For those who love history, a visit to Charlottesville, an area that helped shape the politics and personalities of our country’s founding fathers, can’t be missed. If you’re lucky enough to live in the area, you can truly indulge in the rich American history that is right at your feet.
While Charlottesville may be best known for Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, there are actually three presidential homes to visit here.
These include Highland, the nearby residence of our country’s fifth U.S. President James Monroe, and Montpelier, the beautiful home of fourth President, James Madison. Jefferson’s beloved academic legacy, the University of Virginia, is also located in Charlottesville.
With so many historical sites to choose from, naming favorites isn’t easy. But here’s a list to get you started.
Top Historic Sites in Charlottesville:
- Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The only home in America designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site, Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece is a must-see. Enjoy the house, designed by Jefferson himself, and the gardens, where he experimented with plants as sources for both food and beauty.
- Historic Downtown Mall. Filled with early-American historic sites, bookstores, museums and restaurants set against the picturesque backdrop of the Shenandoah Valley, you could spend days enjoying this area of Charlottesville. And you definitely should.
- Ash-Lawn Highland. Former home to President James Monroe, Highland was built in 1799 and burned to the ground around the mid-1800s, when it was given the name Ash-Lawn. Archeological work has uncovered the remains of the original house, which provide a deeper understanding of Highland and Monroe himself.
- Montpelier. The former home of Dolly and James Madison, located 45 minutes from Monticello. James Madison was born, raised and died on this property. There’s a lot to do here, from guided tours to galleries and more than eight miles of walking trails. Visit the archeology lab to see their latest discoveries, then take a break for delicious food and good company in the award-winning cafe.
- University of Virginia (UVA). The Rotunda at UVA was designed by Thomas Jefferson and modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. History buffs will enjoy UVA’s exhibit on the Declaration of Independence. Its centerpiece is one of only 25 original prints of the Declaration and is very likely George Washington’s copy.
- Barboursville Vineyards. In the region surrounding Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home, the vineyard sits on the historic property of James Barbour, distinguished statesman, former governor of Virginia, and friend of Jefferson. Planted in 1976 by Gianni Zonin, head of one of Italy’s oldest wine families, the vineyard now defines the viticultural region first envisioned by Jefferson two centuries ago. Savor the beauty and history of this area as you sip.
For residents of Westminster Canterbury, these historic sites are only a short drive away. Whether planning a day trip or immersing yourself in history with a stay at one of Charlottesville’s historic inns, our staff at WCBR is here to help plan your trip. We can even help you make arrangements, including restaurant recommendations and reservations.