Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

23 Sep


As probably one of the top 10 places to see in Virginia, Monticello is a tourism destination.  Monticello consists of the house, grounds and gardens and the plantation.  The house is an autobiographical structure of the life of Jefferson which was built and rebuilt over 40 years.  The gardens and grounds are still meticulously tended to with plants from all over the world and a large vegetable garden.  The plantation consists of over 5000 acres and was an architectural as well as industrial center.

So, who was Thomas Jefferson?  In a nutshell…he was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia — voiced the aspirations of a new America as no other individual of his era. As public official, historian, philosopher, and plantation owner, he served his country for over five decades.

Do not plan to just “show up” at Monticello.  A planned visit is the best way to get the most out of your trip.  Arrive in the morning before the crowds and buses and give yourself plenty of time to explore.

What I love about Monticello is that they have activities and tours designed JUST FOR KIDS!  I was pleasantly surprised while we were there about how friendly the guides were and helpful in steering us toward the best things for kids.  Better yet, they don’t banish kids to a certain section or area – rather, Monticello gives them the special attention they need to make the most of their visit.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Exploring Monticello: A Guide for Young Learners

Now, when you tour Monticello, you park in the lot, buy your tickets (if you haven’t done so already) and

Tours for Children

Tours for Children

then a van transports you to the site.  There is a lot of walking and snacks are limited at the site so be sure to bring a stroller (if necessary) and some water bottles.  Here is a list of “guidelines” that you will also need to know:

  • Bags and Backpacks. No bags or backpacks exceeding 11″ by 15″ by 4″ are allowed beyond the Shuttle Station.
  • In the House. Eating, drinking, chewing gum, and using tobacco products are prohibited in the house. Cell phones and other electronic devices must be turned off. Still photography, filming, and video recording are prohibited. Visitors are urged not to touch or lean on walls or furnishings.
  • On the Grounds. The West Lawn is open to visitors. Otherwise, visitors are asked to keep to the designated paths and trails while on the grounds. Smoking is not permitted near the House or its dependencies and terraces.
  • Photography. Still photography, filming, and video recording for personal use are permitted on the grounds of Monticello. No photography of any kind is allowed inside the house.
  • Pets. Pets are allowed on the grounds if leashed. Pets (excluding certified service dogs) are not allowed in any buildings or on the shuttle buses. Visitors bringing pets are required to clean up after them.
  • Smoking. Smoking is prohibited in all buildings, in the shuttle buses, and in the vicinity of the house. Smokers are asked to be careful with their matches, lighters, ashes, etc.
  • Visiting with Kids. Parents with toddlers are encouraged to use small strollers when touring the house. Parents of active or restless young children may be asked to take turns touring the house, as a courtesy to other visitors.

There are tours at Monticello designed just for children.  They say that the tours are for children ages 6-11; however, my son, who is 5, did just fine.  The guides really know how to relate to children and point out the items that they find to be “cool”.  I really loved how when our tour started in the main foyer, the guide sat down on the floor with the kids and acted like she had all the time in the world to show them things and answer their questions.  The tours are 30 minutes and in each room, they show the children what it was like to live in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  The Tours for Children and their Families are typically conducted at 10, 11, noon, 1, 2, and 3 daily from June 14-August 17.

Children's Activity Center


Plan to arrive early and tour the grounds before your tour.  Also, if time permits, there is a children’s activity center: Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center – Write with a quill pen; play 18th century games; piece together a replica of Monticello’s parquet floor; and many more fun, family-oriented hands-on activities. Hours for 2008 are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 14-Aug. 31, excluding  a limited number of weekdays between June 19 and July 24, when the center will open at 1 p.m., and July 4, when it be closed. Location: Below the North Terrace adjoining Monticello’s main house.

Lastly, Monticello has a classroom website filled with information for teaching your kids all about their visit.  My recommendation is to download some information before your visit to entice your kids and then after as well to reinforce what they have learned.

Tickets for Monticello are as follows:  Adults $15.00, Children 6-11 $8.00 and children under 6 are free.  You can buy tickets in advance online by visiting the Monticello website.  For some strange reason, there is a $1.50 “service fee” for purchasing tickets online.  Under Monticello’s “Good Neighbor” policy, residents of the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County and University of Virginia students receive discounted rates for House Tour and Grounds Tickets with proper proof of residence, such as a valid driver’s license, or current UVA ID.

Listen to a podcast on the Children’s Tour here!  Monticello Children\’s Tour Podcast

Tina’s Take:  this was a wonderful experience (though a very hot day!).  My son learned so much (so did we!) and really enjoyed the children’s tour.  He learned all about the nickel and the picture of Jefferson and Monticello on it.  Bring water and perhaps a few snacks since your will spend a few hours at the site.  The property is very well maintained and organized well.  Plenty of bathroom facilities and space for kids to run around.  There is a large gift shop with lots of items which kids will be drawn to.  I recommend maybe purchasing a few things on the internet before your visit and bringing them with you as “surprises”.  Don’t try to add much to the day besides Monticello, especially with young children.  Have a late lunch at Michie Tavern and call it a day!


One Response to “Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello”


  1. Fourth of July Family Road Trip #1 « Virginia is for Kids! - June 4, 2009

    […] I wrote a post about visiting Monticello with kids.  Click here to access the post. […]

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