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Our Monticello Trip

I’m a little slow at getting these up, I know!

We’ve been studying the U.S. Presidents this year, and when we read about Thomas Jefferson, the kids became really fascinated with his Virgina home, Monticello. Since we live not terribly far from there, I thought it would be fun to go take a tour and make an overnight trip of it.

And the kids thought so too…they were all very excited when we told them about our trip plans.

So, we drove to Charlottesville one Sunday after church.

These are the requisite though-the-van-windshield pictures.

I really like the challenge of trying to produce a passable photo while riding in a moving vehicle.

We stayed in a hotel that belongs to the chain where my brother works. They offer a really great friends and family discount, which means we can usually snag a hotel room for $39.

The kids felt the most important hotel feature was the pool. We went swimming that night.

And after breakfast the next morning.

And then we cleaned ourselves up and headed off to see what we had come to see.

Don’t you just love brick? It’s so classic and timeless.

Monticello has so much detail…this is the underside of the roof overhang. Can you imagine how long it took to make those designs back in the days before power tools?

We took a tour of the inside of Monticello but sadly, photos are not allowed inside the house. Boo.

However, outdoors and all the out-buildings/under-buildings are fair game.

The kitchen was really interesting. This was a fancy stove set-up back then…each of those basins is for a small fire, which gave the cooks the ability to have different heat levels for each pot.

Do you ever wonder how anyone turned out a decent meal when fire was the only way to cook things?

This is the back side of Monticello.

I made the kids sit there for a photo, even though the light was terrible.

Hmm. I just now noticed that Lisey chose a pair of jeans with holes in both knees. This is what happens when you let your children pack for themselves…they leave the non-holey jeans at home.

Zoe holding her camera.

This is what you see from that seat. Not too shabby, huh? Even in January, it’s pretty breathtaking.

Sonia says when she grows up, she’s going to rent Monticello for 100 years.

If only.

It’s pretty cool that you can walk around in Thomas Jefferson’s yard. I’m sure his granddaughters ran around just like Zoe did.

When we had seen all there was to see, we hopped back on the shuttle that takes you up and down the mountain.

I did sneak in one last picture.

Down at the visitor’s center, they have a great exhibit for kids. It’s a space with replicas of a lot of the neat features of Monticello, but since they’re replicas, you can touch them and play with them (whereas in the real house, everything is off-limits).

We tried out his polygraph machine.

There are Jefferson quotes on the wall, and I thought any of you gardeners out there would like this one.

This was the most interesting quote of the bunch, I thought. I wonder what Jefferson would think if he could see the lack of vacant land in our country.

Oh, I and I loved this list of his:

Though his counsel about money is wise, unfortunately he was no good at following it. He was always in terrible financial shape!

Monticello isn’t a particularly cheap attraction (I think we paid $67 or so altogether), although it is less expensive if you go off-season. And since we squeezed in our trip before Zoe’s birthday, she was free (5 and under get in at no cost).

I think it was worth it, though. Making it an overnight trip seriously upped the fun factor for the kids, and I think that seeing Monticello in person will definitely help them to remember what we’ve learned about Thomas Jefferson. Visiting his home and taking the tour really makes him seem more like a real person than just a figure in a history book.

Also, I was inspired by Jefferson’s habit of placing mirrors opposite windows so as to maximize the natural light, and I’ve been thinking about how I can do that ever since we got home.

If you happen to find yourself in the Charlottesville area, I definitely recommend making room for Monticello on your itinerary, especially if you love early American history.



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Amity Tripp

Friday 15th of May 2015

What is the name of the hotel where you stayed? Looks like a good one. We are planning a family trip over Father's Day weekend and places book up. I know this is a 3-years later post about your Monticello trip, ha. That's the cool thing about the internet. This is the first time I'm reading your blog - I'm hooked!


Friday 15th of May 2015

Gosh, I don't remember! I believe it was a Marriott family brand of hotel, and I think I remember them not serving breakfast, so that makes me think it was a Courtyard.

So glad to have you reading!

SnowCat MacDobhran

Sunday 12th of February 2012

We love that particular hotel, we have decided that it will be our hotel every time we drive down to the MD Renaissance Faire. (which is about 6 weekends a year.)

Rebecca Kipe

Thursday 2nd of February 2012

We lived in Charlottesville for 4 years and it was the most lovely place in the world! One thing I remember hearing on the tour (actually it was when we asked questions privately of the tour guide) was the reason why Jefferson was always in debt. Back then they had to pay all their own money for any presidential expenses. Also, I believe he inherited his father or father in law's debt (can't remember which), so a lot of the debt wasn't his fault. It was an interesting part of the tour. The tour guides there are great! so knowledgeable.

Barbara Pfieffer

Thursday 2nd of February 2012

I was there back in 1987 and I loved it. I particularly liked the bookcase wall. I also went to the family cemetery. Small, but interesting. I went to the visitor's center first and I thought it was a perfect introduction to an amazing man.

I would second the suggestion for a trip to the University of Virginia. It was one of only 3 things Jefferson put on his tombstone. The students do a tour of the Rotunda building and explain how Jefferson designed the campus.

Also nearby is Ash Lawn, James Monroe's home. It's a beautiful drive from Monticello to Ash Lawn.

I have to end with one of my favorite quotes about Jefferson. It is from John F Kennedy, speaking at a dinner of Nobel Prize winners at the White House:

"This is probably the greatest concentration of talent and genius in this house except for perhaps those times when Thomas Jefferson ate alone."


Wednesday 1st of February 2012

Ahaha. If you ever find yourself back there, you should let them know there's a mistake in that gardening quote! It should be 'its culture' not 'it's culture' :) looks like a lovely trip though! x

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