A Travel Price Comparison for Virginia Charlottesville vs. Shenandoah National Park for Hiking, Backpackers, Families, and Couples

Should you visit Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the activities as well as the prices of travel for Charlottesville and Shenandoah National Park. We'll break down costs for accommodation, food, transportation and more to help you learn more about these two destinations. Then, you can figure out if either of these two places are accessible based on your travel budget, schedule, and interests. So, let's dig into it.

Charlottesville

Charlottesville is a young, collegiate, and southern university town. With plenty of activities and sights, this is a small town worth visiting. It offers plenty of beauty for visitors. As it offers a special and quaint atmosphere, visitors come from all over to experience this destination. It's also popular because of the museums, nightlife, and hiking.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a scenic, breathtaking, and serene national park. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. Visitors also love the food, hiking, and skiing.

Charlottesville and Shenandoah National Park: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Scenic old town
  • Popular at Christmas
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for students
  • Small town charm
  • Quaint atmosphere
Things to Consider
  • Less hiking options
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
  • Home to Skyline Drive
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Less popular for nightlife


Is there more to do in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Shenandoah National Park. Although Charlottesville and Shenandoah National Park are both popular with visitors, Shenandoah National Park has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Shenandoah National Park is more popular for its skiing, food, hiking, shopping, and impressive beauty, while Charlottesville is known for its museums, nightlife, historical sights, small town charm, and quaint atmosphere. Shenandoah National Park is more touristy than Charlottesville and is known for its local wildlife, dramatic viewpoints, and world class hiking trails. It is also home to Skyline Drive. Charlottesville is popular for being home to the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and serving as a gateway to Shenandoah National Park.

How is Charlottesville different from Shenandoah National Park?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Shenandoah National Park and Charlottesville. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Skiing?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a good destination for skiing. However, Charlottesville is not a skiing destination.

For winter sports and skiing, Shenandoah National Park is a great destination to visit. You'll find skiing and snowboarding at nearby Massanutten Resort, which is near Harrisonburg, Virginia. It's a family-friendly setting with slopes that are classified as "easiest", "more difficult", and "most difficult".

Charlottesville is not a skiing destination.


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Charlottesville is a university town with good options for its historical sights. However, Shenandoah National Park is not a good destination for its sights and museums.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Charlottesville. A highlight of a trip to the area is a visit to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. The city is also famously home to the beautiful University of Virginia, which has a manicured and beautiful campus. History buffs will also appreciate visiting the Civil War Sites that are nearby as well.

Shenandoah National Park offers a handful of options for museums and historical sights. While most people spend their time outdoors enjoying the setting, there are museums in the area, as well as visitor centers that have exhibits and informative displays.

Is the Food Better in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a good destination for its local flavors and cuisine. However, Charlottesville is not known for its local cuisine and restaurants.

Shenandoah National Park has a delicious restaurant scene that relies on local flavors. There are several restaurants along skyline drive where you can pick up a casual meal like fried chicken, burgers, or pasta.

Charlottesville may not make the list for most foodies, but you'll find what you need while you're in town. Head to the Historic Downtown Mall to enjoy an outdoor meal at a top rated restaurant. There are also restaurants that cater specifically to students and offer affordable and quick meals.

Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Nightlife?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Charlottesville is a university town with good options for its evening party scene. However, Shenandoah National Park is not a good destination for nightlife.

If you're looking for night time activities Charlottesville has a few options to choose from. Charlottesville is a university town with an active nightlife. The best areas for nightlife are found around the Downtown Mall, Belmont neighborhood, the Corner, and University Ave west near the mall. Even though there are a number of activities to enjoy at night, this is still a small town and the nightlife scene reflects that.

Most people don't head to Shenandoah National Park specifically for the nightlife scene, but you can find a few options. There are a number of breweries in the area, but most people enjoy stargazing and sitting by the campfire at night.


Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for its Old Town?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Charlottesville is a university town with good options for its historic old town charm. However, Shenandoah National Park does not have a historic old town.

Charlottesville has an old town worth visiting. The Historic Downtown Mall is filled with restaurants and shops. It's a pedestrian only area with a lot of character and energy.

Shenandoah National Park does not have a historic old town.

Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Hiking?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is terrific for hiking. Also, Charlottesville is not as popular, but is still a nice university town for the nearby hiking options.

Shenandoah National Park is well-known for its hiking and trekking. There are more than 500 miles of trails in the park that pass through varied landscapes and take you to beautiful viewpoints. Visitors range from weekend visitors to long term hikers who come to experience the breathtaking beauty and serene setting.

Charlottesville is a good destination for hiking. Just outside of town there are plenty of hiking opportunities including in and around Shenandoah National Park. Hiking is at its best during the fall season when the leaves are changing.

Is the Shopping Better in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is adequate for its shopping opportunities. However, Charlottesville is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

If you're looking to go shopping, Shenandoah National Park has some nice offerings. There are a handful of gift shops along Skyline Drive were you can pick up souvenirs or t-shirts.

Charlottesville is not a noteworthy shopping destination.


Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Christmas?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Charlottesville is great for its Christmas holiday experiences. However, Shenandoah National Park does not offer Christmas activities.

Charlottesville is a very popular destination during Christmas. From Christmas lights on campus to a festive atmosphere at the Monticello, the town is beautiful for Christmas.

Shenandoah National Park does not offer Christmas activities.

Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Families?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a great national park for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Charlottesville is not as popular, but is still a nice university town for its family-friendly activities.

Because of its large number of kid-friendly activities, Shenandoah National Park is very family-friendly. There are tons of kid-friendly hikes to overlooks or waterfalls. Kids will love scrambling over the rocks or running through the forest. There are also plenty of campgrounds where families can hang out, toast marshmallows and enjoy some quality time together.

Charlottesville is a family-friendly place to visit. Wandering the campus of UVA, picking fruit at Carter Mountain Orchard or exploring the downtown mall, including the Virginia Discovery Museum are all activities that everyone can enjoy. There are also great hiking trails just outside of town.

Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Couples?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a great national park for its romantic activities. Also, Charlottesville is not as popular, but is still a nice university town for couples.

Shenandoah National Park is a great national park if you're traveling as a couple. Couples who enjoy nature will love a visit to the park. There are beautiful views and scenic spots that will make for a wonderful and romantic trip. Hiking, biking, and exploring will fill your time with adventure and fun.

Charlottesville is a good university town for couples to visit. The UVA campus is beautiful to explore, as is Monticello. The Downtown Mall has many great restaurants and activities that make for a nice date night and during the day, there's also beautiful hikes nearby that are at their peak during the fall season.


Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is terrific for backpackers and budget travelers. However, Charlottesville is not known for backpackers.

With so many budget-friendly offerings, Shenandoah National Park is extremely popular for backpackers. Backpackers love the hiking trails and backcountry camping. Many people head to the park to escape into nature and enjoy some low key time in a serene setting.

Charlottesville is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. There is camping an hiking in the area that is a good option for backpackers.

Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Students?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Charlottesville is renowned for its student-friendly activities. However, Shenandoah National Park is not popular with students.

Charlottesville is a very popular university town for students. The town is home to the beautiful University of Virginia and it's a popular destination for international students as well as local students. Much of the town is focused around student life, and the city's proximity to Washington, DC means it has access to global opportunities.

Shenandoah National Park is not popular with students.

Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Charlottesville is adequate for times when you don't have a car. However, Shenandoah National Park is not a good destination for its public transit.

Public transit is mostly limited in Charlottesville. There is a bus system that runs between campus, downtown, and several neighborhoods in Charlottesville.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Shenandoah National Park. There's no real public transit in the park.


Is Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park a more walkable city?

Charlottesville
Shenandoah National Park

Charlottesville is adequate for its ease of walking around. However, Shenandoah National Park is not a good destination for its walkability.

Charlottesville is generally not a very walkable university town. While the University of Virginia campus and the Downtown Mall are both very walkable, most of the town is not.

Shenandoah National Park is not a walkable university town. While there are plenty of hiking trails, a car is a must to reach most trailheads.

For even more information, also check out Is Charlottesville Worth Visiting? and Is Shenandoah National Park Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Shenandoah National Park or Charlottesville?

How long in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

In either Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Shenandoah National Park than Charlottesville because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 2-3 days is a good amount of time for Charlottesville, and 3-5 days is enough time in Shenandoah National Park.

