Stopping by the IX Art Park is one of the best free things to do in Charlottesville, but did you know you can fill a whole day here? This one-day itinerary will show you how to spend an entire Saturday at IX Art Park for creative sparks galore. It’s a perfect centerpiece to the Charlottesville Arts Excursion this September and October.
Disclaimer: I’m a full-time employee of the IX Art Park, so while I haven’t been paid directly for this post, we do have a financial relationship. All opinions are my own.
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What is the IX Art Park?
The IX Art Park (pronounced “icks”) is an immersive art space in downtown Charlottesville, about a 10-minute walk south from the pedestrian Downtown Mall. Formerly the Frank Ix and Sons textile factory, the site has transformed over the past several years from an abandoned warehouse into a mural-festooned wonderland with live performances, a weekly farmers market and the most unique museum in Charlottesville.
Start Saturday Morning Right at the Farmers’ Market
The best time to have your first experience at IX Art Park is 9am Saturday morning, when the weekly farmers’ market opens for business. Over 50 local vendors sell fresh produce, prepared foods and artisan goods, and the park truly comes alive as local community members pass through.
Imagine Another World in the Looking Glass
At 10am, head indoors to the Looking Glass, Virginia’s first immersive art museum. Over a dozen local artists handcrafted this 3000 square foot enchanted forest where you can chill in a jungle hammock, traverse a 50 foot caterpillar, greet golden goddesses and friendly forest gnomes, and more all through larger-than-life interactive art installations. Tickets are $15 per person.
Make a Pit Stop for Lunch
There are usually a few food trucks at the farmers’ market, which runs until 1pm. If they’ve already packed up shop, you can walk across the parking lot to Brazos Tacos for Austin-style tacos.
Explore the Outdoor Park
After lunch, take a leisurely stroll around the park. There are a variety of murals and sculptures, but I think you’ll find the free park less “place to see” and more “place to be.” You’ll find more than one spot that makes for excellent relaxing, people watching or both.
Get a Taste for Local Brews
When you’re ready for some indoor time, make your way uphill towards Monticello Avenue. This upper level of the building is home to Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery. Grab a tasting flight for a sense of the local craft beer scene. (Hint: you’ll see a lot of IPAs and goses.)
Head Downstairs for Dinner
Three Notch’d has great food if you’re in the mood for hearty sandwiches or salads, but for a complete picture of everything IX Art Park and its neighbors have to offer, I recommend changing locations for dinner. Back down by the outdoor park, North American Sake Brewery is one of the only sake breweries in the United States — plus, they have a bangin’ menu of pan-Asian dishes.
Wrap Up the Evening with a Show
On most Saturday evenings, the IX Art Park hosts some sort of live performance or event. It could be anything from a live outdoor blues or reggae concert, a festival celebrating styles of dance from around the world, or an edgy exploration of the dark side of fairytales — and that’s barely the tip of the iceberg! Keep an eye on their event calendar as you plan your trip.
I hope after your full day adventure, you’re feeling inspired! Visiting the IX Art Park is one of the most unique things to do in Charlottesville, and it makes a great extended stop in a Charlottesville weekend itinerary.