Fodor's Expert Review Monticello
Thomas Jefferson's home, featured on the back of the U.S. nickel, is well worth the admission and the almost inevitable wait. Arrive early, ideally on a weekday, and allow at least three hours to explore the nuances of Jefferson's life as exemplified by the architecture, inventions, and layout throughout his grand hilltop estate. Monticello (which means "little mountain") is the most famous of Jefferson's homes, constructed from 1769 to 1809. Note the narrow staircases—hidden because he considered them unsightly and a waste of space—and his inventions, such as a seven-day clock and a two-pen contraption that allowed him to make a copy of his correspondence as he wrote it without having to show it to a copyist. On-site are re-created gardens, the plantation street where his slaves lived, and a gift shop.