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TRAVEL TENSIONS: THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY FAMILY VACATION. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

- Ginny

A day at Monticello: Ginny’s Intro

Hi all! Recently, I went on a road-trip to Virginia with my mom. I thought all we would be doing was getting my college-visit in before the May 1st decision deadline and drive back home… but, nope! My mom always seems to find something extra to do.

I was sitting in the car when I heard my mom talking on her cell, asking someone about tour times. When she got off the phone she said, “We are going to check out Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, because your grandma says it’s magical.”

Is it a little embarrassed to say that I had never heard of the place? Well, the teenager in me wanted to continue listening to my ipod and fall asleep. But,  the adventure-seeker in me was pretty excited.

Mom’s response

I remember I was surprised to hear you hadn’t learned much about Monticello. Well, I’ll give the some background right now to all those blog-viewers out there…

Thomas Jefferson’s estate is just outside of Charlottesville and close to the University of Virginia. It has been named a National Historic Landmark and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The house is on the summit of an 850-foot-high mountain. In Italian, Monticello means “little mountain.”

Fun fact: The western front of Monticello is the image on the reverse side of the nickel!

Ginny’s response

Yeah, cool stuff mom!

There are three tours available: the plantation tour, the garden and grounds tour, and the house tour. We only got to see the garden and grounds tour and the house tour.

I really wanted to go on the plantation tour, but the park closes at 5 Monday through Friday so we couldn’t get to all three. If you want to take all three tours, be sure to give yourself at least three hours at the park. Each tour takes around 45 minutes.

Which tour did you like better, mom?

Mom’s response

Being the environmental scientist that I am, you would think that I liked the garden and grounds tour better. It was undeniably beautiful (and the weather was great when we visited), but honestly the tour guide was boring. I would have preferred to walk around on my own… the vegetable and flower gardens are labeled, so it is completely doable to tour on your own.

Seeing the inside of Thomas Jefferson’s house, where he lived and worked, was amazing. My favorite part of the tour was his library. Interestingly, his library, study, and bed were all in the same room, isolated from the rest of the house. On the table next to his bed was this contraption (five book-stands on a swivel), that allowed him to alternate reading five books at a time! Apparently, he did that often… and these books would sometimes be in several different languages.

What was your favorite part?

Ginny’s response

I agree that TJ’s house was awesome, but I really enjoyed looking at the flowers. After such a long winter, it was great to see spring in action. The volunteers that garden at Monticello do a great job of maintaining the grounds, and most of the flowers that were blooming were the same types that Jefferson planted when he first built his house! I noticed a lot of different colors of tulips around the property.

Although the ‘grounds and garden’ tour was boring at times, there were some interesting facts that stuck in my mind. For example, the tour guide pointed out the oldest tree at Monticello– and it was the gnarliest, weakest one. Among all of the majestic and diverse trees growing on the grounds, this one was hardly noticeable. I felt so bad for it! But, it’s been holding on well considering it is hundreds of years old.

Mom’s response

I also liked seeing the vegetable garden. Those gardeners that come in from local horticulture clubs must really work hard.

The all-encompassing ticket prices are $22 per adult. But, you should be sure to get there early, because the tickets for the house tour tend to sell out, especially when large tour groups visit. When we were there, I counted six tour buses parked on the lot! The tickets were close to sold out when we got there, so we were lucky. I would recommend calling before you get there to check the availability of tickets. If the tickets sell out, they normally sell tickets half-off so you can still go on the grounds and plantation tours, but are not given access to the house.

My advice to parents: If your kids are reluctant to visit Monticello with you, drag them! Believe me, once they see the grounds there is no way they will stay grumpy.

Ginny’s response

Hey! We’re not all that bad haha.

My advice to teens: If you are in Virginia, get your parents to take you to Monticello! And if they don’t want to go, drag them :)… It’ll be worth it.

Other Travel Tensions that you might enjoy include:

Erik and his mom in Vermont

Caroline and her dad in Chicago

Callie and her Mom in France

Tyler and his Dad in Quebec

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