Charlottesville Things to Do: Home of America's Founding Fathers

Best known as the home of three United States Presidents, things to do in Charlottesville include exploring the country's national history and the original residences of the city's three most famous residents. Ranked as one of the best places to live in the country, Charlottesville is home to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, James Madison's Montpelier and James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland. These three homes are open to the public and provide an interesting look into the everyday lives of three of the founding fathers of our country.

Thomas Jefferson Historical Attractions
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 984-9822

The largest and most well known of the three houses, Monticello, features a complete museum with numerous exhibits outlining the life of Jefferson. Enjoy a tour of the house with the accompaniment of a knowledgeable guide and you can really come away with some great information, making this the perfect stop for any history lover. For just $20, you have access to the house and its gardens and expansive grounds, and can easily make a half day of the trip. If you are really interested in history and want to take all the tours, you can spend an entire day here perusing all the exhibits.

The main house tour is a timed tour and you get a time assigned to you when you buy your entry tickets. The additional three tours of the rest of the grounds run several times a day and you can join any of them as you wish, once you purchase your entry ticket. Buy tickets online in advance to avoid long waits.

James Madison Historical Attractions

11407 Constitution Highway
Montpelier Station, VA 22957
(540) 672-2728

For history buffs, no trip to a Charlottesville inn is complete without a stop by James Madison's Montpelier in Montpelier Station. This original homestead of James and Dolley Madison is sparsely furnished using era pieces, and is not as spectacular by any means as Jefferson's Monticello. However, there is lots to do and see here. It's just recommended that you visit here before Monticello, so that you can get a nice look at the home without being outdone by the other.

Start at the visitor center and plan for a good half day to really enjoy your visit and spend time walking the grounds, which include the James Madison forest, grazing pastures for thoroughbred horses and a slave cemetery. Be sure to include a stop to the family cemetery on the grounds so that you can view where President Madison is buried. The entrance fee here is $14.

James Monroe Historical Attractions
1000 James Monroe Parkway
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
(434) 293-8000

Often overlooked, President Monroe's Ash-Lawn Highland sits just 5 minutes down the road from the crowded Monticello. Also serving as a stark contrast to Monticello, this slightly more modest home and grounds is an interesting stop on your tour through national history, and is a must-see while in the Charlottesville area.

The grounds here are smaller than the other two homes and the entire site can be viewed in about 90 minutes. Purchase the Presidential Pass and receive savings if you will be going here and to Monticello. The tour costs $10, and it's fascinating to view the differences in living style between two presidents so close together in time. For opera lovers, Ash Lawn-Highland is also home to the Ash Lawn Opera Festival every summer.

Make these three stops a must when staying at a Charlottesville bed and breakfast and really take away a piece of true American history.