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Why Central Virginia is a Great Place to Live

Beautiful, welcoming, chill but energetic — this is the right place to roost.

By Laura Hill on October 19, 2022

Children run along a path at James Madison Montpelier in Central Virginia.
Ethan Hickerson, Mobelux

One is a seventh-generation farmer with the country in her blood. The other is a technology executive who thrives on a more urban vibe. So what do Ruth Saunders and Elaine Cheng have in common? They’re both the face of Central Virginia.

Central Virginia has earned a reputation as the right place to roost, from the natural beauty of a rural mountain landscape to the bustle of downtown Charlottesville to the sometimes surprising sophistication of its smaller towns.

“People increasingly are choosing to live in places where they can actually live,” says Cheng, a Charlottesville resident for 11 years and vice president and chief information officer of Shentel. “We’re next to the mountains, close to the beach, and there are four wineries down the street from my house. Plus, we have the resources at the university. There’s not much you can’t get in this area.”

Road surrounded by fall foliage in Central Virginia.
Doug Hawkins

A Natural Beauty

With its Blue Ridge Mountains setting and picturesque roadways (the first 30 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway border the region), the natural beauty of Central Virginia is incomparable. The variety of its landscapes and amenities make Central Virginia an easy place to settle. And a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion ensure a welcome handshake is easy to find.

“The best thing about living in Central Virginia? The people,” says Saunders, who grows apples and wine grapes and owns Silver Creek & Seamans’ Orchards. She left corporate life more than 30 years ago to return to the 1,000-acre farm that has been in her family since the mid-1800s. “Everybody here takes care of everybody — we look after each other. Because our area is so rural, we’re not under a lot of urban pressure from development yet. So, it is really a great place to raise a family.”

“We’re next to the mountains, close to the beach, and there are four wineries down the street from my house. Plus, we have the resources at the university. There’s not much you can’t get in this area.”

Elaine Cheng, Shentel

As in the business of farming, diversity plays a significant role in the area’s economic vibrancy. As a result, business is booming in Central Virginia. Information technology, advanced manufacturing, bioscience and medical devices, agribusiness, and defense and security are just a few of its thriving industries. The entrepreneurial ecosystem is also growing thanks to local grants and professional development resources.

“From my perspective, I think this is a great place to work and to have a business,” Cheng says. “It’s easy to recruit here — you tend to get people who love the area and want to work here. … There are a fair number of tech firms in the area, and they are growing. From all those perspectives, it’s an attractive place for business.”

Jonathan Mariner and daughter in law Amy Mastro-Mariner enjoy a beer flight and appetizers outside at Blue Mountain Brewery with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia.
Melody Robbins

A Region for Foodies

No matter what you do for a living, you’ve got to eat. And for that, you’ve come to the right place. Central Virginia is a foodie’s dream, whether you crave down-home lunch bites (don’t miss the open-face ham sandwich at Thyme in Culpeper and the fried green tomato BLT at Jack’s Shop Kitchen in Ruckersville) or an elegant dinner at the Vintage restaurant at the Inn at Willow Grove

Did we mention that Charlottesville was named “the next great food city” by Food and Wine magazine?

Visitors on Stony Man Summit on a clear day. Families with mother, child, enjoying the view. Stony Man Summit is located in Central Virginia.
Mary O’Neill

A Family-Friendly Area

So, Central Virginia is a beautiful place to live, with welcoming people, an exciting place for business, and a happy place for those who eat. And most of all, it’s a wonderful place for families, with outstanding public school systems, loads of parks and other outdoor opportunities, and great, convenient shopping.

Add to that Central Virginia’s affordable housing — yes, you heard that right. The good news is: You can enjoy all the amenities of nearby urban areas while still living the small-town dream if you’d like, as prices are more manageable in the region’s smaller towns. Think historic home, big backyard, no traffic. Or consider a development like Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County, the area’s largest gated community. Lake of the Woods, Somerset Crossing and Wilderness Crossing are other attractive, affordable options. 

If you’d like to learn more about the Central Virginia area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Central Virginia

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