Families should spend more time in Shenandoah National Park than Charlottesville. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Shenandoah National Park, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Shenandoah National Park than Charlottesville. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Shenandoah National Park that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Shenandoah National Park than Charlottesville if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Shenandoah National Park.


  • How many days in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park? Ideal Length of Stay
    Charlottesville 2-3 
    Shenandoah National Park 3-5

One day in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Charlottesville is a small town where visitors enjoy the museums and nightlife. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

The breathtaking destination of Shenandoah National Park offers skiing and food. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. It's no surprise that hiking is why people visit. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

A weekend in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Charlottesville is a small town with plenty to do. If you have a weekend, this university town makes for a great vacation.A weekend is usually enough time to experience most activities. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

The national park of Shenandoah National Park offers food and skiing. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything. Since there is so much to do in the area, a weekend is probably not enough for all of it.


Five days in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Charlottesville is a small town, so you can explore the area with less time. This university town offers a variety of activities to choose from. Five days is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare.

Shenandoah National Park is a great place to explore. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. It's no surprise that hiking is why people visit. This national park offers something for everyone. It is common to spend five days here. Five days is often enough time to do most activities.

A week in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Charlottesville is a great place to explore. One week is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.

Many people enjoy the food and skiing when visiting Shenandoah National Park. Hikers are also drawn to this area. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Tours Under $1000 in United States of America, The Best Luxury Tours to United States of America, The Best Tours for Seniors to United States of America, and The Best Contiki Tours to United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Shenandoah National Park or Charlottesville?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Charlottesville is $154, while the average daily cost in Shenandoah National Park is $125. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Charlottesville and Shenandoah National Park in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Charlottesville $80
    Shenandoah National Park $53
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Charlottesville $160
    Shenandoah National Park $106
Compare Hotels in Charlottesville and Shenandoah National Park

Looking for a hotel in Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Charlottesville


Hotels in Shenandoah National Park


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Charlottesville Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Charlottesville $53
    Shenandoah National Park $70

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Charlottesville

Also for Charlottesville, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Private Arrival Transfer from Charlotteville Airport (CHO): $50
  • Private Departure Transfer to Charlottesville Airport (CHO): $50

Is it cheaper to fly into Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Prices for flights to both Shenandoah National Park and Charlottesville change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Charlottesville $42
    Shenandoah National Park $28

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Charlottesville

For Charlottesville, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • The Downtown Mall Food Tour: $17
  • The UVA Corner Food Tour: Private Walking Food Tour in Charlottesville: $139

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Charlottesville $18
    Shenandoah National Park $34

Tours and Activities in Charlottesville

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Charlottesville.

  • Charlottesville Dark History Ghost Tour : $24
  • Charlottesville Historic Downtown APP/GPS Smartphone Walking Tour: $7.75
  • Ghosts of Court Square Walking Tour: $26
  • Shenandoah National Park Audio Driving Tour: $7.99
  • Shenandoah National Park Self-Driving Audio Tour: $17

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Charlottesville $53
    Shenandoah National Park $7.14

Sample the Local Flavors in Charlottesville

Also in Charlottesville, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Private Wine Tours (Minimum 3 & Maximum 6 ) Pickup Maximum 30 Mi : $85


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Charlottesville and Shenandoah National Park, we can see that Charlottesville is more expensive. And not only is Shenandoah National Park much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Shenandoah National Park would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Shenandoah National Park and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Charlottesville would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Charlottesville than you might in Shenandoah National Park.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Charlottesville Expensive? and Is Shenandoah National Park Expensive?.



When is the best time to visit Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park in the Summer?

Both Shenandoah National Park and Charlottesville are popular destinations to visit in the summer with plenty of activities. Most visitors come to Charlottesville for the hiking, the small town charm, and the family-friendly experiences during these months. Also, the summer months attract visitors to Shenandoah National Park because of the hiking and the family-friendly experiences.

In the summer, Charlottesville is around the same temperature as Shenandoah National Park. Typically, the summer temperatures in Charlottesville in July average around 78°F (26°C), and Shenandoah National Park averages at about 77°F (25°C).

