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Monticello, the primary plantation home of Thomas Jefferson, is a site to behold in person. Not only is the home itself beautiful and the surrounding scenery on the 5,000-acre Virginia plantation is breathtaking, but it also gives visitors a first-hand look into the mind and life of America’s third president.
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In addition to being a National Historic Landmark and the only house in the country to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was also a home. It was the center of the President’s world and that can still be strongly felt when you visit Monticello today. Jefferson first began designing the home when he was only 26 years old and ended up designing and rebuilding parts of the home over and over for more than 40 years.
When you visit the historic home, there are several different tours you can choose from, depending on your interests, schedule and budget. The “Monticello Day Pass” includes a guided tour of the first floor of the house, as well as a guided tour of the gardens and grounds, and the “Slavery at Monticello” tour. More detailed tours include the “Behind the Scenes” tour which allows visitors to explore the private quarters on the second and third floors of the home (only available on certain days throughout the year) and the Hemings Family Tour, which allows guests to see Monticello from the perspective of the Hemings family – the most well-documented slave family in the country.
Then, it’s off to explore the gardens, which are an experience all to themselves. First, there are the flower gardens, which served as a laboratory of sorts for Jefferson, with both ornamental and useful plants. The former president also grew a wide range of fruits and vegetables including 330 varieties of vegetables and 170 different varieties of apples, peaches and grapes.
Once you’re finished exploring the house and grounds (or before!), you’ll also want to leave plenty of time to check out the state of the art visitor’s center. Here, you watch a 15-minute educational film about Jefferson, tour additional exhibits about slavery, liberty, architecture and Jefferson’s quest to use Monticello as a laboratory for gaining knowledge. There’s also the Griffin Discovery Room, where younger children can participate in hands-on, interactive exhibits and the Monticello Museum Shop, where you can take home a souvenir of your visit.
To take your Monticello experience even further, download the official “Slavery at Monticello” app and learn about how Thomas Jefferson ran his plantation, as well as hear stories of real people who lived and worked on Mulberry Row – the “Main Street” of the plantation.