The third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson was an eclectic man. Your history class probably taught you about how he wrote the Declaration of Independence (when he was only 33!) or the basic facts of his presidency. You may even remember what he did inbetween or the details of what he accomplished. Along with his professional accomplishments, though, Monticello takes a look at his personal life. Jefferson had quirky habits, including forecasting the weather and teaching himself to be ambidextrous.
Of course, visiting Monticello is more about life on a Virginia estate than Thomas Jefferson himself. Throughout his lifetime, this was a working plantation — first tobacco, then wheat — and it was set up to house a large extended family, many household servants, and slaves. The tour guides do a wonderful job of sharing “a day in the life” from several different perspectives and painting a picture of colonial life.
Today, the house is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a complete visit of Monticello will take four or five hours. Start with the introductory video, then join guided tours of the house, garden, and slavery buildings (45 minutes each), peek in the kitchens and other outbuildings, and then walk down the hill past Thomas Jefferson’s grave until you return to the visitor’s center to take in the exhibits.
Even non-history lovers will enjoy a visit since the plantation covers a large expanse of land in the beautiful area of Charlottesville, VA with rolling hills and the Blue Ridge Mountains nearby. Right on-site is the Saunders-Monticello trail, a hike in lovely scenery at 2.5 miles each way.
If you go, be aware that house tours are on a timed ticket. Don’t worry too much about when your entry time is, since there’s plenty to do to keep you occupied while you wait. Winter tickets are cheaper but don’t include supplemental tours about gardening, slavery, and other specialty topics so I actually think visiting March-October is a better deal. An on-site cafe is also available and surprisingly affordable and high-quality.