If you enjoy learning about history you will not want to miss visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation while in Virginia. Jefferson spent over 40 years modifying and designing the Monticello home with his love of architecture and ingenuity.
The Monticello tours will guide you around the plantation to see inside his home, gardens, slave quarters and more. They even have family tours specifically designed to keep the kids interested while you tour.
It is a truly remarkable home and intriguing way to learn about one of America’s founding fathers. You’ll learn about Jefferson’s philosophy on life, his family and his love of the newest inventions.
Following along for general tips for your visit, tour ideas and how to entertain the kids.
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Visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation With Kids
Monticello Hours, Address, Parking & Visitor Center
The Monticello Hours change throughout the year with longer hours in summer and shorter hours in winter. They are usually open every day other than holiday or snow days in the winter months. You can check the hours on the day you’d like to visit at Monticello Hours.
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway Charlottesville, VA 22902 – This works with GPS
Monticello has it’s own parking lot and it’s free. The lot is located below the Monticello hill by the Visitor Center. Guests can either hike up to Monticello or take the shuttle from the Visitor Center after picking up their tickets. Use the address up above for your GPS & you’ll find it.
The Visitor Center should be your first stop after parking your car. Here you will buy or pick up will call tickets to Monticello. You can then board the shuttle bus to take you up the mountain to the Plantation & Home. The 25 passenger shuttle bus runs every 5-10 minutes. On the way back down the shuttle will stop briefly at Jefferson’s Gravestone.
The Visitor Center Complex is huge. Here is what you can find
- Will Call & Ticket Area
- Bathroom Facilities (there is only one up at the House)
- Cafe with sandwiches, snacks, salads, pastries & kids meals
- Howard & Abby Milstein Theatre – Watch a 15-minute movie about Monticello to get yourself acquainted with the home.
- Robert H. & Clarice Smith Gallery – An interesting gallery with Jefferson’s experiments, writings, & architectural origins of the home.
- Griffin Discovery Room– A fun children’s play area (learn more below)
- Shuttle to Monticello – leaves every 5-10 minutes
In the summer months, tickets to the tours can fill up quickly. I would suggest buying your tickets in advance so you can pick the best times for the home tours.
Tip: It’s suggested that you arrive at least 30 minutes before your tour time. It does take some time to get tickets and take the shuttle up to the house. I would give yourself a little more time than that.
Monticello Plantation Tours
Each ticket is a different tour package they call day passes which will including several areas around the plantation. I will layout for you the 4 different tours and the general areas everyone can visit on their pass.
I recommend scheduling the house tour first before the kids are tired. The rest of the tours are outside and you can drop out whenever they lose interest. Or just give them some time to run around the grounds.
Monticello Day Pass
This is the general pass that is great for adults. With this pass, you have a tour of the 1st floor of Monticello with a docent. You will need to sign up for a tour time as they try to keep the groups smaller.
The tour of the home gives you the history of the home and of Thomas Jefferson’s life. Each tour lasts about 45 minutes and is very informative and interesting.
Family Day Pass
The Family tour of the first floor of Monticello is geared to keep kids and families interested in learning about the Jefferson family, his ideas and life in the home. The tour is recommended for families with kids age 5-11 years old.
The docents use props they carry around in baskets to better explain to children the history of Jefferson’s life. On our tour the docent kept all the kids engaged the entire time and talked to them at their level while still making it interesting to the adults in our group.
I would highly recommend this tour if you have kids. Make sure to book it in advance as there are fewer of these tours available.
Hemings Family Tour
The Hemmings family is one of the best-documented slave families in the US. This 1 hour and 45-minute tour teaches you about this family’s life and their dynamic with the Jeffersons.
You start out in a seated small group, then tour the 1st floor of the home and end exploring Mulbury Row through the eyes of the Hemings Family.
Tour guests are encouraged to ask questions and share their own experiences and thoughts. This tour gives you a more in-depth look into slavery at that time than the general slavery tour will give you.
It is not recommended for children under the age of 12.
Behind the Scenes Day Passes
If you would like a more in-depth look at Monticello and the people that lived there you would enjoy this expanded tour. Here guest gets to explore the 2nd and 3rd floor of the home to see more architecture including the iconic Dome.
With the extra time, you will also find out more about the life of Thomas Jefferson and his family dynamic. This tour is not handicapped accessible and you must be able to climb steep stairs.
It is recommended for ages 7 and up.
Tours Included in All Passes
You do not need to sign up for a time to attend these tours. Just look at the schedule for the day and show up to the ones you want to attend. They are included in your ticket price.
