While traveling sometimes things don’t always go as planned. While on a trip to Washington D.C in October of 2000. we had booked a tour that would take us all over the Mall and the local area. Can’t remember the tour group, but I was extremely upset to get to the pick-up location to find out that it was canceled due to the million family march on the mall. An email or phone call to cancel would have been nice, but we did get our money back. After much discussion, we decided to leave D.C. a day early (since there were too many people on the mall to do anything) and check out Monticello before we headed to our time-share near Colonial Williamsburg. We made the best of a bad situation and had a great time checking out the former home and plantation of our third president, Thomas Jefferson.
Monticello, now a National Landmark, is situated on the summit of an 850-foot high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap and is the only private home in the United States to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Included in that designation are the original grounds and buildings of the Jefferson’s University of Virginia Campus.
Jefferson himself began designing and building this amazing property when he was only 26 years old. It was built to serve as a plantation house, which ultimately took on the architectural form of a villa. It has many architectural antecedents but Jefferson went beyond them to create something very much his own. He designed the main house using neoclassical design principles described by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, subsequently reworking the design through much of his presidency to include design elements popular in late 18th-century Europe and integrating numerous of his own designs solutions.
Besides the main house at Monticello, there are numerous outbuildings for specialized functions, e.g., a nailery; quarters for domestic slaves; gardens for flowers, produce, and Jefferson’s experiments in plant breeding — along with tobacco fields and mixed crops. Cabins for field slaves were located farther from the mansion.
Today the Monticello is owned and maintained by the Tom Jefferson Foundation. The land is so amazing and I couldn’t help but think about what it was like in Jefferson’s time. How peaceful it must have been. Besides the house, the main thing I wanted to see was the gardens. I heard they were beautiful, and they didn’t disappoint. One of the first things you should do when you get there is to check out the Visitor Center. They have exhibits and films which share some of Jefferson’s life and ideas. We learned that Monticello was designated as a US National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960, and added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Just thought it was interesting to share.
They have guided tours that you can take which take you through several parts of the house, while they tell you more stories about Jefferson and some of the slaves. Some of it is very heartbreaking. It was very interesting to find out that there are 43 rooms in Monticello. Wow. It was big, but it didn’t look that big to me. I soon found out it was because the rooms were small. I also enjoyed seeing some of the eight fireplaces on site. The furniture was also pretty interesting. Some of the pieces were actually some pieces that were most likely owned by Jefferson.
We had such a great time visiting Monticello and I am so glad we had to change our plans and decided to do this instead. We have been back to the mall a few times, but have not been back near Monticello, so here’s to having to adjust on the fly! If you would like to visit, here is a link to their website with tour information, and pricing. as well as a lot of history about Jefferson himself. Very interesting history. We ended our visit by paying respect to him at his grave. This is definitely something I felt that I wanted to do. Hope you enjoy your visit to Monticello if you find yourself in the area. We sure did.
Monticello Visitor Information
Monday -Friday 9:30 am-5:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday 9:30 am – 6 pm
Monticello Self Guided Pass
Guests touring the house will be greeted outside by a guide who will introduce them to Monticello. They will then proceed inside for a self-guided tour of the house using a guidebook (available for purchase at The Shop at Monticello) or smartphone. Upon exiting the house, a guide will be available for further questions.
Youth (12-18) $10
Child (under 12) Free but a ticket is required
Private Behind the Scenes Tour
This exclusive pass takes you behind the scenes: through the first floor of Monticello and up the narrow staircase to explore the private quarters on the second and third floors, including the iconic Dome Room.
$350 for up to 5 guests of any age.
Important information about this tour – Reservations are required for this tour, and must be made at least 48-hours in advance. Call: 434.984.9880.
Please note: This tour is not handicap-accessible and involves climbing steep stairs. Children must be able to climb and descend stairs unassisted by an adult. These tours are recommended for adults and children 7 and older.
Late Arrivals: As these tours begin and/or end outside of our normal hours of operation, guests arriving late may receive an abbreviated tour.
VIP After Hours Monticello Tour
This one-of-a-kind experience picks your group up at your doorstep in Charlottesville and takes you right to the doorstep of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello where you will meet your private guide, bypass the gates and lines in this exclusive tour offered in partnership with Monticello Wine Tour & Coach Co. You’ll see the full house, including the upper floors. Learn about Jefferson and the times in which he lived, and all the people, both enslaved and free, who lived and labored at Monticello. This exclusive pass allows guests to explore the mountaintop after the regular closing time, providing a peace and quiet for reflection that differs from the activity of a day visit.
