Travel, Virginia

What I Wish I Had Known Before Visiting Monticello

While we were glamping at Shenandoah Crossing in Virginia, we took a little trip to Charlottesville to visit Thomas Jefferson’s historical home – Monticello.

Our original plans were cancelled due to weather, so our excursion to Monticello was on a whim. I didn’t have time to do my usual (albeit anal-retentive) research, so I didn’t know exactly what we were getting into. Here are the things I wish I had known before we arrived at Monticello!

Tips for Visiting Thomas Jefferson's home - Monticello

Things to Know Before Visiting Monticello

It’s Expensive

Since our visit to Monticello was on a whim, I had no idea how much tickets would cost. We paid for our tickets at the counter at Monticello’s Visitor Center and the cost was $39, for just myself and my oldest daughter! We didn’t pay for my youngest or my husband, since children 5 and under and active duty military get in free. Otherwise, the price would have been $78.

We bought tickets for the basic Day Pass and House Tour, which are sold daily, year-round. I can’t imagine the cost if we had opted for extra tours. The tickets would have been a little cheaper if we had bought them online as they. If we ever get the chance to visit Monticello again, I will definitely purchase our tickets ahead of time from the website.

The tunnel under Thomas Jefferson's house - Monticello

(The view from the tunnel that runs underneath Thomas Jefferson’s house.)

There’s a LOT of Walking

Monticello means ‘little mountain’ in Italian and Jefferson’s house sits on top his own little mountain in Virginia. At the base of the mountain sits the Vistitor Center, Smith Education Center, Cafe, Griffin Discovery Room, Museum Shop, and the African American Graveyard. The attractions at the bottom of the mountain do NOT require a ticket. You are able to enjoy them for FREE!

After looking around the base of the mountain, you will need to head up towards the house. There is a walking path from the Visitor Center to the house that you can take. It would be a 15-20 minute walk, which doesn’t seem so bad, but it’s a pretty steep uphill trek. I recommend taking the shuttle that runs every 5 minutes between the Visitor Center and the mountaintop. It’s included in the price of your ticket and will save your soon to be tired feet and legs!

Once at the top of the mountain, you will do your tour of the first floor of the house. After which, you can also do the guided slavery tour and the guided tour of the grounds and gardens. You can also opt to look around on your own. Either way you are going to be walking around a lot. This is one family outing that will have your FitBit singing!

The vegetable garden at Monticello.

(View of the vegetable garden from a building on Mulberry Row.)

It Takes Time

As you can see from the amount of walking you will be doing, a visit to Monticello will take up a lot of time. The website suggests that you set aside at least 2 hours for a visit. However, we were here for almost 4 hours and we still didn’t see everything that we would have liked to see. Make sure you set aside of plenty of time for your visit to Monticello. If we ever get the chance to go back, I’ll make sure we don’t have any other plans for that day.

Exploring the discovery room at Monticello.

(Learning to use Thomas Jefferson’s letter copying invention – the polygraph.)

It’s SUPER Educational

Of course you would expect quite a bit of history when you visit a historical site, but I learned more history in one day at Monticello than I did in an entire year of high school. Seriously, it was a total brain overload of information! There is so much I didn’t know about our third president. And all of it was very interesting – we were never bored during our visit to Monticello.

The gate to Thomas Jefferson gravesite at Monticello.

(The gate to Thomas Jefferson’s grave site.)

Despite our spur of the moment and research-less trip to Monticello, we had a great time. It was a beautiful day spent in a beautiful place. We learned new and interesting things about our history and had the chance to experience one of the most historical sites in the U.S. I hope we get the chance to go back in the future!

(Thomas Jefferson’s grave marker.)

(Tulips in bloom at Monticello.)

(A storeroom underneath the house.)

4 Things to Know Before Visiting Monticello What I Wish I Had Known Before Visiting Monticello Tips for Visiting Monticello

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