• Elisabeth Dorosh

Rate the Date: Thomas Jefferson's Monticello


For those who may not know, Nazari possesses a libertarian belief system for all things political, and because of which, is particularly fond of Thomas Jefferson - so he especially wanted to make sure we got to the infamous Monticello while visiting nearby Charlottesville.

Thomas Jefferson is renowned for penning the Declaration of Independence, being our nation's third President, founding the University of Virginia, and so much more! His famous home, designed by himself, is even pictured on the nickel! He played a huge role in founding and shaping our country and we were eager to learn more about this iconic, historic very quotable figure. Some of our favorite statements made by Jefferson include:

"I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal;

nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."

"Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us,

but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom

in all just pursuits."

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."

"When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred."

We booked our trip to Charlottesville months ago, just after committing to the Monticello Man Half Iron Man triathlon at the the nearby Lake Monticello. Our race in and around the lake was about 15 minutes from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home. If time and morale allotted, we hoped to pay a visit.

The Monday after the triathlon, albeit nearly dying (or at least feeling as if we were dying) the day before, we decided we were up for the adventure prior to heading home. We looked online (because we are last minute people like that, always) and found a variety of activities that we could purchase tickets for. Everything is discounted online, so it’s definitely with purchasing there, versus on site.

Overall we had zero expectations for what was to come. We arrived at Monticello and landed ourselves in a giant, tree covered parking lot and walked the short, scenic distance to the visitors center.

We were already impressed. The place is BEAUTIFUL! The staff were both friendly, and helpful. The property is very walkable, but given the condition of our legs, we were very grateful for the shuttle service that takes you around the 2,500 acre property. Within the visitor's center area, there is a free movie showing (about 15 minutes), a reasonably priced cafe (that has some above average food options!), a two story museum, and a gift shop.

The shuttle ride to the actual Monticello residence is just a few short minutes. You are required to arrive at least 15-30 minutes early to allot for the shuttle service, and a brief orientation before beginning your tour. We won't lie, we were a bit let down by the actual in house tour - being that we only saw a few rooms in the house (basic ticket price does not allow you to go upstairs). And being in such a large group made it difficult to hear the guide. Regardless, we still learned a lot and were fascinated by the life of this founding father.

After grabbing some lunch at the cafe, and watching the brief free movie, we had time for one of the two tours included in our ticket price: Either the Gardens Tour, or the Slave Tour. For Nazari, it wasn't a question - he wanted to go on the slave tour.

While we didn't know a ton about Thomas Jefferson, we did know that he had some skeletons in his closet - being that he was a slave owner. In our minds though, I think we attempted to look past this, or justify that he was a "nice" slave owner - but regardless - we were hoping this tour would help sort our this questionable piece of this famous man's life.

The slave tour alone was worth double the ticket price. We dove right into the difficult truths of the plantation owner's past as we unfolded what our guide referred to as Thomas Jefferson's Dichotomous Legacy. We were rightly put in our place that there is no such thing as a "nice" slave owner when a person is in the business of OWNING other humans. Beyond that, we discovered Jefferson was anything but "nice" in the matters of the people he enslaved. The same man that wrote the words, "All men are created equal" was wildly racist, and condoned violence and fear as a means to control. Much of the difficult truths that were conveyed were a hard pill to swallow. But it opened our eyes to a dark part of history and let us into to in depth conversation about hard, important topics.

Something that stuck out to us at Monticello were how many of the employees began their work at Monticello because of a fascination with Thomas Jefferson. But they remained at Monticello because of the work being done to share BOTH parts of his legacy, the good and the bad, and through that, bring life and revival to the stories of the families (HUNDREDS of people) who were enslaved at Monticello.

Pros:

  • The grounds are beautiful

  • There is a shuttle to take you around from place to place

  • There are a lot of free options included with the basic ticket price

  • You learn a lot

  • Tour guides and staff are very well educated

  • Tickets are discounted online (so purchase beforehand!)

  • While ticket prices aren't cheap, there is a lot in included in the price of the ticket that definitely makes it worth while

  • You could easily spend a whole day here

Cons:

  • The house tour only takes you through a few of the downstairs rooms and it occurs with a large group

  • The content is heavy and you won't be left the same

  • Tickets aren't cheap: but again, there is a lot included in the price so that more than makes up for it

  • We went on a Monday and it was still moderately crowded, so we would anticipate a weekend being very busy

Overall Rating:

  • Naz: 9 (It was to have who I thought was my favorite President become one of my least favorite humans)

  • Lis: 8.5 Loved the outdoors and the eduction! And the many incredible conversations this experience has lead to since.

We highly recommend a visit. Plan for at least a half day, but know you could easily stay longer!

For tickets and info: Monticello


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