Follow in the Footsteps of Jefferson in Charlottesville & Albemarle County, Virginia

Explore Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia by walking in the footsteps of one of the US's founding fathers. 

Monticello, Charlottesville, mountains, sunset, Thomas Jefferson, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Charlottesville, Virginia, downtown mall, shopping
Downtown pedestrian mall
orchard, Charlottesville, Albemarle, mountains, Virginia
Enjoy the views and pick your own fruit at one of the many area orchards.
University of Virginia, UVA, rotunda, Charlottesville, Virginia, college
The Rotunda at the University of Virginia
restaurant, dining, outdoor, Charlottesville, Virginia
Brasserie Saison is one of many dining options along the downtown mall.
Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville, Virginia, concert, Flaming Lips
Enjoy a concert at the Sprint Pavilion on the downtown mall.
Monticello, Charlottesville, mountains, sunset, Thomas Jefferson, Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia, downtown mall, shopping
orchard, Charlottesville, Albemarle, mountains, Virginia
University of Virginia, UVA, rotunda, Charlottesville, Virginia, college
restaurant, dining, outdoor, Charlottesville, Virginia
Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville, Virginia, concert, Flaming Lips

Explore Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia by walking in the footsteps of one of the United States' founding fathers.

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, called Charlottesville and Albemarle County home. He went on to found the University of Virginia. Part of the university’s grounds — the Rotunda, Lawn and Academical Village — along with Monticello, Jefferson’s mountaintop estate, are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Jefferson was committed to the advancement of great ideas and ideals, and his influence can be seen and felt throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

One of the many hats Jefferson wore was that of an architect — he designed the Rotunda, Monticello and countless other buildings. Near the Rotunda and Academical Village on the grounds of the University of Virginia is a new memorial, the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, which honours the work and individual lives of the African Americans who built the structures Jefferson designed.

Once you’ve arrived in Charlottesville, you’ll want to gain a better appreciation for the region. The best way to enjoy beautiful Albemarle County, which surrounds the city, is to take a short hike. The broad, even paths that make up the Saunders-Monticello Trail are an excellent option, as they meander up to the visitor centre at Monticello. The remarkably scenic Highland Rustic Trails, can be easily accessed from James Monroe’s Highland, the historic property of the fifth president of the United States. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Highland are practically adjacent, no more than a 5-minute drive apart. Shenandoah National Park, famous throughout the world for its gorgeous forested slopes and long scenic hikes, is but a 25-minute drive from Charlottesville’s city centre.

Another (less strenuous) way to enjoy the countryside is to partake in a wine tasting at any one of our 35-plus wineries. The Monticello American Viticultural Area, centred on Charlottesville, has won numerous national and international accolades. It is also America’s oldest wine region: Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Americans to experiment with winemaking. Jefferson Vineyards, a short drive from Monticello, would be the thematic choice. Other wineries with excellent reputations include King Family Vineyards, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards and Blenheim Vineyards — though they are by no means the only options. Make sure you explore the full sampling of wineries in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia.

After enjoying the countryside Jefferson so loved, allow enough time to take a stroll through the University of Virginia’s grounds. It is possible to take a lap of the UNESCO World Heritage site — the Rotunda, Lawn and Academical Village — in 15 or 20 minutes. Be on the lookout for signage and historic markers and be sure to stop by the room formerly inhabited by Edgar Allan Poe, a legendary American writer.

Come dinnertime, explore the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville's city centre, one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country. Lined with restaurants, well-known for its spacious outdoor patios and dotted with massive trees, the atmosphere on the mall is pleasant and cheerful year-round. While in the city, hop on the Downtown Trolley, a free bus that shuttles people between the university and city centre. After dinner, walk alongside one of the region’s broad local rivers. The Rivanna River, a popular kayaking and tubing destination in the summer months, is lined with gently rolling trails. Scottsville, a lovely historical town on the bank of the James River, is ideal for a visit, perhaps for dessert, a round of sundowners and tranquil time by the water as the sun sinks below the horizon.

Now equipped with a better understanding of the region, you’re ready for an in-depth tour of Monticello. Allow several hours to experience all the house and gardens have to offer. A thorough tour focused on the Hemings family, one of the most documented enslaved families in the United States, is also available.

Monticello is one of the most iconic buildings in America — it’s on the nickel (the American five-cent coin) and is the architectural inspiration for the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. The staff at Monticello has gone to great lengths to ensure that they present a full picture of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, so expect to hear about both his character flaws and everlasting contributions to American democracy. New experiences, including a self-guided tour, a private behind-the-scenes tour and a tour focused on the lives of enslaved Africans and African Americans at Monticello, are also available.

If by the end of your visit you find that you’re eager to learn more about Thomas Jefferson, titles like American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson and The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family are available for purchase on site at the Shop at Monticello, where you’ll also find ample souvenirs and quality merchandise.

Make sure to visit James Monroe’s Highland before you call it a day. James Monroe was a highly influential founding father and close associate of Jefferson’s. Both Jefferson and Monroe were presidents of the United States before serving as ambassadors to France. Another nearby presidential estate to explore is James Madison’s Montpelier, an easy half-hour drive from Charlottesville. Montpelier offers thoughtful, in-depth tours as well as stunning grounds with 8-plus miles of trails.

After a full day of touring, enjoy scrumptious American South regional fare at Michie Tavern, a Colonial eatery dating back to the 1780s. Michie Tavern was recently voted the best restaurant in Virginia and is known for Virginia classics like fried chicken, stewed tomatoes and black-eyed peas. Don’t leave without trying the peach cobbler! The tavern is located directly along the route down the mountain from Monticello (a quick 5-minute drive).

This is, of course, just a sampling of what Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia have to offer. Discover more ways to revel in the area and explore the many hospitable lodgings waiting to welcome you. Choose from fine resorts, boutique hotels, cosy bed and breakfasts, rural inns and a range of other options. Start planning your trip to Charlottesville and Albemarle County or request your free visitors’ guide today.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County hope to see you soon!

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