Charlottesville is a charming college town located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in the US state of Virginia. It has a special place in the history of the US as it was the home of not just one or two, but three of the country’s earliest presidents. They are Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
All of the three presidents were also the founding fathers of the US, having played major roles in achieving American independence from Britain in 1776. Thanks to Charlottesville being the home to these three presidents, there are three beautiful homes for you to check out. So, these are the things to do in Charlottesville, VA that you will want to take on when you are in the area.
Monticello is located on Thomas Jefferson Parkway just southeast of Charlottesville. This is the picturesque residence where Thomas Jefferson lived. He was the third president of the US, having served from March 1801 until March 1809. His residence has a neoclassical architectural design. Thomas designed the residence himself after he inherited the land from his father, Peter Jefferson, when he was 26 years old.
The residence was built in 1772, about four years before the US became an independent country. Thomas owned several farms on his property. They grew a variety of crops to be sold at the market. These included such crops as wheat, corn, and tobacco. In addition to the farms, Thomas owned fruit and vegetable gardens in which fruits and vegetables can be grown for personal consumption.
There were about 140 black slaves at Monticello at any given time. This included Sally Hemings with whom Thomas fathered six enslaved children. The enslaved children were in addition to the six regular children that he had with his wife, Martha Wayles. The slaves lived in neatly lined log cabins known as Mulberry Row, named for the mulberry trees that lined up alongside the log cabins.
The fact that Thomas owned black slaves is ironic considering the fact that he was the one who wrote “all men are created equal” into the US Declaration of Independence. The main residence has about 33 rooms spread out on three floors and in a cellar. The rooms have unique architectural features that Thomas designed himself and reflect the complexities of family life at the residence.
The residence is built of red brick with limestone mortar. It is noted for its columned portico and dome. The serene landscape surrounding the residence also feature beautiful flower gardens and a reflection pond. There are at least a couple of options for touring the estate. In order to get the most out of Monticello, I would suggest that you go with the Behind the Scenes Day Pass.
You can get this for $67 for all ages. You can go here to buy your tickets for Monticello. There is a restaurant onsite called Monticello Farm Table Cafe. If you are looking for souvenirs, you can check out The Shops at Monticello, also located onsite.
Montpelier is located on Constitution Highway about 25 miles northeast of Charlottesville. This was the home of James Madison who was the fourth president of the US from March 1809 to March 1817, immediately succeeding Thomas Jefferson. This stately brick Georgian home was built in the early 1760’s by the Madison family. James lived there from that period until his death in 1836.
James was the principal author of the US Constitution that is the foundation of the country today. It was at Montpelier that he formed his ideas for what the United States should be upon achieving independence from Britain. You can learn about how he formed his ideas for the country and translated them into the constitution during your visit to the residence.
In addition to the Madison family, Montpelier was also home to over 300 black slaves who performed a variety of chores in and around the residence for the family. You can also learn about the slaves and how they lived and worked during your visit there. In addition to touring the residence, you can also tour the onsite cemeteries of the Madison family and the slaves who lived and worked there.
There is also a 3.55 mile trail that loops around the residence. You can experience the scenic beauty including the formal garden, horse pastures, 150-year-old white oak and tulip trees, and gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The admission for the Montpelier Walking Tour are $25 for adults and $12 for children aged 6 to 12.
Those who are under the age of 6 will get free admission. You can go here to buy your passes for the tour. If you get hungry during your time at Montpelier, you can dine at the onsite restaurant, Exchange Cafe. A museum shop is also located onsite.
The third and final presidential residence is Highland. It is located on James Monroe Parkway just a brief drive south from Monticello. This is the serene residence of James Monroe who succeeded James Madison as the fifth president of the US from March 1817 until March 1825. James lived at the residence for about 25 years from 1799 until 1825.
However, unlike the other two presidents, James didn’t die at his own residence. That is because he was forced to sell off his residence in order to pay off his debt. The history of this residence is a bit tricky to explain. The residence that is there today is a quaint two-room cottage. This was believed to be James’ residence.
However, it was recently discovered by historian and archaeologists that only the guest house portion of James’ residence still exists today. It is believed that James had a much larger house, similar in size and stature to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello residence, but it was burned down in a fire in the mid 19th century. Later on in the 19th century, a two-story yellow wing was added to the cottage. That too still exists.
You can learn about the mysteries surrounding James’ residence during your time there. You can also view a rich collection of objects from James’ days, including imported French furnishings and finely crafted American furniture. Just like the other two presidents, James owned his own black slaves who worked on the farms growing the same type of crops as that at Monticello.
In fact, James and Thomas Jefferson were partners when it came to farming. Enslaved workers were also kept busy by spinning and weaving wool and flax. You can learn about the lives and labors of the slaves at the residence. The surrounding grounds is breathtaking. There are formal gardens, a vegetable garden, a lawn, and white ash trees within the estate.
In order to get the most out of this residence, you will want the Full Experience: Guided Tour and Augmented Reality option. You can get this for $19 for adults and $13 for children aged 6 to 11 along with locals. Admission is free for those aged under 6.
So, for things to do in Charlottesville, VA, I encourage you to visit all the three beautiful presidential residence. Also, if you are willing to drive about two and a half hours from Charlottesville, you can make it to Mount Vernon. This is the beautiful residence of George Washington, the first ever president of the US. You can go to this post from a week ago to learn more.
If you are looking for a hotel to stay at in Charlottesville, I am happy to help you with this. Here is a hotel I would suggest for you.
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Charlottesville-UVA
This hotel is located on Emmet Street North near the campus of University of Virginia in Charlottesville. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. Should you get hungry, a few dining options nearby include Brother’s Bar & Grill, Fabio’s NY Pizza, and Burtons Grill & Bar. There is a fire pit outdoors at the hotel. The hotel houses an indoor heated swimming pool and fitness center.
All of the hotel’s rooms and suites come with WiFi, coffee makers, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $100 to $236. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.
What are your thoughts? Have you visited any of these residences before? Feel free to leave a comment below.