If you’re traveling along I-64 in Virginia and find yourself in the middle of the state, you’re going to zoom by someplace you mustn’t zoom by – Monticello. So stop. Turn around. Go back. Recalculate. Smell the roses. It’s worth it.
When my sister and niece were last in town, we wanted to do a short daytrip somewhere. The local area vineyards sounded tasty, however Grace is not quite old enough. Pooh. Charlottesville itself sounds fun, but it deserves more than just a few hours to do it justice.
So we settled on Monticello and decided to brush up on our history. This is the home of Thomas Jefferson, our third President and author of the Declaration of Independence. Situated literally on the top of a hill, it’s a stone’s throw from Charlottesville, roughly 1 hour from Richmond, and just shy of 3 hrs from D.C. Perfect for daytripping or sightseeing if you’re in the area.
We did the standard 40 min house tour. It’s informative and lets us see the first floor of the house. Thomas Jefferson was fun, curious, and liked the latest in tech. And his house reflects this all. You’ll see lots of unusual stuff like a clock with days of the week and a rotating bookstand that could hold five books at once.
You can spend as much time as you want wandering around the grounds. We walked around, read the informational markers, and naturally eavesdropped on the Grounds Tour guide when we passed by. 😉
Next time, I would spend a little extra money and take the ‘Extended Tour’. You’ll get to go upstairs to see his private bedrooms and see the iconic Dome room. Since the dome is what gives Monticello its distinctive architecture, it’s kind of a let-down not to see the inside of it.
Btw, I made a discovery that my niece laughed at me for. I realized the building on the back of a nickel is Monticello. D’oh! How have I never put two and two together?
If the weather is decent, I recommend skipping the shuttle bus back to the Visitor Center and instead walk the gravel path down the hill. You’ll get an opportunity to pass by the family cemetery plot where Thomas Jefferson is buried.
Looking at his gravestone, you’ll notice there are three accomplishments listed on it and not one of them was being president. Nope, for others, the presidency was their biggest accomplishment, but not for Thomas Jefferson. He wanted his monument to reflect the things that he gave to people vs. what was given to him – author of the Declaration of Independence, author of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, and Founder of the University of Virginia.
Things to know before you go…
1.Tickets cost between $21-$26, depending on time of year. Kids 5-11 only pay $10. Parking is free and there is a shuttle bus from the Visitor Center up to the house. My suggestion – take the shuttle but walk back down. Shuttle lines are shorter going up than coming back down (when everyone is tired).
2. Don’t skip or zone out during the 15 min history video at the Visitor Center. It provides the perspective needed to understand Monticello and Thomas Jefferson better. It makes for a richer experience.
3. There are plenty of activities for kids to keep them interested. Look for the Griffin Discovery Room and the Hands-On Activity Center. There’s also a booklet online that they can download, read, and bring with them. Oh, and they’ll love the museum gift shop. It’s one of the best gift shops I’ve visited among national landmarks.