Slavery at Monticello
This tour is held on Mulberry Row where the slaves worked and lived. On this 45-minute outdoor tour, a docent will tell you all about the lives of Jefferson’s slaves.
We found our kids really stayed engaged on this tour especially when learning about how slave children lived during this time. You also walk a lot so it keeps the younger kids going and interested.
Guided Gardens & Ground Tour
Thomas Jefferson had a life long interest in gardening, botany, and agriculture. On this 45-minute walking tour, you will explore his immaculate flower gardens, vegetable gardens, and grounds of the plantation.
The docent will identify different plant species and teach you why they were so important on the Monticello Plantation.
The Life of Sally Hemmings
This area is a self-guided tour. You will find it in the South Wing Exhibits and all-weather passage beneath the house on the Monticello Plantation.
Visitors can see a kitchen from 1809, smokehouse, slave quarters, cooks room and dairy. You can peak into each of these rooms and read the descriptions to understand what your viewing.
What we really liked was the display on the life of Sally Hemmings. It was interesting to learn more about the women who captured Thomas Jefferson’s heart. There are also a few hands-on displays for the kids here.
Here guests can see where the horses and carriages were loaded, an ice house, tack room and some of Jefferson’s experiments.
Tip: This area is where the Farm Shop is located to get some snacks or ice cream when you need a break. It’s the only place to eat up by the house.
It also has bathrooms and a nice space to let the kids run around the Monticello Plantation grounds.
Family Friendly Activites
There are so many fun things for kids to do while visiting Monticello. Here are a few areas specifically geared toward families.
Griffin Discovery Room
Located by the visitor center this is the activity and kids area at Monticello. Children can mimic Jefferson’s love of architecture by building a home with blocks. Pretend to live and work on a plantation or play games from Jeffersons’ time. They’ll also love creating secret codes and using a polygraph machine.
There is a reproduction of Jefferson’s home so kids can touch and explore like they couldn’t do on the home tour. Make sure not to miss this on your tour with the kids.
Mountain Top Activity Center
Located outside of the snack shop on the North End is a hands-on kids pop up area. Here kids can write with a quill pen, decipher a code and play with games and toys from the Jefferson era.
This is a great break for the kids between tours. Have a snack here and let them play a little to reenergize. They can run around the West Lawn too.
The activity center is only offered on certain days so make sure to check the schedule for the day.
Tips for Your Visit
- Bring water with you
- Wear sunscreen as your out walking around a lot of the time
- Strollers – They will not work well in the house. However, you can use them on the grounds just be prepared to carry them over a few small staircases.
- There is not lunch up at Monticello so make sure to eat at the Visitor Center or just pick up a snack at the Farm Shop at the North Wing.
- Give yourself enough time to get your tickets and ride the shuttle up to the house. You don’t want to miss your tour time. Minimum 30 minutes.
- Book your tour time online ahead of time to make sure you get the time slot you want. You can pick them up at will call when you arrive.
- Bathrooms are only located at the North Wing near the Farm Shop when you are up at the house. You can find them at the Visitor Center on your way in and out of Monticello too.
- Give yourself at least 4 hours to explore the home and grounds. We could have stayed all day.
Make it a fun day trip by visiting Charlottesville VA after Monticello. It’s Only a 15-minute drive away to the cute brick-paved downtown filled with fun shops and restaurants. Find out how to enjoy an afternoon in Charlottesville VA with Kids. Kids will love the huge chalkboard to draw on in the square.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation was really one of our kid’s favorite stops on our Virginia vacation. There was so much to see and do that we all had fun. We really enjoyed the mix of guided tours and self-guided tours to be more flexible with the kids.
More Fun Things to do in the Area
While you’re in Charlottesville visit some more family-friendly locations all within an hour to 1 1/2 hour drive from Monticello.
- Top Things to do in Charlottesville VA with Kids – Downtown is just a short drive 15 drive from Monticello
- Shenandoah National Park Best Trails & Family Guide – Did you know your only 45 minutes away from this amazing National Park?
- What to do with Kids in Shenandoah Valley – Visit cute historic towns, cool children’s museums, history museums, delicious restaurants and more.
- Luray Cavern – Want to be truly awestruck? Visit this spectacular cave in Shenandoah Valley
Where to Stay
We stayed at the amazing Massanutten Resort on our visit to Virginia. It’s an all-season resort with skiing in the winter, fun indoor & outdoor waterpark, and tons of family activities in the summer like zip-lining, horseback riding, ropes course & more. Find out more in my review of our stay at Massanutten Resort.
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