Monticello, Michie Tavern, and Ash Lawn-Highland sell a Presidents' Pass, a discount ticket combining admission to all three. It costs $34 for adults, $18 for children 6 to 11. The attractions validate the tickets when you show up, so there's no time limit on when you must use the pass.

Getting the Most out of Charlottesville

Monticello, Ash Lawn-Highland, and Michie Tavern are within 2 miles of each other on Thomas Jefferson Parkway (Va. 53). That's off Va. 20 just south of I-64, on the southeastern outskirts of town. You'll need a full day to fully take them in.

Monticello, Michie Tavern, and Ash Lawn-Highland sell a Presidents' Pass, a discount ticket combining admission to all three. It costs $34 for adults, $18 for children 6 to 11. The attractions validate the tickets when you show up, so there's no time limit on when you must use the pass.

You can buy Monticello tickets in advance at All tickets have specific house tour times printed on them, which has eliminated the long lines of people waiting to go through the mansion in busy periods. It's a good idea to buy your tickets as early as possible so you'll have the widest choice of tour times. Be sure to arrive at the Monticello visitor center at least 30 minutes early in order to get up to the house on time.

I would spend the morning at Monticello, then head to nearby Michie Tavern, where you can tour the tavern and the Virginia Wine Museum, and have lunch (expect a wait on weekends and in Oct). In the afternoon, head for Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland, 2 1/2 miles away, which will take about an hour to see.

If you have time left over, head for the University of Virginia. Otherwise, plan to tour the campus and see the town's other sights the next day.

The University of Virginia

One of the world's most beautiful college campuses, Jefferson's beloved University of Virginia is graced with spacious lawns, serpentine-walled gardens, colonnaded pavilions, and a classical Rotunda inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Jefferson regarded its creation as one of his three greatest achievements -- all the more remarkable since it was started in his 73rd year. He was, in every sense, the university's father, as he conceived it, wrote its charter, raised money for its construction, drew the plans, selected the site, laid the cornerstone in 1817, supervised construction, served as the first rector, selected the faculty, and created the curriculum. His good friends, Monroe and Madison, sat with him on the first board, and Madison succeeded him as rector, serving for 8 years.

The focal point of the university is the Rotunda (on University Ave. at Rugby Rd.), restored as Jefferson designed it. Enter on the ground level on the "village side" -- that is, the side facing away from University Avenue. A student will be on duty at a desk to give you information, directions, and brochures. If you're up to it, be sure to climb the three stories to Jefferson's magnificent lecture room under the dome on the top floor. The Rotunda is open daily from 9am to 4:45pm except on holidays. Admission is free but donations are suggested.

Some 600 feet of tree-dotted lawn extends from the Rotunda's south portico to what is now Cabell Hall, designed at the turn of the 20th century by Stanford White. Pavilions on either side of the lawn are still used for faculty housing, each of a different architectural style "to serve as specimens for the Architectural lecturer." Behind each are a garden (originally used by faculty members to grow vegetables and keep livestock) and the original student dormitories, used -- and greatly coveted -- by students today. The room Edgar Allan Poe occupied is furnished as it would have been in 1826 and is open to visitors.

Paralleling the lawn are more rows of student rooms called the Ranges. Equally spaced within each of the Ranges are "hotels," originally used to accommodate student dining. Each hotel represented a different country, and students would have to both eat the food and speak the language of that country. Although a wonderful idea on Jefferson's part, it lasted only a short while as everyone wanted to eat French but not German.

Campus Tours -- When school is in session, students lead 1 1/2-hour campus tours Monday through Friday at 11am and 2pm, weekends at 11am. The tours are first-come, first-served, but call tel. 434/982-3200 to make sure there will be one when you're here. Guided 1-hour historical tours of the Rotunda (tel. 434/924-7969) take place daily at 10 and 11am, and 2, 3, and 4pm, except during the 3 weeks around Christmas (when the University is closed) and in May during graduation. Both tours are free.

Self-guided walking tour brochures are available in the Rotunda and from the university's Visitor Information Center (tel. 434/924-0311), which is located not on campus but in the University Police Headquarters, on Ivy Road (U.S. 250 Business) just east of the U.S. 29/U.S. 250 bypass. The visitor center is open 24 hours a day.

