Sorry...Thomas Jefferson's house in Monticello VA is not like Colonial Williamsburg, where you can walk around the buildings for free and only need tickets to go inside. At Monticello, you must have tickets to enter the grounds.
But they DO offer off-season discounts, they DO give locals some break on admission, and they do have annual pass for local residents.
And they do have two marvelous sites that you can visit for absolutely FREE! (More on that below).
Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office or in advance by credit card on their Web site www.monticello.org. General admission is $18 for adults Nov-Feb, and $25 March-October. So if you want to save, visit during the winter.
Year-round, it's $8 for children 6-11. Children under 6 are admitted free but must be ticketed. Admission includes access to the grounds, a guided tour of the house, and the seasonal Gardens and Grounds and "Slavery at Monticello" Tours.
Teen Deal: Memorial Day to Labor Day, teens ages 12-18 save 33% off admission, getting in for just $16.
The "Slavery" tours tell you all about how Jefferson's slaves lived and other aspects of early African-American life at Monticello.
An added benefit of admission: You'll also get a pass good for 50% off admission to Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest retreat.
Guided tours of the Monticello house are conducted continuously throughout each day (about every 15-20 minutes). Tours cover the rooms on the main floor and last about 30 minutes.
Local Residents' Deal
Reduced rates are available to residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Fluvanna County, and UVA students. To get the rate, you have to bring in proof of residence. They only reserve a limited number of these reduced tickets, so on busy summer days, go early.
Local residents rate: Adults: $18 or free when accompanying a non-resident adult guest paying full price. Children 11-16, $8 year round, children under 6: free.
For unlimited house tours of Monticello VA, you can purchase a year's pass for $50 per adult. Guess what? Buy an adult pass and all kids of pass holders under 18 are admitted FREE.
Military members and up to five family members can get in absolutely free May 30 to the first week in September, thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts Blue Star Initiative. This program offers military members and their families free admission 900 history, art, and science museums around the world.
Besides Monticello, participating museums in Virginia include Colonial Williamsburg, Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest, Richmond's Museum of the Confederacy, and Charlottesville's Virginia Discovery Museum.
Tailored for children ages 6-11, these tours include hands-on opportunities and stories of more interest to kids. They are a bit shorter than regular tours (only 35 minutes in length) and are actually $1 cheaper per adult during the winter months ($24). I would whole-heartedly recommend that you stick with this one for little ones under 7.
On our Monticello VA tour, the docent started by letting kids touch and hold items from a basket of things related to Jefferson, like a fake bear fur (to represent the types of things famous explorers Lewis and Clark brought back to Jefferson when they returned from their explorations out west (Jefferson was the one who sent them on their expedition).
The docent also put more emphasis on things in the house which would appeal to kids (like the secret closet in the breakfast parlor with a wine bottle "elevator" which servants could use to send up bottles of wine from the cellar below).
Believe me: It'll keep their attention, and there's no extra charge for the Childrens tour. The only drawback? They're only offered select times of the year.
You have to register for this tour at the Ticket Office. The tour lasts about 30 minutes, and begins on Monticello’s East Front at 11, 1 pm and 2 pm daily during these times:
Intimate, in-depth guided tours of the house (including the Dome Room, which you can't see on regular tours) and dependencies (the cellars and outbuildings, which you usually just view by yourself) are Wednesdays/Fridays at 6:15 pm and 6:45 pm Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays May through September. Tickets are $45 per person and must be purchased in advance at www.monticello.org or by calling (434) 984-9822.
Behind the Scenes Tours
See recently opened and never-before-seen rooms, including second and third floor bedrooms, the Dome Room, and an interactive exhibit "Crossroads" under the house. Offered 11:30 am and 2:30 pm daily, June-Sept. Tickets are $42 per person and must be purchased in advance.
Gardens and Grounds Tours
Garden lovers will enjoy these guided tours, free with admission. Monticello spends millions a year on their decorative gardens, keeping the vegetable gardens, grove, and orchards as close to as in Jefferson's time as possible. Tours last 45 minutes and begin on the West Lawn at hourly daily, spring through fall.
Acoustiguide Grounds Tour
Dislike group tours but still want to learn about the grounds? For $5 you can rent an Acoustiguide (a recorded tour you listen to with headphones) with commentary narrated by Sissy Spacek, so you can learn while enjoying the grounds at your own speed. Available at the Ticket Office and Museum Shop.
If you want some of the Monticello VA experience, but you want to save money, take advantage of the marvelous new Visitor's Center where you purchase tickets.
This beautiful complex features a free 13-minute film on Jefferson and his house, a wonderful gift shop, gourmet cafe, a garden nursery where you can buy plants like those Jefferson planted.
Plus, they have the Smith Center-- a free mini-museum with three rooms full of Jefferson artifacts and memorabilia, and lots of high-tech, interactive exhibits guaranteed to keep even kids occupied and learning. The Center is well-worth a visit on its own...even if you don't pay to visit the house itself.
Don't miss it!
When you're done at Monticello VA, be sure to take time to walk the lovely, shaded Saunders-Monticello Trail, a 3-mile round-trip walk at the base of the mountain. It winds down the hill above historic Michie Tavern and ends at a lovely lake.
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