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New Ways to Experience Monticello Again: Let’s Make a List of Traditions

Kristie Smeltzer

I recently visited Virginia Tech for the Virginia Association of Museums Fundamentals Forum (sorry, Hoos).  I had heard about this tradition or right-of-passage before, but while at Tech I heard someone (a student who had actually done it) mention the tradition of exploring the steam tunnels under the campus.  Since then, I’ve looked into it, and there are lots of other Hokie traditions. 

Charlottesville’s own University of Virginia has its own set of traditions (also including steam tunneling), ranging from dressing up and going to horse races to streaking the Lawn (we should keep ours clean in front of the kids, of course).  Maybe most colleges do this: maybe I just missed out.  But it got me to thinking that it would be neat to have a list of traditions, especially for repeat visits to Monticello, of unique things one “has to do” to really have experienced Monticello.  So from now on, when I bring family and friends to Monticello, we’re going to have a list of traditional things to see and do that are a must. 

I’d love to hear what Monticello ambassadors who live around these parts do every time they bring visitors to Monticello—I’m sure some folks have been here so many times they could give tours themselves.  Also people who come often even though they live afar likely have some interesting things they always do when they come.  Please comment with your Monticello traditions.  I’ll include my preliminary list below.  For traditions to make it to my list, they must fit the following criteria:

1.      They must be safe

2.      They must be legal

3.      They must be doable fully clothed

4.      They must not endanger anything important and historic

5.      They must be fun for visitors of all ages

6.      They must be an experience unique to Monticello

Okay, so here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Get a picture posing like Thomas Jefferson with his statue at the visitor center bus boarding area
  • Have everyone try to see every clock in the house (don’t miss the one in the kitchen)
  • Get a picture taken on the West Lawn holding a nickel with Monticello’s west front (which is on older nickels) in the background
  • See the red cedar tree near the West Lawn thought to have been at Monticello during Jefferson’s lifetime
  • See the Moldboard Plow of Least Resistance, Jefferson’s invention, in the Smith Gallery
  • Try the campeachy chair in the Griffin Discovery Room
  • Weather permitting, visit the Garden Pavilion near the terrace vegetable garden and enjoy the view




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