Visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Monticello is reopening June 13th! There will be enhanced safety protocols AND personal use photography will be allowed inside the house! 

Visiting Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is an amazing piece of history to see in person and as a family that loves history, visiting Monticello was an absolute must! Located in Charlottesville, Virginia Monticello is perched on an 850′ high peak (and a reason why Monticello derives from Italian for “little mountain”).  Monticello is an absolute treasure visited by over 500,000 people each year. 
Thomas Jefferson was interesting, ahead of his time in many ways and a complicated figure in American History. Are you ready to visit this beautiful and unique home of our 3rd President? Let’s Go……

 

 

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Hanging with Thomas Jefferson before the tour

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Visiting Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Basics

Needless to say, we were all excited to see Monticello in person as it’s where Thomas Jefferson lived and worked. Work began on Monticello in 1768 and was completed in 1809.  It’s also important to note that Monticello is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Although several types of tours are available, we opted for the general tour (which we loved).  As a side note, there is also a family-friendly tour which is geared towards children aged 6-11.  Regardless of the tour chosen, expect to have a great time!

When you arrive at Monticello, you will walk up to the Visitor’s Center which contains shops, a cafe, restrooms, and the ticket office. The Visitor’s Center is a good place to walk around while you wait for your tour time. You can also watch a 15-minute introductory film or visit the kid’s discovery room. As a general rule of thumb,  you’ll want to plan on spending 2-3 hours at Monticello. After picking up your tickets, the staff will inform you what time to be at the bus departure point.

TIP: Buy your tickets ahead of time online. Not only will you guarantee your tour spot, but you’ll also save a few dollars buying online.

TIP: The Griffin Discovery room has a ton of hands-on activities that kids will enjoy

TIP: You can “meet” Thomas Jefferson  while visiting Monticello! His typical schedule is:

  • 10 a.m – At the theater in the Visitor’s Center
  • 11:30 a.m. – West Lawn, near the Fish Pond
  • 12:30 – 2:30pm – talking to guests throughout Monticello grounds
  • 3 p.m. – back at the theater in the Visitor’s Center
  • 4:30 p.m – West Lawn, near the fish pond. 

Naturally, any of these times are subject to change, but this will give you a pretty good idea on where to find Thomas Jefferson. 

Bonus: Throughout the year Monticello offers Mountaintop Activity Center where kids can write with a quill pen, try and break a code with a wheel cipher and so much more! This particular activity showcases Jefferson’ fascination with inventions and innovations. 

The 2020 Dates for the Mountaintop Activity Center are: ( Due to COVID, Mountaintop Activity Center may be closed)

  • June 13- September 7
  • October 3-4, 10-12, and 17-18
  • November 27-29

 

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
On the back porch of Thomas Jefferson'sMonticello
Family Picture On The Back Porch Of Monticello
Front of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Entrance to Monticello

Inside Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Once at Monticello, you’ll wait on the front porch until your tour time starts. Since the tour groups are on the smaller side, you really have a chance to enjoy every aspect of Jefferson’s home.  Without a doubt, the tour guides were fantastic and very knowledgable regarding Jefferson and Monticello.  The interior tour lasts about 30 minutes, but doesn’t feel hurried or rushed in the slightest.

In terms of Monticello’s interior spaces, it was clear to see that Jefferson was truly a renaissance man. Whether integrating his inventions, designing rooms to be octagonal to maximize light or incorporating alcove beds to maximize space, Jefferson’s sense of placement was evident. Within the parlor, portraits of Magellan, Columbus and Vespucci hang prominently indicating Jefferson’s respect for each.  Jefferson’s love of knowledge was also on full display and the tour notates that a significant amount of Jefferson’s previous books became the core for the Library of Congress.

NOTE: Pictures are not allowed inside Monticello. While disappointing to not be able to take pictures on the tour, it was also nice. When you aren’t busy taking pictures, you get to really listen to the guide and absorb all of the history around you. The tour was thorough and it was amazing to see some of Jefferson’s inventions and ideas that he incorporated into Monticello.

Through additional tours and exhibits, you can learn more about the enslaved peoples of Monticello. Monticello seems to really take an upfront honest approach to this difficult topic. It was incredibly informative and well worth the time.

The Gardens at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Now, on to the gardens which are spectacular! There is a guide that will discuss the way Jefferson designed his gardens, as well as, the different plants and vegetables that Jefferson selected.  One of the most interesting things is that Lewis & Clark brought back plants from their expedition and Jefferson planted each to see how they would grow. Within the flower garden, there are markers that notate which of those were ones that Lewis & Clark brought back and the year that each was first planted.  For those interested in the Botanist side of Jefferson, seedlings and seed packets from Monticello’s garden are available for purchase in the Gift Shop.

Snow-on-the-Mountain
Snow-on-the-Mountain. First planted in 1806 after the Lewis & Clark expedition
Flowers at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello's garden
Reproduction of Thomas Jefferson's spherical sundial
Reproduction of Jefferson's spherical sundial

As we walked around the grounds for quite sometime experiencing the views, the thought that Jefferson walked these same hallowed grounds left us with a sense of awe.  While the vegetable garden was quite large and there were a ton of vegetables to see along with a beautiful garden pavilion, the sweeping views of the surrounding countryside were just as amazing.

