Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Roadschool Guide
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Full Price Admission Cost: $29 ($26 if purchased online) adults; $17 youth 12–18; $10 kids 5–10; under 5 free
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
When I made plans to go see Monticello, I was anticipating a house tour and a quick walk around the grounds. What we got instead was an incredibly fun, interesting, and thought-provoking experience that I wish I would have set more time aside for. Don’t make the mistake I made; give yourself around 4 hours to fully experience all Monticello has to offer.
We arrived in a hurry because the drive took longer than we anticipated. Luckily, we were able to pick up our tickets and catch a shuttle up the mountain just in time. We walked up to our group just as they were headed to the house, and we didn’t miss a thing. Phew!
The house tour was incredible. My family has a fascination with colonial history, so it was right up our alley, but even if it wasn’t our “thing” I do believe we would have enjoyed this tour. Our guide was fabulous, offering all kinds of awesome tidbits along the way and answering all of our son’s three billion questions without hesitation. We learned some great stuff about Jefferson and were really able to envision him living and working in Monticello.
Once the house tour was over, we went to check out the grounds, which are absolutely beautiful and offer some breathtaking views. We snapped a few photos, including the iconic “nickel side” of the house, and took a lovely stroll.
Eventually, our walk led us to the collection of rooms under the house that are open for exploration. Plenty of signage and even some exhibits are available explaining what each room was used for. There were wine and beer cellars, kitchens, and even a privy, something most homeowners of the day would have built in a separate outhouse. Apparently, Jefferson actually had a few of these indoor privies, and some were even inside the house itself.
We also went on the tour focused on slavery at Monticello. This was fascinating, and really helped open our eyes to the fact that while Thomas Jefferson was a very smart man, he was not perfect, and he did do things we would definitely frown upon today. We saw slaves’ quarters and heard about the life of Sally Hemings, a fascinating story about one of Jefferson’s 600+ total slaves that really made us think.
Of course, after hearing Sally’s intriguing story we wanted to see the exhibit set aside especially for her, and I’m so glad we did. While this multimedia experience is fairly short, it is very well done and incredibly touching.
Other things to do on the property include a garden tour, a hands-on space where kids can touch and play with recreations of items from Jefferson’s time, a biographical video about Jefferson, and a number of grave sites that guests may visit, including the resting place of Thomas Jefferson himself.
If you’ll be in the Charlottesville area at any point, definitely carve out time for this awesome and educational experience. I promise you won’t regret it!
- Food is available for purchase on the premises. However, outside food and drink is also allowed and can be eaten onsite as long as it isn’t taken into the house.
- Limited bus and RV parking is available.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk.
- Plan on at least half a day. There is much more to see than just the house.
- Make time for the extra tours that are included with your ticket. These are fantastic!
- Arrive between 2–2½ hours early. You’ll want to see the introductory video and other things in the visitor center, and you’ll need to be picking up your tickets 30–45 minutes before your actual tour begins.
Books to Read
- Who Was Thomas Jefferson? — by Dennis Brindell Fradin
- What is the Declaration of Independence? — By Michael C. Harris
- Thomas Jefferson for Kids: His Life and Times — by Brandon Marie Miller
- Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud — By Suzanne Tripp Jurmain
- Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything — by Maira Kalman
- Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library — By Barb Rosenstock
- Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography — by James Cross Giblin
- A Picture Book of Thomas Jefferson — by David Adler
- The Secret at Jefferson’s Mansion — by Ron Roy
- Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation — by Peggy Thomas
- My Name is James Madison Hemings — by Jonah Winter
- Those Rebels, John and Tom — by Barbara Kerley
Videos to Watch
- Liberty’s Kids Series
- Thomas Jefferson — Mini Biography
- Crash Course History — Thomas Jefferson and His Democracy
Activities to Do
- Make a quill pen like what Jefferson may have used.
- Thomas Jefferson loved macaroni and cheese. Make this recipe, which is much like one he may have used.
- Among many other things, Jefferson was an architect. Try creating a blueprint of your own.
Things to Discuss
- What were some of Jefferson’s greatest achievements?
- What are some of the mistakes he made?
- If Thomas Jefferson were alive right now, what do you think he’d enjoy doing?
Other Area Attractions
Below are some of the other great attractions in this area. We try to keep things affordable, sticking to free and cheap attractions and/or museums and zoos on reciprocal lists. If an attraction is affiliated with a reciprocal program or offers free admission, I have noted that beside the attraction listing. To learn more about saving money using reciprocal programs, see this post.
- Carter Mountain Orchard
- James Madison’s Montpelier
- James Monroe’s Highland
- Shenandoah National Park — America the Beautiful
- McGuffey Art Center
- Virginia Discovery Museum — ASTC and ACM
- The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia — NARM
Closest Places to Stay on a Budget
For information on camping memberships, see this post.
- Thousand Trails: Williamsburg RV and Camping Resort (113 mi)
- Passport America and RPI: Small Country Campground (104 mi)
- Coast to Coast: Shenandoah Crossing Resort and Country Club (26 mi)
Related Attractions in Other Areas
- Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA — Roadschool Guide
- Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, VA — Roadschool Guide
- Conner Prairie in Fishers, IN — Roadschool Guide
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