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By Stephen Light, Manager of House Tours

Plan ahead
Purchasing your tickets ahead of time saves money and allows you to make the best use of your time. Many specialty experiences, like the Family Friendly, Behind-the-Scenes and  Hemings Family tours, have limited capacity and sell out in advance. I recommend allocating three to four hours for your visit.

Go early
Monticello is beautiful at any time of day, but I especially enjoy the peace and tranquility of the early mornings. When I bring guests, I always arrive early. Thee advantages include fewer people, cooler temperatures (especially in the summer!) and more time to explore.

Get outside
In addition to exploring the main floor of an architectural masterpiece, save time to explore Mulberry Row, the gardens, and the numerous exhibits on the mountain and at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center. New exhibits in the South Pavilion, South Wing, Textile Shop and stables expand the story to reveal the lives of the nearly 200 people, free and enslaved, who called Monticello home during Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime. Each Day Pass includes two 45-minute outdoor walking tours offered throughout the day: Slavery at Monticello and Gardens and Grounds (seasonal).  

Repeat visit? Change your perspective
Visiting for a second time (or third or fourth)? Change up your perspective by taking the Hemings Family Tour. This tour visits many of the same places as the standard house tour but asks guests to consider these spaces from the perspective of members of the Hemings family, the largest of many enslaved families who also called Monticello home. It will leave you reflecting on some of the more challenging legacies of Monticello’s story.

Go upstairs
Thee Behind-the-Scenes Tour allows you to see more of the house than ever before. This 1-hour-and-45-minute experience takes you up those narrow staircases to the private and guest quarters on the second and third floors, including the iconic Dome Room. You’ll learn more about the lives of Jefferson’s family members and the enslaved people who lived and labored in the house. 

Check out the seasons
Each season brings a new kind of beauty to the mountain. I love to walk the gardens in the spring with the tulips in bloom, and nothing beats the fall foliage on a crisp November day. My favorite views are of the fiery red sky just before an early sunset on clear and cold December and January days, when you can see for miles.

Grab a book on your way out
Hopefully, your visit will spur curiosity. Our Shop at Monticello has a great selection of books about every aspect of Monticello that you can imagine. Looking for recommendations? You can’t go wrong asking your tour guide for insider tips on the best books.

Take a moment to reflect
Monticello’s story reflects the foundations of America: equality and self-government, freedom and slavery. If you want to understand the complicated origins of our nation and take inspiration for its continued journey, there’s no better place to start.