbee or petting the many fluffy companions being walked around Grounds.
At the head of the Lawn is the Rotunda, the signature building of the University. It proudly overlooks the 54 lawn rooms inhabited by exceptional fourth-year students and the Statue of Homer at the other end of the Lawn. On the other side of the Rotunda is the Corner, another focal point of student life. Students walk the seven-block stretch of restaurants, bars, apartments and local businesses on their way to classes or to grab a bite to eat. It’s also a central location for student nightlife on weekends.
Among some of the bigger events at the University is Rotunda Sing, which kicks off the fall semester with an a cappella showcase performed by more than 15 talented a cappella groups on Grounds. The event exhibits the University community’s interest in a cappella and gives first-year students an opportunity to get to meet other Hoos.
Soon after this event comes Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn. The event has been cancelled these past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in a normal year, students and Charlottesville community members come to the Lawn rooms, dressed in Halloween costumes. Another popular event at the University is the Lighting of the Lawn — a light show projected onto the Rotunda that takes place every year on the last Thursday before the end of classes. It originally began to promote unity and remembrance after the events of Sept. 11, but has since morphed into a celebratory event that encourages unity between the University and Charlottesville communities through vibrant light displays and upbeat music.
Each study spot on Grounds has its own atmosphere. One of the primary study locations for students is 1515 located on the Corner. As one of the most desired study spots on Grounds, it’s more difficult to snag a spot on a weekday afternoon, but it's more casual, cafe-like atmosphere appeals to all students. The spot also has a game and lounge area on the bottom floor with a pool table and arcade games, perfect for an impromptu study break.
More central to Grounds are Clemons, commonly known as Clem, and Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library, commonly known as Clark for its location in Clark Hall. Clem is the most modern feeling library and is split into four floors. Each floor boasts a different feel and has something to offer every student, whether they’re looking for a silent, high-concentration zone, or a lively location to chat and catch-up while working on assignments.
Clark is a more traditional library, and is the closest to first-year dorms, making it a popular spot for newer Hoos. Beyond these three locations, there are countless hidden gems, such as the Music Library hidden underneath Old Cabell Hall and the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library by the University hospital.
Aside from libraries, the University has three multicultural student centers, including the LGBTQ Center, the Latinx Student Center and the Multicultural Student Center — all located in Newcomb Hall — that students are welcome to study in. Each provides resources and a safe space for students of diverse backgrounds to connect and study.
The University’s location in Charlottesville — an up-and-coming foodie’s dream city — makes it difficult to pinpoint just a few places to highlight. However, there are a few locations that are pinnacle to the University Student’s experience. The first is Root’s Natural Kitchen, which was started by University graduates in 2015 and is located on the Corner. The fast-casual style place serves customizable grain bowls and salads, with an emphasis on natural foods. On a typical day, the line for this University staple is out the door, but the wait is well worth it.
Also on the Corner is Christian’s Pizza, which sees its busiest hours after 11 p.m on weekend nights. The pizza is warmed fresh for every order, making it the perfect late night snack to have with friends. For those less willing to trek off-Grounds for a meal, the Observatory Hill dining hall, or O’Hill for short, is a great option that accommodates most dietary needs. Within the dining hall is a vegan bar, a pizza and pasta bar, a breakfast yogurt bar and salad bar, in addition to the main meal items offered each day.
The University also has many restaurants on Grounds like the Pavilion XI, which acts as a miniature food court and hosts a Subway, Chick-fil-a, Ben & Jerry’s and Bento Sushi.
Student Hot Spots in Charlottesville
Beyond the University bubble is the vibrant Charlottesville community. A couple of blocks down from the Corner is the Downtown Mall, where students can find a host of local businesses. Scattered among the many restaurants are used bookstores, clothing boutiques, the Paramount Theater, other concert venues and even confectioneries. There are plenty of shops to explore with both friends and family.
Also near Grounds is the IX Art Park, where events are held dozens of times a year showcasing a range of immersive art experiences, such as black light body paint parties and a kaleidoscope cave.
Another favorite spot for students is Carter’s Mountain Orchard, popular among students and community members for their Sunset Series every spring through fall. At the event, students can pick apples, enjoy some fall treats and watch the sunset over a bird’s-eye view of Charlottesville. Even further from Grounds are the various wineries in the surrounding counties. The beautiful scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains paired with live music or polo matches and good company makes for the perfect weekend day-trip for older students.
Game Day Brunch Spots
For those looking for a place to grab a bite to eat before the football game, a few notable brunch locations stick out from the rest. One particular location, loved among all members of the University community, is Bodo’s Bagels. The famous bagel place is exclusive to Charlottesville and offers cheap, yet delicious, cream cheese schmears and bagel sandwiches. The extensive menu offers something for everyone and is perfect for large families looking for a casual meal prior to the game.
Another student favorite is FIG, located on the Corner. The quaint restaurant has a cozy outdoor alleyway that families can request to be seated in to enjoy their brunch of Southern or Mediterranean cuisine.
Further down West Main Street on 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 offers something for everyone.
I hope this brief guide to the different locations and traditions that make the University so unique is helpful to the students and families exploring the University and Charlottesville this upcoming game. We hope everyone has a safe visit and enjoys their visit to our beautiful Grounds.