Monticello is the beautifully preserved home of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States. Located near Charlottesville in Virginia, next to James Monroe's Highland, Monticello is a renowned historical site and estate,
Nestled in the rolling landscapes just outside of Charlottesville in the Piedmont area, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello covers more than 2,500 acres of natural pastures and woodlands, providing a unique backdrop of pristine beauty for the plantation. The historic estate, house, and gardens offer visitors a compelling glimpse into this extraordinary period of American history in which Thomas Jefferson ruled for five decades and included the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.
After the death of Thomas Jefferson, who was buried in the Monticello Cemetery on the estate, Monticello changed hands a couple of times before being sold to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF), which now operates it as a public museum and educational institution. Monticello is a designated National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
1.The House and Grounds
© Courtesy of nathanallen - Fotolia.com
Monticello was designed and built by Thomas Jefferson at the age of 26 after inheriting the land from his father. Originally 5,000 acres, Jefferson used the plantation for the cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, and later shifting to wheat in response to changing markets. The main house was designed in the Neo-Classical style and features favorite design elements of the time, such as an octagonal dome, mezzanine levels, and a large columned portico at the front. Named after the Italian word for ‘little mount,'Monticello rests on the peak of an 850-foot (260 m)-high peak south of the Rivanna Gap in the in the Southwest Mountains.
© Courtesy of quasarphotos - Fotolia.com
The gardens of Monticello were designed by Thomas Jefferson himself, who was a connoisseur of botany, gardening techniques,and experimental planting. The gardens at Monticello include a flower garden, a vegetable garden, and a fruit orchard. The garden contains a variety of plants grown from exotic seeds and plants Jefferson found on his travels abroad.
The Vegetable Garden is a beautiful 1000-foot-long garden terrace with over 330 varieties of vegetables, the Flower Gardens are a botanic laboratory of ornamental and useful plants from around the world, and the fruit orchard features more than 170 varieties of apples, peaches, grapes.
The landscape around Monticello's gardens possess many unique features, including The Grove, which is a tranquil ornamental forest where Jefferson could visit his "pet trees"; The Trees of Monticello, which featured Jefferson's favorite trees; and The Fences, which showcase the varieties of standard and ambitious methods to protect his gardens.
© Courtesy of Konstantin L - Fotolia.com
The David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center and Smith Education Center presents an array of information to help the visitor make the most out of their experience at Monticello. The Center features four innovative exhibitions: “Thomas Jefferson and ‘the Boisterous Sea of Liberty'”, which delves into the development Jefferson's ideas about liberty; “Monticello as Experiment: ‘To Try All Things'” which explores Jefferson's use of the estate as a laboratory; “Making Monticello: Jefferson's Essay in Architecture,” which follows the four-decade evolution of the Monticello house; and “The Words of Thomas Jefferson” which brings his thoughts to life.
An introductory film called “Thomas Jefferson's World” orients all visitors to Jefferson's core concepts about liberty and his ideas and accomplishments, and the Griffin Discovery Room gives younger visitors the chance to discover Jefferson's life and times through interactive and hands-on activities. Fully-equipped classrooms in the Carl and Hunter Smith Education Center provide a venue for workshops and other educational programs for students.
© Courtesy of Konstantin L - Fotolia.com
Visitors to Monticello can explore the grounds, gardens, the first dwellings and slave quarters of the estate, learn about Thomas Jefferson's ideas on architecture, botany, philosophy, and family. Guided tours of the main house and the gardens are available in a timed format and last 40 minutes and visitors can explore the gardens and outbuildings on self-guided tours. Special Garden Tasting Tours are new one-hour tours that include a look at the functioning vegetable gardens of the estate and include tastings of the best vegetables, fruit, and herbs.
The Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center presents an array of family-oriented activities for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Outdoor enthusiasts can take to the Saunders-Monticello Trail, which winds its way through 370 acres of Central Virginia's most popular park, offering spectacular scenic views of the native hardwood forests and the Blue Ridge Mountains along the way.
Back to: Best Things to Do in Charlottesville, Virginia
931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902, website
Things to Do in Virginia: Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
- The House and Grounds, Photo: Courtesy of nathanallen - Fotolia.com
- Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of quasarphotos - Fotolia.com
- Visitor Information, Photo: Courtesy of Konstantin L - Fotolia.com
- Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Konstantin L - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com