[DC History Tour] Day trip to Monticello - Thomas Jefferson

Recently I went to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's plantation in Charlottesville, VA.

The site is roughly a 2.5 hour drive from downtown Washington, DC. It is a good day trip--especially if the weather is nice. I went on a day that ended up being fairly hot, but in the morning it wasn't bad in the mountains.

Monticello has a few tour options available, and all tickets are available online. I recommend booking before you go so that you can get the tour you want. The regular tour includes the ground floor, as well as the daily garden and grounds tour and slavery at Monticello tour, the "Life of Sally Hemmings" exhibit, and self-guided exhibitions. The behind-the-scenes tour includes the upper floors of the building in the tour, in addition to the generally available tours. Tickets for the behind the scenes tour are $65 between March and October and are $49 between November and February. Tickets for regular day passes are slightly more complicated: for adults: $26.95, online March-October ($29.95 at the ticket office) and $23, online November-February ($25 at the ticket office); for youth (ages 12-18): $17 online only between May 27-September 2; for children ages 5-11: $10 all year; under 5: free. It is definitely worth booking in advance to make sure you have the experience you want for the best value.

The best part of the behind-the-scenes tour is the chance to see the upper rooms, including the interior of the dome room that makes Monticello famous. Additionally, the upper rooms give a different feel to the building. The tour guide I had was wonderful and made slavery central to the story of life at Monticello, which I appreciated. The Sally Hemmings exhibition is cool as are the other exhibitions.

A few other tips for your visit: Monticello is at the top of a mountain so the weather may change during your visit. The behind the scenes tour is over an hour and they suggest 3.5 hours for your whole visit. The visitor center is downhill from the mansion. Once you get your tickets from the box office, you can either ride up to the mansion via shuttle van or walk up past the family cemetery. The walk is uphill and is between 15 and 25 minutes (depending on how fast you walk). The benefit of the walk is seeing the back of the mansion first, which is cool. However, if you don't want to do a lot of walking before your tour, you can always walk downhill. There is a cafe and gift shop on site as well, so plan some time to explore both!

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