$615 for 5 guests (includes transportation). $75 for each additional guest up to 14 people.
Tours begin at 5:30 and usually run an average of an hour and a half.
Enjoy the ultimate Monticello insider’s experience and explore Jefferson’s mountaintop home on a tour tailored exclusively to your interests. Offered year-round with at least two-weeks notice.
Your Monticello Private Guide tour includes:
- An experienced Monticello guide who will tailor the tour to your interests
- A private tour of Monticello for you and your guests
- A visit to Jefferson’s rarely seen Dome Room
- A guided tour of the gardens, grounds or museum galleries
Scheduling a Private Guide Tour
Reservations must be made two weeks in advance and are subject to availability. Contact: 434.984.9884.
$700 for up to 5 guests of any age.
From Washington, D.C., and Points North
Take Interstate 66 West to U.S. 29 South at Gainesville. Follow U.S. 29 South into Charlottesville and look for the signs for the U.S. 250 West/U.S. 29 South Bypass. Follow this bypass to Interstate 64 East (direction Richmond). Take Interstate 64 East and get off at Exit 121A onto Va. Route 20 South (direction Scottsville). At the second stoplight, turn left onto Route 53 (Thomas Jefferson Parkway) Follow Route 53 East for about 1.75 miles. Immediately after passing under the stone-arch Saunders Bridge, exit right onto the roadway that leads over the bridge and onto the grounds of Monticello.
From Richmond and Points East
Take Interstate 64 West to Exit 121 at Charlottesville. At the end of the exit ramp turn left onto Va. Route 20 South. At the second stoplight, turn left onto Route 53 (Thomas Jefferson Parkway). Follow Route 53 East for about 1.75 miles. Immediately after passing under the stone-arch Saunders Bridge, exit right onto the roadway that leads over the bridge and onto the grounds of Monticello.
From Lynchburg and Points South
Take U.S. 29 North to Charlottesville. Take Interstate 64 East (direction Richmond) and get off at Exit 121A onto Va. Route 20 South (direction Scottsville). At the second stoplight, turn left onto Route 53 (Thomas Jefferson Parkway). Follow Route 53 East for about 1.75 miles. Immediately after passing under the stone-arch Saunders Bridge, exit right onto the roadway that leads over the bridge and onto the grounds of Monticello.
From Staunton and Points West
Take Interstate 64 East to Charlottesville and get off at Exit 121A onto Va. Route 20 South (direction Scottsville). At the second stoplight, turn left onto Route 53 (Thomas Jefferson Parkway). Follow Route 53 East for about 1.75 miles. Immediately after passing under the stone-arch Saunders Bridge, exit right onto the roadway that leads over the bridge and onto the grounds of Monticello.
Detour Route (from State Rt. 250, Richmond Road)
Follow directions to N. Milton Road and Richmond Road. Turn onto N Milton Rd and follow for about .7 mile. Turn right onto Milton Road and follow for just over 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Rt. 53 West (Thomas Jefferson Parkway) and follow for just over a mile. Turn left Monticello Loop (just before the bridge) and follow signs to the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center at Monticello.
Parking and Getting Around Monticello
Parking at Monticello is free. There are spaces for buses, RVs, and trailers. Disabled parking spaces are located near the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center and Carl and Hunter Smith History Center (handicapped license plate or tag required). Guests are advised to lock their vehicles. Monticello is not responsible for loss or damage incurred in the parking area. Overnight parking is prohibited. PLEASE NOTE: Only clear plastic bags (not exceeding 12” x 6” x 12”) are allowed beyond the visitor center and all bags will be inspected. A one-gallon clear plastic storage bag is acceptable. Clear bags are available for purchase at The Shop at Monticello. Exceptions to these policies will be made for all medically necessary items after proper inspection.
Shuttle Buses to and from the House and Mountaintop
After picking up your ticket(s) at the Visitor Center, a 25-passenger shuttle bus will transport you to the mountaintop (unless you choose to take the trail; see below). Passengers will be dropped off near Monticello’s East Walk where they can also board to take the shuttle back to the Visitor Center and parking area. On the return trip, the shuttle will stop Jefferson’s gravesite and drop off and pick up passengers as needed. Guests must be seated while riding the bus. Smoking is prohibited.
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