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Pronounced "Mon-ti-chel-lo," the home Thomas Jefferson built between 1769 and 1809 is a an architectural masterpiece and one of the most remarkable Colonial homes in the United States. It was the first Virginia plantation manse to sit atop a mountain rather than beside a river. Jefferson rejected the British Georgian architecture that characterized his time in favor of the 16th-century Italian style of Andrea Palladio. Later, during his 5-year term as minister to France, he was influenced by the homes of nobles at the court of Louis XVI, and after returning home in 1789, he incorporated features of the Parisian buildings he so admired. The museum in the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center, halfway up the mountain near Monticello's African-American graveyard, explains how he built, renovated, and remodeled it over 40 years. The museum is a short course in classical architecture.

You must start at the visitor center, which also has a gift shop (surely stocked with every book in print about Jefferson), an inexpensive cafe, and the Griffin Discovery Room, where children can use blocks to build their own mansion and play with a version of the "polygraph" Jefferson used to make copies of his correspondence.

From there you can either walk or take a shuttle bus to the house, which has been restored as closely as possible to its appearance during Jefferson's retirement years. He or his family owned nearly all its furniture and other household objects. The vegetable garden extends to its original 1,000-foot length, and Mulberry Row -- where slaves and free artisans lived and labored in light industrial shops, such as a joinery, smokehouse-dairy, blacksmith shop-nailery, and carpenter's shop -- has been excavated.

Jefferson's grave is in the family burial ground, which is still in use.

You can tour the grounds on your own but you must take a guided tour to enter the house. Optional tours of the plantation and grounds are available all year, and during summer you can send your young ones on 30-minute tours specifically designed for children.