In 2004, Charlottesville was ranked the best place to live in the United States in the book Cities Ranked and Rated by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander. Sperling and Sander ranked the cities based on cost of living, climate, and quality of life. Charlottesville is an independent city located within the confines of Albemarle County and named after Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of King George III of England. A city of more than 40,000. It is the county seat of Albemarle County, though the two are separate legal entities. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Charlottesville with Albemarle County for statistical purposes, bringing the total population to 118,398. Charlottesville is best known as the home of the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson. The city is also known for Jeffersons' Monticello, his renowed mountain-top home which attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year.
Lynchburg, a city with more than 71,000 residents as of 2007, is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the James River, Lynchburg is known as the 'City of Seven Hills', 'The Hill City' and sometimes described as 'A City Unto Itself' because it is not located within any county limits, but a city in the middle of Amherst, Bedford, Campbell and Appomattox Counties. It is the fifth largest MSA in Virginia with a population of 239,510. Other nearby cities include Roanoke, Charlottesville and Danville. Lynchburg is the home of Central Virginia Community College, Christ College, Liberty University, Lynchburg College, Randolph College, and Virginia University of Lynchburg. The Lynchburg MSA also includes Sweet Briar College. Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's summer home, is nearby. Lynchburg is the regional center for commerce and retail. Industries within the Lynchburg MSA include nuclear technology, pharmaceuticals and material handling. A diversity of small businesses with the region has helped maintain a stable economy and minimized the downturns of the national economy. Reaching as high as 1st place (tied) in 2007, Lynchburg has been within the Top 10 Digital Cities survey for its population since the survey's inception in 2004.
Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Staunton's Downtown Historic District is a wonderfully preserved 19th-century Main Street showcasing a wealth of Victorian architecture from Staunton's boom years between 1860 and 1920. Unlike most other historic towns in the area, Staunton managed to survive the Civil War intact, retaining its turn-of-the-century charm. Recently Staunton has experienced a renaissance, transforming itself from a sleepy historic bedroom community into a thriving center for visual and performing arts. Along the way the residents have worked to keep the cultural identity of downtown Staunton intact by crafting a town based around owner operated businesses that stress uniqueness rather than the chain store ideology reflected in most cities. This driving philosophy presents a unique opportunity to visit a contemporary town rooted in a vivid historical past. One of the principal charms of downtown Staunton is that everything's within walking distance. Visitors will enjoy more than 60 shops, galleries and B&B. Among the highlights are: (a) The American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse, an internationally recognized theatrical troupe that has constructed the world's first historically accurate indoor Shakespearean theater. (b) The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library is one of the few original Presidential birthplaces open to the public. Woodrow Wilson's first home offers an authentic picture of family life in the pre-Civil War Shenandoah Valley. (c) The Staunton Augusta Art Center located at the entrance to Gypsy Hill Park. Exhibits, children's programs, art lectures, theater trips, Arts for Gifts - exhibit and sale, Summer Studio. (d) The Beverley Street Studio School located at 24 W. Beverley Street in Downtown Staunton. Art classes, gallery exhibits, workshops, and discussions. (e) The Staunton-Augusta Farmers' Market, now in its 8th year, is one of the most successful farmers' markets in Virginia, averaging 31 vendors per week. Staunton became the first Virginia community to ever receive a Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In addition, the trust designated the city as one of America's Distinctive Dozen Communities. On top of this national recognition, the Preservation Alliance of Virginia voted to give the city a President's Citation for continuing preservation and renewal of downtown.