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 grounds and frequent guests like to return for in-depth history lessons on the American Revolutionary period, plantation life 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. But prepare to pay handsomely — day passes cost $25 for adults from March to October and $20 from November to February. Admission for children 5 and younger is always $8.
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 slaves who lived and worked on the plantation. Previous visitors highly recommended attending both 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 visitors 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 fall the gates are open from 8:30 a.m. until 6 or 7 p.m., with the last tour starting 50 minutes before closing time. Ticket prices fluctuate by season and the tour you choose. Visit the house's official website for further details.
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#1 Historic 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), 10 art galleries, multiple performance venues, an ice skating rink 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 Charlottesville 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 like the Ash Lawn Opera. The only gripe among recent visitors? Parking. There is limited street parking (which is free), but there are plenty of spots in the Water Street Parking Garage, which charges $2 per hour.
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