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Monticello from above * Image used with permission from Charlottesville-Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau *

Though a decent ride by horse or carriage in Thomas Jefferson’s time, today Monticello is only minutes by car from downtown Charlottesville. From the porch of his beloved mountaintop home, Jefferson could just see the building of his legacy, the University of Virginia. Both these locations are must-sees for travelers interested in American history, gardening, or architecture.

Just down the road, visit another Presidential property: Ash Lawn-Highlands, home of President James Monroe. First opened to the public in 1931, Ash Lawn-Highlands continues to excavate and bring new archaeological discoveries to light – allowing us all to learn more about the fifth President of the United States and life in his era. Special events at Ash Lawn-Highlands include the annual Albemarle County Fair.

James Madison’s Montpelier, the Madison family plantation which has recently undergone major renovations to bring it back to how it looked in the period directly following Madison’s Presidency, is a wonderful opportunity to view archaeology in progress. Besides touring the house and grounds, and visiting the museum/gift shop (with a delicious cafe), visitors are welcome in the archaeology lab where staff will often be at work cataloging recent finds.

Each of these three President’s homes reflect the very different lifestyles of the three men and their families, and offer unparalleled experiences of early American history.

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