Monticello#3 in Best Things To Do in Charlottesville
Monticello is more than just Thomas Jefferson's former living quarters; it's also an architectural masterpiece. First-time visitors are amazed by the majesty of the mansion and the 5,000-acre grounds and frequent guests like to return for in-depth history lessons on the American Revolutionary period, the role of slavery in the prosperity of the United States and more. Over the course of some 40 years, Jefferson incorporated touches of Italian and Parisian architectural styles into the building of his home. He also employed a few custom-made designs to facilitate house operations. Most recommend giving yourself plenty of time to explore all that's in store (a minimum of three hours is recommended). But prepare to pay handsomely – day passes cost $29 for adults online and $33 at the ticket office. Admission for children 12 to 18 is $10 and free for those younger than 12.
In addition to the guided tour of the first floor of the house (you'll have to pay extra to see the upper floors), day passes also include tours of the gardens and grounds, and a guided outdoor tour detailing the experiences of the 400 enslaved people who lived and worked on the plantation. Visitors interested in a complete picture of life at Monticello will also want to make time for the two-hour Hemings Family Tour, offered daily at 1:35 p.m. The tour aims to tell the story of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who bore at least six of Jefferson's children. There is also a digital exhibit within the house, "The Life of Sally Hemings," that relies on the son of Hemings and Jefferson, Madison, to tell his mother's story and provide a broader context about the legacy of race and slavery in the U.S.
Previous visitors highly recommended attending the supplemental tours and said the slavery tour addresses the topic in an informative, unbiased manner. And when you're not marveling at the grounds and house, make the most of your visit by spending some time exploring the exhibits in the visitor center (where you'll start your visit and pick up your ticket). Instead of taking the provided shuttle from the center to the house, take a leisurely walk on the Saunders-Monticello Trail – a must, according to recent travelers.
Located about 5 miles southeast of downtown Charlottesville, Monticello is open every day except Christmas. Its hours of operation vary; in spring, summer and fall, the gates are open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with the last tour starting 50 minutes before closing time. Ticket prices vary depending on how much of the house you wish to see. Visit the house's official website for further details.
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#1 Downtown Mall
Charlottesville's popular shops, restaurants and ambiance converge in one main area, known as the historic Downtown Mall. Located, as you would imagine, on Main Street, this thoroughfare is home to more than 120 shops, 30 restaurants (many with outdoor seating), art galleries, multiple performance venues and a Saturday farmers market. Stretching for eight blocks, this pedestrian-only area is popular with both visitors and locals, who say it's the perfect spot to shop, eat or simply people-watch.
In the spring, summer and fall, the mall's Sprint Pavilion hosts musical acts like Modest Mouse, Wiz Khalifa and Alabama Shakes. You can also catch free concerts at the pavilion every Friday from mid-April to mid-September as part of its Fridays After Five concert series. The mall's historical Paramount Theater is a great space to catch fine art performances from ballets to operas to musicals to films.
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