Huge head of cabbage in the garden
Garden & pavilion

Visiting Monticello Cemetery

The burial plots are surrounded by a large, ornate gate and Jefferson’s obelisk headstone is tall and prominent (although not the original).   While there are many honors that could’ve been placed onto the obelisk, Jefferson only chose three honors (and left off such items as President of the United States, Secretary of State and Governor of Virginia as examples).   Burials within the cemetery still occur today for direct lineal descendants of Jefferson. After visiting the cemetery, we took a relaxing and beautiful walk back to Monticello’s main grounds.

Gate to the Jefferson cemetery
Thomas Jefferson's tombstone
Thomas Jefferson's Obelisk tombstone

After Your Visit To Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Visiting Monticello is a wonderful way to surround yourself with history. Our children really enjoyed the tour at Monticello and it was surprisingly child-friendly. After your tour at Monticello, we highly suggest going to the Virginian for lunch. The Virginian is Charlottesville’s oldest restaurant and is located by the University of Virginia plus a lot of other stores. Having lunch at the Virginian felt like a great way to continue being in the history of Charlottesville. After lunch, stroll around the square and the University of Virginia campus. On our road trips, we tend to visit college football stadiums and their campuses. The boys like to talk about their college plans and a college or university always has great energy.

The Virginian

Additional Things To See Near Monticello

  • The University Of Virginia
  • James Monroe’s Highland
  • James Madison’s Montpelier
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Washington D.C. ( 118 Miles)
  • George Washington’s Mount Vernon ( 123 Miles) 
  • Colonial Williamsburg ( 119 Miles)
Shenandoah National Park

Final Thoughts

As huge history buffs we couldn’t wait to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The home is beautiful and it’s incredibly interesting to see not only some of Jefferson’s unique inventions, but even the layout and overall structure of the home. For example, Jefferson designed many gadgets with “a greater eye to convenience” such as a wine dumbwaiter directly below the dining room. In addition, Jefferson’s Great Clock is visible from both the front of the home and inside the entrance hall. According to some sources, when the clock’s gong rang, it could be heard as far as three miles away. 
Our boys really enjoyed Monticello and liked learning more about our 3rd President. There are a ton of activities just for kids and it’s such a fun way to get kids to learn about history. 

Travel Well,

Nicole

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Heather

    This is exactly the type of place we love to take our kids to! I hope to bring them there one day.

  2. Genevieve

    Looks like you had an amazing trip! I’d love to visit this place!

  3. Jennifer Mostert

    Sounds like a fascinating visit and peak into this remarkable man’s life. If I ever make it to that part of the world I’ll be sure to visit.

  4. Angela Campos

    This sounds like a great place to take the kids! I will add it to my summer vacation bucket list!!

  5. Sharon

    Looks like you had such fun here! I haven’t visited for decades, and I would love to return. Jefferson was such a fascinating person!

  6. Disha Smith

    This is so neat! This looks like an educational place to visit. Adding this to my US bucket list!

  7. Melissa

    Great post and very informative! I love that they have a family friendly tour, I enjoy visiting places like this, but sometimes it can be challenging with a child. Family friendly tours always help!

  8. Carissa

    This sounds like a great place to visit, especially with children since its filled with so much history!

  9. Looks like such a great way to be immersed into and learn more about the history of Jefferson.

  10. Amber Myers

    I would LOVE to do this with my family. We are all about history, so this would be a perfect spot to stop at.

    1. Nicole Claesen

      It’s definitely a great place to go as a family!

  11. Courtney

    WOW! What an amazing place to visit with such a rich history. The outside and gardens are so beautiful, I can only imagine how the inside looks. Going to add this to my must-visit list now!

  12. Monica

    My sister in law is a huge history buff. She’s always looking for ideas of historical vacation spots that she and her family can enjoy. This looks like a great one!

  13. Sharon

    This would be a wonderful summer vacation spot to visit. A beatiful site and get the kids interested in histroy.

  14. Sandra Ans

    Very nice guide and a beautiful place. Only after you said that taking pictures inside was not allowed, I get sooo curious about the inside, haha 😀 Now I want to see the inside with my eyes too!

  15. Mayuri

    I am a big history nerd! Thanks for putting this together and sharing with us!

    Great post!

    1. Nicole Claesen

      So glad you enjoyed the post and found it helpful! We love being history nerds too 🙂

  16. Katy

    What an inspirational post! I’ve never been to Monticello before and now it’s firmly on my bucket list. I want to “meet” Thomas Jefferson – yes please!! ☺️☺️

    1. Nicole Claesen

      Thank you so much Katy!! When you go, please tell Mr. Jefferson we said “hello”. 🙂

  17. Renee

    Looks like such a great family day trip! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  18. Bliss

    History is so interesting, and this would be fascinating to learn about, especially in a lovely old home.

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