It's quite rainy in Charlottesville. In July, Charlottesville usually receives more rain than Shenandoah National Park. Charlottesville gets 5 inches (128 mm) of rain, while Shenandoah National Park receives 3.4 inches (87 mm) of rain each month for the summer.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Charlottesville 78°F (26°C) 
    Shenandoah National Park 77°F (25°C)

Should I visit Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park in the Autumn?

Both Shenandoah National Park and Charlottesville during the autumn are popular places to visit. The autumn months attract visitors to Charlottesville because of the hiking trails, the small town atmosphere, and the natural beauty of the area. Furthermore, the hiking trails, the shopping scene, and the natural beauty of the area are the main draw to Shenandoah National Park this time of year.

In October, Charlottesville is generally a little warmer than Shenandoah National Park. Daily temperatures in Charlottesville average around 59°F (15°C), and Shenandoah National Park fluctuates around 56°F (13°C).

Charlottesville usually gets around the same amount of rain in October as Shenandoah National Park. Charlottesville gets 3.5 inches (90 mm) of rain, while Shenandoah National Park receives 3.3 inches (84 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Charlottesville 59°F (15°C) 
    Shenandoah National Park 56°F (13°C)

Should I visit Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park in the Winter?

The winter attracts plenty of travelers to both Charlottesville and Shenandoah National Park. The museums, the Christmas ambience, and the cuisine are the main draw to Charlottesville this time of year. Furthermore, many travelers come to Shenandoah National Park for the skiing, the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

Be prepared for some very cold days in Shenandoah National Park. It's quite cold in Charlottesville in the winter. Charlottesville is much warmer than Shenandoah National Park in the winter. The daily temperature in Charlottesville averages around 36°F (2°C) in January, and Shenandoah National Park fluctuates around 32°F (-0°C).

In January, Charlottesville usually receives more rain than Shenandoah National Park. Charlottesville gets 3.2 inches (83 mm) of rain, while Shenandoah National Park receives 2.8 inches (70 mm) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Charlottesville 36°F (2°C) 
    Shenandoah National Park 32°F (-0°C)

Should I visit Charlottesville or Shenandoah National Park in the Spring?

The spring brings many poeple to Charlottesville as well as Shenandoah National Park. Many travelers come to Charlottesville for the small town charm and the natural beauty. Additionally, many visitors come to Shenandoah National Park in the spring for the natural beauty.

In the spring, Charlottesville is a little warmer than Shenandoah National Park. Typically, the spring temperatures in Charlottesville in April average around 58°F (14°C), and Shenandoah National Park averages at about 54°F (12°C).

Charlottesville usually gets around the same amount of rain in April as Shenandoah National Park. Charlottesville gets 3 inches (75 mm) of rain, while Shenandoah National Park receives 3.1 inches (78 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Charlottesville 58°F (14°C) 
    Shenandoah National Park 54°F (12°C)

Typical Weather for Shenandoah National Park and Charlottesville

Charlottesville Shenandoah National Park
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 36°F (2°C) 3.2 inches (83 mm) 32°F (-0°C) 2.8 inches (70 mm)
Feb 39°F (4°C) 3.2 inches (80 mm) 35°F (1°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm)
Mar 49°F (9°C) 3.6 inches (92 mm) 44°F (7°C) 3.1 inches (79 mm)
Apr 58°F (14°C) 3 inches (75 mm) 54°F (12°C) 3.1 inches (78 mm)
May 67°F (19°C) 3.8 inches (98 mm) 63°F (17°C) 4 inches (102 mm)
Jun 74°F (24°C) 3.6 inches (92 mm) 72°F (22°C) 3.9 inches (100 mm)
Jul 78°F (26°C) 5 inches (128 mm) 77°F (25°C) 3.4 inches (87 mm)
Aug 77°F (25°C) 4.4 inches (113 mm) 75°F (24°C) 3.9 inches (99 mm)
Sep 71°F (21°C) 3.3 inches (85 mm) 68°F (20°C) 3.4 inches (87 mm)
Oct 59°F (15°C) 3.5 inches (90 mm) 56°F (13°C) 3.3 inches (84 mm)
Nov 50°F (10°C) 3.2 inches (81 mm) 47°F (8°C) 3.2 inches (82 mm)
Dec 41°F (5°C) 3.3 inches (83 mm) 36°F (2°C) 3.2 inches (82 mm)