What I Wish I Had Known Before Visiting Monticello

The tunnel under Thomas Jefferson's house - Monticello
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During our glamping trip to Shenandoah Crossing in Virginia, we drove over to Charlottesville to visit Thomas Jefferson’s historical home – Monticello.

We had to cancel our hiking plans due to weather, so our excursion to Monticello was on a last minute thing. I didn’t have time to do my usual (obsessive) 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
(The back of the house is the more well-known view of Monticello, as it is the view featured on our nickels.)

Things to Know Before Visiting Monticello

It’s a Little Pricey

Since our visit to Monticello was on a whim, I had no idea how much tickets would cost.

We bought our tickets ‘at the door’ at the visitor’s center and it was $39, for just me and my oldest daughter. (We didn’t pay for my youngest daughter or husband, because children under 6 and active duty military get in free. Otherwise, it would have cost $78 for our family.)

We bought the basic Day Pass and House Tour, which are sold daily, year-round. The employees told us that tickets would have been a little cheaper if we had bought them online.

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 of his own little mountain in Virginia.

At the base of the mountain sits the Visitor 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.

Or you can take the shuttle, which I recommend. It runs every 5 minutes between the Visitor Center and the mountaintop and it’s included in the price of your ticket.

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 tour of the grounds and gardens. You can also opt to look around on your own. Either way you are going to be doing a lot of walking. 

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.

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 to learn 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!

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 pretty interesting. The tour guides were very knowledgeable and told us things that you won’t find in history books. 

Jefferson was kind of scandalous!

The gate to Thomas Jefferson gravesite at Monticello.
(The very ornate gate to Jefferson’s grave site.)

Despite being spur of the moment, our visit to Monticello was fantastic.

It was a beautiful day spent in a beautiful place. We learned new and interesting things about American history and had the chance to experience one of the most well-preserved historical sites in the U.S.

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