East Coast

Shenandoah National Park and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

The Carful of Kids at Monticello
The Carful of Kids at Monticello

The carful of kids drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday from Asheville, North Carolina, intending to make it the all way to Waynesboro, North Carolina. But with all the stopping, exploring and the setting sun; we had to drop in on Interstate-81 to get to our final destination.

We want to continue through Shenandoah National Park via Skyline Drive to earn our Junior Ranger badge and explore the park. The carful of kids enter through the Rockfish Gap Entrance and make our first stop the Loft Mountain Information Center, mile marker 79.

I look over the Shenandoah National Park Junior Ranger Booklet and discover that you are required to attend two ranger programs. What? I didn’t schedule that into my itinerary. Then I look at the Ranger Programming and see we are at the south end of the park and all the programming is at the north end of the park. Geez.

The front of Thomas Jefferson's home--Monticello
The front of Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello

The carful of kids regroup for a moment and cut our losses. There is no way we are going to get to the northern part of the park (the more popular entrance because of its proximity to Washington), attend two ranger programs and get to our next destination–Hershey, Pennsylvania, today.

We decide to check out Charlottesville, Virginia, and drive around the campus of the University of Virginia–UVA instead. It is a beautiful campus that was designed by Thomas Jefferson. The carful of kids aren’t doing full campus tours but we look at areas and ask,would you like to go to college here?

In the historic gardens of Monticello
In the historic gardens of Monticello

After lunch, we drive to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello–his home and plantation that he started when he was 26. Thomas Jefferson designed his home according to the principles of Neoclassicism and it’s a notable example of Palladian architecture. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit.

The carful of kids pay for admission ($25 for adults and $8 for kids, 5 to 11) this includes a informative guided tour. We hop on their bus to the top of the hill where Monticello sits–Italian forLittle Mount.

A foxglove in Monticello's Garden
A foxglove in Monticello’s Garden

Inside of the house itself is Jefferson’s collection of artifacts and his unique solutions to household problems of the day. It is not a luxuriously-appointed mansion, more of a large, comfortable retreat for the third president of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson had a passion for gardening and agriculture, the collection of restored vegetable and flower gardens are amazing. While the carful of kids run around the gardens like goons, I walk among the flower beds, smelling the flowers and taking photos of the beauties.

Carful of KidsI only wish the carful of kids had more time to explore Monticello–the security guard is following us to ask us to leave. We are the last people still here. I take one more look around and board the bus back down the hill to our SUV.

I still have some miles to drive, the carful of kids have a reservation in Hershey, Pennsylvania. That is 250 miles away and will take us about four hours but we get to add a new state–West Virginia.

Up next: Hershey, Pennsylvania for everything chocolate

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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