Go 'Hoos! -- The big spectator sports here obviously are the University of Virginia Cavaliers, who play a full schedule of intercollegiate athletics. The UVA teams may officially be the Cavaliers, but everyone calls them the Wahoos -- or 'Hoos for short. Although the nickname Wahoo comes from "Wah-hoo-wah," the school's official yell, some wags say it's from the wahoo fish, which allegedly can drink twice its own weight twice a day. And that reportedly comes from UVA's reputation as a hard-drinking party school! Call tel. 800/542-8821 or go to for information, schedules, and tickets.

The Downtown Mall

After I've spent a morning seeing the university, I like to have lunch and poke my head into the shops along Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, the pedestrian-only section of Main Street between 2nd and 7th streets. Although the strip is the country's oldest pedestrian mall, it lacks historical charm and seems underwhelming during the cold winter months. But the mall changes character completely in warm weather, when restaurant tables line its entire length and it becomes the city's lively focal point. Fountains, park benches, shade trees, a kiosk bar, theaters, and music-making buskers enhance it all. It's especially active when nationally known artists are in concert in the Charlottesville Pavilion, on the mall's eastern end.

The mall's 120-plus boutiques and art galleries make it the best place in Charlottesville to shop. You'll instinctively know the best stores when you pass them, but don't pass up the Yves Delorme Outlet, where you might find French linens at 75% off their regular prices. I usually walk the entire length in one direction just to take it all in, and then come back to specific shops and restaurants that have drawn my attention. The "Historic Downtown Dining, Entertainment and Shopping" brochure available at the visitor center is an invaluable aid. Call tel. 434/296-8548 for mall events.

On The Wine Trail

Thomas Jefferson's dream of producing quality wines in Virginia has come true, for along with the Hunt Country in northern Virginia, the Charlottesville area today is one of the state's two top winemaking regions. Be sure to pick up a brochure for the Monticello Wine Trail ( at one of the visitor centers; it gives information about the 22 nearby wineries including their business hours.

To sample all you want and not risk driving home tipsy, take a full day or afternoon excursion with Arcady Vineyard Wine Tasting Tours (tel. 434/872-9475; Erika and Chris Goddell, owners of Arcady Vineyard Bed and Breakfast, do all the driving while taking you to and from local vineyards. They do not accept marketing or trades with the wineries, and thus are free to visit the best, not those who pay the most. Their full-day tours cost $129 per person, plus $20 per person for a silver-service picnic lunch. Reservations are required.

Most convenient of the local wineries to visit on your own is Jefferson Vineyards, 1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy. (Va. 53; tel. 434/977-3042;, between Monticello and Ash Lawn-Highland. Thomas Jefferson and an Italian named Filippo Mazzei planted grapes on this property in 1774. Consider stopping for a taste after your day's sightseeing. From there you can drive south on C.R. 795 to the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard (tel. 434/977-3895;, whose owner, the well-heeled Patricia Kluge, has had success with her sparkling wines. You can browse her Kluge Estate Farm Shop, purveying the wines and other Virginia products.

Barboursville Vineyards (tel. 540/832-3824;, on C.R. 177 near the intersection of Va. 20 and Va. 33, was Virginia's first modern winery, having been established in 1976 by the largest family-owned Italian winemaker. Its Italian restaurant is open for lunch Monday to Friday, dinner Friday and Saturday, and you can stay in luxury at The 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards. Also on the estate are the ruins of one of the five houses Thomas Jefferson designed.

Nearer to Charlottesville on C.R. 641 west of Va. 20, Burnley Vineyards (tel. 540/832-2828; is one of the oldest wineries in the area.

Attractions in the Lynchburg Area

When Jefferson wanted to get away from it all, he headed south to Poplar Forest, his country retreat near the James River town of Lynchburg, today best known as home to the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and his fundamentalist Liberty University. Lynchburg is a base from which to explore not just Poplar Forest but one of Patrick Henry's plantation homes and the village of Appomattox Court House, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. Also nearby are memorials to the great African-American leader Booker T. Washington and to the D-day invasion during World War II.

Contact the Lynchburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2015 Memorial Ave., Lynchburg, VA 24501 (tel. 800/723-5821 or 434/845-5966;, for information about the city.

For information about adjacent Bedford County, contact the Bedford Area Welcome Center, 816 Burks Hill Rd. (Va. 122), Bedford, VA 24523 (tel. 877/447-3257 or 540/587-5682; The center is at the entrance to the National D-Day Memorial, on Va. 122 off U.S. 460.

Note that some of these attractions are closer to Roanoke than to Charlottesville.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.